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.
"The Wolves of Ironwood"Native American
PawneeAncient Greece"Wolf Spirit"Inuits"An Arctic Sea Demon"Blackfeet
"Monsters of the Sicilian Sea"Ancient Rome
"Fana, the Chaste Maid"Chukchi (Siberia)
"The Reindeer Maid"Pacific Islands
"The seeds of the Aoa"China
"A Hare in the Moon"Hottentot (South Africa)
"The origin of the Harelip"Lithuania
"The Parting of the Sun and Moon"Germany
"The Tale of Hyuki and Bil (Jack and Jill)"Algeria
"The First Tears"Columbia
"Talesin, Birth of a Poet"Denmark
"The Snow Queen"Great Britain
"Tales of the Oak Spirit"Nigeria
"A Nigerian Moon Tale"Burma
"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.
Thoth, Ancient Egypt
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