Tag Archives: full moon

Full Moon Hair Cut

M is 44. She was born in Los Angeles, her parents are from Guadalajara, Mexico. She told me about this belief about when is the best time to cut your hair so it grows longer in peron.

“When the moon is full, that’s when you should cut your hair because that’s when it will grow longer. My mom told me that.”

https://www.almanac.com/fact/ive-heard-that-if-you-cut-your verifies this piece of folklore, noting that the moon has to be waxing and not wanning, otherwise the hair won’t grow as fast. This article from the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2000/06/18/world/full-moon-haircut-breaks-italy-s-law.html also confirms this folklore is popular enough in Italy to cause some salon owners trouble when late night haircuts conflict with local business operating laws. For more general folklore about haircuts, see https://www.lovedbycurls.com/hair-talk/8-crazy-hair-cutting-superstitions/.

Full moons, storms, and women in labor


My informant, RW, is my mother. She was a labor and delivery nurse in a Dallas hospital in the 1990s. I asked her to tell me if there were any superstitions or rituals she learned working as a nurse. This piece was collected during an informal interview at home. I refer to myself as SW in the text.


Main Text:

RW: “If you were ever working during a full moon or a stormy night, you knew it was going to be a busy shift.”

SW: “Why?”

RW: “I don’t know why the full moon. The thunderstorms was probably because of barometric pressure. I don’t know… And you never, ever, EVER say ‘it’s slow tonight’. If anyone started to say it was slow everyone starts screaming at them going ‘Ah noooo! Why?’ And it always happened, there’d be a giant influx after that.”

SW: “Who was the first person who told you about the full moon thing, or the thunderstorm thing?”

RW: “My nurse preceptor at Parkland. They thought it was something to do with the gravitational pull or something I don’t know.”



The fact that saying something can make it come true is an example of performative speech. It’s interesting that even in as scientific of a job as working as a nurse, folklore is still very prevalent and spreads. Despite everything they know pointing to the lack of influence of full moons on how many women go into labor, the belief still persists. This probably is a very old belief having to do with lunar cycles and how they have been tied to menstruation and fertility for many cultures. There is also still an element of labor that is uncontrollable despite all the scientific knowledge we have, so folklore fills the gaps in what science can’t explain.

Superstitions Among Nurses in the ICU (The “Q-Word”, Full Moons)

Informant Context:

Stella is a traveling ICU (intensive care unit) nurse who currently work in Atlanta, Georgia.


INTERVIEWER: You seemed really excited to talk about [laughs] superstitions.


INTERVIEWER: Do you have any particular ones you had in mind?

STELLA: Yeah like, nurses are really superstitious. Um… especially like, in the ICU. Um… so like, we call it like, “Saying the Q word”. Um, you can’t say like, “Oh, it’s—it’s been like, really *quiet* on the unit today”. ‘Cause then it’s going to suddenly be not quiet. Like, you jinxed us. Um… so like, people will like—freak out. Or if you… you can’t say like, “Oh… like, you know, Mr. Jones is doing like, so great today. I think he’s gonna like, be able to get transferred out.” Like, you can’t—if like… Or, you know, it’s like, “Oh, I feel like we’re really making progress.” [You know(?)], you can’t jinx things, you know? Um… like—you just have to say like, “Oh, like, these things are going well. Like, this is great, we’re making progress…” but you can’t be like, “Oh, I think by… I think like, we—we’re out of the woods.” ‘Cause then the patient’s gonna like, code. It’s just like, a superstitious thing. Or like, um… another thing is like, full moons. Like, people say that like, when it’s a full moon, like—patients like, go crazy. [It’s a (?)] thing that like, everyone believes.

Informant Commentary:

Stella went on to recall the first time she violated one of these superstitions, causing some nurses around her 2 become angry with her. This serves as a kind of “rite of passage”, in which a new member of the folk group becomes rapidly acquainted with a folk belief, such as a superstition. Stella also noted the community that these superstitions offer to nurses working in the ICU. When members of a group are mutually forbidden from doing or saying a particular action or word, deep meaning can be communicated even when the action or word remains undone or unsaid. In this way, silence itself acts as an offshoot of “tabooistic vocabulary”.


Stella jumped at the chance to talk about superstitions, insisting that nurses are “really superstitious”. This could be partially explained by the high intensity nature of the medical workplace. A very small error can have deadly consequences, so it follows naturally that this folk group has developed small, vernacular ways—even unscientific ones, in a highly scientific workplace—to avoid failure. In addition, the folk belief in full moons causing irrational behavior is a well-documented phenomenon in folklore studies, stretching as far back as the ancient Rome and earlier. A few medical journals have even published research challenging the correlation between full moons and hospitalizations.

For more information about the inquiry into full moons and their affect on hospitals, see the following (the first is emergency-room trauma, the second psychiatric):

Zargar, M., Khaji, A., Kaviani, A., Karbakhsh, M., Yunesian, M., & Abdollahi, M. (2004). The full moon and admission to emergency rooms. Indian journal of medical sciences58(5), 191–195.

Gupta, R., Nolan, D. R., Bux, D. A., & Schneeberger, A. R. (2019). Is it the moon? Effects of the lunar cycle on psychiatric admissions, discharges and length of stay. Swiss medical weekly149, w20070. https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2019.20070

Healthcare Full Moon Friday

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (PB).

CB: “So tell me about the full moon friday night”

PB: “Well everyone in the hospital knows that on a full moon friday night, not only is the emergency room going to be crazy busy, but it’s going to be very bizarre, odd, and horrific things that you haven’t seen before. Somebody’s gonna come in with a severed foot, or you know, something really disturbing that you haven’t seen before, that because of the full moon and the full moon being out on a friday night where they are just more risk takers. So yeah, its also in the rest of the hospital. If you’re working in the ICU someone is probably gonna code, or go into cardiac arrest. Someone on the floor is gonna have something bizarre happening. More people are gonna have sort of crazy behaviors, the dememnted people are going to have more severe delusions or hallucinations that haven’t had any other time they’ve been there. It’s just that you believe on a full moon friday night that its just going to be a crazy night.”

CB: “Why do you think people believe that?”

PB: “Um, I think they believe that because one, there is some science behind the full moon having an effect on human behavior, uh, but also because when the night is just going very crazy you have to have an explanation. And we are the type of people, in the healthcare world, where we want to just explain everything. So we’re gonna say well, its a full moon and that’s why this is happening.”

CB: “What does the superstition mean to you?”

PB: “To me, it means that we can explain things we can’t explain, and accept things that are out of our control. You know that the full moon happens once a month, and once a month you’re just gonna have that crazy shift. And it’s a way of giving reason to what can’t have reason.”


My informant has worked as a respiratory therapist for about 8 years. This position requires that she work with every part of the medical personnel and with every department. She has also worked in about 4 hospitals in the Northern California area. Because of this, she has become very integrated into the overarching healthcare culture surrounding her work. Despite the focus on the scientific, the healthcare field has many superstitions. They often help give the healthcare workers a sense of agency and meaning over the situations they find themselves in.

I interviewed my informant in person. We were in my bedroom on my bed, and the conversation was very comfortable and casual. I had heard many stories from her work beforehand.


Within healthcare, the professionals are constantly faced with unpredictable factors. They face all sorts of horrible situations while seeing people in some of the worst circumstances of their lives. These situations make human behaviors even less predictable than they usually are. With the start of every shift, healthcare workers have to accept a lot of uncertainty, and be open to facing difficult and potentially traumatic events. Because of this, a culture of trying to predict the unpredictable has arisen and led to the development of many healthcare superstitions. By labeling and accepting one night out of the month as a horrible, crazy shift healthcare workers are able to regain the ability to prepare for the unpredictable. It also allows for an explanation as to why patients they might normally like are behaving erratically, or out of character. The superstition also bonds the community as a whole. They are able to prepare for their crazy night as though they are going into battle. They might see something disturbing, but they will do it together, and they will come out the otherside having helped people.

For more variations of healthcare superstitions see SSMHealth’s blog post “10 ER superstitions for a full moon Friday the 13th”. https://www.ssmhealth.com/blogs/ssm-health-matters/september-2019/10-er-superstitions-for-a-full-moon-friday-the-13

Wart treatment


If you have a wart, cut an onion in half, rub it on your wart, and bury it in the backyard on a full moon.



The informant learned this remedy from her mother and said that it was a very common one that she fully believed in when she was a kid. She said that not only did all of her friends know about this trick, but her husband who grew up on the other side of the country knew of a very similar remedy growing up. She believed it when she was much younger and practiced it frequently as she struggled with warts, but as she got older, she realized that it didn’t actually do anything



The informant is a woman in her mid forties who grew up in the small town of Garner, Iowa (population: 2,000 as of 2018). She attended public school and grew up in a very rural area where she worked on the farm that her parents owned.



Warts are certainly unsightly and could even be embarrassing for a young child. Children can be mean and a child may be teased for having something that made them stand out in a negative way like a wart. Warts are also something that happen for seemingly no reason at all and are uncontrollable. Freezing off warts is possible, but the informant may not have had access to a doctor who provided this service being from such a small town. Because of all of these reasons, it makes sense that the informant practiced this remedy even though there seemed to be no scientific reasoning behind it. It gave her a feeling of control over this fairly uncontrollable blemish.