An American in the Algarve: Moon Mania

Every month it’s the same. I feel extra anxious. I have a hard time sleeping. The extra light in the sky sheds an eerie glow over the garden. As if a spider web has been cast over the house, the shadows disappear. The trees and flowers are illuminated by a shiny silver hue, almost as bright as the sun.  

At first, I didn’t realise my monthly uneasiness was related to the moon. I blamed it on bad sleep or work-related stress. But then I started to pay attention to the timing. It’s uncanny how every single month on the full moon, I feel strange. Not always bad, but different somehow. As if the world is slightly off-kilter. Unbalanced.

From the consistent complaints and observations of the other women in my yoga class around the full moon, I know I’m not alone. My mother, who worked in the ER for 20 years (A & E to the UK readers, which on a whole other note I find super odd as for most Americans that stands for Arts & Entertainment), always claimed that the full moon brought out the ‘lunatics.’ She insisted that the number of accidents rose and that night was always more hectic. 

Even our language emphasises cultural beliefs surrounding the moon. The word lunatic itself actually originates from the Latin word for moon, luna. We also have looney, a derivative of the same root. Even moon madness exists in the dictionary and is defined as the lunacy that ensues from sleeping in the rays of the full moon. 

The urban legends surrounding the full moon include werewolves, aliens and monsters galore. According to the myths, they all emerge more frequently on the full moon. And, of course, there is also the literary and religious symbolism that equates a full moon with feminine attributes, including the menstrual cycle, motherhood, purity (virginity), beauty and pregnancy (the rounded belly likened to the shape of a full moon). 

But I’ve never felt the pull of a full moon as strongly as I do here in the Algarve. Maybe it has something to do with the crystals here. Or perhaps it’s related to the incredible tidal strength in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. I don’t know. All I can say is that from personal experience, every time the full moon rises between a pair of tall pine trees over my garden, I expect to feel weird. My sleep is always disrupted, my mood varies strangely and I generally feel odder than usual.

From the scientific research on the topic, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that the full moon has a strong effect on human violence or aggression. And no one has ever proven the existence of werewolves. There is evidence, however, that it affects sleep cycles. Women are more affected than men by this disruption in sleep, and there is some evidence that the full moon affects cardiovascular conditions in the body. 

If you consider that sleep disruption can affect hormones, which then can trigger headaches and migraines, then you can theorise that the full moon does actually affect your mood too. Aside from some studies finding a higher incidence of kidney problems during a full moon, higher birth rates and an increased volume of emergencies in the ER, I couldn’t find anything that gives a good explanation for the odd feeling I get here in Portugal when the moon is full. Why I feel this connection more strongly here in the Algarve than I have anywhere else in the world remains a mystery. 

It’s possible it’s just an easy way to explain normal human emotions that are constantly shifting and changing. I don’t know. I don’t have any better answers than when I began my research into the topic. If anyone else, who has moved here from somewhere else and noticed the difference, I’d love to hear about it! For now, I’m just marking it on my calendar so I know when to expect more emotional turbulence than usual.

I’ve read that if you do suffer from the full moon, it’s a good time to harness that power in a different way. Some suggestions I saw include meditating, breathing exercises, eating a healthy meal, taking a walk in the moonlight and writing letters to burn and release.

Just being aware of it is a good start for me. Next month I may try brewing some moon water and setting some intentions for ‘moon manifestation.’ Wish me luck. 

Meredith Price Levitt is a freelance writer and aerial silks teacher. She has just opened a new aerial studio near Lagos called The House of Honey, which was blessed just after the New Moon. An American expat, she moved to the Algarve in 2020 after spending 20 years in Tel Aviv. 

Photo © Reuven Levitt


Share this edition