The moon has a face like the clock in the hall;
She shines on thieves on the garden wall,
On streets and fields and harbour quays,
And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees.
The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse,
The howling dog by the door of the house,
The bat that lies in bed at noon,
All love to be out by the light of the moon.
But all of the things that belong to the day
Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way;
And flowers and children close their eyes
Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.
The Moon by Robert Louis Stevenson
The moon is many, many things. A keeper of time, a curse or a blessing, the light by which the fairies dance, controller of the tides, a deity, a celestial body, and the subject of stories, poems, and songs. People can be over the moon with joy or lunatics, a word derived from the name of the Roman moon goddess, Luna. The moon was and is, incredibly important to the human experience. Have any one of us not gazed up at the full moon as it lit the night sky? Or admired the sliver of crescent as it waxed or waned?
Dating back to ancient times is the belief that the moon governs moisture. Based on this, farmers have often planted by the moon phases. The new moon and first quarter phases are considered fertile and wet. This is the best time to plant above-ground crops, graft trees, or transplant. From full moon to the last quarter is dry and considered the best time to kill weeds, prune, mow, and cut timber, as well as planting below-ground crops. In drought conditions, it was considered best to plant just before the full moon, as this was the wettest time.
There are many other beliefs that the moon could be used to guide daily life. It is said rail fences will be straighter and shingles lay flatter if cut during a certain moon phase. Fence posts set during the dark of the moon will resist rot. Never begin weaning animals when the moon is waning. And many, many more.
The moon has also been considered a deity or spirit. Moon spirits are found in cultures around the world and are each unique in their own way. Though we often think of the moon as feminine, this is far from true. In fact, most moon deities were described as masculine, with some exceptions. Most moon gods and goddesses were associated with time, agriculture, night, and water.
In Ancient Greece, Selene was the goddess of the moon. To the ancient Greeks, the moon was a chariot driven across the sky by the goddess. She was the personification of the moon itself. Her appearance is rarely mentioned, except for her hair, which was said to be bright and gleaming. Somewhat surprisingly, there seems to be no evidence that she was directly worshiped as other gods and goddesses were. Selene is the child of Hyperion and Theia, who in turn are two of the twelve Titan children of Gaia, the earth, and Uranus, the sky. Hyperion and Theia also had two other children, Helios, the sun, and Eos, the dawn. Selene is best known in mythology for her love affair with Endymion (en-dim-ion).
The story goes that the moon goddess Selene falls in love with the beautiful mortal Endymion. She would come down to earth from the night sky where she rode her silvery chariot only to see her love while he slept. So in love was she that she wished to be able to visit Endymion forever and petitioned Zeus to grant him eternal sleep and immortality, which he did. In some translations, Endymion wishes for immortality and it is granted by Zeus because the mortal is so loved by Selene.
Selene the moon goddess
In Roman mythology, Luna was the counterpart to Selene. She is depicted with the symbols of the crescent moon and chariot and was associated with Monday. Sometimes she was considered an aspect of either Juno or Diana. Her stories are the same as Selene, but she seems to have been worshipped in temples unlike her Greek counterpart. She was listed amongst eleven others as one of the gods vital to agriculture. She was also listed as one of twenty principle gods of Rome.
Artemis is the Ancient Greek god known as the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and chastity. She was also known as Diana in Roman myths. Later she was associated with childbirth and nature in general. Depicted as a young and beautiful woman, she was also shown to be a vigorous hunter carrying a quiver of arrows and holding a bow. In her aspect as a moon goddess, she was depicted as wearing long robes and crowned with a crescent moon.
Another Greek god, Hecate is also associated with the moon, as well as with crossroads, entrance-ways, night, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery. She is depicted as a mature woman holding torches, a key or snakes, and accompanied by dogs. Hecate was also one of several deities associated with protection of the household. In many ways she is a liminal goddess, existing on the fringes of Greek mythology. This is one of the reasons she is so popular today.
In Ancient Egypt, Khonsu (kaan-soo) was the god of the moon. HIs name can be translated to mean “traveler” and may be related to the travels of the moon across the sky. During the night, he was also said to watch over travelers and protect them from wild animals and other harm. It was said that when he caused the crescent moon to shine brightly, women conceived, cattle became fertile, and everyone breathed fresh air. He was also considered a keeper of time. In art, Khonsu is depicted in one of two ways, either as a falcon-headed god with a moon disk atop his head or as the child of Amun and Mut.
Mama Killa was an Incan goddess of the moon and wife of the sun god. As such, she was considered the goddess of marriage and the menstrual cycle; defender of women. Like many moon deities, she was associated with time and important in the Incan calendar, which was calculated by the lunar cycle. Mama Killa was thought to be a beautiful woman, who would cry tears of silver. One story of Mama Killa explains the dark spots on the moon. The story says that once a fox fell in love with Mama Killa due to her beauty, but when he rose in the sky, she embraced him against her, causing the dark patches we see on the moon’s face. It was also believed that lunar eclipses, which were greatly feared, were due to an animal attacking Mama Killa. The Incan people would make noise and throw weapons to try to scare off the animal and prevent the world from plunging into darkness.
In Aztec mythology, Metzli is a god or goddess of the moon, night, and farmers. Legend goes that the moon and sun were once equally bright in the sky. Fearing that the light of both would scorch the earth, the sun threw a rabbit at the moon. Once struck, the moon became darker. Now it is possible to distinguish a rabbit figure on the moon’s surface, especially during the full moon.
Máni is the personification of the moon in Norse and Germanic mythology. He is the brother of the sun goddess, Sól. He is described as beautiful, with dark hair and silver eyes. Máni, like many moon deities, is associated with the keeping of time along with his sister Sól. He is said to be accompanied in his journey across the sky by two children spirits, a girl Bil and a boy Hjuki. They two children carry a pail or pails of water, and may be where the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill” derived from. Bil’s name means to lessen or pour out the water and Hjuki means to increase or fill up. Thus these two symbolize both the waxing and waning moon as well as the tides, which are controlled by the moon.
In the episode Fairy Hounds, we talked about the black dog who ate the moon and mentioned the Moon Lady Chang’E only briefly in relation to that story. In China, Chang’E is a beautiful woman who resides on the moon. There are several different versions of how she came to be there, but my favorite and the one discussed previously tells how she stole the Elixir of Immortality from her husband, the famous hero Hou Yi. After drinking the Elixir, she not only became immortal but floated up to the moon and resides there now in a palace made of cinnamon wood. Her companions are a three-legged toad and the Moon Rabbit.
Change'E, the Moon Lady
In Canaanite religion, which was an ancient Semitic religion, Yarikh was a moon god who was also called "illuminator of the heavens", "illuminator of the myriads of stars" and "lord of the sickle". He was associated with moisture and provided the nightly dew.
Nanna or Sin was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian religions of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylonia and Aram. He was also associated with cattle, perhaps due the crescent moon shape of bull horns. In texts, he was described as a major deity, but not always as the head of the pantheon. He was worshipped in at least two major cities. In one of these cities, Ur, he was the divine ruler and his temple was frequented by Mesopotamian kings.
In modern times, the Wiccan and Neopagan Triple Goddess is associated with the moon. The Triple Goddess is a singular entity with three aspects, the Maiden, Mother and Crone. Each of these aspects not only symbolizes a stage in life, but also a phase of the moon. The Maiden is associated with young women, those who are unmarried and without children (either physical or spiritual). She is the waxing moon from the new moon until just before full. The Mother, the aspect associated with motherhood of either a physical or spiritual nature, is the full moon. The full moon is often thought to symbolize fertility. The final aspect is the Crone. She represents those who have moved past motherhood into the later stages of life and is the waning moon from just after full to the new moon.
When the night is dark and peaceful
Loving hearts are all in tune
There's two lonesome people in the whole wide world
It's me and the man in the moon
When the little birds are nesting
And I listen to them croon
There are two lonesome people in the whole wide world
It's me and the man in the moon
While I lie there counting sheep
Through my window he comes to peep
And with each other we're sympathizing!
Oh, I'm looking at those happy people
While they sit around and spoon
There's two lonesome people in the whole wide world
It's me and the man in the moon
Excerpt of lyrics from Me and the Man in the Moon, by The Ambassadors with Frank Sylvano
Pareidolia is the tendency to perceive forms out of nebulous stimuli, causing one to see an object, pattern, or meaning where there is none. For centuries, humans have looked at the moon and saw patterns in the dark and light areas. In some cultures, it is merely a face. In others, it is a figure carrying a bundle of sticks. And in yet others, the figure is a rabbit or hare.
One German story tells of an old man in the woods gathering sticks one Sunday morning. He cut a large bunch and slung it over his shoulder and began to trudge home with his burden. On the way, he met a smartly dressed man walking to Church. The man asked if the old man didn’t know that it was Sunday when all good Christians should be resting? The old man said he didn’t care, that it didn’t matter to him. The strange man then cursed the old man to bear his burden forever and gave him a choice: burn on the sun or freeze on the moon. The old man chose to freeze on the moon and can be seen there even now.
In the Haida people’s mythology, the Man in the Moon is a boy gathering sticks. The Haida are indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. The story goes that the boy’s father bade him to gather sticks in the night and that the Moon’s light would guide him. Not wanting to complete his chore, the boy complained and ridiculed the Moon. As punishment, he was taken up into the night sky and trapped in the Moon, where he can be seen to this day.
The Moon Rabbit is also a pareidolic image on the moon. This folklore started in China, but spread to other Asian cultures as well. The rabbit, or hare, is thought to be pounding with a mortar and pestle, but the contents of the pestle vary from culture to culture. In China and Vietnam, the hare is making the Elixir of Immortality. In other Chinese stories, the pestle contains medicine for mortals or the ingredients for mooncakes. In Japan and Korea, the rabbit is mixing the ingredients for mochi or rice cakes.
Man has been dreaming of the moon for millenia. We’ve personified the moon, told stories and sang songs, imagining the moon as home to beautiful ladies or animals. Science now tells us that the moon is a natural satellite of Earth, made of nothing more than rock. It’s about the same width as Australia and orbits us in what’s called a tidally locked position. This means that we only ever see one face of it. We even visited the moon in 1969. Yet it still remains mysterious and ethereal.
Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing Heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Among the stars that have a different birth,—
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
To the Moon by Percy Bysshe Shelley
This week we dive into the Marvel universe for our recommendation. The series Moon Knight recently premiered on Disney+ and is a great watch.
From Marvel.com: Moon Knight follows Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, who becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life. Steven discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector. As Steven/Marc’s enemies converge upon them, they must navigate their complex identities while thrust into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt.