We all know there is a moon above us, but how much do you know about it? The media focus mostly about men landing on the moon, but it’s an important part of our natural world. The moon’s gravitational pull affects the tides, and many creatures use the moon to migrate (birds) and give birth (turtles – although many now follow the nearest light, which has seen some end up in car parks to give birth). Contrary to popular belief, wolves do not howl at the moon. They are simply howling to each other at night, under the light of the moon!
The moon is a big ball of dusty rock, with ‘seas’ made from lava. It’s actually dark (the light is from being reflected by the sun) and has far less gravity than earth, which is why you would literally ‘fly’ if you pumped your arms and legs to get around, as if you had wings! With mountains just like earth, we can only see the near side, which you can see with a good pair of binoculars.
Natural Navigator Tristan Gooley knows how to get anywhere using the power of the moon. He says it’s easier when the moon is high in the sky. But to be very accurate, he recommends watching and marking shadow tips, which he has done to find his way late at night, in the snowy Scottish Highlands.
Does the Moon Affect Our Moods?
Apparently yes, but not why you would think. Years ago it was thought that we were influenced by the moon due to light (the Latin word for moonstruck is what gives us the word ‘lunacy’). But psychiatrist David Avery from Washington School of Medicine kept records of patients with bipolar, and noticed that indeed, their sleeping and manic moods perfectly matched phases of the moon.
But when he compiled all the data and found similar data elsewhere, he became convinced that the reason is simply that the tides (caused by the moon’s gravitational pull) are changing the magnetic field, which in turn changes our body clock. Fascinating, yes?
How the Moon Affects Wildlife
Birds migrate by the moon and turtles (if they don’t live near light pollution) use the moon’s light to lay their eggs. Nocturnal animals hunt by the moon, and oysters open their shells by the moon. Tiny sandhoppers use the moon (and sun) to find their way, and African dung beetles use the moon to collect fresh heaps, to roll away.
Our moon is basically a ‘wildlife clock’ – even the mass spawning on the Great Barrier Reef is driven by the moon. Did you know that badgers mark their territory more during a new moon, and less during a full moon? And owls show off their feathers on a full moon – when they can be seen better!
Not just those with fur and feathers. Humans also can rely on the moon to grow crops. Going beyond organic gardening, biodynamic farmers use the moon to get better crops, by choosing the best days to sow and harvest seeds. sowing a few days before a full moon ensures strong germination, and planting during the two weeks of a descending moon encourages healthy growth. However, at least one (gardening) writer does not agree:
There are no wind chimes on my allotment. I will not wear patchwork trousers and I will not sing to my seedlings – they can get on and grow without it. Good old-fashioned common sense will prevail here. Call me repressed, call me closed minded, call me terribly English. But when I go to my allotment I’m not seeking spiritual knowledge. I’m seeking vegetables. And perhaps a bit of fresh air and exercise. But that’s all. I’m not there to unblock my chakras. I haven’t got time. I’ve got to put horse poo on the bean rows. Leave me alone. Paul Kingsnorth