(c) The Gobbler: 1994 Thaw
by Linda Pascatore
There's something magical about the moon. People feel its pull whether bathed in the light of a full moon or experiencing the darkness of the new moon. The moon drives the tides and affects plants and animals as well as humans. Throughout history, the moon has been worshipped, feared, and celebrated. In the past, when there was no electricity, moonlight would have been much more significant. Any evening gathering or festival would likely be planned to take advantage of the full moon. The new moon must have alarmed primitives who didn't understand the phenomenon. The ancient Greeks used to shoot fire-tipped arrows at the dark of the new moon, in an attempt to relight the moon. That's where the phrase, "Shoot the Moon" originated.
One of the reasons that the moon was revered in so many cultures was its cyclical nature. Each month the moon would disappear during the new moon. t would slowly reappear as a tiny crescent, wax to the full moon then begin waning until disappearing into the new moon again. This cycle was symbolic of life, death and rebirth.
There were many legends to explain this progression. The Guarani Indians of South America tell of the brothers, Sun and Moon. They changed themselves into fish and tried to capture the hook and line of an ogre who fished for his prey. But the ogre caught the Moon and ate him. His brother, Sun, gathered up the fish bones of Moon left by the monster. Sun brought Moon back to life. Every month, the Moon is eaten by the ogre and revived by his brother. Another tribe from South America, the Siriono Indians, believed that during the dark phase the moon is away hunting. When he returns, he washes the dirt off his face a little at a time while the moon waxes or gets larger, until full moon when his face is clean. Then he starts to hunt again, and his face gets gradually darker during the waning moon until it is completely covered again at new moon.
The moon is often believed to be feminine, intuitive, and associated with fertility. One reason for this might be the cycle shared by women and the moon. The average menstruation cycle is the same length as the lunar month. In one Chinese legend, the moon represents the feminine principal of Yin, while the Sun is the masculine, or Yan. A woman named Heng O finds a pill of immortality and flies up to the moon. She decides to live there. Her husband, Shen I, cannot follow her; but he is given the Palace of the Sun because of his bravery in battle. He is also given a special lunar talisman so that he can visit his wife on the moon. But she cannot visit him, thus the light of the moon always comes from the sun. Shen I visits Heng O on the fifteenth day of every month. The full moon occurs when they meet, symbolizing the reunion of Yin and Yang.
Moon goddesses are found throughout the world. To the early Greeks, Selene was the personification of the moon. She rode a chariot drawn by white horses. Her lover was Endymion, the setting sun. She visited him while he slept. The moon's nightly passage was Selene on her way across the sky to stop and kiss her sleeping lover. A later version of Selene was Diana, goddess of the moon and the hunt. She is usually pictured with a bow and arrow and a wolf, hunting by moonlight. The association of the moon with the hunt might have been because nocturnal animals could only be hunted by moonlight.
The Incas of South America worshipped Mama Qilla, goddess of the moon and the feminine. The women there still invoke her help in childbirth. Mary, the Mother of Christ, is considered the Queen of Heaven. She is said to have power over the moon and stars, as well as the sea. Many pray to Mary for help with feminine concerns such as childbirth, healing, and growing crops.
It is not surprising that tradition has the Queen of the Heavens guiding the crops, because the moon has long been thought to have a strong effect on all growing things. Many farmers throughout the world plant on a schedule dictated by the moon. The idea is that the energy in the plants is flowing up when the moon is waxing to full. So the full moon is the time that above-ground crops should be planted, leaves and flowers harvested, and grafting and transplanting done. The period of the waning moon is the time for the destructive work such as weeding, killing pests, trimming, mowing, cutting trees, and planting root crops.
The Old Farmer's Almanac still includes a planting schedule with dates when the moon is favorable for planting various crops. The moon is also believed to affect the weather. Certainly it controls the tides. Weather changes at the time of the full and new moons have been scientifically documented. Traditionally, it is thought that the weather during the waxing moon is wet and fertile, and the waning moon brings dry weather.
Today, the moon still has the same power over us, but lately we just haven't been paying attention. How many times do we even notice the moon phases? Some city dwellers can't even see the moon because of all the lights and buildings blocking out the sky. Luckily, out here in the country we haven't lost that pleasure. Check the full moon schedule on our home page. Catch some magic moonbeams!
by Judy Long
Some say the new moon
pulls more than the full does
on the psyche.
But my yesterday is forgotten
for the peace of tonight
with its moon just a smile in the darkness
its stars just specs of what lies beyond
with little enough gravity to lift my hopes
that often sink into the depths of day
and just enough lunar force
to beam through my bedroom window