Lunar Lunacy & The Transylvania Effect

We've all heard the expression “Must be a full moon tonight” in relation to strange behaviour, but where does this implication that the lunar cycle effects human behaviour come from? Why do we use words such as 'Lunatic' to describe people acting strangely? How can a large dusty rock floating out in space bear a direct influence on the minds of humans? Why has this generated mythology spanning hundreds of years? And what the hell is the 'Transylvania Effect'? Gather round the electric camp fire that is the internet and let's talk.

The relationship between the moon and strange behavioural shifts is formed in our language –  the word 'Lunar' is derived from Luna, who was the Roman moon goddess, this is the prefix to the word Lunatic. Now we know that the moon effects the tides on our planet due to gravitational pull, but why would it effect our brains so significantly? The philosopher Aristotle believed that the brain was the organ that contained the most water per mass, and so as the transitions of the moon on her axis influence large bodies of water, so it must also influence smaller bodies of water, even those localised to our very own skulls. However, the moon's gravitational pull is not strong enough to effect small enclosed bodies of water and more importantly its gravity has just as much pull when it is in 'new moon' phase (invisible/blacked out to us) as it does at 'full moon' state.

It's a widespread belief that under a full moon we see a rise in petty crime, psychiatric admissions, fights, and even homicides. To the extent that police forces have added extra patrols on days when there are full moons. This 'lunar lunacy' belief is ancient in origin and has influenced our mythology for centuries. It has been written that humans transform into creatures under the moon's spell – most notably werewolves. But vampires have also been allocated their fair share of lunar glory, often being said to rise from their crypts and/or transform into a bat only under a full moon. Hence the term 'Transylvania Effect'.

Despite scientific studies to the contrary showing that statistically speaking these occurrences are due to other extenuating factors this belief in lunar lunacy prevails; if you ask any emergency services or hospitality worker if a full moon creates more chaos on a shift you'll likely receive a resounding yes. But these beliefs are also spiritual, especially embedded in Pagan rituals. The phases of the moon directly correlate to the passage of knowledge and emotional rites, they are also representative of 'goddess' energy and are directly tied to menstrual cycles. The lunar phases are used to guide when and which rituals can be conducted. The moon is also given equal power over life as the sun is. In this way even if the gravitational power of the moon does not directly alter the water in our brains, causing us to act strangely, it certainly ties us to emotional passages and fertility rites – which are as intrinsic to our biological behaviour as our mental states are.

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