Man's fascination with the moon has existed from the beginning of time. Mere scientific curiosity laid aside, the myths and legends surrounding the silvery orb range from the fantastical to psychological and everything in between. So buckle up, and enjoy a fascinating escape to the "Lunar Zone".
Everyone knows that the moon plays a crucial role in the lives of those poor unfortunates affected by lycanthropy. But that is far from the only behavior it is believed to affect. In fact, the very word, 'lunacy' derives from the Roman Moon Goddess, Luna. According to myth, Luna drove her chariot across the sky each night. It was Hippocrates in the 5th century that stated:
" One who is seized with terror, fright, and madness during the night is being visited by the goddess of the moon."
Of course, it wasn't all bad news. Convicted murders in 18th century England found a way to actually use this belief to their advantage. To campaign for a lighter sentence, all they had to do was claim to be afflicted with lunacy, provided that the murder was committed on a full moon. There were plenty of unscrupulous medical practitioners who could be counted on to back their claims, for a fee, of course.
There has always been speculation about life in outer space. Long before man landed on the moon, In 1820, Bavarian astronomer Franz von Paula Gruithuisen claimed to have glimpsed entire cities on the moon with his telescope, complete with sophisticated roads, forts, and other dwellings. People may have scoffed at his idea of these 'luneans', but he did get a small lunar crater named after him, so there is that.
Thanks to H.G. Wells' book, The First Men In The Moon, which proposed that the moon was hollow and inhabited by aliens, in 1970, two Russian scientists, Michael Vasin and Alexander Shcherbakov, came out with a theory of their own. They proposed that the moon is actually a shell-like alien spacecraft built by extraterrestrials with superior technology and intelligence. I don't buy that for a minute! Everyone knows that the Man in the Moon lives there!
Speaking of the Man in the Moon, according to an old Germanic myth, it is believed that a man was banished there after being caught stealing from his neighbor's garden. The Romans held the same belief, only insisting that the man was a sheep thief, not a vegetable thief. Chinese mythology asserts that the goddess Chang’e was stranded upon the Moon after consuming a double dose of immortality potion.
I'm sure you're familiar with the saying that the moon is made of green cheese. According to an old Serbian tale, it began with a fox who tells a wolf that the reflection of the moon in a lake is a delicious wheel of cheese. The wolf tries to drink up all the water to get the cheese, but he can’t fit all the water, so he bursts. Since then, it has come to be rather synonymous with someone who is gullible in nature. In fact, in 1638, English philosopher John Wilkins said, “You may … soon persuade some country peasants that the moon is made of green cheese .” Silly peasants!
The Inuit people have a rather interesting myth about the moon's phases. According to legend, the moon god (Anningan) and his sister, sun goddess (Malina) had a nasty quarrel, which ended with Malina storming off with Annigan in pursuit. It is said that he was so intent on the hunt that he forgot to eat and grew thinner, thus the moon's waning phase. When the moon appears to disappear completely, Inuits believe Anningan has gone to find food. When he ultimately catches up to his sister, (a rare event), the result causes a solar eclipse.
So there you have it; moon myths and legends. I hope you've enjoyed the ride!
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