Full moon at night with thin clouds around it

Moon Madness, or How the Demons Deceive Us

by Reader George Pejnovic

Sever­al years ago, I was vis­it­ing a friend in the hos­pi­tal who had been admit­ted into the emer­gency room for a stom­ach ail­ment and was being held overnight in the ER for obser­va­tion. When I had asked him how he was, he told me that he was hun­gry and quite tired. He said that he was kept awake by some of the oth­er patients that were real­ly rather noisy. Were they in that much pain? Were they suf­fer­ing that much more than the oth­er patients were suf­fer­ing? My friend didn’t know. He did, how­ev­er, tell me that he over­heard some of the nurs­es talk­ing about how agi­tat­ed and unset­tled some of the patients were, and then he added that the same nurs­es also noticed and said — sure enough –that the moon was full.

For cen­turies, man has been mys­ti­fied about why some indi­vid­u­als are so neg­a­tive­ly affect­ed or trou­bled dur­ing a full moon, an odd­i­ty and pecu­liar­i­ty that has occurred for cen­turies. Ask a vet­er­an police offi­cer or any expe­ri­enced emer­gency room nurse or physi­cian and they will most like­ly con­firm that some of the peo­ple they deal with seem to be unusu­al­ly agi­tat­ed or dis­turbed dur­ing a full moon. Some believe that the moon itself is to blame but they can’t explain why. The Holy Ortho­dox Church, how­ev­er, does have an answer to this baf­fling phe­nom­e­non, and has had the answer for as long as man has tak­en notice of this odd­i­ty involv­ing the moon.

The Church Fathers on the Effects of the Moon

Blessed Theo­phy­lact, an Arch­bish­op who lived dur­ing the 12th cen­tu­ry and wrote com­men­taries on the four Gospels and oth­er books of the New Tes­ta­ment, wrote the fol­low­ing about what is termed “moon mad­ness”: “the dev­il want­ed to instill in men the belief that the heav­en­ly bod­ies cause evil, and would set upon men [to agi­tate and dis­turb them]. The dev­il does this so that the moon would appear to be the cause of the suf­fer­ing, and thus God’s cre­ation would be slan­dered.“1

Demons, our adversaries, can only hate. They can never love.

When com­ment­ing on chap­ter 17, vers­es 14–15 of St. Matthew’s Gospel which describes a father approach­ing Christ and ask­ing Him to heal his demon-pos­sessed son, Blessed Theo­phy­lact again writes: “The moon was not the cause [of the boy’s luna­cy], but rather, the demon would take note when the moon was full, and then would set upon his vic­tim, so that men would blas­pheme the cre­at­ed works of God as malef­i­cent.“2

St Niko­lai (Velimirovic), a 20th c. bish­op of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church and pro­lif­ic author who also wrote com­men­taries on the Gospels, had this to say about moon madness:

The boy was ‘lunatic’ or ‘moon mad.’ How can the moon be to blame for a man’s sick­ness? If it pro­duces mad­ness and dumb­ness in one man, why does it not in all? The evil is not the moon but in the wicked, cun­ning spir­it that deludes man and con­ceals itself: it blames the moon, that man should not blame it [the demon]. It seeks in this way to bring man to think that all God’s cre­ation is evil, and that evil comes to man from nature, and not from evil spir­its that have fall­en away from God. And their vic­tims there­fore have seizures at the moon’s changes, that peo­ple should think: ‘See, this evil comes from the moon!’ ‑and, because the moon is from God, it fol­lows that this evil is from God. Thus are men delud­ed by these most cru­el and cun­ning beasts.[footnote]Homilies, Bish­op Niko­lai Velimirovic, Vol­ume 1, 1996, p. 164

Who are the Demons?

Per­haps some read­ers will ques­tion the very exis­tence of the Dev­il and demons. Those who do so are sure­ly not at all acquaint­ed or famil­iar with the Gospels, the Holy Scrip­tures, the Lives of the Saints, or with what the Holy Ortho­dox Church has to say and teach about these adver­saries and ene­mies of God and of all mankind. What’s more, with­out an under­stand­ing of demonolo­gy, mean­ing the study and knowl­edge of demons, it is not pos­si­ble to under­stand Christianity.

Demons are fall­en angels. They were cre­at­ed by God, and like all men, were giv­en a free will. All of the demons, includ­ing their mas­ter and leader, called Satan, the Dev­il, or Lucifer, were cre­at­ed as good beings. But Satan devel­oped a very high opin­ion of him­self, want­i­ng to become equal with and above God, and it was because of his pride and rebel­lion against God that he was cast out of heav­en.3 It is believed by some that as many as one third of the angels that God cre­at­ed were in agree­ment with Satan, and they too were cast out of heav­en to the earth and into hell.4

God, our Cre­ator, can only love. He can nev­er hate. Demons, our adver­saries, can only hate. They can nev­er love. All of the demons, from the most wicked to the least harm­ful, have an intense and bit­ter hatred for all of mankind. They are afraid and deeply con­cerned that men will inher­it the heav­ens that they have lost, and because of their great jeal­ousy and hatred towards man, it is their chief aim to lead peo­ple away from the true God and their faith in Him. This they do by tempt­ing men to sin because they know it is sin, and sin alone, which sep­a­rates us from God.

The Dev­il and demons are the inven­tors and insti­ga­tors of every sin. These sins include evil thoughts, for­ni­ca­tion, theft, mur­der, adul­tery, cov­et­ing, wicked­ness, deceit, licen­tious­ness, envy, slan­der, pride, and fool­ish­ness5

Because of their extreme­ly fright­en­ing and crude appear­ance, God has made them invis­i­ble to men. Some of the holy Fathers who were well expe­ri­enced with demons, have said that if we were able to see the demons in their true and crude form, we would not at all be able to endure the hor­ror of their appear­ance and would imme­di­ate­ly die of fright.

Demonic Deceit

Even at the hour of death, demons can continue their work of deception.

Demons, when they are allowed to do so by God — because they can only do what God allows them to do, and no more — can vis­i­bly man­i­fest them­selves into any form or object. They can vis­i­bly appear as Christ, the Moth­er of God,6 the saints, an angel of light (cf. 2 Corinthi­ans 11:14), strange and unfa­mil­iar objects and beings from space, so often referred to as UFOs and aliens, and even the deceased, which they can mim­ic and imi­tate to per­fec­tion. This, how­ev­er, is where so many, many indi­vid­u­als who involve them­selves in the occult or even have a pass­ing desire or inter­est in it, are led astray to believe that they can and do con­tact the dead. They do not at all real­ize that those that they are actu­al­ly con­tact­ing are demons, mas­querad­ing as the dead.[for fur­ther read­ing on this sub­ject, see Fr Seraphim Rose’s sem­i­nal work, Ortho­doxy and the Reli­gion of the Future[/footnote]

Demons can cause and even heal psy­chic and phys­i­cal ill­ness­es, all to bet­ter deceive and con­fuse peo­ple. They can also work and per­form the most extra­or­di­nary and remark­able mir­a­cles, as they so often do through magi­cians that lit­er­al­ly astound peo­ple,7 and through those involved in the occult and witch­craft, for exam­ple. Again, they do all of this with the ulti­mate goal of deceiv­ing peo­ple and lead­ing them away from God.

Even at the hour of death, demons can con­tin­ue their work of decep­tion. Fr Seraphim Rose wrote: It befits us, there­fore, to be very sus­pi­cious (at the least) of the ‘beings of light’ who seem to appear in the moment of death. They seem very much like demons pos­ing as ‘angels of light’ in order to seduce, not only the dying per­son him­self, but even more those to whom he will lat­er tell his tale8if he is resus­ci­tat­ed9In oth­er words, when a per­son returns from death and speaks about how mar­velous their short expe­ri­ence was, peo­ple are led astray to believe that no Chris­t­ian strug­gle or repen­tance is nec­es­sary in life, and that we are there­fore all free to do and indulge in any­thing we wish with­out any fear of judg­ment or pun­ish­ment, since even the crud­est unbe­liev­ers expe­ri­ence the same pleas­ant­ness and joy at the time of their death.

The Holy Fathers of the Ortho­dox Church, how­ev­er, teach that demons can eas­i­ly pro­vide a decep­tive expe­ri­ence of “heav­en,” but as Fr Seraphim described it, the expe­ri­ence of heav­en­ly pleas­ant­ness and joy has no nec­es­sary con­nec­tion what­ev­er with the eter­nal fate of the soul, which may well be one of tor­ment.10

Demonic Posession

Even in our own times, demons are known to possess people.

Even in our own times, demons are known to pos­sess peo­ple. They take great joy in pos­sess­ing peo­ple because of the great tor­ment and suf­fer­ing they can cause and inflict, not only on the pos­sessed indi­vid­ual, but also on those close to them and those who may be involved in an exor­cism, dur­ing which the demon pos­sess­ing the per­son will some­times speak through the one pos­sessed, and even in lan­guages com­plete­ly unknown to the pos­sessed soul. They can even expose, through the pos­sessed, the most secret and hid­den sins of those who are tak­ing part in, help­ing, or mere­ly watch­ing an exor­cism take place.

How extreme­ly blessed and for­tu­nate are those Ortho­dox Chris­tians who strive not to com­mit sin and who reg­u­lar­ly take full advan­tage of the Mys­tery of Con­fes­sion.11 They know and right­ly believe that every sin that is repent­ed of in Con­fes­sion is imme­di­ate­ly for­giv­en by God, to the great anger and wrath of the demons, who in turn know that they can no longer accuse us to God for those spe­cif­ic and par­tic­u­lar sins. But what ter­ri­ble pun­ish­ment upon those who inten­tion­al­ly hide their sins and errors from their priest or spir­i­tu­al father out of shame and embar­rass­ment.12 They do great spir­i­tu­al harm to them­selves and only bring joy to the demons. Some peo­ple ask why God allows demons to deceive, con­fuse, and tempt peo­ple so much and to such an extent. St Paul the Apos­tle gave the answer when he wrote his Sec­ond Let­ter to the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans: …they [peo­ple with no love or fear of God] refuse to love the truth and to be saved. There­fore God sends them a strong delu­sion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be con­demned who did not believe the truth but had plea­sure in unright­eous­ness.13


It should be under­stood by now that “moon mad­ness” is not caused by the moon itself but is rather one of count­less tac­tics used by the demons who wish to con­fuse, tempt, and lead astray the Lord’s ratio­nal flock. May we learn before the end to guard our­selves against their deceit and to cleave unto the the Lord through the sav­ing Mys­ter­ies of the Church!

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