Lunar History

Moon Mythology


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Moon Mythology

"This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary." 
  -Sylvia Plath 
The Moon and the Yew Tree 

The urge to explain and understand the world of natural phenomena cannot properly be seen as particularly scientific, but must be seen, rather, as generally human. It is well known that long before Copernicus described his radical and revolutionary picture of a helio-centric universe that human beings, from around the world, were giving form to the origins, motions and motives of the vastly complex and depthless sky above them. Through mythic narratives of super-human heroes and anthropomorphic goddesses and gods, pre-scientific societies placed order among the cosmos. 

The Moon has always held a place of particular fascination in our earthbound lives, provoking the imagination to escape its limits and, as we look outwards, moving us towards an understanding of our inner selves, in all our human complexity. Monuments and shrines have been built to her; calendars follow her motion; ancient Gods and Goddesses mimic the Moon's gentle and unending pull on the forces of life. Myths, as Carl Jung has described, bring us back in touch with ourselves and, to that effect, can never be replaced by science. In this sense, it would be detrimental to completely dissolve these mythic narratives into an archaic and unsophisticated past. 

Is it not possible, on one hand, to deny the factual accuracy of these stories while, on the other, appreciating their import in our socio-political world, to see them as "facts of the mind," which, when projected, take on a worthwhile reality unto themselves; to understand them, not as the antitheses of science but, instead, its antecedents; to understand, not only their dangers, but also their power to free the human imagination, enabling us to envision new worlds, overcome old boundaries, and eventually move us all forward to a better understanding of ourselves and the universe around us. 

Stories and Myths

"The Wolves of Ironwood" 
Native American 
"Wolf Spirit" 
"An Arctic Sea Demon" 
"A Lesson of Darkness" 
"The Adulterous Moon" 
"Changing Woman" 
Ancient Greece 
"Monsters of the Sicilian Sea" 
"The Barely Mother" 
Ancient Rome 
"Fana, the Chaste Maid" 
"Diana’s Moon Children" 
Chukchi (Siberia) 
"The Reindeer Maid" 
Pacific Islands 
"The seeds of the Aoa" 
"Chinese Seed-Birds" 
"Moon Toads" 
"A Hare in the Moon" 
"The Blood of Creation" 
"The Lake of the Moon" 
Hottentot (South Africa) 
"The origin of the Harelip" 
"The Parting of the Sun and Moon" 
"The Tale of Hyuki and Bil (Jack and Jill)" 
"The Champion Drinker" 
"Mistletoe, the Fruit of the Oak" 
"A Man in the Moon" 
"The First Tears" 
"Moon Waters" 
"Talesin, Birth of a Poet" 
"St. Dwnywen’s Ice" 
"Sitting on the Moon" 
"The Snow Queen" 
Great Britain 
"Tales of the Oak Spirit" 
"A Nigerian Moon Tale" 
"The Magic Pestle"


Astronomical calendars are based on the rotation of Earth (the day), the revolution of the Earth around the Sun (the year), and the revolution of the Moon around the Earth (the month). Things would be much easier if all these cycles were synchronized. Unfortunately they do not quite jive. Three distinct calendars have arisen out of this problem.A solar calendar, such as the West's Gregorian calendar, is based on the tropical year. Every four years (leap year), an extra day is added to keep things on track. A lunar calendar follows the phases of the Moon irrespective of the tropical year, and a lunar-solar calendar follows the lunar cycle but has an entire month added every few years in order to keep in sync with the tropical year. 

The Islamic calendar, for example, follows a purely lunar cycle. Over a period of about thirty-three years, the months slowly regress through the seasons. Each month begins with the first sliver of the waxing Moon, although for civil purposes a tabulated calendar is used that approximates the lunar cycle. The mean length of the month on the civil calendar is only 2.9 seconds less than the synodic cycle. 

To find out more about calendars, check out these links (please note: these pages are off-site. NASA is not responsible for their content): 

The Celtic Year 

The Goddess Lunar Calendar 

Celestial Calendars 

Gods & Goddesses

Thoth, Ancient Egypt 
Bridgit the Enchantress, Celtic Ireland 
Diana, Ancient Rome 
Artemis the Divine Archer, Ancient Greece 
Shing-Moo, Ancient China 
Cybele, the Lioness, Ancient Phrygia 
Sinn, Ancient Babylonia 
Hecate, the Dark One, Ancient Greece 
Lilith, Ancient Sumeria 
Khons the forgotten Egyptian, Ancient Egypt 
Caridwen, Queen of the Cauldron 
Danu, the Good Mother, Ireland 
Isis, Mistress of Magic, Ancient Egypt.

Scapegoat of our Darker Nature

Do you think the full Moon has some unexplainable effect on our behavior? Early psychologists had no doubt about the Moon's effect on our mental states. The "lunatic," (derived from the Latin "luna" or Moon) was separated from the chronically insane, and extra staff were called into the asylums on the occasion of a full Moon. Special allowances were often made before the full Moon. The English laborer Charles Hyde was acquitted on murder charges on the grounds that he was under the spell of the full moon. The American Institute for Climatology concluded, "crimes with a strong psychotic motivation, such as arson, kleptomania, destructive driving, and homicidal alcoholism, all showed peaks when the Moon was full and that cloudy nights offered no protection against this trend." 

Lycanthropic Metamorphosis

Lycanthropy officailly derives its name from the Greek king Lycaon who was transformed into a wolf for playing an ill-concieved trick on Zeus. Stories of werewolves bring out the more sinister aspects of Moon lore. They can be found in cultures from around the world, but no matter where the stories originate, the full Moon has always been seen as the cause. An Eighteenth Century psychologist describes its effects: "The desire to run comes upon them. They leave their beds, jump out of a window, and plunge into a fountain, after the bath, they come out covered with dense fur, walking on all fours, and commence a raid over fields and meadows, through woods and villages, biting all beasts and human beings that come their way. At the approach of dawn, they return to the spring, plunge into it, lose their furry skins, and again regain their deserted beds."  

If you want to find out more about werewolves check out these links (please note: these pages are off-site. NASA is not responsible for their content): 

Temple of Luna 
The Werewolf Page 
Werewolf Legends of Germany 
The Eternal Sanctuary 

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