Supermoon!

Supermoon!!!!

I’m sure you’ve heard all sorts of wonderful things about the Supermoon that graced us this past weekend, and the awesome powers it holds. And how this Supermoon is the closed the Moon has been to the Earth for millions of years, and how it won’t come this close for millions more.

I have heard tell of spectacular Esbat rituals harnessing the unusual powers of the Supermoon, and the great sense of peace and tranquility that it has bestowed upon the participants thereof.

Gag me.

Supermoon” is a term that astrologer Richard Nolle coined in 1979. It refers to a full or new moon that occurs while the Moon is at perigee, which is the point in Luna’s elliptical orbit where it is closest to the Earth. (Nolle specifically defines it as a time when the Earth, Moon, and Sun are in a straight line, although technically that only happens during Lunar and Solar eclipses because of Lunar declination.)

Supermoons are not that rare: Nolle claims they occur 4-6 times a year. And far from the media and newage hype surrounding the most recent one, there is not an association of unusual power or harmony associated with the Supermoon. Nolle highlighted the phenomenon (do do de do doo) because he believed that the super closeness of the moon when it was aligned with the Sun and the Earth caused an increased tidal force that led to massive increases in earthquakes and severe storms. A lack of any evidence to support this alleged correlation has not stopped his dire warnings.

And it seems that people getting excited about the Supermoon have a short memory, since they’re all going on about how rare they are (they aren’t) and how it was so long ago that the last one was (it wasn’t) and it will be so long until the  next one (it won’t), and no one seems to recall that not very long ago, this crap was floating around the internet saying the exact same thing. (I tend to distrust hype of any phenomenon that claims it won’t happen for another 15 to 50 years only to be recirculated a year later.)

And those pictures showing the huuuuuuge full moon looming over cityscapes? Most are Photoshopped. The less dramatic ones take advantage of the well-known Moon illusion, in which the Moon appears larger when on the horizon. In truth, unless you were using very accurate equipment to measure it, it is extremely doubtful that you could visually notice the difference in apparent size of the Supermoon versus any other full Moon. Observers who claim otherwise were almost certainly victims of the aforementioned illusion, tainted by expectation.

But some were insistent that something special and powerful was going on. And that pointing out this was due to a mass placebo effect built on false information and expectation was wrong and horrible to do.

One comment I came across was particularly adamant about this point:

What I saw and experienced was beautiful! And the fellowship was awesome! Why piss on the flame when you can opt to see the beauty of the fire!!

Because you could have built a fire just as well without using dog turds. Because you shouldn’t need a false narrative to experience beauty or fellowship. Because every full Moon is just as amazing and beautiful as the one you experienced this weekend, with the same opportunity for amazing company and significant religious experience. Because using bullshit as a foundation for profundity cheapens it.

I understand that as pagans and magic-users we are open to stretching reality and experiencing the unusual. But I am of the mindset that there is plenty of wonder in the world around us, and that we don’t have to build any on false pretense. And ignoring the reality that we know and understand in favor of a false narrative of hype isn’t mystery; it’s ignorance.

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4 responses to “Supermoon!

  1. The perigee full moon is up to 30% brighter than the apogee full moon, and we get one about every 14 full moons in the lunation cycle (can’t hardly call it Google-fu even: there’s a Supermoon article on Wikipedia). 30% is a noticeable difference, but it’s not so OHHHHHMAAAAGAAAA as to justify all that hype. It’s also telling that there’s no lore about it in traditional astrology.

    I did a very successful conjuration outdoors with six of my brethren, and while the extra “pop” of the moonlight was great, and undoubtedly contributed its bit to the mood, I don’t buy that magical astrology works by gravitation, electromagnetism, or tides. The sympathetic harmonies that fuel the connections that we make with and through the Celestials are more subtle than that.

    • Damn lies and statistics. The 30% difference is from the apogee full moon: most full moons fall somewhere in between. You’re looking at an average difference of 15% brightness one way or another. Given that most of us live near light pollution sources, it’s not really significant.

      It’s media hype. Even Nolle said so, and he’s the one claiming it causes huge earthquakes.

      • Yeah, I meant to add that bit about the range being 30%, but thought it obvious (maybe not to the hypers and hype-believers).

        Since light pollution doesn’t change depending on the phase of the Moon (and if it did, it *should* decrease slightly at the full Moon), that point isn’t significant. This Moon was still 15% brighter (or so) than the average full Moon.

        The real reason people fall for this is that they have stopped looking at the Moon unless there’s some hype about it.

  2. I had a guy at work, who recently found out I was pagan, mention the significance of the “supermoon” and hint at the special ritual he was sure I had planned that night. I just looked at him funny and laughed, because I really didn’t care about the supermoon other than being able to see the beauty of the moon on a larger scale. Not to mention the fact that formal ritual is not really part of my practice at the moment.

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