Home » Ancient Greece » The masculine moon: traveller, wanderer, deity

The masculine moon: traveller, wanderer, deity

The lunar eclipse has me ruminating on the moon, its symbolism and its inherent beauty.

I hope you are not taking the moon for granted, because in the not-so-distant-future, it will be colonized, and then you’ll be sorry.

The sheer lunar beauty we see each night in all its stages of exposure, the heavens’ Dance of the Seven Veils, will be marred someday by outposts of progress, all setting up their tents, invading our one satellite. I almost wish the moon were not an only child, up there all alone in orbit. If she’d had siblings, we would have had other moons to gaze upon when the inevitable happens.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This has to happen if we’re going to get off this rock called Urth and survive as a species. However, it’s sad, and today I’m mourning the far-off day when we have to leave. I won’t be around to see it, most likely, but I think about it anyway. 

However, until then, we have our moon and our symbolic, collective memories to reminisce and wax sentimental about. I am feeling rather romantic about the moon today, since she is in the news and was so very beautiful last night. Now, I say ‘she,’ but the moon has not always been exclusively thought of as feminine.

In fact, the moon has a long history of being considered a masculine deity, and these cultural differences always fascinate me, at the same time that they challenge what I think I know about something.

For the Hittites, the moon was known as Arma, later on thought to be associated with Hermes. The Egyptians, who, as we saw with Nut, the sky goddess, gave us an unusual pantheon and a different perspective on life and death, referred to the god of the moon as Khonsu. He was thought of as “the wanderer,” or “the traveller,” an appropriate concept for the “inconstant moon” Shakespeare bemoaned in Romeo and Juliet.

One wonders about the values of a culture that associates the moon with punishment.

The god Mên provides an interesting interpretation; this male deity is Phrygian, from Western Asia Minor, and was also connected with fertility, healing, and punishment.
Characteristically, Mên is depicted with the points of crescent moons on his shoulders. He wears a Phrygian cap. Mên carries a pine cone or patera in his outstretched right hand and rests his left upon a sword or lance.

Another aspect of the moon’s symbolism lies with the Akkadian, and later Sumerian god, Sin or Nanna. He was thought of as the god of Wisdom, and reigned supreme in the pantheon, since lunar phases ruled celestial events for ancient astronomers and astrologers.

[From Wiki]: On cylinder seals, he is represented as an old man with a flowing beard and the crescent symbol. In the astral-theological system he is represented by the number 30 and the moon. This number probably refers to the average number of days (correctly around 29.53) in a lunar month, as measured between successive new moons.

In the Hindu culture, the god Chandra (literally, “shining”) rides his white chariot, the moon, across the skies every night, a chariot pulled by ten white horses (or one antelope, oddly).

Western astrology has inherited most of the Vedic beliefs about the moon—that Chandra represents brain and mind, emotions, sensitivity, softness, imagination, queen and mother.

Chandra rules over the sign Karka (Cancer), while he is exalted in Vrishabha (Taurus) and in his fall in Vrishchika (Scorpio). The waxing moon is considered to be benefic, and the waning moon is considered to be malefic. The bright moon is considered a benefic of the highest order, while the dark moon is considered a malefic.

Revisioning the moon as masculine… it doesn’t come easily

The moon is an ambivalent symbol for lovers, as Juliet knows when she remonstrates against Romeo’s desire to swear by the evocative, yet inconstant moon. The masculine moon does not seem to comfort. It offers a very different symbolic legacy than the feminine we have been taught to believe in, the moon of romance, mystery and fantasy.

I’m haunted by the meaning in the Alan Parsons youtube song I’ve pasted in below, which might illuminate, no pun intended, the motif of the moon as “wanderer” or “traveller”, not only in the night sky, but also in our collective beliefs about lunar energy.

Perhaps it’s entirely fitting that one day, our moon will be invaded, but if it is, we can think differently about the symbolism of this invasion if we see the moon as masculine, rather than feminine. Could it then seem less an act of brutality, and more like an excursion into the traveller’s wilderness? Erecting pup-tents on the moon might not seem quite so wanton, if it’s enacted against a masculine deity…?

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