TAKING A BATH: Look at the Moon Before You Do

 06 - 05 - 17
Rizal Technological University News

Posted on June 5, 2017

TAKING A BATH: Look at the Moon Before You Do

I was looking for materials on Ethnoastronomy in my personal library when I saw two volumes of work by Father Francisco Demetrio, S.J. entitled Encyclopedia of Philippine Folk Beliefs and Customs, published by the Xavier University in Cagayan De Oro City in 1991. Based on the entries on the book about the simple act of bathing, it would seem that Filipinos have no less than eighty-four different beliefs about it, and some of them are associated with the Moon. Bathing, it seems is not such a simple act. There are lots of things to consider, such as the day of the week when you would take a bath, or whether it is a holiday, or if one happens to have menstruation, or if one is taking a bath in a river or stream. One should also consider the time of day when to take a bath because it is said that it is risky to take a bath before going to sleep because it will cause blindness. It is also improper to bathe often, especially the old men.

But these are not really our concern here no matter how interesting these beliefs are. Our concern is the association given by the Filipinos between the Moon and the act of bathing. Here are some of them:

1. It is taboo to bathe when the Moon is setting and the Sun is rising because “When the moon sets at the same time that the sun rises, the earth is carried shoulder to shoulder by the sun and the moon. People should avoid taking a bath when this happens.”

People must consult astronomers to know the exact time and day and the phase of the Moon when this will happen to avoid taking a bath during the occurrence of this phenomenon. On my part, I consulted Ryan Guido, the Head of the department of Earth and Space Science of the RizalTech. He says in the note he gave me that day and night are approximately equal in length during the vernal and autumnal equinox which occurs in March and September every year. It is really quite complicated.

2. Some Filipinos also believe that bathing during full Moon causes insanity.

3. There is an account of one Sinforoso Gomez of Santo Angeles, San Pablo, Laguna Province regarding a female Tikbalang , who had a “crush” on his ancestors: “A tikbalang had a crush on my great, great grandfather over 200 years ago. She also had a crush on my grandfather and again on my uncle. She is said to have been a very beautiful woman once. Now she is very old. She is said to live in a large mabolo tree near the river. She is said to take a bath only during a full moon.”

A tikbalang is a Philippine mythological creature that has the head of a horse and the body of a human. It is tall, black and bony and has disproportionately long legs and long hair, according to Wikipedia. When I consulted the Tagalog to English translators in the Internet, I found out that there is no English equivalent of the tikbalang. Thus it also called tikbalang in English.

4. Some accounts from Camarines Sur and one from Bulacan Province tell us that bathing during a new moon will result in death. According to the account, “One should not take a bath during a new moon, particularly at the exact time given in the calendar because if he does, he will die. This was confirmed by the death of a barrio resident who died while taking a bath during that time.”

Such death of course could have just been a coincidence.

Now this next item in the Filipino folk beliefs could mean that we should not bathe for at least 14 days in a month when the moon is waning.

5. Based on an account from Camiguin Island: “Whoever bathes at the waning of the moon will die.”

Filipino folk beliefs require us to look for the moon before bathing. Accounts from Camarines Sur and Lanao Del Sur tell us of a taboo when the moon is not shining.

“It is bad to take a bath on a moonless night…Do not take a bath when there is no moon because you will die by drowning…It is bad to take a bath during the hours when there is no moon (just before the new moon is seen) because you will die.”

According to the Phases of the Moon app I have on my cellphone, a two-day old waxing moon will rise at 6:27on June 25 and will set at 19:39 so it is possible to see it for about an hour or so after sunset. But I do not see how old folks would consider using moon apps just to follow this folk belief.



Demetrio, Francisco R. Encyclopedia of Philippine Folk Beliefs and Customs. Xavier University, Cagayan De Oro, 1991.

First Appeared on Rizal Technological University

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