I am fascinated by the night sky. It all started when I was about 12 and one of our school projects was to do a star chart, graphing the various constellations and heavenly bodies. It is amazing how this phenomenon hooked me considering it was January – in Michigan no doubt – and we had to go out in single-digit temperatures and chart the sky. But there was something enchanting about the crisp air and how bright and close all the heavenly bodies appeared.
To this day I am bewitched, especially by the moon and all the myths and lore that surround this heavenly body: There’s a man in the moon, it’s made of cheese (green cheese, really?), it elicits madness, and last, but not least, it inspires love.
The name of my GRIT blog, Country Moon, even stems from this moon fascination, so I decided to delve into some of the facts and myths surrounding this mysterious sphere. Most of them center around the full moon, which occurs every 29 1/2 days when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, and all three bodies are aligned in a straight line. Viewed from the Earth, the near side of the moon is illuminated by the sun, giving it a full or round appearance. Here are some of the more colorful facts or lore (you decide) that I found:
– The gardening calendar, or the almanac that I wrote on last week (Planting By The Almanac), is closely based on the phases and position of the moon. Thus, farmers watch the phases closely. A full moon is said to pull the plants upward, resulting in a bountiful harvest. So, above-ground crops should be planted in the light of the moon while crops that bear below ground should be planted in the dark of the moon.
– Honeymoons are named after the full moon of June because it falls after the planting season and before the harvest season, thus being a good time to get married and get away for a while.
– A male child is more likely to be conceived during a full moon.
– If there is a ring around the moon, rain will come in three days; a halo around the moon, moisture is on the way; strongest storms occur within three days of a new moon and three days after a full moon.
– A harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, and harvesting during a full moon is assurance of a good crop. A new moon foretells good fortune.
– A full moon is unlucky if it falls on Sunday, but lucky on a Monday (moon day).
– February is the only month where a full moon may not occur; whereas, if two full moons occur in a calendar month, it is called a blue moon. A couple weeks ago we had a chance to see the first of four total lunar eclipses that will occur over the next two years and produce a “blood moon.” This occurs when the moon passes through Earth’s shadow and takes on the colors of the sunrises and sunsets.
– Many people see “the man in the moon.” The dark spots that create this image are actually 5-mile-deep basins filled with the mineral basalt, frozen lava or rugged mountains.
– Full moons are often linked with people displaying more erratic behavior, and crime increases (anecdotally).
One of the most phenomenal sights I’ve seen associated with the moon is the moonbow that occurs over the Cumberland Falls near Corbin, Kentucky, when the conditions are right. Only a few other places in the world can lay claim to this occurrence, also known as a lunar rainbow or white rainbow. The moonbow is lit by reflected light from the moon as opposed to being directly lit by the sun as a colored rainbow is.
This spectacle can be seen each month for a couple days before the full moon to a couple days afterward, if the skies are clear. Many people, including us, have planned their vacations around this event only to be disappointed by less than perfect conditions.
Call me different, but I will probably always be enchanted by the night sky. After all, it is cheap entertainment. All you need to enjoy the show is a soft blanket and something cool to drink. Many a time, Jim has asked if I wanted to take in a movie or something, and instead we headed for our blankets. What cheap dates we are!