LUNATICS AND THE FULL MOON
No matter how educated and sophisticated we may believe ourselves to be, superstitions still find their place in our thinking.
Superstition is defined as ‘A widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as leading to good or bad luck, or a practice based on such a belief.’[i]
‘Trouble comes in threes.’
‘Walk under a ladder and you’ll have seven years of bad luck.’
‘Don’t say anything when things are good, because you might jinx it.’
Countless times I have heard people blame the full moon for unusual or exaggerated human activity. Is there any science to this?
Since ancient times, full moons have been associated with odd or insane behaviour, including sleepwalking, suicide, illegal activity, and fits of violence and, of course, transforming into werewolves. Indeed, the words “lunacy” and “lunatic” come from the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna, who was said to ride her silver chariot across the dark sky each night. For thousands of years, doctors and mental health professionals believed in a strong connection between mania and the moon. Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine, wrote in the fifth century B.C. “one who is seized with terror, fright and madness during the night is being visited by the goddess of the moon.” In 18th-century England, people on trial for murder could campaign for a lighter sentence on grounds of lunacy if the crime occurred under a full moon; meanwhile, psychiatric patients at London’s Bethlehem Hospital were shackled and flogged as a preventive measure during certain lunar phases. Even today, despite studies discrediting the hypothesis, some people think full moons make everyone a little loony.[ii]
When we begin to ask questions about the meaning and cause of mental illness and mood disorders, it’s easy to look for full moon theories to help us sleep at night. As followers of Jesus, we want to pursue truth and discard all superstitions and conspiracy theories. This was an issue for the early church and it is an issue now. We need to become mature in our thinking about complex issues like mental health.