Archive for October 22nd, 2010

The October moon is full tonight!


I hope you saw the full moon on September 22nd and 23rd.  It was a full harvest moon (the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is considered the harvest moon) and it also marked the first day of autumn.

However, October is usually no slouch when it comes to spectacular full moons.  In fact, this full moon is known as the Hunter’s Moon.  Hopefully, the sky will be clear tonight, and you’ll be treated to the full moon in all its glory.  Check it out around 8:30 p.m.

There are some interesting — and spooky — associations with the full moon.  The word lunacy is derived from the Latin word for Luna, the Roman moon goddess, as well as the Late Latin word for “moonstruck” lunaticus. For centuries, people believed the moon phases could induce madness.  A popular notion is that there is a statistical increase in crime (such as murder) and severity of psychosis during full moons, but many studies find there is no correlation (while others find that there is).  For more discussion on the questionable validity of the lunar lunacy effect, read this February 2009 Scientific American article.

Of course, you are familiar with the werewolf legend — the afflicted were supposed to transform into a werewolf under the influence of the full moon. You may remember this recitation from The Wolfman (1941)

Many a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night.

May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms, and the autumn moon shines bright.

Did you know that the idea of wolves howling at the moon is actually a myth?  Wolves howl at night, because they are nocturnal, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the moon.  It is just one of their ways of communicating — from territorial signals to mating calls.

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Don’t miss the National Cathedral Gargoyle Tour this Sunday, 2 p.m.

What is more spooky than gargoyles?

The National Cathedral in Washington, DC is offering their last Gargoyle Tour of the year this Sunday, October 24, at 2 p.m.  This tour explores some of the 112 or so whimsical stone gargoyles and grotesques that decorate Washington National Cathedral, and includes a slide show followed by an outdoor tour.

Gargoyles, in case you didn’t know, are stone carvings with water spouts that help keep water from running down the walls of a building.  Most are scary looking but the National Cathedral gargoyles also depict real people and animals.  The grotesques don’t carry away water.  Some of the National Cathedral’s more unique gargoyles and grotesques include

  • A Basenji dog (north side of the building)
  • A birdwatcher with binoculars (west side of the building)
  • A donkey (south side of the building)

Look for Darth Vader (a grotesque), as well!

Admission for the tour is $10 per adult; $5 per child (12 and under); or $30 per family. Meet at the 7th floor auditorium, using elevators just inside the Wisconsin Avenue doors. No reservations required. Binoculars recommended. Cameras welcome.

If you can’t make the Gargoyle Tour, you can take a self-guided Gargoyle Tour during Cathedral visiting hours.  Download the PDF self-guided Gargoyle Guide descriptions here.

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