I was born under a waning crescent moon nearly 29 years ago. When the moon was full again my Father took me outside and held me up to her as a welcome to the world. I can only imagine now what my weeks-old self must have thought, the cool summer night air on my tiny body, my new Father's hands cradling me and above... would I have seen that speck of silver light? Would I have known that the Goddess was smiling down on me, that she had marked me as one of her own? I can but wonder...
Before I learnt that the moon was a satellite of our planet, I knew it only as something beautiful and mysterious. Everything looks different by moonlight, washed of colour but bright in contrast. It has always been one of my favourite sights and there have been times when I've done nothing but sit and stare at her, watching her slide slowly through the gap in my curtains until she's eclipsed by the fabric and disappears. Then of course came school where I found out where the moon came from, how before time was, the planet that would be earth was struck with such force as to almost liquefy the rock and sent some of it spinning back out into space where it coalesced into a ball that became caught in our gravitational field. Ever since then it has slowly drifted away from us, a hair's breadth further away every day, roughly one and a half inches a year. You'd think that would mean that one day the Earth would lose its satellite but long before the Moon could break free of our orbit, the Sun would have consumed us both. For now the moon is roughly 238,897 miles away.
The moon has come to represent many things to many people, hardly surprising as it's one of the most obvious celestial bodies in our sky. Most people in the Western World have heard of the Man in the Moon, a nursery tale as valid as the moon being made out of cheese. But in the past numerous cultures saw the man in the moon as someone who was banished there for their wrongdoings, either a boy who disrespected his elders and was made to forever carry his burden of sticks on the moon, or to Christians, Cain sentenced to travel around the earth for all eternity. Not all cultures see a man though, for some it's a woman, for others, it's a rabbit, most notably in China and Japan but also here in prehistoric Britain where the moon gazing hare was an important religious symbol often associated with Astarte.
In the West it is often assumed that the moon is a purely feminine symbol when it comes to deity but traditionally (at least in the Germanic territories) the moon was viewed as masculine. Mona is the Anglo-Saxon moon god who drives a chariot across the sky (Mani in the Norse pantheon), his female counterpart is Sunne who also rides a chariot. Throughout the world there are a mixture of male and female moon deities, Nanna (m) of ancient Sumeria, Chang-O (f) of China, Tsukuyomi (m) of Japan, Anumati (f) of India and Thoth (m) of ancient Egypt. More well known even in secular society are the Eurasian Goddesses of the moon such as Artemis, Hecate and Selene of Greece and Diana and Luna of Rome. In modern Paganism the most obvious feminine lunar symbol is that of the triple Goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone. In this we can see the three phases of womanhood, pre-fertile, fertile and post-fertile at its most basic. However, this doesn't just apply to women, men too have their feminine aspects in the form of their anima.
All over the world it is believed that the moon controls us to either a lesser or greater extent. It is a scientific fact that the gravitational pull of the moon effects the tides, and there is speculation that it controls other things too. It is here though that we delve into the murky realms of pseudoscience. There have been any number of psychological experiments both for and against the theory that the full moon can for example increase the number of psychotic episodes seen in mental institutions, or haemorrhages during operations. This latter theory can put some surgeons off performing non-essential surgery at the full moon even though there is little evidence to support such a claim. The former theory is one that has been long held as fact, the word "lunatic" betrays the length of time people have truly believed that Luna was able to send people mad. As far as anecdotal evidence goes I am firmly behind the belief that the moon can control the fertility cycle of a woman. I also believe that one's emotions can be effected by the phases of the moon.
A number of scientific studies seem to prove that the various schools of gardening that use the moon to dictate planting/harvesting habits really do work. Gardener's almanacs often show the phases of the moon for this very purpose. This isn't a new theory, it is as old as agriculture itself, every full moon of the year has a name that links it with the cycle of planting, harvesting and life in general. For example, the month during which I am writing, is known as the Wolf Moon (January). In medieval England wolves still roamed the country and the bitter month of January would have been a time when hungry wolves would be more likely to attack humans for food.
The moon has been a big influence on my life, for a start, I'm Cancerian! Even before I became aware of paganism I knew the moon was special. So captivating, so beautiful... I remember seeing a halo around the moon for the first time; I was in Wales returning to the Halls of Residence at University having just seen the film The Wicker Man at the Pagan Soc, I was caught breathless by the sight of the full moon ringed by a large silver corona, it was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and even though she has been proved to be a ball of rock, even though we have landed on her, played golf on her... for me it does nothing to dispel the magic of our Lady Luna.
Chronicle of Smee