In Ireland there are a host of traditional beliefs and rituals that were once commonly observed on the dark nights when the New Moon appeared by those who feared or hoped that the New Moon would influence their fate.
One such widespread belief, which has survived advised that in order for a person to increase their fortune a piece of silver should be borrowed when the New Moon first appeared, in the belief that your wealth would increase as the new moon waxed, while, at least in County Clare, it was considered lucky to turn the coins in your pocket on the first occasion that the luminary is sighted. In a similar manner, but with less favourable results, it was believed to be unlucky to catch sight of the New Moon through glass; a correspondent from a 1903 issue of Ireland’s Own warned that sorrow would follow a person who saw a new moon through glass until the following new moon appeared. Even the position that the New Moon was viewed from was deemed to be of consequence to the viewer’s fate: ideally, for luck, the New Moon should be seen over the right shoulder, while to see the New Moon over the left shoulder was believed to be unlucky, and seeing the New Moon directly before you was said to foretell that the onlooker would have a fall.
As with fixed festivals like Hallowe’en and May Eve the appearance of New Moon was once believed to be a significant event. On these dark nights appeals for protection and experiments into divination were noted in a number of accounts from the nineteenth-century. The famous nineteenth century Irish Folklorist and Hagiographer, John O’Hanlan provided two accounts of how salutations were made to the New Moon in during the middle of that century in County Galway. In the first account a person kneels down before the moon says a Pater or Ave, and then recites ‘Oh Moon! May thou leave us safe, as thou hast found us!’ While in the second account ‘was to make a sign of the Cross, and to say in an undertone, “God and the holy Virgin be about me!” Then followed this verse -] “I see the moon, and the moon sees me;] God bless the moon, and God bless me!”’ Appeals to the New Moon were also made by those who sought insight to foretell the identity of their future marriage partner, as A. H. Singleton recorded a detailed account of the following salutation from an unidentified elderly woman from County Tipperary in the early years of the twentieth who had prayed to the New Moon in her young days for insight into her future love life:
‘When you get a sight of it [the New Moon] kneel down, and with a black-handled knife lift a sod from under your right knee and from under the toe of your right foot repeating:
“New moon, new moon,
Happy may I be;
Whoever is my true love
This night may I see.”
Once this verse is recited a number of times the Lords pray should be repeated, after which the sod of earth is lifted from under your knee and foot and hidden outside your house ‘till you are ready to go to bed, then bring it inside. You must not speak to a living soul once the earth brought into the house. Then put the earth into the right-foot stocking, and put that under your head. But be sure you talk to no one till morning.’
Anonymous correspondent. Ireland’s Own, Vol 1, No. 8, 14 January 1903.
Donaldson, John. A Historical and Statistical Account of the Barony of Upper Fews in the County of Armagh. Dundalk, 1923.
O’Hanlon, John (Lageniensis). Irish Folk Lore: Traditions and Superstitions of the Country; with Humouress Tales. London, 1870.
Singleton, A. H. ‘Dairy Folklore and other Notes from Meath and Tipperary.’ London, 1904.