The moon enamors me. I always know when the full moon is, so I am ready to gaze at all its glory and beauty. I even plan on giving my pets moon-related names. Possibly even second names for my children one day. It is fair to say, I may be a little obsessed.
The mystery of the moon has been somewhat demystified since the moon landing in 1969 and the current readily-available scientific knowledge. However, you can truly learn to appreciate the value and mysticism of the moon by the ways that ancient cultures have interacted with her throughout history.
Many ancient civilizations attributed feminine qualities to the moon and thus considered it a goddess.
In Greek mythology, Selene was the Titan goddess of the moon who was considered the personification of the moon itself. She drove her moon chariot across the sky providing the night with light. Another Greek goddess later assimilated with Selene and the moon was Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, wilderness, and chastity who was the twin sister of Apollo, the god of the sun, music, prophecy, archery, and healing.
Coyolxauhqui was the moon goddess in Aztec mythology. When her mother became mysteriously impregnated by a crown of feathers that fell in her lap, Coyolxauhqui felt her family had been dishonored and vowed to kill her mother. However, the child Huitzilopochtli sprang from his mother’s womb as a fully-grown and fully-armored adult. He killed Coyolxauhqui with his weapon which was a ray of the sun, cut off her head, and flung it into the sky where it became the moon. This gruesome tale depicts the daily victory of the sun over the moon.
The Incan moon goddess was known as Mama Quilla. The Incas feared lunar eclipses because they believed the shadow on the moon was an animal attempting to attack Mama Quilla. So they would try to scare away the animal by throwing weapons, making loud noises and gestures. The Incas believed if the animal succeeded in swallowing the moon, the world would be left in darkness.
Other than the folklores surrounding the moon, the satellite was used to keep lunar calendars to tell the passage of time. The earliest lunar calendar came from the Sumerians. The ancient Sumerian calendar divided a year into 12 lunar months of 29 or 30 days. Each month began with the sighting of a new moon. To keep the lunar year synchronized with the solar years, an extra intercalary month was added every three years or so, similar to a leap year.
Another remarkable use for the moon was to keep track of and govern farming practices. Different farming chores were performed during different moon phases as it was believed that the moon governs moisture. Many livestock farmers used the full moon to move their animals from one pasture to another, change feed, or change hay cuttings, as it was believed that changes were positive during a full moon.
Native Americans name the different full moons every month according to their seasonal changes and farming practices. The February full moon was labeled the Snow Moon due to the heavy snowfall during the month. Hunting became difficult and so some Native American Tribes call it the Hunger Moon. In March, the earth becomes soft enough for the earthworms to reappear thus inviting the birds of spring. Therefore, the full moon in March is called the Full Worm Moon. June’s full moon is known as the Full Strawberry Moon because the Algonquin tribes knew it as a sign to gather ripening fruit.
Today, the moon is more often just a big ball in our skies that we admire for its radiance. We may think that we have conquered the moon, know every detail there is to know about it, and must now move onto the next mysterious celestial body. I think the ancients had it right to worship the moon; we sometimes forget to recognize the wonders that are known and right in front of us. If we could, for a moment, appreciate how important and vital it was for us at one time in history. Only then can we truly understand how magnificent it continues to be.
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