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Moon Lore, by Timothy Harley, [1885], at


We design this chapter to be the completion of moon-worship, and at the same time an anticipation of those lunary superstitions which are but scattered leaves from luniolatry, the parent tree. If the new moon, with its waxing light, may represent the primitive nature-worship which spread over the earth; and the full moon, the deity who is supposed to regulate our reservoirs and supplies of water: the waning moon may fitly typify the grotesque and sickly superstition, which, under the progress of radiant science and spiritual religion, is readier every hour to vanish away.

"The name Astarte was variously identified with the moon, as distinguished from the sun, or with air and water, as opposed in their qualities to fire. The name of this goddess represented to the worshipper the great female parent of all animated things, variously conceived of as the moon, the earth, the watery element, primeval night, the eldest of the destinies." 244 It is worthy of note that Van Helmont, in the seventeenth century, holds similar language.[paragraph continues]

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His words are, "The moon is chief over the night darkness, rest, death, and the waters." 245 It is also remarkable that in the language of the Algonquins of North America the ideas of night, death, cold, sleep, water, and moon are expressed by one and the same word. 246 In the oriental mythology "the connection between the moon and water suggests the idea that the moon produces fertility and freshness in the soil." 247 "Al Zamakhshari, the commentator on the Koran, derives Manah (one of the three idols worshipped by the Arabs before the time of Mohammad) from the root "to flow," because of the blood which flowed at the sacrifices to this idol, or, as Millius explains it, because the ancient idea of the moon was that it was a star full of moisture, with which it filled the sublunary regions." 248 The Persians held that the moon was the cause of an abundant supply of water and of rain, and therefore the names of the most fruitful places in Persia are compounded with the word mâh, "moon"; "for in the opinion of the Iranians the growth of plants depends on the influence of the moon." 249 In India "the moon is generally a male, for its most popular names, Candras, Indus, and Somas, are masculine; but as Somas signifies ambrosia, the moon, as giver of ambrosia, soon came to be considered a milk-giving cow; in fact, moon is one among the various meanings given in Sanskrit to the word Gâus (cow). The moon, Somas, who illumines the nocturnal sky, and the pluvial sun, Indras, who during the night,

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or the winter, prepares the light of morn, or spring, are represented as companions; a young girl, the evening, or autumnal twilight, who goes to draw water towards night, or winter, finds in the well, and takes to Indras, the ambrosial moon, that is, the Somas whom he loves. Here are the very words of the Vedic hymn: 'The young girl, descending towards the water, found the moon in the fountain, and said: I will take you to Indras, I will take you to Çakras; flow, O moon, and envelop Indras.'" 250 Here in India we again find our old friend "the frog in the moon." "It is especially Indus who satisfies the frog's desire for rain. Indus, as the moon, brings or announces the Somas, or the rain; the frog, croaking, announces or brings the rain; and at this point the frog, which we have seen identified at first with the cloud, is also identified with the pluvial moon." 251 This myth is not lacking in involution.

In China "the moon is regarded as chief and director of everything subject in the kosmic system to the Yin [feminine] principle, such as darkness, the earth, female creatures, water, etc. Thus Pao P'ah Tsze declares with reference to the tides: 'The vital essence of the moon governs water: and hence, when the moon is at its brightest, the tides are high.'" 252 According to the Japanese fairy tale the moon was to "rule over the new-born earth and the blue waste of the sea, with its multitudinous salt waters." 253 Thus we see that throughout Asia, "as lord of moisture and humidity, the moon is connected

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with growth and the nurturing power of the peaceful night." 254

Of the kindred of the Pharaohs, Plutarch observes: "The sun and moon were described by the Egyptians as sailing round the world in boats, intimating that these bodies owe their power of moving, as well as their support and nourishment, to the principle of humidity" (Plut. de Isid. s. 34): which statement Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson says is confirmed by the sculptures. The moon-god Khons bears in his hands either a palm-branch or "the Nilometer." When the Egyptians sacrificed a pig to the moon, "the first sacred emblem they carried was a hydria, or water-pitcher." At another festival the Egyptians "marched in procession towards the sea-side, whither likewise the priests and other proper officers carried the sacred chest, inclosing a small boat or vessel of gold, into which they first poured some fresh water; and then all present cried out with a loud voice 'Osiris is found.' This ceremony being ended, they threw a little fresh mould, together with rich odours and spices, into the water, mixing the whole mass together, and working it up into a little image in the shape of a crescent. The image was afterwards dressed and adorned with a proper habit, and the whole was intended to intimate that they looked upon these gods as the essence and power of earth and water." 255

The Austro-Hungarians have a man in the moon who is a sort of aquarius. Grimm says: "Water, an

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essential part of the Norse myth, is wanting in the story of the man with the thorn bush, but it reappears in the Carniolan story cited in Bretano's Libussa (p. 421): the man in the moon is called Kotar, he makes her grow by pouring water." 256 The Scandinavian legend, distilled into Jack and Jill, is, as we have seen, an embodiment of early European belief that the ebb and flow of the tides were dependent upon the motions and mutations of the moon.

We find the same notion prevailing in the western hemisphere. "As the MOON is associated with the dampness and dews of night, an ancient and widespread myth identified her with the goddess of water. Moreover, in spite of the expostulations of the learned, the common people the world over persist in attributing to her a marked influence on the rains. Whether false or true, this familiar opinion is of great antiquity, and was decidedly approved. by the Indians, who were all, in the words of an old author, (great observers of the weather by the moon.' They looked upon her, not only as forewarning them by her appearance of the approach of rains and fogs, but as being their actual cause. Isis, her Egyptian title, literally means moisture; Ataensic, whom the Hurons said was the moon, is derived from the word for water; and Citatli and Atl, moon and water, are constantly confounded in Aztec theology." 257 One of the gods of the Dakotahs was "Unk-ta-he (god of the water). The Dakotahs say that this god and

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its associates are seen in their dreams. It is the master-spirit of all their juggling and superstitious belief, From it the medicine men obtain their supernatural powers, and a great part of their religion springs from this god." 258 Brinton also says of this large Indian nation, "that Muktahe, spirit of water, is the master of dreams and witchcraft, is the belief of the Dakotahs." 259 We know that the Dakotahs worshipped the moon, and therefore see no difficulty in identifying that divinity with their god of dreams and water. "In the legend of the Muyscas it is Chia, the moon, who was also goddess of water and flooded the earth out of spite." 260 In this myth the moon is a malevolent deity, and water, usually a symbol of life, becomes an agency of death. Reactions are constantly occurring in the myth-making process. The god is male or female, good or evil, angry or amiable, according to the season or climate, the aspect of nature or the mood of the people. "In hot countries," says Sir John Lubbock, "the sun is generally regarded as an evil, and in cold as a beneficent being." 261 We are willing to accept this, with allowance. There is little question that taking men as a whole they are mainly optimistic in their judgments respecting the gifts of earth and the glories of heaven. Mr. Brinton, in reference to the imagined destructiveness of the water deity, writes: "Another reaction in the mythological laboratory is here disclosed. As the good qualities of water were attributed to the goddess of night, sleep, and death,

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so her malevolent traits were in turn reflected back on this element. Taking, however, American religions as a whole, water is far more frequently represented as producing beneficent effects than the reverse." 262

"The time of full moon was chosen both in Mexico and Peru to celebrate the festival of the deities of water, the patrons of agriculture, and very generally the ceremonies connected with the crops were regulated by her phases. The Nicaraguans said that the god of rains, Quiateot, rose in the east, thus hinting how this connection originated." 263 "The Muyscas of the high plains of Bogota were once, they said, savages without agriculture, religion, or law; but there came to them from the east an old and bearded man, Bochica, the child of the sun, and he taught them to till the fields, to clothe themselves, to worship the gods, to become a nation. But Bochica had a wicked, beautiful wife, Huythaca, who loved to spite and spoil her husband's work; and she it was who made the river swell till the land was covered by a flood, and but a few of mankind escaped upon the mountain tops. Then Bochica was wroth, and he drove the wicked Huythaca from the earth, and made her the moon, for there had been no moon before; and he cleft the rocks and made the mighty cataract of Tequendama, to let the deluge flow away. Then, when the land was dry, he gave to the remnant of mankind the year and its periodic sacrifices, and the worship of the sun. Now the

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people who told this myth had not forgotten, what indeed we might guess without their help, that Bochica was himself Zuhé, the sun, and Huytheca, the sun's wife, the moon." 264 This interesting and instructive legend, to which we alluded before in a brief quotation from Mr. Brinton, is worthy of reproduction in its fuller form, and fitly concludes our moon mythology and worship, as it presents a synoptical view of the chief points to which our attention has been turned. It shows us primitive or primeval man, the dawn of civilization, the daybreak of religion, the upgrowth of national life. In its solar husband and lunar wife it embraces that anthropomorphism and sexuality which we think have been and still are the principal factors in the production of legendary and religious impersonations. It includes that dualism which is one of man's oldest attempts to account for the opposition of good and evil. And finally it predicts a new humanity, springing from a remnant of the old; and a progress of brighter years, when, the deluge having disappeared, the dry land shall be fruitful in every good; when men shall worship the Father of lights, and "God shall be all in all." *139

*139 For further information on the universality of moon-worship, see The Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations of the Known World, by Bernard Picart. London: 1734, folio, vol. iii.

Next: I. Introduction