There are so many reasons to look forward to summer, right? There’s flip flops, barbecues, swimming, gardening, frolicking and lollygagging, and perhaps more than a few long nights spent gazing at the sky while the Earth respires around us. Since time immemorial, the night sky has inspired poets, astronomers, dreamers, and lovers to lift up their eyes to the wonders of the heavens and expound through art and literature upon the beauty they found there.
Most prominent in the night sky is Lady Luna herself, worshiped and revered in ancient spiritual traditions, with aspects residing in Deities such as Phoebe, Artemis, Selene, Menily, Neith, and Arianrhod, among others.
Long before Galileo’s telescope came about in the early 1600’s, even before Hypatia was making waves as a female teacher of philosophy, astronomy, and math around 400 CE, the Moon was considered dominant over the sun, because it appears to the naked eye as the largest object in the sky.
Hunter-gatherer societies endowed the Moon with male aspects, theorizing that the monthly disappearance of the Moon was caused by a monster who ate the Moon and then regurgitated it at the time of the appearance of the waxing crescent.
Contrarily, agricultural societies regarded the Moon as female, benevolent, a symbol of fertility who bestowed abundance upon humanity. Moon worship and reverence has seen a bit of a resurgence lately, with the ever-increasing popularity of modern paganism, but all of the modernized practices rely heavily on the lore of the archaic beliefs, pieced together from ancient clues revealed at archaeological digs all over the world. Suffice it to say that every culture with an eye turned towards the sky has honored and revered the Moon and was enchanted by Her changing face and influence over all the waters of the Earth, including the water inside each of us.
Ancient Sumerians, for example, believed that the Moon embodies the gateway through which souls travel down from the stars to find their places on Earth. Conversely, other cultures looked upon the silvery disc as a celestial home, where all those who have passed over go when they leave this plane. Still other civilizations saw the Moon as the source of Life itself, endowed with the ability to shape-shift and create new life. Either way, the Moon was accepted to be a sort of a Soul superhighway that each of our most ancient ancestors believed we all travel.
In contrast to the glaring heat of the sun, the Moon is cool, comforting, almost seductive. In the earliest matriarchal traditions (and experiencing a revival in modern paganism), there was a lunar trinity of Maiden – Mother – Crone, representative of all the aspects of the sacred mysteries, the path to knowing the Divine Self. The Moon was seen as Queen of the Night, inviting her human subjects to revel in her full glow as she lights the way, but also teaching them to learn to find their own path when she disappears at the New Moon. She is the Queen of the Underworld, revealing the bridge to the dreamy shadow realms of the psyche, hidden mysteries, ancestral memory, and past lives.
The Moon seems to mimic female life stages as she moves through each of her phases, appearing as the slight crescent of the Maiden, the full orb of the Mother, and the cadaverous crook of the waning Crone. In the guise of the virgin huntress Artemis, later the Roman Diana, the Moon was seen to give life, and women made offerings to her to ensure fertility and safety in childbirth. In modern cultures, the Moon still is revered as a symbol to represent the Goddess, the female aspect of Deity, or it may be worshiped directly for its effects on seasons, tides, or the rhythms of the Earth.
Although we all talk about the Moon, think about the Moon, and look up at the Moon, the Moon still remains a mystery to us. It has been thus for ages and will be thus for ages to come. The light of the Moon seems to contain magic, an undeniable mystery all its own, yet something that every one of us can share in. The Moon that enchants the poets, philosophers, and dreamers of today is the same shadowy orb that occupied the hearts of our ancestors. So gaze up at the moon with a bit of reverence tonight, just like your ancestors have done since they first crawled, gasping, onto the shores of the primordial seas, perhaps to get a closer look at that mysterious glowing sphere in the heavens.