The moon deities
Posted by Fredsvenn on May 22, 2016
In mythology, a lunar deity is a god or goddess associated with or symbolizing the moon. These deities can have a variety of functions and traditions depending upon the culture, but they are often related to or an enemy of the solar deity. Even though they may be related, they are distinct from the solar deity. Lunar deities can be either male or female, but are usually held to be the opposite sex of the corresponding solar deity.
The monthly cycle of the moon, in contrast to the annual cycle of the sun’s path, has been implicitly linked to women’s menstrual cycles by many cultures, as evident in the links between the words for menstruation and for moon in many resultant languages.
Many of the most well-known mythologies feature female lunar deities, such as the Greek goddesses Phoebe, Artemis, Selene, and Hecate as well as the Chinese goddess Chang’e. Male lunar gods are also frequent, such as Sin of the Mesopotamians, Mani of the Germanic tribes, and the Japanese god Tsukuyomi. These cultures usually featured female Sun goddesses.
There are also many lunar deities that were prevalent in Greek and Egyptian civilizations. For example, Ibis and Chonsu of Thebes were both lunar deities. Thoth was also a lunar deity, but his character is considerably more complex than Ibis and Chonsu. Set represented the Moon in the Egyptian Calendar of Lucky and Unlucky Days of papyrus Cairo 86637.
The original Proto-Indo-European lunar deity appears to have been a male god. In subsequent traditions the number of male moon deities (or words for “moon” with a male gender) seem to vastly outnumber female ones, which appear to be an exclusively eastern Mediterranean invention.
Several goddesses, like Hecate or Artemis, did not originally have lunar aspects, and only acquired them late in antiquity, due to syncretism with Selene/Luna, the de facto Greco-Latin lunar deity. In traditions with male gods, there is little evidence of such syncretism, though the Greco-Roman Hermes has been equated with male Egyptian lunar gods like Thoth. In Greece proper, remnants of male moon gods are also seen with Menelaus.
Also of significance is that many religions and societies are oriented chronologically by the Moon as opposed to the sun. One common example is Hinduism in which the word Chandra means Moon and has religious significance during many Hindu festivals (e.g. Karwa Chauth, Sankasht Chaturthi and during the eclipses).
The moon is also worshipped in witchcraft, both in its modern form and in Medieval times, for example, in the cult of Madonna Oriente. It features prominently in art and literature and also the purported influence of the moon in human affairs remains a feature of astrology and theology.
Nanna is a Sumerian deity, the son of Enlil and Ninlil, and became identified with Semitic Sin. The two chief seats of Nanna’s/Sin’s worship were Ur in the south of Mesopotamia and Harran in the north. Nanna’s chief sanctuary at Ur was named E-gish-shir-gal (“house of the great light”).
It was at Ur that the role of the En Priestess developed. This was an extremely powerful role held by a princess, most notably Enheduanna, daughter of King Sargon of Akkad, and was the primary cult role associated with the cult of Nanna/Sin.
Sin also had a sanctuary at the city of Harran, named E-khul-khul (“house of joys”). The cult of the moon-god spread to other centers, so that temples to him are found in all the large cities of Babylonia and Assyria. A sanctuary for Sin with Syriac inscriptions invoking his name dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE was found at Sumatar Harabesi in theTektek Mountains, not far from Harran and Edessa.
The original meaning of the name Nanna is unknown. The earliest spelling found in Ur and Uruk is LAK-32.NA (where NA is to be understood as a phonetic complement). The name of Ur, spelled LAK-32.UNUG=URIM, is itself derived from the theonym, and means “the abode (UNUG) of Nanna (LAK-32)”.
The pre-classical sign LAK-32 later collapses with ŠEŠ (the ideogram for “brother”), and the classical Sumerian spelling is ŠEŠ.KI, with the phonetic reading na-an-na. The technical term for the crescent moon could also refer to the deity,U.SAKAR. Later, the name is spelled logographically as NANNA.
The Semitic moon god Su’en/Sin is in origin a separate deity from Sumerian Nanna, but from the Akkadian Empire period the two undergo syncretization and are identified. The occasional Assyrian spelling of NANNA-ar Su’en-e is due to association with Akkadian na-an-na-ru “illuminator, lamp”, an epitheton of the moon god.
The name of the Assyrian moon god Su’en/Sîn is usually spelled as EN.ZU, or simply with the numeral 30, XXX. He is commonly designated as En-zu, which means “lord of wisdom”. In the astral-theological system he is represented by the number 30 and the moon. This number probably refers to the average number of days (correctly around 29.53) in a lunar month, as measured between successive new moons.
Sin had a beard made of lapis lazuli and rode on a winged bull. The bull was one of his symbols, through his father, Enlil, “Bull of Heaven”, along with the crescent and the tripod (which may be a lamp-stand). On cylinder seals, he is represented as an old man with a flowing beard and the crescent symbol.
During the period (c.2600-2400 BC) that Ur exercised a large measure of supremacy over the Euphrates valley, Sin was naturally regarded as the head of the pantheon. His wife was Ningal (“Great Lady”), who bore him Utu/Shamash (“Sun”) and Inanna/Ishtar (the goddess of the planet Venus). The tendency to centralize the powers of the universe leads to the establishment of the doctrine of a triad consisting of Sin/Nanna and his children.
It is to this period that we must trace such designations of Sin as “father of the gods”, “chief of the gods”, “creator of all things”, and the like. The “wisdom” personified by the moon-god is likewise an expression of the science of astronomy or the practice of astrology, in which the observation of the moon’s phases is an important factor.
An important Sumerian text (“Enlil and Ninlil”) tells of the descent of Enlil and Ninlil, pregnant with Nanna/Sin, into the underworld. There, three “substitutions” are given to allow the ascent of Nanna/Sin. The story shows some similarities to the text known as “The Descent of Inanna” and to “Enki and Ninhursag and the Creation of Life and Sickness”.
The primary symbol of the moon god was as a bull, the result of the horizontal crescent of the waxing moon appearing similar to the horns of that animal. This symbolism led to a consideration of the moon god as a cowherd, which is celebrated most clearly in the composition The Herds of Nanna, the longest section of which enumerates the cattle in Nanna’s herd.
An association with fertility may come from the moon god’s connection to cattle, and also, perhaps, from the clear link to the menstrual cycle, roughly similar to the timing of the moon’s transformations. The connection with fertility is demonstrated in the Old Babylonian (early second-millennium) birth incantations.
The magical-medical text A Cow of Sin relates the story of the moon god’s beautiful and pregnant cow, Geme-Sin. The birthing-pains of Geme-Sin are eased by Sin, and the incantation ends with a ‘supplication: “may this woman give birth as easily as Geme-Sin” suggesting this text’s role in human child-birth.
Other literature makes much of the moon as an astronomical feature. The deity is referred to in terms characteristic of the celestial body, e.g., radiant, shining, and much is made of the moon’s path and cycle, which were also keenly observed for omens of the future.
No doubt this divinatory role was also connected to the moon god’s ability to illuminate darkness. Both the moon god and the sun god are praised together in a further text in which they are associated with issuing laws and verdicts, the determination of destinies, and the announcements of omens.
Yarikh (also written as Jerah, Jarah, or Jorah) is a moon god in Canaanite religion whose epithets are “illuminator of the heavens”‘, “illuminator of the myriads of stars” and “lord of the sickle”. The latter epithet may come from the appearance of the crescent moon.
Yarikh was recognized as the provider of nightly dew, and married to the goddess Nikkal, his moisture causing her orchards to bloom in the desert. The city of Jericho was a center of his worship, and its name may derive from the name Yarikh, or from the Cannanite word for moon, Yareaẖ.
Nikkal is a goddess of Ugarit/Canaan and later of Phoenicia. She is a goddess of orchards, whose name means “Great Lady and Fruitful” and derives from Akkadian / West Semitic “´Ilat ´Inbi” meaning “Goddess of Fruit”.
She is daughter of Khirkhibi, the Summer’s King, and is married to the moon god Yarikh, who gave her necklaces of lapis-lazuli. Their marriage is lyrically described in the Ugaritic text “Nikkal and the Kathirat”. She may have been feted in late summer when tree fruits had been finally harvested. Her Sumerian equivalent is the goddess Ningal (“Great Lady/Queen”), the mother of Inanna and Ereshkigal.
Ningal was the daughter of Enki and Ningikurga, the daughter of An and Nammu, and the consort of the moon god Nanna by whom she bore Utu the sun god, Inanna, and in some texts, Ishkur. She is chiefly recognised at Ur, and was probably first worshipped by cow-herders in the marsh lands of southern Mesopotamia.
Iah (Yah, Jah, Jah(w), Joh or Aah) is a lunar deity in ancient Egyptian religion. His name simply means “Moon”. By the New Kingdom, he was less prominent than other gods with lunar connections, Thoth and Khonsu. As a result of the functional connection between them he could be identified with either of those deities.
He was sometimes considered an adult form of Khonsu and was increasingly absorbed by him. Iah continued to appear in amulets and occasional other representations, similar to Khonsu in appearance, with the same lunar symbols on his head and occasionally the same tight garments. He differed in usually wearing a full wig instead of a child’s sidelock, and sometimes the Atef topped by another symbol. As time went on, Iah also became Iah-Djuhty, meaning “god of the new moon.”
Iah was also assimilated with Osiris, god of the dead, perhaps because, in its monthly cycle, the moon appears to renew itself. Iah also seems to have assumed the lunar aspect of Thoth, god of knowledge, writing and calculation; the segments of the moon were used as fractional symbols in writing.
Khonsu is the Ancient Egyptian god of the moon. His name means “traveller”, and this may relate to the nightly travel of the moon across the sky. Along with Thoth he marked the passage of time. Khonsu was instrumental in the creation of new life in all living creatures. At Thebes he formed part of a family triad (the “Theban Triad”) with Mut as his mother and Amun his father.
Mut, which meant mother in the ancient Egyptian language, was an ancient Egyptian mother goddess with multiple aspects that changed over the thousands of years of the culture. She was considered a primal deity, associated with the waters from which everything was born through parthenogenesis.
She also was depicted as a woman with a head dress. The rulers of Egypt each supported her worship in their own way to emphasize their own authority and right to rule through an association with Mut. Some of Mut’s many titles included World-Mother, Eye of Ra, Queen of the Goddesses, Lady of Heaven, Mother of the Gods, and She Who Gives Birth, But Was Herself Not Born of Any.
Mut was a title of the primordial waters of the cosmos, Naunet, in the Ogdoad cosmogony during what is called the Old Kingdom, the third through sixth dynasties, dated between 2,686 to 2,134 BCE. However, the distinction between motherhood and cosmic water later diversified and lead to the separation of these identities, and Mut gained aspects of a creator goddess, since she was the mother from which the cosmos emerged.
The hieroglyph for Mut’s name, and for mother itself, was that of a vulture, which the Egyptians believed were very maternal creatures. Indeed, since Egyptian vultures have no significant differing markings between female and male of the species, being without sexual dimorphism, the Egyptians believed they were all females, who conceived their offspring by the wind herself, another parthenogenic concept.
Much later new myths held that since Mut had no parents, but was created from nothing; consequently, she could not have children and so adopted one instead. Making up a complete triad of deities for the later pantheon of Thebes, it was said that Mut had adopted Menthu, god of war.
This choice of completion for the triad should have proved popular, but because the isheru, the sacred lake outside Mut’s ancient temple in Karnak at Thebes, was the shape of a crescent moon, Khonsu, the moon god eventually replaced Menthu as Mut’s adopted son.
The name Amun (written imn, pronounced Amana in ancient Egyptian) meant something like “the hidden one” or “invisible”. It was thought that Amun created himself and then his surroundings.
Amun, reconstructed Egyptian Yamanu , was the name of a deity in Egyptian mythology who in the form of Amun-Ra became the focus of the most complex system of theology in Ancient Egypt. Whilst remaining hypostatic deities, Amun represented the essential and hidden, whilst in Ra he represented revealed divinity.
As the creator deity “par excellence”, he was the champion of the poor and central to personal piety. Amun was self created, without mother and father, and during the New Kingdom he became the greatest expression of transcendental deity in Egyptian theology. He was not considered to be immanent within creation nor was creation seen as as an extension of himself.
Amun-Re, likewise with the Hebrew creator deity, did not physically engender the universe. His position as King of Gods developed to the point of virtual monotheism were other Gods became manifestations of him. With Osiris Amun-Re is the most widely recorded of the Egyptian Gods.
Amun is known from an early date from references in the Pyramid texts where he is shown as a primeval deity who symbolised creative force. Initially, a religious concept that was identified as the air in the Ancient Egyptian myths of creation included Amunet and Amun as dual aspects. These religious beliefs varied by region.
In Thebes, Amun came to be associated with the breath of life, one of the deities who created part of the ba. In the areas where Amun was worshiped, by the First Intermediate Period, this association had led to his being thought of as a creator, titled father of the gods. These changes in beliefs preceded the Ogdoad, although they also were part of it.
As he became more significant, he was paired with a goddess (his counterpart, Amunet, being the female aspect of the early concept of air, rather than a wife), and since he was becoming identified as a creator, it was considered more appropriate to designate him as the spouse of the divine mother from whom the cosmos emerged to enhance his status.
By the time that Amun rose to this recognition, the divine mother was Mut. Amun became depicted in human form, seated on a throne, wearing on his head a plain, deep circlet from which rise two straight parallel plumes. The plumes may have been symbolic of the tail feathers of a bird, a reference to his earlier status as a wind deity.
Having become more important than Montu, the local war deity of Thebes, Montu’s authority then diminished and he was said to be the son of Amun. As Mut then was said to be infertile, it was believed that she, and thus Amun, had adopted Montu instead of giving birth to him. This changed later when Montu was replaced by Khonsu, the lunar deity as her adopted son.
His name reflects the fact that the Moon (referred to as Iah in Egyptian) travels across the night sky, for it means “traveller”, and also had the titles “Embracer”, “Pathfinder”, and “Defender”, as he was thought to watch overnight travellers.
As the god of light in the night, Khonsu was invoked to protect against wild animals, and aid with healing. It was said that when Khonsu caused the crescent moon to shine, women conceived, cattle became fertile, and all nostrils and every throat was filled with fresh air.
“Khonsu” can also be understood to mean “king’s placenta”, and consequently in early times, he was considered to slay the king’s (i.e. the pharaoh’s) enemies, and extract their innards for the king’s use, metaphorically creating something resembling a placenta for the king.
This bloodthirsty aspect leads him to be referred to, in such as the Pyramid texts, as the “(one who) lives on hearts”. He also became associated with more literal placentas, becoming seen as a deification of the royal placenta, and so a god involved with childbirth.
Khonsu is typically depicted as a mummy with the symbol of childhood, a sidelock of hair, as well as the menat necklace with crook and flail. He has close links to other divine children such as Horus and Shu. He is sometimes shown wearing a falcon’s head like Horus, with whom he is associated as a protector and healer, adorned with the sun disk and crescent moon.
He is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts, in which he is depicted in a fierce aspect, but he does not rise to prominence until the New Kingdom, when he is described as the “Greatest God of the Great Gods”.
Most of the construction of the temple complex at Karnak was centered on Khonsu during the Ramesside period. His temple at Karnak is in a relatively good state of preservation, and on one of the walls is depicted a cosmogeny in which Khonsu is described as the great snake who fertilizes the Cosmic Egg in the creation of the world.
Khonsu’s reputation as a healer spread outside Egypt. Khonsu gradually replaced the war-god Monthu as the son of Mut in Theban thought during the Middle Kingdom, because the pool at the temple of Mut was in the shape of a crescent moon.
The father who had adopted Khonsu was thought to be Amun, who had already been changed into a more significant god by the rise of Thebes, and had his wife changed to Mut. As these two were both considered extremely benign deities, Menthu gradually lost his more aggressive aspects.
In art, Khonsu was depicted as a man with the head of a hawk, wearing the crescent of the new moon subtending the disc of the full moon. His head was shaven except for the sidelock worn by Egyptian children, signifying his role as Khonsu the Child.
Occasionally he was depicted as a youth holding the flail of the pharaoh, wearing a menat necklace. He was sometimes pictured on the back of a goose, ram, or two crocodiles. His sacred animal was the baboon, considered a lunar animal by the ancient Egyptians.
Thoth has been depicted in many ways depending on the era and on the aspect the artist wished to convey. Usually, he is depicted in his human form with the head of an ibis. In this form, he can be represented as the reckoner of times and seasons by a headdress of the lunar disk sitting on top of a crescent moon resting on his head.
Thoth was originally a moon god. The moon not only provides light at night, allowing time to still be measured without the sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology/astronomy. The cycles of the moon also organized much of Egyptian society’s rituals and events, both civil and religious.
Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement and regulation of events and of time. He was thus said to be the secretary and counselor of the sun god Ra and with Ma’at (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky.
Thoth became credited by the ancient Egyptians as the inventor of writing, and was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld; and the Moon became occasionally considered a separate entity, now that Thoth had less association with it and more with wisdom.
For this reason Thoth was universally worshipped by ancient Egyptian scribes. Many scribes had a painting or a picture of Thoth in their “office”. Likewise, one of the symbols for scribes was that of the ibis.
In art, Thoth was usually depicted with the head of an ibis, possibly because the Egyptians saw curve of the ibis’ beak as a symbol of the crescent moon. Sometimes, he was depicted as a baboon holding up a crescent moon, as the baboon was seen as a nocturnal and intelligent creature.
The association with baboons led to him occasionally being said to have as a consort Astennu, one of the (male) baboons at the place of judgment in the underworld. On other occasions, Astennu was said to be Thoth himself.
During the late period of Egyptian history, a cult of Thoth gained prominence due to its main centre, Khmun (Hermopolis Magna), also becoming the capital. Millions of dead ibis were mummified and buried in his honour. The rise of his cult also led to his cult seeking to adjust mythology to give Thoth a greater role.
Thoth was inserted in many tales as the wise counselor and persuader, and his association with learning and measurement led him to be connected with Seshat, the earlier deification of wisdom, who was said to be his daughter, or variably his wife.
Thoth’s qualities also led to him being identified by the Greeks with their closest matching god Hermes, with whom Thoth was eventually combined as Hermes Trismegistus, also leading to the Greeks’ naming Thoth’s cult centre as Hermopolis, meaning city of Hermes.
It is also considered that Thoth was the scribe of the gods rather than a messenger. Anpu (or Hermanubis) was viewed as the messenger of the gods, as he travelled in and out of the Underworld and presented himself to the gods and to humans. It is more widely accepted that Thoth was a record keeper, not a divine messenger.
Selardi (Sielardi) is a lunar goddess of Urartu. She is counterpart to the Babylonian moon god, Sin. Nicholas Adontz theorizes that “Sielardi” name is derived from “Siela,” meaning “woman” or “Sister,” and “Ardi” which means sun. He states that in the ancient east, the moon had been considered the sister of the sun, rather than his consort.
Selene was also called Mene. The word men (feminine mene), meant the moon, and the lunar month. It was also the name of the Phrygian moon-god Men (Greek: Μήν, Latin: Mensis, also known at Antioch in Pisidia as Men Ascaënus), a god worshipped in the western interior parts of Anatolia. The roots of the Men cult may go back to Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC. Ancient writers describe Men as a local god of the Phrygians.
Lunar symbolism dominates his iconography. The god is usually shown with a crescent like open horns on his shoulders, and he is described as the god presiding over the months. He is depicted with a Phrygian cap and a belted tunic. He may be accompanied by bulls and lions in religious artwork. The iconography of Men partly recalls that of Mithras, who also wears a Phrygian cap and is commonly depicted with a bull and symbols of the sun and moon.
The Augustan History has the Roman emperor Caracalla venerate Lunus at Carrhae; this has been taken as a Latinized name for Men. The same source records the local opinion that anyone who believes the deity of the moon to be feminine shall always be subject to women, whereas a man who believes that he is masculine will dominate his wife.
David Magie, however, disputes the identification of this ‘Lunus’ with Men, and suggests that Caracalla had actually visited the temple of Sin (Akkadian: Su’en, Sîn) or Nanna (Sumerian: ŠEŠ.KI, NANNA), the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian mythology.
Dr Mehmet Taşlıalan, who has studied the remains of Antioch in Pisidia, has remarked that the people who settled on the acropolis in the Greek colonial era, carried the Men Askaenos cult down to the plain as Patrios Theos and in the place where the Augusteum was built there are some signs of this former cult as bucrania on the rock-cut walls. The Imperial Temple also features an unusual bucranium frieze.
In Hinduism, Chandra (“shining”) is a lunar god and a Graha. Chandra is also identified with the Vedic lunar deity Soma. The Soma name refers particularly to the juice of sap in the plants and thus makes the Moon the lord of plants and vegetation. As Soma, he presides over Monday.
Chandra is described as young, beautiful, fair; two-armed and having in his hands a club and a lotus. He rides his chariot across the sky every night, pulled by ten white horses or an antelope. He is connected with dew, and as such, is one of the gods of fertility. He is also called Rajanipati and Kshupakara, and Indu.
Chandra is the father of Budha or Saumya (“Son of Moon”), the mother being Tara, the goddess of felicity and the divine consort of Hindu god Brihaspati. Bṛhaspati presides over Thursday. Budha, the Hindu god of merchandise and the protector of merchants, presides over midweek ‘Budhavara’ or Wednesday.
Shiva’s form: Shiva has a trident in the right lower arm, and a crescent moon on his head. He is said to be fair like camphor or like an ice clad mountain. The epithets Chandrasekhara Chandramouli (“Having the moon as his crest” – candra = “moon”; śekhara = “crest, crown”) refers to this feature. The placement of the moon on his head as a standard iconographic feature dates to the period when Rudra rose to prominence and became the major deity Rudra-Shiva.
The origin of this linkage may be due to the identification of the moon with Soma, and there is a hymn in the Rig Veda where Soma and Rudra are jointly implored, and in later literature, Soma and Rudra came to be identified with one another, as were Soma and the moon. The crescent moon is shown on the side of the Lord’s head as an ornament. The waxing and waning phenomenon of the moon symbolizes the time cycle through which creation evolves from the beginning to the end.
In later times, Men may have been identified with both Attis of Phrygia and Sabazius of Thrace; he may shared a common origin with the Zoroastrian lunar divinity Mah or Maonghah, the Avestan language word for both the moon and for the Zoroastrian divinity that presides over and is the hypostasis of the moon.
The names Maonghah and Mah derive from an Indo-European root that is also the origin of the English language word “moon.” Maonghah retains the name Mah in the 9th-12th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition, and continues with that name into New Persian. In Histories 7.3.7, Herodotus states that the moon was the tutelary divinity of the Iranian expatriates residing in Asia Minor.
Although there are two Avestan hymns dedicated to the Moon, she is not a prominent divinity. In both the third Nyaishas well as in the seventh Yasht, the ‘moon’ more commonly spoken of is the physical moon. In these hymns, the phases of the moon are described at length.
Ahura Mazda is described to be the cause of the moon’s waxing and waning, and the Amesha Spentas evenly distribute the light of the moon over the earth. The Fravashis, the Avestan language term for the Zoroastrian concept of a personal spirit of an individual, whether dead, living, and yet-unborn, are said to be responsible for keeping the sun, the moon and the stars on its appointed course.
The sun, moon, and stars revolve around the peak of Hara Berezaiti, literally meaning “High Watchpost”, is the name given in the Avestan language to a legendary mountain around which the stars and planets revolve.
The Moon is however also “bestower, radiant, glorious, possessed of water, possessed of warmth, possessed of knowledge, wealth, riches, discernment, weal, verdure, good, and the healing one”. “During the spring, the Moon causes plants to grow up out of the earth”. In the litany to the Moon, she is described as the “queen of the night.”
The Moon is repeatedly spoken of as possessing the cithra, the term for lunar mansion in Hindu astrology, of the primeval bull. This is an allusion to a cosmological drama that is however only properly attested in the texts of Zoroastrian tradition.
The Moon plays a prominent role in Zoroastrian cosmogony, in particular as described in detail in theBundahishn, a text finished in the 12th century. The legend (Bundahishn 7) runs as follows: Ahriman (Av: Angra Mainyu) incites Jeh (Jahi) the primeval whore to kill the primordial bovine Gawiewdad (Av. Gavaevodata). Jeh does as told, but as the creature lies dying, the chihr is rescued and placed in the care of the moon. Thischihr is then the “prototype” (karb) of all creatures of the animal world.
Jahi is the Avestan language name of Zoroastrianism’s demoness of “lasciviousness.” As a hypostatic entity, Jahi is variously interpreted as “hussy,” “rake,” “libertine,” “courtesan” and “one who leads a licentious life.” Her standard epithet is “the Whore.” In Zoroastrian tradition, Jahi appears as Middle Persian Jeh (Jēh, J̌ēh), characterized as the consort of Ahriman and the cause of the menstrual cycle.
In the hierarchy of yazatas, the Moon is the assistant (or ‘cooperator’, hamkar) of Vohu Manah (MP: Bahman), the Amesha Spenta of animal welfare, in particular of cattle. The identification with Vohu Manah – the hypostasis of “Good Purpose” or “Good Mind” – is reflected in other texts where the moon is associated with mental harmony and inner peace.
In the Zoroastrian calendar, the twelfth day of the month is dedicated to and is under the protection of the Moon. The divinity Mah appears together with Mithra on Kushan coins.
Luna’s Greek counterpart was Selene (“moon”). In Roman art and literature, myths of Selene are adapted under the name of Luna. The etymology of Selene is uncertain, but if the name is of Greek origin, it is likely connected to the word selas, meaning “light”.
Like her brother Helios, the Sun god, who drives his chariot across the sky each day, Selene is also said to drive across the heavens. The earliest known depiction of Selene driving a chariot is inside an early 5th century BC red-figure cup attributed to the Brygos Painter, showing Selene plunging her chariot, drawn by two winged horses, into the sea. Though the moon chariot is often described as being silver, for Pindar it was golden. And while the sun chariot has four horses, Selene’s usually has two, described as “snow-white” by Ovid, or was drawn by oxen or bulls.
In Greek mythology, Selene is the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, and sister of the sun-god Helios, and Eos, goddess of the dawn. Several lovers are attributed to her in various myths, including Zeus, Pan, and the mortal Endymion.
The usual account of Selene’s origin is given by Hesiod. In the Theogony, the sun-god Hyperion espoused his sister Theia, who gave birth to Helios (Sun), Selene (Moon) and Eos (Dawn), who “shines upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless Gods who live in the wide heaven.” Here Euryphaëssa (“wide-shining”) is probably an epithet of Theia.
The Homeric Hymn to Helios follows this tradition: “Hyperion wedded glorious Euryphaëssa, his own sister, who bare him lovely children, rosy-armed Eos and rich-tressed Selene and tireless Helios.” Other accounts make Selene the daughter of Pallas, the son of Megamedes, possibly identified with Titan Pallas, or of Helios.
In classical times, Selene was often identified with Artemis, much as her brother, Helios, was identified with Apollo. In Greek mythology, Apollo and Artemis are twins, and Apollo was adopted as the sun god with Artemis as the moon goddess. Both Selene and Artemis were also associated with Hecate, and all three were regarded as lunar goddesses, although only Selene was regarded as the personification of the moon itself.
Just as Helios, from his identification with Apollo, is called Phoebus (“bright”), Selene, from her identification with Artemis, is also commonly referred to by the epithet Phoebe (feminine form). The original Phoebe of Greek mythology is Selene’s aunt, the Titaness mother of Leto and Asteria, and grandmother of Apollo, Artemis, and Hecate. Also from Artemis, Selene was sometimes called “Cynthia”.
Artume (also called Aritimi, Artames, or Artumes) was an Etruscan goddess who was the goddess of night, of the moon (like another goddess, Losna), death, nature, woods and fertility. She was associated with the Greek goddess Artemis in later history. Losna was the Etruscan moon goddess, and was also associated with the ocean and tides.
Trivia in Roman mythology was the goddess who “haunted crossroads, graveyards, and was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, she wandered about at night and was seen only by the barking of dogs who told of her approach.”
She was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, the three-way crossroads and the harvest moon. As a part of her role as an underworld goddess, she was known as the Queen of Ghosts. She was an underworld Titan-goddess who assisted Jove in the Titanomachy and was therefore able to keep her powers.
She was a friend of Ceres and helped her to find her daughter Proserpina. Although she helped Ceres to find her daughter, she was also known to steal young maidens to assist her in her powers. These women later became nymphs.
Her association for Romans of the first century BCE with Artemis was so thorough that Lucretius identifies the altar of the goddess at the sacrifice of Iphianassa (Iphigeneia) in Aulis as Triviai virginis aram.
The Germanic term is a Germanic interpretation of Latin lunae dies (“day of the moon”). In ancient Roman religion and myth, Luna is the divine embodiment of the Moon (Latin luna; cf. English “lunar”). She is often presented as the female complement of the Sun (Sol) conceived of as a god.
Luna is also sometimes represented as an aspect of the Roman triple goddess (diva triformis), along with Proserpina and Hecate. Luna is not always a distinct goddess, but sometimes rather an epithet that specialize a goddess, since both Diana and Juno are identified as moon goddesses.
Diana was one of the triple goddess, the same goddess being called Luna in heaven, Diana on earth, and Proserpina in hell. Michael Drayton praises the Triple Diana in poem The Man in the Moone (1606): “So these great three most powerful of the rest, Phoebe, Diana, Hecate, do tell. Her sovereignty in Heaven, in Earth, and in Hell”.
Leto is a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe, the sister of Asteria, and the mother, by Zeus, of Apollo and Artemis. Leto’s primal nature may be deduced from the natures of her father and mother, who may have been Titans of the sun and moon.
Her Titan father is called Coeus, and though Herbert Jennings Rose considers his name and nature uncertain, he is in one Roman source given the name Polus, which may relate him to the sphere of heaven from pole to pole. The name of Leto’s mother, Phoebe (“pure, bright”), is identical to the epithet of her son Apollo throughout Homer.
The Kalends of every month, when according to the lunar calendar the new moon occurred, was sacred to Juno, as all Ides were to Jupiter. On the Nones, she was honored as Juno Covella, Juno of the crescent moon. Both Juno and Diana were invoked as childbirth goddesses with the epithet Lucina.
Luna is often depicted driving a two-yoke chariot called a biga, drawn by horses or oxen. In Roman art, the charioteer Luna is regularly paired with the Sun driving a four-horse chariot (quadriga).
Isidore of Seville explains that the quadriga represents the sun’s course through the four seasons, while the bigarepresents the moon, “because it travels on a twin course with the sun, or because it is visible both by day and by night—for they yoke together one black horse and one white.”
Luna in her biga was an element of Mithraic iconography, usually in the context of the tauroctony. In the mithraeum of S. Maria Capua Vetere, a wall painting that uniquely focuses on Luna alone shows one of the horses of the team as light in color, with the other a dark brown.
A biga of oxen was also driven by Hecate, the chthonic aspect of the triple goddess in complement with the “horned” or crescent-crowned Diana and Luna. The three-form Hecate (trimorphos ) was identified by Servius with Luna, Diana, and Proserpina. According to the Archaic Greek poet Hesiod, Hecate originally had power over the heavens, land, and sea, not as in the later tradition heaven, earth, and underworld.
In Roman art, Luna’s attributes are the crescent moon plus the two-yoke chariot (biga). In the Carmen Saeculare, performed in 17 BC, Horace invokes her as the “two-horned queen of the stars” (siderum regina bicornis ), bidding her to listen to the girls singing as Apollo listens to the boys. In Imperial cult, Sol and Luna can represent the extent of Roman rule over the world, with the aim of guaranteeing peace.
Varro lists Luna among twelve deities who are vital to agriculture, as does Vergil in a different list of twelve, in which he refers to Luna and Sol as clarissima mundi lumina, the world’s clearest sources of light.
The Romans dated the cultivation of Luna as a goddess at Rome to the semi-legendary days of the kings. Titus Tatius was supposed to have imported the cult of Luna to Rome from the Sabines, but Servius Tullius was credited with the creation of her temple on the Aventine Hill, just below a temple of Diana. The anniversary of the temple founding (dies natalis) was celebrated annually on March 31.
As Noctiluna (“Night-Shiner”) Luna had a temple on the Palatine Hill, which Varro described as shining or glowing by night. Nothing else is known about the temple, and it is unclear what Varro meant.