Moon Research: History, Rituals, and Legends

Moon Exporer Badge, Step 1

moon badge research

The mysterious moon has been the subject of wonder for thousands of years. Join us as we immerse ourselves in the science and the supernatural surrounding the moon!

Step 1 of the Moon Explorer Badge led us on a moon research journey. We learned basic moon facts, read about moon landings and walkers, explored the moon phases and rituals, and of course had to learn about werewolves! For Step 2, we visited our local planetarium and attend a Moon Fest.

You can see the Moon Explorer Badge Guide, or “recipe” for the badge here . Each Badge Guide contains three steps to be completed in order to earn the badge. These steps can be done on your own, but we encourage you to grab a few friends and learn together!

Step 1 is always focused on research. Look up the topic online, watch videos to learn a skill, or visit your local library.  You can read about the resources and fun facts we found below.

Moon Research

To complete Step 1 and begin the research part of the Moon Explorer Badge, I looked into basic information about the moon. I found that moon information can be divided into two parts: science and woo woo. I will be sharing a little of both! 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and it just happens to be Halloween week in the U.S., so now is the perfect time to learn how the moon is connected to the haunting holiday!

As Halloween approaches, the temperature cools, leaves begin to change, and the days get shorter.  I love all things spooky and associated with this eerie October holiday. The Farmers Almanac reports that the origins of Halloween can be traced back to ancient Celtic festivals that celebrated the end of harvest time.  It was the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. This period of time was considered “between” the two years and it was a time when spirits would wander around in the moonlight. 

Image result for halloween full moon images
Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

The moon, specifically the full moon, is often associated with Halloween, although its occurrence on Halloween is actually quite rare!  This website reports that a full moon on Halloween only occurs every 18 to 19 years.  But lucky for us the next one will be in 2020. Halloween 2020 is going to be spine chillingly special!  

Before we get too far into lunar lore and legends, we should discuss more established scientific moon research. Our relationship with the moon celebrated an important milestone this past summer. July 2019 marked the 50 year anniversary of the US moon landing.  

Moon Landings and Moon Walkers

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Space Facts reports that the first spacecraft to reach the Moon was Luna 1 in 1959.  This was a Soviet craft launched from the USSR. The first man to walk on the moon was an American, Neil Armstrong.  He was on the Apollo 11 mission. See some amazing visuals of the moon landing here.  The moon has only been walked on by 12 people-all American males.  The last moon walk occurred in 1972 by Gene Cernan. Since then the moon has only been visited by unmanned vehicles.  

The Dark Side of the Moon

I found it interesting that here on earth we always see the same side of the moon.  This is because the moon rotates on its own axis at exactly the same time it takes to orbit the earth.  Resulting in the same side of the moon always facing the earth. So the dark side of the moon is a myth-we just never see it in the sunlight.  It has only been seen by humans from space crafts! Learn more about the myth of the dark side of the moon by listening to this Stuff You Should Know podcast.  

Tides and the Moon

The rise and fall of tides are related to the moon.  As the earth rotates two bulges (caused by the gravitational pull from the moon) move around the oceans.  These bulges cause the high and low tides.  

The Moon’s Gravity

Due to its smaller mass the moon has weaker gravity than earth.  We would weigh one sixth or 16.5% of our weight on earth. This difference in gravity allows astronauts to float in the air.

Image result for moon walk images

The Moon’s Creation

The prevailing theory is that the moon was created when a rock smashed into earth.  This is believed to have occurred 4.5 billion years ago. Learn more about this theory by visiting this site. We learned a different theory during Step 2 of this badge at our local planetarium. Scroll to the bottom of the post and click the Step 2 video to find out more about the latest theory of how the moon was created.  

Other interesting Moon Facts from Space Facts

  • The moon orbits the earth every 27.3 days
  • The moon’s surface temperature ranges from -387 to 253 degrees fahrenheit
  • The moon is moving approximately 3.8 cm away from earth every year.
  • The moon has no atmosphere.
  • No sound can be heard on the moon and the sky is always black due to the lack of atmosphere.

Moon Phases

The moon is always partially illuminated by the sun.  As the moon travels around the sun we see more or less of the illuminated portion.  The area that we see can be described by the 8 phases of the moon. Space.com does a great job of describing the 8 main phases of the moon.  They also offer a nice moon phase guide for 2019.  

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  1. New Moon: The moon is between the Earth and the sun.  The side of the moon facing us receives no direct sunlight so the moon is barely visible.
  2. Waxing Crescent: The moon becomes more illuminated by the sun.  We see a crescent shaped piece of the moon.
  3. First Quarter: The moon is half illuminated.  It is called “first quarter” because the moon has moved a quarter of the way around the earth.
  4. Waxing Gibbous: More than half of the moon is visible.
  5. Full Moon: The moon is fully illuminated.  The sun, moon and earth are aligned-but not in a perfect line (lunar eclipse).
  6. Waning Gibbous: More than half of the moon is visible, but decreasing.
  7. Last Quarter: The moon now in the third quarter position.  The moon is now half illuminated on the other half of the visible side.
  8. Waning Crescent: Less than half of the moon is visible and the crescent shape is decreasing.
This is a great video that explains the moon phases.

Now back to the Woo Woo:  

Many people throughout history have used the phases of the moon to help guide their life.  Elite.com discussed using the phases of the moon similarly to how a farmer uses the seasons with each phase representing a different opportunity for personal growth.  The site simplifies the above eight moon phases into four. They combine the Waxing Quarter, First Quarter and Waxing Gibbous into the Waxing Moon and the Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter and Waning Crescent into the Waning Moon.

Tree, Cat, Silhouette, Moon, Full Moon, Nature, Night
Bessi/Pixabay

Here are the 4 moon phases and how Elite.com says they can be used to guide your life.  They also describe how to ritualize each moon phase.  

  • The New Moon: This is a time for manifesting.  Because the moon is new it represents a clean slate and a new beginning.  This is the time to consider what you hope to achieve. Write down what you hope to achieve, meditate on your thoughts, create a vision board, imagine what it feels like to achieve your intentions.
  • The Waxing Moon: This is a time to take action.  The moon is beginning to grow in fullness. This affects our energy and makes us more action oriented.  This should be phase two of your manifesting. Take action on our intentions set during the New Moon Phase.  
  • The Full Moon: This is a time of fullness-where things come full circle.  Take time to write down all that has come to be during this cycle. Check back on your New Moon intentions.  
  • The Waning Moon: This is a time for slowing down and reflecting.  This is a time to be thankful but to also consider things we would like to change.  Start thinking about what you would like to do next-and let go of what you may have done in the past.  Learn from our mistakes-review and revise. You can do this by journaling, meditating or spending time in deep thought.  

Jennifer Racioppi says that there can be tremendous power in using moon rituals.  They have been a sacred practice of ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India and China.   Observing moon rituals is a way to live in sync with the natural world and help you clarify what you actually want to bring into your life.  Check back in a couple days to see how we held a Waning Moon Ritual in our Step 3 post!

You may be skeptical about how moon phases can impact your life.  I actually find them to be a useful reflection tool. Who wouldn’t benefit from setting intentions and reflecting on and letting go of the past? 

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Moon phase rituals are not the only mysterious thing related to the moon.  There are many common lunar legends.

The Farmer’s Almanac examined spooky moon lore in recent article.  The belief that a full moon can make people go a bit looney is a common one.  People will often say “it must be a full moon” in response to unusual behavior.  In fact the word “lunacy” and “lunatic” comes from the latin word “luna” which means moon.  

Perhaps the most common lunar legend is the legend of the werewolf.  The werewolf is a popular cultural icon: think Teen Wolf, True Blood, Twilight, and American Werewolf in London. The legend of men shapeshifting into wolves can be traced back to the ancient Greeks. Interestingly, being able to turn into a wolf has been seen as both a negative and a positive depending on the culture.  

I also loved this short video that examined the legend of wolves howling at the moon.  

Through my moon research I have learned that the moon has been an object of wonder and fascination for thousands of years.  It has been the focus of great scientific feats and an inspiration of many legends and lore. 

Moon Badge, Step 2

To complete Step 2 of the Moon Explorer Badge and continue our moon research, we visited our local planetarium and learned about the moon, stars, and constellations. We saw the show Imagine the Moon celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Step 2 of any badge is to learn from others. Taking advantage of local events is a great way to do this. Abrams Planetarium was hosting events for Michigan State University’s Moon Fest while we were working on this badge, so we jumped at the opportunity for a fun and free experience as part of the festival.

Click on the video below to hear our recap and reactions to the planetarium show.

For Step 3 of the Moon Explorer Badge we organized and held a moon ceremony! We’ll share what we did for our ceremony in our next post. 

We want to hear from you! Do you know any other moon facts we didn’t mention? What is your favorite lunar legend? Message us on Instagram or Facebook or drop us a line here.

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