10 Interesting Myths and Legends About the Moon
The moon is a powerful force of nature. Just step outside in the middle of the night, when the sky is clear and the moon is full, and look it for a moment. You won’t be able to deny its intense, magical power. And people throughout time haven’t been able to deny that either. In fact, the moon is a central part of many myths and legends across different cultures precisely because of it.
Take a look at these ten moon legends to get a better sense of how different people see its beauty and wonder.
10 Legends About the Moon
- Moon Rabbit
There is a very famous Chinese myth about this woman who is said to live on the moon. There are different variations of the myth, but the basic story is that she and her husband were once immortal beings who were made mortal because of their bad behavior. They then attempted to achieve immortality again through the use of a pill, but Chang'e got greedy and took too much of the pill and ended up floating up to the moon where she remained stuck forever. She is the subject of much Chinese poetry and is one of the central reasons for celebration each Autumn during the Chinese Moon Festival.
2. Moon Rabbit
This is an interesting myth because it crosses across several different cultures. The moon rabbit or jade rabbit is said to be one of the companions that Chang'e eventually was allowed to have with her on the moon. However, it is also a symbol that shows up in myths about the moon in Korea and in Japan.
These are the names of the Moon Goddess in Greek and Roman mythology, respectively. In the myths associated with these goddesses, the goddess is paired with the god of the sun (Helios in Greek Mythology, Sol in Roman Mythology). He travels throughout the day, and she takes over the journey at night. She is typically considered to be a passionate goddess who takes many lovers and who represents the desire associated with the moon.
Not all of the deities associated with the moon are goddesses. This is an example of a male god that is associated with the moon. What is interesting about the myths surrounding him are how many of the same symbols from different moon myths are found in the stories about him. Although he was an Aztec god, there are associations with the Asian cultures (he was a rabbit, for example, associating him with the aforementioned Moon Rabbit) and even associations with modern-day moon myths like the story of the “man on the moon.”
The Inuit people of northern regions like Alaska and Greenland have a rather horrifying myth about the moon. They believe that Anningan (also called Igaluk or Aningaaq), the Moon God, raped his sister, the Sun Goddess. Worse, they believe that he is still trying to chase her down to possess her. That’s why he follows her in the sky every day. The waxing and waning of the moon is explained as Anningan chasing her until he is starving and then disappearing for a bit to hunt for food to have the energy to come back to chase her again.
A much happier couple-based story about the moon is this myth from Africa which says that Mawu is a moon good who is forever linked in unity with the sun goddess Liza. It is believed that lunar and solar eclipses are related to the lovemaking times of the celestial couple. This myth is clearly about the power of the moon, the sun, the sky and love and desire.
This is a Hindu god that is associated with the moon. It’s interesting because of the fact that there are several additional symbols that we see here that are commonly associated with the moon. In Hindu art, Soma is sometimes an embryo and sometimes a bull. Fertility is frequently associated with the moon. The bull is also a symbol that has shown up as related to the moon across cultures. The main thing about Soma though is its link with the moon as an elixir. Soma is the name of a drink said to be consumed by the Gods. Interestingly, the moon rabbit who lives on the moon with Chang’e in the Chinese myth is also an elixir-making symbol.
This is a story that comes from the Maori tribe in New Zealand. The story is about a young woman named Rona who displeased the moon so the moon seized her and took her away. In the myth, she grabs on to a tree and drags it with her to the moon. It is believed by some that the tree is said to represent fertility, further linking the moon with this symbol.
The Mayan people have several stories about different moon goddesses. One goddess frequently associated with the moon is Ixchel who is associated with the moon because she is a fertility goddess. However, it is believed that she may actually be the “grandmother of the moon” and represent aging and the drying up of fertility in old age so she is most commonly linked with the waxing of the moon and not the moon at all times.
One of the creatures that we often see depicted in movie myths and legends is the werewolf. This creature is, of course, affiliated with the full moon. Typically it is believed that these are creatures that have human form but that morph into wolf-like (typically violent) creatures when the full moon is in the sky. Some legends state that if you get bitten by a werewolf, you will also become one during the full moon. In other tales, the only way to kill a werewolf is with a bullet made of silver. There are many different variations on this because of all of the books and movies that have been made about werewolves.
The Magic of the Moon
These are just ten examples of some of the powerful stories that people across time and across the world associate with the moon. Using many different forms of symbolism, the moon itself has become a symbol of love, desire, change, passion, fertility, and violence.
© 2009 Kathryn Vercillo