Moon-Happy Apes, Monkeys and Baboons

Loren MacKinney

Isis, 54:1 (March), 1963, 120-122

Digital resource PDF file available

"The moon's influence on humans is an old story. Moon-struck 'lunatics' turning cartwheels or bound in stocks because of the 'course of the moon' (probably the full moon) are described and pictured in medieval manuscripts. Modern tradition likewise makes the full moon a time of exuberant acceleration of human spirit. However, from early times some have inferred that the moon's influence can be bad. The moon's exhilarating (and depressing) influence on simians, i. e. dog-faced baboons, tailless apes and tailed monkeys, is also an old story, and one that modern scholarship has confused considerably, due to loose interpretation of the inadequate descriptions in ancient records.

The ancients and their medieval followers were indefinite and brief on the matter. Pliny the Elder, first-century encyclopedist, citing Mucianus concerning apes, briefly noted that 'at concave (cava) moon they are sad ... they adore the new (novam) moon in exultation.' Practically every medieval encyclopedia and bestiary that described apes and monkeys repeated this general theme, but followed Solinus and Isidore of Seville." - author

Language: English


Last update December 6, 2021