The origin of the word “lunatic” indicates that before psychiatry was established people in Europe thought the moon drove people mad.
The belief in the moon’s disruptive power on a person’s mental wellbeing goes back as far as Aristotle.
Many years ago I trekked across the snow covered Cairngorm plateau under a full moon.
No head torches were required as the moonlight and the snow combined to create a situation where I could read the map as if it were daytime.
It did not feel like any ordinary night as we approached Beinn Mac Duibh.
So I do not discount the potential power of an ghealach and there is some evidence that moonlight can have an unsettling effect on some more sensitive souls.
Some years ago I read a criminological study that found that attempted murders spiked in the full moon, but not murders.
The reasoning was that murders, by their nature, involve premeditation and planning.
Whereas attempted murder was a spur of the moment, irrational impulse.
It is ironic that the first part of the moon that man ever set foot on was called the “sea of tranquillity” given the disruptive effect that this heavenly body can have on the oceans here on earth.
As humans are mainly made up of water then it stands to reason that our own inner tides can also be turned by the same gravitational force.
Now on Planet Fitba, we are witnessing another outbreak of our own localised version of lunacy.
One of the most common catalysts for an outbreak is usually an “exclusive” in a Scottish tabloid.
It breaks the news, the wonderful news, rather like the chap in the sci-fi film 2010. The hack gushes that “something is going to happen…” he pauses and shudders in anticipation and then continues “something WONDERFUL!”
There then follows several paragraphs in which various ludicrously optimistic scenarios for the future of Rangers football club is outlined.
The next stage of the illness is usually measured by the extent to which it spreads to others.
The first signs of a serious contagion are the comments below the initial item of “journalism”, and if the fantasy is believed then the delusion can take hold.
At this point, there is little that can be done to prevent mass psychosis gripping thousands of already vulnerable people
The disease is particularly virulent if it becomes airborne.
Although the initial infection can start with a tabloid “exclusive “ it can become a major outbreak if this is nonsense is then passed off as fact on a radio phone in.
Within a few hours large sections of the city of Glasgow can be infected.
Symptoms include being deliriously hopeful, then a vengeful over confidence kicks in, and the sufferer believe that scores can be settled.
At this stage the infected person can become violent so they are best avoided.
In the worst of cases the infected person has an evidence resistant strain of the disease.
At this point any intervention is largely futile and no amount of rational discourse will reverse the condition.
The fever has taken hold and it must be allowed to run its course.
Professional advice is that normal people have little to fear from infection although it is advisable to avoid those who think that they “ARE the people.”
Unlike an ghealach they are not the brightest and sadly some never recover and remain in their deluded state.
Despite this many can be cared for in the community.
The worst thing that these people can do is to keep taking the tabloids.
The old response from the Victorian era of using the “Big House” is now seen as backward and oppressive although some still want it to remain open.
While our ancient ancestors knew that wolves were particularly susceptible to being disturbed by moonlight it would appear that these days moonbeams mainly afflict the bears.