Fear of Darkness? Blame it on the Moon!

Full Moon in Africa

A Full Moon hanging in the African Sky

Blame it on the Moon!

Are you afraid of the dark?  Has your  heart raced and your imagination conjured up images of creatures lurking in the black of night? Have you tried to overcome your fear with logic and reason but you still have an instinctive nagging voice that sparks your heart to race and your mouth to go dry  when things go bump in the night?

Does your feeling of restlessness increase with the onset of the full moon? If so, it probably doesn’t help that the words lunatic and lunacy have their origins in the word lunar. Throughout human history, people around the world have been bewitched by the moon.  Myths about the moon persist to this day even though the science doesn’t back up the claims.  The belief that werewolves change into their canine incarnations when the moon is full certainly adds to the myth and I bet you will find folks that swear the full moon leads to more aggressive behavior and crime.

Tonight, we will experience a full moon. So I thought this would be a great time to look into why so many of us are afraid of the dark or are skittish when the moon hangs full and bright in the night sky.

Your fear is likely a part of  human evolution called an adaptation.  That’s right, you might not be able to help it that you shiver and get the goosebumps  when day turns into night and the moon begins to wane.  According to an interesting research article, Fear of Darkness, the Full Moon and the Nocturnal Ecology of African Lions,* nocturnal carnivores have played a part in human evolution, motivating the need for night-time shelter, for fire and our instinctive fear of darkness.


Lions Hunting at Night

Photo credit: Sunset over Ngala from Working Our Way Around the Globe

The article discusses the predatory behavior across the lunar cycle on the largest data-set of lion attacks ever compiled and found that African lions are sensitive to moonlight when hunting. The study found that lions are most dangerous to humans when the moon is waning and/or below the horizon not when the moon is full.

Attacks by predators that will resort to eating humans commonly occur at night and nocturnal species usually alter their behavior with the phases of the moon. When the moon is full and bright in the nighttime sky,  lions and perhaps all carnivores, have a tougher time of  a successful hunt. The light of the moon makes it much harder for the lions to remain in stealth mode when stalking their next meal.  When the moon begins to wane, the lions are super hungry and will then resort to taking down the easiest prey.  Most humans are active between sunset and 10:00 pm and in the first weeks following the full moon, when the moon rises at least an hour after sunset, this darkness gives the lions better odds of taking down their prey.

Humans have always been exposed to the risks of predation that coincided with the phases of the moon. Although most of us are safe from lion attacks in our own habitats, the long history of seeking shelter from night time predators has left its impression in our psyche.  This is why the myths and mystery around the full moon persist to this day.  I really liked this quote from the Packer, et al. article:

“Thus  the full moon is not dangerous in itself,  but is instead a portent of the darkness to come”*

Isn’t that a good quote? “A portent of the darkness to come”, that really makes me shiver a bit.  Does it you?

So forgive yourself if you are a bit of a scaredy cat when the night time falls, because you just  can’t help it!   Now that you might have a better understanding of why you fear the darkness of night, I hope it puts you more at ease.

Say, I wonder if that is why my dad locks up the sun room when night time comes?

Lazy Leopard would like to offer up his advice:

“Come the night, when the moon begins to wane in the night sky, eat more garlic, recharge your solar lanterns, stay indoors and if a werewolf comes knocking on your door, don’t answer.”

Friends, sorry about that.  Everyone knows  it is only Vampires that knock on the door and ask to be invited in.

Meow for Now!

*Packer C, Swanson A, Ikanda D, Kushnir H (2011) Fear of Darkness, the Full Moon and the Nocturnal Ecology of African Lions. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22285. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022285

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  1. Azar Attura says

    Big Bad Baby Twinkle
    <– points to da sky and sez: "MEOWMIE ! 😀 LOokit DAT Big PHAT MOONIE!!”
    Both BBBT AND Cee CEe say “Dat Wuz an Ack!Selent Article, Miss Gracey!!!” Meowmie agrees.

  2. Very good article indeed and stunning photo!

  3. Elizabeth Flynn says

    That was a very good article Gracey.  I especially love the photograph of the Full Moon hanging in the African Sky.
    I have never been afraid of the dark (that I know of, but then I don’t have any lions living near me either).  I go out every morning at 4:30 to let the horses out and bring the burros in, to eat their breakfast.  I really like it when the moon is full, as it helps me see better, but even if there is no moon, I do alright.  Each night I go out shortly after dark to close up the barn for the night, as well.  I never turn on any lights outside for my journeys out and back from the house or in the pasture and paddock either.  It disturbs my view of the stars 🙂