Moon Supersitions

From the 1865 edition of The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities, here are some Moon superstitions that were once popular beliefs.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on
  • It is unlucky to kill a pig in the wane of the Moon, or the pork will waste in boiling.
  • It is unlucky to see the New Moon for the first time through glass – such as a window or telescope. But what about my eyeglasses?
  • A Saturday moon, If it comes once in seven years, Comes once too soon.
    So, if the new moon is on a Saturday, the weather will likely be bad for the ensuing month.
  • To see “the old moon in the arms of the new one” is a reckoned sign of fine weather. The sliver of a New Moon does sometimes appear to be hugging the rest of the Moon which looks a bit older.
  • More fine weather comes with the turning up of  “the horns of the new moon.”  In this position, it is supposed to retain the water that is imagined to be on the Moon, which would run out and fall to Earth as rain if the horns were turned down.
New moon

Can a New Moon Be Super?

The New Moon is the phase when to the naked eye there is no Moon. The New Moon is when the Sun and Moon are aligned, with the Sun and Earth on opposite sides of the Moon. The alignment of the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth leaves the side of the Moon that faces the Earth in darkness. This is called conjunction or syzygy.

When the Full Moon or New Moon occurs near the Moon’s closest approach to Earth, its perigee, it is often called a Supermoon. How super will this New Moon look to us? Not super at all. Tonight’s Moon, as with any other New Moon, won’t be visible from Earth.

But what is worth noting about tonight is that the dark night skies coincide with the peak of the Ursids meteor shower. (I’ve posted about the Ursids before, so read about them here.) They are a meteor shower that I associate wit the Winter Solstice and Christmas.

The dark sky (though still lots of light pollution here in Paradelle) is also an excellent time to spot Mercury in the night sky.

You Won’t See the Micromoon Tonight

The Full Moon last week was called a “supermoon” because it was closer to Earth and so looked a bit larger. Tonight is the New Moon – the “invisible” Moon – and some people have given this one the name “Micromoon.” Both terms are not scientific or official and only came into being in recent times.

A Micromoon is when a Full Moon or a New Moon coincides with apogee, the point in the Moon’s orbit farthest away from Earth. I have also seen it called Minimoon or Apogee Moon. It is considered to be “micro” Full Moon or New Moon when the Moon’s center is farther than 405,000 kilometers (ca. 251,655 miles) from the center of Earth.

Will it really look different? A Full Micro Moon will look approximately 14% smaller than a Supermoon and the illuminated area appears 30% smaller, so it might look a little less bright. Of course, a Micro New Moon – like all New Moons – is not lit for us to see, so it being farther away will not have any effect on what we see – or more accurately, don’t see.

Even unseen, the New Moon still affects tides which shows the greatest difference between high and low tides around a Full Moon and a New Moon. Micromoons mean a smaller variation of about 5 cm (2 inches).

Moon lore suggests that Full Moons, New Moons, Micromoons, and Supermoons affect human mental health. It was also believed that they also could create natural disasters, such as earthquakes, because of the pull of the Moon and Sun in the way that it affects tides. No scientific evidence supports these kinds of correlations.

A Black Moon and Earthshine

Tomorrow night, April 30, 2022, there will be a Black Moon. It won’t look different, in fact, it won’t look like anything at all since a Black Moon is a name for a second New Moon in a single calendar month.

Full and New Moons can occur at different times because of time zone differences. It can even be in a different month. 

Black Moons may hold special significance to people who practice certain forms of Pagan religions and who believe certain actions become more potent when performed on the night of a Black Moon.

There was no New Moon in February this year which only happens about once every 19 years. There will be no Blue Moon in New York in 2022. That is a third Full Moon in a season with four Full Moons.

A sliver of a Waning Crescent Moon

The Waning Crescent Moon is the final stage of the lunar cycle and it begins when the sun illuminates less than half of the moon. This phase continues until the New Moon phase. This phase “ends” when the Moon and the Sun both rise at the same time, which starts the lunar cycle over again with the New Moon.

During this time, you can see the effect of “Earthshine.” It’s a matter of perspective. The Moon is always half-illuminated by sunlight just like Earth. A crescent Moon seen in the west after sunset or in the east before dawn is a sliver of the Moon’s lighted half.

When we see a crescent moon, that means that a nearly “Full Earth” appears in the Moon’s night sky. The full Earth illuminates the lunar landscape and that ic “Earthshine” – light from the nearly full Earth shining on the Moon.

Looking at Earth from the perspective of the far side of the Moon || Photo: Chinese Chang’e 5 T1 spacecraft

No New Moon in February

first crescent
First crescent New Moon

There was no New Moon in February. This happens (or is it that it doesn’t happen?) about once every 19 years. It only happens in February, as this is the only month that is shorter than a lunar month. When that happens, January and March have two New Moons, instead of just one. The New Moons on January 31 and March 31 are both considered Black Moons.

That term is used in several ways. It commonly is used to refer to a second New Moon in the same month. Those occur about once every 29 months. Time zones mess around with Moon phases. This year, Los Angeles has a Black Moon in March, while New York has a Black Moon in April.

The Black Moon is not the same as the Dark Moon. That is the last visible crescent of a waning Moon and in the Chinese calendar, it marks the beginning of the month.

When there is a third New Moon in a season of four New Moons, that is also called a Black Moon. Usually, each season has three months and three New Moons. When a season has four New Moons, the third New Moon is called a Black Moon and when there are four Full Moons it is called a Blue Moon.

The original meaning of the term New Moon is the first visible crescent of the Moon after conjunction with the Sun. (shown above) This is a thin waxing crescent and it is briefly and faintly visible as the Moon gets lower in the western sky after sunset.

The first crescent marks the beginning of the month in the Islamic calendar and some lunisolar calendars, such as the Hebrew calendar.

There is a longtime belief in many cultures that rituals performed at the time of the Full Moon and New Moon were more powerful. Neopagan and witchcraft systems such as Wicca follow this belief. Farmers once believed  (and might still believe) that planting during certain Moon phases will increase harvests.


What If There Was No Moon?

Twilight New MoonTwilight New Moon via Flickr

This past Tuesday was the New Moon which looks like no Moon to the unaided eye. This is the first lunar phase when the Moon and Sun have the same ecliptic longitude and the lunar disk is not visible. Actually, this phase is really a very thin first visible crescent of the Moon after conjunction with the Sun. That thin waxing crescent is briefly and faintly visible as the Moon gets lower in the westerly sky after sunset.

An article on Discover magazine’s website asks “What if the Moon disappeared tomorrow?” Before reading it, I would have guessed the effects on Earth would be dramatic, but that’s not exactly the case.

The effects would have been more dramatic three billion years ago when the moon was closer to Earth, but now the Moon is “far enough away that most of the things it does for us are very long term, like stabilizing our orbit over hundreds of thousands of years.”

Most of us wouldn’t notice the Moon was missing that first day. Tides would be reduced, but not completely absent because the Moon and the Sun both have an effect on tides.

At night, animals might be more affected by the absent Moon than people. We would miss seeing it and it would be darker all month – but no darker than it was last Tuesday.

Earth’s motion about its axis would be affected but since it increases the length of a day by about two milliseconds every century, I doubt that anyone will be upset.

Back those billions of years, the Earth had 4-hour rotations. But the Moon gradually slowed us down to 24-hour days. Thank you, Moon. I already feel like 24 hours isn’t enough.

Without the Moon, Earth’s tilt wouldn’t be as steady and so probably the most dramatic effect would be on our seasons and climate.

Don’t worry. The Moon isn’t going away.  Look up tonight at the waxing crescent.

December’s Full Moon rises on the night of Wednesday, December 11 and since for most of us in the north it brings in the winter season, it is often called the boringly obvious Full Cold Moon.