Friday, January 29, 2010

Moon Lore

The Road was lit with Moon and star
by Emily Dickinson
The Road was lit with Moon and star --
The Trees were bright and still --
Descried I -- by the distant Light
A Traveller on a Hill --
To magic Perpendiculars
Ascending, though Terrene --
Unknown his shimmering ultimate --
But he indorsed the sheen --

The moon was bright against the sky last night as I topped the ridge. I stopped in the the road to take pictures only to discover I had the wrong camera. I snapped a few anyway--and then my phone rang so I was scrambling to find the phone, close the car door, and turn off the camera. It was one of my sons, who asked what I was doing.

"I'm in the middle of the road, taking pictures of the moon."

"Of course you are," he laughed. "You're always doing that." True. And I will try again tonight because the moon will even more full tonight than last night. Although tonight we have clouds. And possibly snow. So I am glad I tried last night, even if the photos were less than successful. I thought this one looked like a painting, so decided to use it today.

Since I have been taking more photos, I've been paying more attention to the moon and her perambulations. I started collecting a bit of moon lore too, and I today seems like a good day to share some of it with you.

Did you ever consider how many words we use about the moon in everyday conversation?

We say someone is "mooning about" or that something is "as likely as the man in the moon." We take honeymoons when we get married, moonlight when we work a second job, consider someone born under the sign of Cancer a "moon child." We eat moon pies with Dr, Pepper if we're in the South and drink moonshine in the hills. And there is the "full moon" of someone's bare bottom pressed against the window of a car (I've been treated to that myself--a bunch of college kids on their way to a ski trip gave us a full view several years back. Not something I'm likely to forget!).

Then there is the story of the Moonrakers, told in a brief version in the English folktale The Three Sillies:

"Then the gentleman went on his travels again; and he came to a village, and outside the village there was a pond, and round the pond was a crowd of people. And they had got rakes, and brooms, and pikels (pitchforks), reaching into the pond; and the gentleman asked what was the matter. "Why," they says, "matter enough! Moon's tumbled into the pond, and we can't get her out anyhow!" So the gentleman burst out a-laughing, and told them to look up into the sky, and that it was only the shadow in the water. But they wouldn't listen to him, and abused him shamefully, and he got away as quick as he could."

In Warwickshire, England, countrymen used to ensure good luck by bowing nine times to the first new moon of the year. (Oops, we missed it!)There are many other superstitions about the moon. From the Farmer's Almanac comes this wisdom:

Seeing the new moon over your left shoulder is unlucky, but seeing it straight ahead is considered to be very lucky. Pointing at the moon is supposed to be unlucky, as is seeing a new moon through closed windows. But a crescent moon that is waxing is good luck for lovers and travelers.It is lucky to see the first sliver of a new moon "clear of the brush," or unencumbered by foliage.

It is also lucky to move into a new house during the new moon; prosperity will increase as the moon grows full. But if you see the first sliver of a new moon through a window, you'll break a dish.

It is unlucky to have a full Moon on Sunday, although how that can be avoided I'm not sure.

The moon is often blamed or praised for the weather:

From Robert Service's poem, Moon Song:

Two lovers watched the new moon hold
The old moon in her bright embrace.
Said she: "There's mother, pale and old,
And drawing near her resting place."
Said he: "Be mine, and with me wed,"
Moon-high she stared . . . she shook her head.

Perhaps her reasoning is the same as that of the sailors in the ballad of Sir Patrick Spens:

"I saw the new moon late yestreen
With the old moon in her arm;
And if we go to sea, master,
I fear we'll come to harm."

From the book Weather-lore by Richards Inwards (1898):

Clear moon, frost soon.

A dim or pale moon indicates rain; a red moon indicates wind.

When the moon is darkest near the horizon, expect rain.

Far burr, near rain. (Burr means ring; so the farther the ring from the moon, the sooner it will rain)

The moon with a circle brings water in her beak.

Frost occurring in the dark of the moon kills buds and blossoms; frost in the light of the moon will not.

If the crescent moon appears with her points turned up it will be dry; it turned down, wet.

There are many stories connected with the moon, but while browsing online I came upon this one:

Vampire Melons (From Experience Festival website)

The belief in vampire watermelons is similar to the belief that any inanimate object left outside during the night of a full moon will become a vampire. According to tradition, virtually any kind of melon or pumpkin kept more than ten days or after Christmas will become a vampire, rolling around on the ground and growling to pester the living.

We often talk about the man in the moon in our culture, but other cultures see other creatures, like the Hare in the Moon in India. This is a brief version of the story:

A monkey a fox and a hare were out walking. They encountered a beggar in very bad shape.

"Please," said the beggar, "I have not eaten in days. Have you any food to share?"

It happened to be a holy day, when the rich fasted and gave food to the poor. The three friends decided they would find something for the beggar to eat. The monkey went high in the trees and found some mangoes; the fox rummaged in a hedge and came out with a bird's nest with a few eggs in it. "Thank you, my friends!" said the beggar.

The hare was not a hunter and he could find nothing to give to the beggar.

'I have only myself to give," said the hare. He lit a fire and jumped tight into the hot flames.

However, the hare was protected because of his goodness and he did not burn. The beggar revealed that he was actually Indra, God of the Storm.

'Because of your generosity and willingness to sacrifice yourself,' said Indra, "you shall live forever in the moon, where all will see you and remember your bravery."

More "rabbit in the moon" stories from other cultures are listed in Wikipedia.

From Theoi Greek Mythology:
SELENE was the Titan goddess of the moon. She was depicted as a woman either riding side saddle on a horse or in a chariot drawn by a pair of winged steeds. Her lunar sphere or crescent was represented as either a crown set upon her head or as the fold of a raised, shining cloak. Sometimes she was said to drive a team of oxen and her lunar crescent was likened to the horns of a bull.

Selene inspired Homer to write these lines to her (excerpted from translation by Evelyn White, public domain):

(ll. 17-20) Hail, white-armed goddess, bright Selene, mild, bright-tressed queen! And now I will leave you and sing the glories of men half-divine, whose deeds minstrels, the servants of the Muses, celebrate with lovely lips.

Selene's Roman counterpart was Luna ( source of lunar, lunacy, lunatic...).
From Wikipedia:
In the traditional pre-Olympian divine genealogy, Helios, the sun, is Selene's brother: after Helios finishes his journey across the sky, Selene, freshly washed in the waters of Earth-circling Oceanus,[3] begins her own journey as night falls upon the earth, which becomes lit from the radiance of her immortal head and golden crown[3]. When she is increasing after mid-month, it is a "sure token and a sign to mortal men".

You can find much more information about the moon on these sites:

Moon phases for the current month--keep current on your moon!
The Big Moon Hoax
Lesson plans and links to many folktales and other interesting things ht
Watch a video telling of the Hare in the Moon
Moon myths and more from National Geographic
Moon Myths in the public domain.
Myths about the man in the moon and more
Moon gods and goddesses: who knew there were so many?

Moon over Joe's Run, 2008.


Susan at Stony River said...

I love the shot of the moon in the tree -- the one right after the belief about breaking a dish. Between the bright moon and the headlight's glow and the composition, what a CD cover. It's like the tree put the moon on as a jewel LOL

This is the first time in days your popup window has worked for me; I'm working with a loaner modem from Vodaphone because mine died, but are there settings for this kind of thing. Grrr! Technology.

Granny Sue said...

My computer has been erratic too, Susan--sometimes it works quikcly, other times it just grinds and grinds. Frustrating! I wish broadband was available for us country people, but it's not likely to happen anytime soon.

I hope yours starts working better soon. I miss you!

Nance said...

Educational . . . or entertaining -- or BOTH! I usually learn something from "Granny Sue's News and Reviews". And, should I not, then I'm sure to be entertained. Good photos!

PS: we had a ring around our big ol' full moon tonight.

Granny Sue said...

Nance, writing this blog makes me think about things in a different way. I might know a little about a topc, but suddenly I want to know more so I can write about it and make it interesting to my readers. One topic often leads to another idea and so it goes. I am glad you enjoyed this post, and when researching for it I realized I'd only scaratched the surface of the volumes of information and folklore about the moon.

Cathy said...

I love your photos! I wish we could have seen it but it was too cloudy. I love doing research and I think the moon would be an incredible subject to spend time on.

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