Professor Turing reveals two images of calf-like creatures as he enters the classroom. On the lecturer’s desk in front of the room, there is a sealed jar of dung that seems to be laced with tiny metallic specs. The jar is labeled “Mooncalf Dung”, and the date of the most recent Full Moon is listed in small print on the label.
Good evening, students, and welcome to another night of Astronomy! Today and next week, we will be focusing on the magic related to the Full Moon. Next week, we will also have our midterm. The midterm will cover lessons 1-5 of Year 2. That being said, let’s begin!
Source: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing many magical topics that connect to other classes. Like I said, Astronomy is an interdisciplinary subject. Please feel free to reach out to professors in these classes should you like to know more about their fields.
Our topic today will be Mooncalves and their famed Mooncalf Dung. In Year 1 of Herbology, you learned that Mooncalf Dung is a type of fertilizer. While Mooncalf Dung is not as powerful as Dragon Dung, it is great for magical plants that need a delicate touch. However, the distinct silver-laced fertilizer is hard to find, as you cannot just find the Mooncalf Dung any day of the month - if you want it, you will have to collect it before the sunrise after a Full Moon. Mooncalves will not be in their burrows during a Full Moon, giving you the opportunity to harvest their dung for fertilizer.
If Mooncalves are not in their burrows during the Full Moon, where would they be? They will probably be dancing in the moonlight at this time. Experts do not know exactly why the Mooncalves dance on this day, but their best guess is that the dance may be related to Mooncalves’ mating rituals. After the Full Moon, you can tell where the Mooncalves have danced due to the intricate tracks left behind in pastures. While Mooncalves often stay in magical areas, some of them make their way to Muggle agricultural fields. It is interesting to see Muggles’ theories on how to explain Mooncalf tracks in their wheat fields!
If the Mooncalves are out during the Full Moon, where are they on other nights? They are in their burrows, hiding from the outside world. We do not know much of what they do underground, but we do know that they are producing Mooncalf Dung, and since they do not leave their burrows for approximately a month, there will be a month’s worth of Mooncalf Dung in each burrow available for collecting during the Full Moon. When they are burrowed, they are impossible to remove from their homes, so please wait until they leave their homes before removing their dung.
Source: Harry Potter Wiki
Analysis of Mooncalf Dung may give us hints as to why Mooncalves behave the way that they do. As mentioned earlier, it is known for its distinctive silver-like appearance. Wizarding researchers were not only able to experimentally determine the composition of Mooncalf Dung to find traces of silver but were also able to determine that the silver played a large role in the effectiveness of the dung. Since the Moon is associated with the element silver, many researchers think that Mooncalves’ exposure to the Full Moon helps them to produce their signature fertilizer. In particular, since Mooncalf Dung contains silver, it is very likely that Mooncalves need the magic inherent in Moonlight to metabolize their food. The silver and other magical properties of their dung are a byproduct of the Mooncalves’ digestion process.
To take the relationship between Mooncalf Dung and Moonlight further, the nature of Mooncalf Dung is like an analogy to Moonlight - both Mooncalf Dung and Moonlight are gentle but magically powerful. It is quite amazing that such humble and delicate creatures can produce such nurturing and powerful magical fertilizer.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that during a Full Moon, magic is the strongest? Researchers believe that the strength of the Moonlight during the Full Moon accounts for Mooncalves’ willingness to leave their burrows. During most nights, the Moonlight is not strong enough for the Mooncalves to utilize the magic from it. They are in their burrows, semi-hibernating and having their bodies work with reduced metabolism and energy requirements. Once the Full Moon rises, the sheer intensity of the magic inherent in Moonlight from a Full Moon energizes them to emerge from their burrows. In fact, they probably get so much energy from Moonlight that they need to lose some of it by dancing. Perhaps Moonlight from a Full Moon also gives Mooncalves the energy needed to breed with other Mooncalves.
Mooncalves are rated XX by the Ministry of Magic, and thus they are harmless beasts. If you see them outside in a Full Moon, please do not hurt them. They are tiny, delicate creatures that will probably run from a human, so feel free to watch Mooncalves dance from a distance. Of course, you can also find their burrow and harvest their dung. This moonlight-enhanced fertilizer is very valuable, and you can not only use it on your plants but also give or sell it to other wizards. Please, though, only collect Mooncalf Dung from your own place - stealing Mooncalf Dung from others’ property is a serious crime!
If you would like to learn more about magical creatures such as Mooncalves, please consider taking Care of Magical Creatures if you have not done so already. Professors Anne and Cattercorn can also answer any questions relating to magical creatures. If you are interested in the Herbology applications of Mooncalf Dung, feel free to talk to Professor Tudor. While Herbology is not required all seven years, you will learn so much about magical plants and their relationships to Astronomy if you take her class.
Unfortunately, the class period has ended, but there will be more exciting topics to be discussed next lesson. Class is dismissed. See you next week!