Religious Concepts - Other

The Moon in Mythology and Religion



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"'The tide will be rising now," she said. The man roused himself and looked at her. 'The moon is rising, too,' she added.'The power is beginning to gather,' said Lilith Le Fay. 'Shall we go and robe?'
- Dion Fortune, Moon Magic

Moon worship is as old as mankind itself. Our ancestors witnessed the moon as it reflected the rhythms of life, the cycles of the seasons and the tides of the seas. They watched the moon move across the sky, transforming and changing - a beacon of light that shone through the darkness of night. In short, it seemed to our ancestors that the moon caused the rhythms of life that they relied on so very heavily.The gravitational pull of the Moon moved bodies of water, causing fluctuations in fishing, travel, and flooding. The weather, too, was affected by the changes in the moon and this had a direct effect on mankind. Bad weather and storms were more likely around the time of the full moon, and rings around the moon predicted rain. A blood red moon signified the time for harvest or impending death, 'blood on the moon', whilst a lunar eclipse meant a time for magic to appeasing the moon to return to the Earth.

The moon's relationship with water was of particular interest to the ancient people. Our Ancestors observed how the moon affected the tides and how it reflected upon the waters, shimmering and bright. The power of moonlight and Moon Water (water that was exposed to the light of the full moon) was seen as being especially magical, and gathered for use in healing, magic and childbirth. Children were sometimes laid out in the light of the full moon to cure disease and affliction; nowadays, Witches leave their magical tools and talismans out in the light of the full moon, mimicking this ancient rite.

But sometimes the moon hides its face suddenly and without warning. The event a Lunar Eclipse was often described as a time of Pre-creation Chaos' and fantastic and elaborate rituals were performed in an effort to bring the moon back, including widespread orgiastic rites and sacrifice. The tribes of Orinoco, in Venezuela, believed that if the light of the moon was extinguished then all light in the world would go out, except what was hidden from the moons' sight. So at the time of an Eclipse they would take their lighted torches underground, bringing them out after the Eclipse so that they might re-light their fires.

The Egyptians were more educated in astronomy and knew that the moon shone because the light of the Sun was illuminating it. In this way, they described the moon as the Eye of the Sun' and attributed it with the power to see through the dark. The moon became associated with the Hare, Egyptian Un' meaning Eyes Open' and the Cat the 'Eyes of the Night'.

The moon also works with the zodiac, as it moves in and out of astrological signs throughout the month. Depending on the astrological position of the moon, the energies that are exposed to the Earth differ and cause changes to the results of our magic; and even our daily lives.

Women, the Goddess and the Moon - Xquic Isis Luna Hecate Astarte Nuit Selene Andraste

For our ancestors, the real mysteries of the moon lay in womanhood and menstruation. Because of the moon's effect on bodily fluids, the flow of women's menstrual cycles were (and still are) in tune with the phases of the moon. This timely bleeding usually occurred at the Full or the New Moon, when the moon had its ultimate hold on the Earth. The power of the moon was sometimes described as the Elixir' of the Moon Mother, and menstrual blood was seen as one of the most powerful magical ingredients available. Xquic, a Mayan Goddess, was a Goddess of the Moon and of the Underworld and was known as the Blood Maiden, or Blood Girl. In certain menstrual cults, red ochre body and face paint was used to evoke the energies of life blood, the natural magic of womanhood.

Menstruation was a form of bleeding which did not exist naturally anywhere else; it was bleeding that did not lead to illness or death. This led our Ancestors to associate the event of menstruation with the symbolism of the Womb to Tomb' -life and death hand in hand. This supported what the ancients saw occurring in the sky; the moon transforming, disappearing for three days, and then suddenly reappearing again. So, Moon Goddesses also became associated with the Underworld, death, and ultimately rebirth.

A Temple dedicated to the moon was built at Caucasian Albania, where women were held in high regard; many women were great warriors who evoked the powers of the moon and the Goddess Luna at every opportunity to ensure a fortuitous outcome in battle. The women warriors carried crescent-headed arrows, mystical weapons of great magical power and blades that could cast a wicked blow at short range. They wore blood-red woolen material into battle, along with beautifully cast armour and dcor. They also made use of the bow, the crescent axe, and a light buckler (a shield worn on the arm). Early versions of the Goddess Ishtar were worshiped at the Moon temple of Caucasus, who was depicted with a moon upon her brow.

The Sumerian Goddess Innana was also attributed with the symbol of the crescent moon, and it is believed that it was at the height of her worship that the model for the sickle and the boat axe were crafted, both in the image her sacred symbol.

Man, the God and the Moon - Mani Yah'la Sin Thoth Nanna Osiris Annigon Soma

Although in the modern religion of Wicca the moon is often seen as an exclusively female deity, this was not a belief shared by all of our ancestors. Many cultures associated the moon with man and God just as they associated it with women and the Goddess, with some societies even associating the moon solely
with a masculine force. Within my coven, we do not limit the moon solely to its feminine or masculine aspect. Instead, we try to embrace its totality and balance, which is offered by the powers of the Goddess and the God, and both the masculine and the feminine.

As agriculture became more important for our ancestors the Sun God and Dying and Rising Vegetation Gods began to appear more and more in the sacred lore of the land, particularly in the part that they played by impregnating the womb of the Earth Mother. In fact, the time of the dark moon when the moon could not be seen for three days was often described as a cave-like time', or the Mothers womb', where all would be in darkness ready for the God to be reborn with the start of the new moon cycle.

This three-day tomb-womb process was also reflected in the later stories of Jesus who dies, withdraws into a tomb for three days and then rises again. In a similar way, Osiris, the predecessor of the modern Jesus, was killed by his brother Set on the 28th
day (28 days per moon phase) of the 3rd
month (3 days of dark moon).

But the Gods were not only associated with the moon for their powers of fertility and self-sacrifice. There were many Moon Gods who ruled over different aspects of the moon as a symbol of mystery, inward thinking and divination, and the moon soon became synonymous with the Gods of intellect such as Thoth, who was the Egyptian God of writing and the mind. There were also Gods who were involved in the movement of the moon, such as the Norse God Mani who it was said dragged the moon across the sky every night. And Annigan, an obscure Inuit Moon God who chased his sister, the Sun, across the sky. In the heat of the chase, he would forget to eat, and so would get thinner and thinner. Realising he could not go on, he would rest for three days, feasting only to return to the chase again once the three days were up.

The Moon and the Lunar Calendar

The moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth in approximately 28 days. As it makes this orbit, it stabilises Earth's rotation, makes changes in the subtle energy of the planet and guides the ebb and flow of the tides. In the same way, the moon's energy affects all liquid on the Earth. The liquid within our bodies and the sap within plants and trees both react to the changes of the moon. Because of its biorhythmic effects on the human body, the full moon is often blamed for increases in crime, suicide and accidents, as well as more positive changes such as birth rates and fertility. The word, Lunatic' and Lunacy' both come from the word Luna (the Roman word for the moon, named after the Goddess Luna) due to the strange effects the full moon has on the human body. Folklore weaves tales of werewolves and other monsters that are said to walk the earth at the Full Moon, empowered by this auspicious time.

The first farmers of ancient times kept a record of the moons phases and carved them into stone, wood or bone. They realised the relationship between the moon phases and the progress of the crops. In general, the waxing moon was the time to planet fruit and vegetables, the full moon to gather berries and spread fertiliser, and the waning moon to harvest, preserve and store.

The Witches Tides

For each moon phase, season and hour there is an associated tide. Tides are created because the Earth and the Moon are attracted to one another other by a magnetic pull, and since water is a fluid, the gravity of the Earth cannot hold it still and therefore the water flows in harmony with the movements of the Moon. As the Earth moves and the Moon pulls, the ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, with about twelve hours between two high tides.

The Sun also omits a gravitational pull, although its force is much less powerful. However, when both Moon and Sun are combined (i.e. on New and Full Moons) the gravitational pull is more and this is called a Spring Tide (note, this has nothing to do with the season of spring). This causes tidal variations such as very high tides and very low tides. When the Sun and Moon are not working together, the gravitational pull is less and the tides are not as extreme. These are called Neap Tides.

Witches use the tides by taking advantage of the natural energy flow available to them. Just like the tides of the sea, it is easier to go with the natural flow than against it, so taking notice of tide times and biorhythms of the planet can make ritual and spellwork much more successful.

For instance, a Full Moon usually indicates to modern Witches that energy is at its peak. However if we also work at a High Tide during that Full Moon, then the results will be even more effective. Additionally, if we were working to banish, using a New Moon at Low Tide would be the best time for that particular spell.

You can usually find out about your local tides by checking the Shipping Forecasts and Tide Tables, which are easy to get hold of on the internet and are usually updated every day. As well as the daily and monthly tidal variations, Witches also attribute a tide to each season of the year and parts of nature. These are called the Elemental Tides.

Earth Tide: Begins at Yule > Peaks at Imbolc > Ends at Eostara
Fire Tide: Begins at Eostara > Peaks at Beltane > Ends at Litha
Air Tide: Begins at Litha > Peaks at Lughnassadh > Ends at Hrfest
Water Tide: Begins at Hrfest > Peaks at Samhaine > Ends at Yule

The Elemental tides allow us to use the power of the tides together with the Wheel of the Year, and our journey through own lives. The tides of Earth relate to matters of the body, tides of Fire relate to matters of the spirit, tides of Air relate to matters of the mind and the tides of Water relate to matters of the emotions. So for instance, to hold a rite at Lughnassadh, on a Full Moon and at a High Tide, is sure to be the most effective time to work towards your mental abilities or studying. And a ritual held at Yule, on a New Moon and at a Low Tide, is likely to be a most effective time of working towards releasing ties to an old relationship and making way for the new.

The Esbats Rituals of the Moon

The Esbats are rituals performed on the New and the Full Moons, which honour the Moon and make use of its energy. The structure of the Full and the New Moon Esbats are fairly similar, although the magical working of the ritual often changes depending on the phase of the Moon. It is normal for the members of the Coven to bring along requests for the evening Esbat; spells, chants, healing and so on which they would like the Coven to work on, and the High Priest & High Priestess may also plan specific praxis or workings for that night.

It is worth pointing out at this stage a difference between Modern Craft views and Traditional Craft views. Many Traditional Witches believe that magic should not be performed during a Full Moon; like the tides, at a Full Moon it appears that the Moon is neither coming nor going; it seems static in the sky. So whereas many modern Witches consider the Full Moon a time where magic is at its fullest, many Traditional Witches see it a time of rest. Again, the decision is entirely up to you.
Most Covens come together on both the New and Full Moon Esbats, with a meeting beforehand to discuss any business. Some covens have a feast on the evening (traditionally, rituals would start at 9pm, so the feast would be before the ritual. Personally, we find that having dinner is very grounding experience and best done after the ritual, so we start earlier and eat afterwards).

A cone of power is usually raised during the Esbat, either by using the Witches Rune (as outlined in Chapter 8) or another chant called the Yod He Vau He', a chant which holds its roots in the Qabalistic traditions. The Yod' means I' and the He-Vau-He' means life' and woman'. Another Witches' chant, Io! Evohe!' is an adaptation of this ancient verse.

Invocations (when a God or Goddess enters the body of the Priest or Priestess) are also more common on the Full Moon. The Drawing down the Moon' is performed as a ritualised way of invoking the Goddess into the body of the Priestess. Contrary to belief, Drawing down the Moon' is not a modern rite, nor is its name, and illustrations of female magicians drawing down the moon can be found depicted on carved reliefs from Greece. The Drawing down the Sun' is used to invoke the God into the body of the Priest, although this is more likely in most covens to be performed at Sabbats (festivals of the Sun) than Esbats.

The waxing and waning of the Moon and magic

The waxing moon' describes the period of time between the new moon and the full moon. It is at this time that the moon is growing, and we reflect this in our magic. The waxing moon marks a time for spells involved with growth, fertility, healing, new projects, new jobs and new relationships and covers the new, crescent, first quarter & gibbous phases of the moon.

The waning moon' describes the period of time between the full moon and the dark moon. It is at this time that the moon is decreasing, marking a time for spells involved with banishing, divination and endings. The waning moon covers the disseminating, third quarter, balsamic moon and dark phases of the moon.

Void of Course Moons

A void of course moon marks the period between the moon's final aspect (angle) in an astrological sign and its entry into the next sign. Depending on the position and the speed of the moon, a void of course can last for minutes, hours or even days. A void of course moon sits in empty space' between two astrological signs, and therefore has no planetary influences. At the time of the void of course, it is unproductive to start any new projects or long lasting commitments, and it is best to relax and put magical work aside during this time. Anything of any importance is best left until the moon enters a new sign, where any work will be more fruitful. Meditation and divination can be performed during this time, however the results cannot always be relied upon and should be checked later when the moon is no longer void. Magical work should also be avoided in this way if the ruling planet is in Retrograde when a planet appears to be moving in the opposite direction to its normal course.

The Witches Ball & The Moon

The Witches Ball is an inspiring and powerful tool, a spherical globe usually made out of glass which hangs aloft in the homes of many British Witches. There they hang, dusty and still, yet plays an important role for the Witch. Their main purpose is to deflect or trap negative energy that might enter the home, and depending on the type of the Witch Ball they can sometimes be opened and filled with herbs or other items to evoke protection.

A similar globe is used in eastern mysticism called the Gazing Ball, which has a reflective surface to repel evil spirits and bring good fortune. The Witches Ball also acts as a symbol of the moon and all that it represents, and may be hung in the window to indicate the services of the Witch
to anyone passing by.

Witches Balls can be hard to find, however other spherical items can be used instead such as glass fishing floats, and even Christmas baubles (which themselves descend from the Witches Ball).

The Horseshoe, Iron Nails & the Moon

Although modern horseshoes are made of steel, in the past they were made of iron. The horseshoe has been a symbol of luck for hundreds of years, and iron horseshoe nails and iron filings were often an ingredient in spells and Witches Bottles. Even to this day, horseshoes are a popular symbol of luck for weddings, and worn on the person or used to decorate wedding cakes and cars.

To our ancestors, the crescent-shaped horseshoe was a perfect symbol of the moon. In addition, the properties of iron its blood-like taste and red rust became associated with life blood, and the power of the Moon Goddess The horse was also associated with the Goddess, in particular Epona the Horse Goddess and the Celtic Goddess Rhiannon. For men, the horseshoe represented the power of the farrier who was attributed with magical powers for his ability to shape iron with fire, and represented speed, independence, hunting, strength and the horns of the Horned God.

The blacksmith has long been associated with Craft and magic, and many customs have been born from this belief in particular the ritual qualities of iron and iron horseshoe nails. 'Firing the Anvil' was a custom in honour of Wayland Smith, the Germanic God of Smithcraft, which demonstrated the power of smithcraft by lighting gunpowder beneath the anvil, shooting it up into the sky.

The lucky horseshoe we see today is usually hung upright, to contain good luck. However, it was traditional for Witches to hang them upside down over the front door, both as a symbol of their Craft and to pour good luck over those who walked beneath it. To them, the horseshoe was a permanent symbol of the moon, a talisman which never ran out of fortune.

As with many Pagan customs, during the Medieval era the meaning of the horseshoe changed and it became considered a deterrent against Witchcraft rather than a sign of its power.

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