The Moon - Lore, Myths, and Legends

About the Moon, lore, myths, legends, and theories from different cultures.


Lore: The moon, along with the sun and the visible planets, was seen by earliest observers as a divine object. That it could wax and wane in monthly cycles meant that it was concerned with birth, growth, decay, and death. The early Sumerian and Semitic peoples called the moon Sin, leader of the sky-gods, who fathered Shamash, the sun. Sin gave and sustained life, ordered time, and drove away darkness and evil-doers. Worship of the moon spread throughout the Middle East, but Sin became less popular at the time of the late Babylonian Empire and many of its attributes were taken over by other deities. In Egypt, too, the moon-god Chons and moon goddess Nit played minor roles, for Ra, the sun, ruled the sky.

In the 6th century B.C., Greek philosophers began suggesting that the moon, sun, and planets were physical objects, not gods. This set the stage for analysis by later Greek astronomers, who determined how eclipses occur, discovered that the moon shone by reflected light, and made refined measurements of the moon's distance from the earth. Nevertheless, the Greeks and Romans continued to believe that the moon controlled seed germination and the flow of blood in the human body. These beliefs led to agricultural and medical practices that prevailed until relatively recently. Aristotle's contention that the moon resembled the human brain, and that the latter changed with the moon's phases, led to the idea that the moon could affect the mind, as expressed in our language by the words lunatic, lunacy, and moonstruck.

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