A mysterious, silvery globe twinkling in the night sky - it's easy to feel a sense of awe when gazing up at the bright shining moon. So it's little wonder that this celestial body held great fascination for ancient cultures.
Unlocking mysteries of the moon deities
A mysterious, silvery globe twinkling in the night sky - it's easy to feel a sense of awe when gazing up at the bright shining moon. So it's little wonder that this celestial body held great fascination for ancient cultures. In contrast to the blazing warmth of the sun, the moon was seen as a darker, more mystical force. So, in ancient philosophies, it was transformed into a series of magical moon goddesses.
The effect of the moon on life on earth was evident even to our ancestors, who could observe its gravitational pull on tides, or its changing shape throughout the month. Many Pagan cultures thought of the moon as a feminine archetype, in the same way the sun was considered a masculine force. The sun signifies the visible world on earth, while the moon represents the hidden world of the spirit.
In ancient times, it may be that the female moon eclipsed her masculine sun counterpart in importance. This is because of the Moon's links with the female cycle, consequently joining the moon with birth and new life. So it followed that the moon's many female faces were often represented as fertility goddesses. The figure of the goddess Luna was a Roman personification of the moon. But many other Pagan goddesses represented this glittering celestial object, too. Here are some of the goddesses of the moon.
Mistress of magic, witchcraft, and the moon, this dark lady has the lunar power of the night. Yet, like the moon, Hecate is associated with new life and regeneration. She helped the earth goddess, Demeter, search for her lost daughter, Persephone, who had been kidnapped by the god of the underworld. Hecate lit flaming torches to light the way for Demeter and guide her through the underworld. Demeter retrieved her daughter so spring returned to the earth once more, meaning Hecate had helped new life return to earth again. Like the moon, Hecate's appearance is shining and luminous. She is associated with prophecy and psychic powers.
Sensual Selene is linked to the phase of the moon when it is largest in the sky - a full moon. This represents the possibility of new life and a woman at the height of her fertility. Magnificent in appearance, Selene is often depicted as a woman driving a silvery chariot across the night sky, pulled along by a two white, winged horses. She wears a crescent moon as a crown in her hair and a shimmering cloak streams out behind her as she rides through the heavens. Selene took a fancy to a mortal man, a shepherd called Endymion, who she caused to be come 'moon-struck' so he fell into an immortal slumber, preserving his youth and beauty forever.
A Germanic goddess known as the 'white lady', she is depicted as dressed in snow-white robes with silver hair. She is one of the triple goddesses, symbolising the three stages of life for a woman: maiden, mother and wise elder. Protector of the home and of domestic arts, such as cooking and child rearing. She guards women during child birth - and so is linked to life and death, encouraging infants into the world. A winter goddess, Yule, the longest day of winter, is her feast day.
A fearsome protector of women, Artemis is the silvery moon goddess who doles out punishment to those who harm females. She is never seen without her bow, which represents the crescent moon. She is a strong, athletic figure who is a huntress providing food, yet also a protector of animals. Artemis could shift from gentle protector to terrifying avenger very quickly, just as the moon shifts the tides. The moon is the astrological representative of constantly changing moods as represented in the figure of this moon goddess.
A Norse goddess, Hela rules the underworld, governing this moonlit place of darkness. She is the lady of death. Although this might sound a bit sinister today, death was not viewed in the same way by our Pagan ancestors. The end of life was accepted, even welcomed, as an inevitable part of living. The souls of the dead descend to her for judgement. She has power over reincarnation, deciding who should be punished and whose good deeds have earned them a new life.
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