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What Good’s a Full Moon?

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 Welcome to Broad Universe’s Full Moon blog tour, offering you a selection of the very best speculative fiction. Whether your taste is paranormal, space opera, high fantasy, gothic horror or something else altogether, please visit the participant’s sites for a taste of moonlit magic – and a chance to win some great prizes.


What Good’s a Full Moon?

Most everyone I know loves to look at a full moon. There’s something almost mesmerizing about it, and many would claim that full-moonwatching leaves them feeling serene. But aside from that and obvious romantic applications, what good does it serve?

Full Moons Are Pragmatic!

We’ll set aside the scientific roles, like regulating tides, and focus, instead, on how humans might have used the full moon. Ancient humans lived practical lives. Practical purposes for full moons among ancients would include hunting, marking time, and serving as an environment for community rituals.

Hunting was a primary means of survival for ancients, particularly during the cold, winter months when local plants couldn’t provide food. Nighttime hunting could be particularly fruitful, but without natural light, animals would have been alerted to the smell and light of fire from torches. Moreover, because most game animals have better night vision than humans, the full moon offered an equalizer for the human hunter. The light of a full moon allowed hunters to see and track prey.

Prior to the advent of calendars, full moons designated cycles, roughly what we today would call a month. And because their pattern of appearance could be linked to seasons (roughly three to four per season), they helped mark the time of seasonal changes. Those four seasonal changes added up to what we call a year before the pattern repeated itself, and ancients would have noticed that because their lives depended on knowing when to stash food and collect firewood. Keeping track of the four seasons and predicting when a season would end and the next would begin was grossly simplified by tracking the number of full moons that had passed. After all, carving lines for 365 days on a cave wall is much more difficult than hollowing out lines for thirteen full moons!

They also gave rise to seasonal celebrations for important aspects of survival, such as harvests, the beginning of a growing season, and pre-winter hunting/gathering. Because they marked activities that sustained the community, these celebrations evolved into community rituals. And because survival depended on perpetuating the species and training the young to be effective hunter/gatherers, communities also used them to acknowledge age-related transitions into manhood and womanhood. Later, these rituals included spiritual elements, some of which survive today in pagan rituals that link spirituality with nature.

Full Moons Are Pragmatic Fantasy Fodder!

In fantasy literature, full moons serve about the same purposes as they did for ancients, with a couple of notable exceptions. Werewolves couldn’t exist without full moons, which are the catalysts for transformation from human form to wolf form. In addition, full moons serve as environments for extraordinary happenings, such as hauntings or the appearance of a god/goddess. They also provide a medium through which the past, present, and/or future collide to give birth to a “real” world that doesn’t function according to the rules of time/space as we know them. In a sense, these “uses” of full moons are pragmatic, for they facilitate the story’s making of the “unreal” into the “real.”

Aside from a handful of exceptions, full moons in fantasy serve the same purposes they did for ancients. In my own fiction, for example, I use full moons to denote the ages of characters since most of the worlds my characters inhabit have no calendars. It works out well that 100 moons is about age seven (close to the age of reason), and 200 moons is about fourteen years, which not only is roughly the age adolescence is fully onset, but also would be a transition period in a young person’s life if s/he lived in a medieval setting. Teenagers were considered young adults and took on many of the responsibilities of adults by the time they’d lived through 200 moons.

Though we sometimes think of full moons as romantic and eerie (and hey, they are all that and more!), they’re actually quite pragmatic, whether in “real life” or in fiction.


In addition to the Broad Universe prizes listed below, I’ll be giving away a Kindle Fire 6 to someone on my personal mailing list.  You can sign up in the box at the top of the right-hand column on any page on my site.  If you’re already on my mailing list, you’re automatically entered for a chance to win the Kindle Fire 6! 

Tell your reading friends!

Now for the Full Moon Raffle!

Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter box below to enter for a chance to win our prizes!  Be sure to head on over to the other blogs on this tour (see the list at the top of the page), read their posts, and enter on each site for more chances to win!  If you get lost on the tour, you can always find a full list of participants at Broad Universe.

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Comments (3)

  1. That’s so cool that 100 moons and 200 moons worked out so well as a way of measuring life stages!

  2. Liza O'Connor

    That’s a super present you are giving away!

  3. I’ve always loved the idea of marking time via the moons.

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