Astronomy

Legends about the Moon



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From when mankind first looked up at the night sky, he would of wondered where the Moon fitted in with his world and why it appeared in the heavens. Consequently there are legends about the Moon from across the world. Just a selection of these include:

Native American Moon Legends

The Menomini

The Sun and Moon are brother and sister. The Sun goes out hunting and when he is late returning the Moon goes out to look for him. The Sun then returns from his hunting trip.

The Tsimshiam

In a time when the sky was completely dark, a chief had two sons. The younger son, called 'One who walks all over the sky' was sad to see the sky so dark, so he made a mask out of wood and pitch and set fire to it. The younger brother now traveled across the sky each day as the sun and at night he sleeps just below the horizon, his snore sending sparks of fire that turn into stars in the night sky. The older brother, Walking about early, was jealous of this and so smeared his face with fat and charcoal and so crossed the sky each night as the Moon.

The Zuni

In another version where the sky is completely dark, there is a coyote who is a bad hunter, the coyote is watching the eagle hunt some rabbits and the eagle's catches are making him hungry. So, the coyote said to the eagle "Friend, we should hunt together. Two can catch more than one" but when thinking about it further the coyote realized he would hunt even better with some light, so the eagle and the coyote go in search for some light.

Eagle and coyote journey to the Pueblo where the Kachinas were dancing. The Kachinas had two boxes; a large one which contained a large light, the Sun plus a small box which contained a small light, the Moon. Eagle and coyote decide to steal the large box, so the eagle flies away with the box with the coyote following.

After a while the coyote persuades the eagle to let him carry the box, which the eagle reluctantly agrees to on the condition that he does not open the box. But the coyote opens the box and finds, the small box inside to. The coyote opens the lid and the Moon escapes, shriveling the plants, turning them brown and bring winter. Whilst the coyote is chasing the Moon, the Sun escapes and drifts far far away. The eagle sees what has happened and admonishes the coyote, if it was not for the coyotes curiosity we would have summer all the time!

Chinese Moon Festival

There are many Chinese Moon legends, some of which include:

The Lady (Chang Er)

The Earth once had ten suns orbiting around it, each taking turns to illuminate the planet but one day all ten suns appeared at once, burning the Earth with their heat. The strong and tyrannical archer Hou Yi, saved the world by shooting down nine of the suns.

One day Hou Yi stole the elixir of life from a goddess, to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule forever, his beautiful wife Chang Er drank the elixir instead. Once she drank the elixir she found herself floating up to the Moon, where her husband could not bring himself to shoot down as he loved his wife so much.



The Hare (Jade Rabbit)

Three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and went to beg food from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey had food to give to the old man but the rabbit had none so it jumped into the fire to cook itself. The three sages were so impressed with the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace as the Jade Rabbit.

The Hare and the Toad

There are many moon legends associated with frogs or toads, principally because if you look at a full moon towards its right you can see the image of a toad (the toad's body is formed from Oceanus Procellarum, the Mare Humorum and Mare Nubium, whilst the Mare Imbrium marks its head).

One such toad legend is from the Machiguenga of Peru. In this legend the Moon descends to Earth and develops a taste for corpses (the moon is often linked to death and resurrection in legends). The Moon sets up a fish trap across the river where the Machinguenga leave their dead, to catch corpses. In the legend a toad sat by the trap keeping watch, croaking "Tantanaroki-iroki" over and over again.

You can also see the hare in the moon (the head and the ears of the hare from Mare Tranquilitatis, Mare Foecunditatis and Mare Nectaris, the tail from Mare Nubium and the egg it is holding from Mare Imbrium). Consequently Moon and hare legends cross the globe.

One such story in an old African legend where shortly after the creation of the world, the moon goddess decides to make mankind immortal so she sends the wise but slow toad (cropping up again in another moon legend) to give the people of Earth this message "People will not die forever, but come back to life like the moon". The toad slowly traveled to the Earth and the Moon goddess became impatient and worried that the toad had got lost, so she sent the fast but foolish hare with the same message, but he was so fast he had not learned the message properly and so told the people of the Earth "The Moon says that you will all die forever". The toad did turn up later, but the damage had already been done and from that day forth humans have been mortal. The Moon goddess was very cross with the hare and split his lip, the Hare has been running ever since.

Sources

Native American Moon Legends - www.geocities.com/starstuffs/native/myths/moon/main.htm

The Stories of the Chinese Moon Festival - www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/midfallstory.htm

The Toad and The Hare - www.planetfusion.co.uk/~pignut/toad_and_hare.html

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