The Everyday Lore Project

24 January 2020 – New Moon

24 January 2020 – New Moon

Today started with me and the vet having an existential crisis over where the soul goes to when we’re in a coma, and is ending with me setting fire to bay leaves in my bathroom sink. Nobody said that folklore isn’t various.

Anyhow, today is the new moon. And there’s lots of folklore associated with the new moon. Were I a fisherwomen, I might believe that the 45 minutes either side of the moonrise and set of a new moon were the best time for the fish to bite. Were I a gardener, I might believe that now would be a good time to plant my celery. And more specifically, as tonight’s full moon falls in Aquarius (the ruler of electricity), it’s said that now is a good time to buy light bulbs. 

And although it’s true I do need a new lightbulb, that didn’t feel much like an adventure. So I turned to two ladies who know what to do at new moons, my friends Claire and Jaymie. You’ve met Claire and Jaymie before, they drank in the name of folklore science for my first post on St Distaff’s Day. And due to new moons also being about new beginnings, a detoxifying bath to start the next lunar cycle properly cleansed, or manifesting my wishes by writing them on bay leaves and then burning them was suggested. And although it’s true I do need a bath, I plumped for the bay leaves. 

Bay trees are supposed to, amongst other things, protect against lightening and the devil. When the trees grow well, they are supposed to attract riches and the leaves are often used for divination. Youtube seems to be full of videos about burning bay leaves for luck and prosperity, but there is something hopelessly unromantic about writing on a bay leaf with a Sharpie. So as I don’t have a quill or any skill in calligraphy, I chose a favourite black ink pen instead. 

Figuring out what I wanted to wish for was hard. And made all the more difficult due to the Mr Scruff track, Shanty Town playing in the background with the phrase ‘there’s a whale, there’s a whale, there’s a whale fish he cried, and the whale was in full view’ on repeat. But I chose three wishes, and then at the last moment a bonus fourth. I tried to keep them simple, but my wish for clarity was so incomprehensible it totally proved its point. I’m not sure if the actual burning signifies anything but the first leaf only burned after lots of false starts, the second was easier, the third caught and flamed quickly and the fourth was a little sluggish. Top tip – use tweezers and a lighter that doesn’t hurt. After I burnt them, I remembered I was supposed to be scattering the ashes in the wind so scraped them off the bathroom sink with an astrology word search and shoved them out the kitchen window. The smell is still lingering, it’s a fruity, woody, medicinal kind of scent. It’s in my hair, and making the back of my throat tickly. I’ve made a note of my wishes, and will report back if any of them look like they are coming true…

And in case you were wondering, the cat’s fine, if a little stinky. And nobody I know is in a coma. 


Burdick, A. (ed) (2019) Llewellyn’s 2020 Moon Sign Book, Woodbury, MN, LLewellyn Publications

Culpeper (1995) Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, Ware, Wordsworth Editions Ltd

Leendertz, L. (2019) The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide to 2020, London, Mitchell Beazley

Simpson, J. and Roud, S. (2001) Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, Oxford, Oxford University Press

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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