Moon worship has been common to every culture. The Moon was considered the symbol of life in many ancient cultures and was honored around the world as the source of growth and fertility. To the Greeks, the Moon was the Goddess Selene and later Artemis but to the Romans, she was Luna, then Diana. As the power of the Goddess was decimated, the moon was given various names for each phase, thus, as a Dark Moon Goddess, she became Persephone or Hecate, as a New Moon Goddess, she was Diana or Artemis, and as a Full Moon Goddess, Demeter or Luna. The moon is ever changing. Its evolution from one phase to another is always seen as a source of creative energy. The moon’s crucial contribution to mankind’s existence is the reason why many religious celebrations are time with the Full Moon.
Although moon worship has long been absent from the world’s dominant religions, it still has subtle influence like the Easter Sunday celebrated after the first Full Moon following the Spring Equinox, Chinese New year celebrated on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice, Mid-Autumn Festival occurring celebrated on the Full Moon of the 8th lunar month following the Chinese calendar, the Jewish Passover celebrated at the Full Moon, and the Hindu festival of Lights occurring at the New Moon when the Sun enters Libra.
Historical records show that moon worship was the centerpiece of ancient faith and the foundation of many religions across the globe. The oldest recorded moon worshipers were that of the Egyptians, Chinese, Babylonians, and Indians. Even today, the reverence for the moon is still much alive. In the modern era, Native American and countries in Africa share the belief that the moon has a great influence in the life of the people, including the connection between animal and plant life.
In many religions, the moon is believed to have powers to sustain life, by curing diseases. In the subnational kingdom of Buganda, Uganda, it is customary for the Baganda mother to present her newly born child to the first full moon’s light. The moon was the center of worship, wisdom, legends, and the association with certain deities, as well as the foundation of many legends and superstition. It is also one of the components for the study of astrology.
The moon and the sun, two of the most prominent sources of light were important elements to the Babylonian astrology, although they believe that the moon is superior to the sun. Earlier periods in the Assyrian and Chaldeans (Babylon) era, indicated that the moon is the supreme deity. Sin and Ba’al were the first deities associated with the moon and the center of worship in Ancient Northern Mesopotamia and Assyria.
Moon Worship, Mythology, and Festivals
The Dai people in China worship the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The origin of the festival stems from the Moon Goddess worship for thousands of years. The Dai legend goes that the moon was the third son of heaven or emperor Yan Jian who led the Dai people to vanquish their enemies and won. When he died, he rose into the sky incarnating the moon, perpetually shining its light to the Dai people.
As a tribute, the people celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival, which does not only honor the moon as a source of growth and fertility but as a symbol of togetherness, which is also called the reunion festival.
Pre Islamic Pagan Origins and Moon Worship in the Ancient Middle East
Throughout the Middle East, archeologists found temples that were used to worship the Moon god. The widespread moon worship extended from Turkey to the Nile. The Sumerians left clay tablets indicating such worship to the moon god like Nanna, Asimbabbar, and Suen; all represented the crescent moon. The moon worship to Suen god was the prominent religion for the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Akkadians. It was predominantly a Sumerian origin, afterwards inherited by the Semites.
Egyptians and Persians were also moon worshippers, and the symbol often depicted on the walls and heads of the statues. The symbol of the crescent moon dominated much of the ancient world. Earrings, necklaces, clay tablets, amulets, weights, and even bread were shaped like it. The archeological finds in the land of ancient Ur, are now displayed in the British Museum. Some of these finds include a temple and two statues sitting on the throne with a crescent moon carved on the chest.
Ancient Egypt Moon Worship
According to the ancient Egyptians, the moon is the ruler of the stars. It plays an influential role in the Egyptian religion, that later became related to the Pre-Islamic faith. Egyptians believed that the moon was an important replacement of the sun. Ancient moon worship of the Egyptians used symbols of the full and the crescent moon.
The ancient people believed that the lunar cycle begins with the new moon and ends with the full moon, visible only on the second day of the lunar month. Although the lunar eclipse was viewed as the interruption of the cycle and a bad omen, the moon symbolizes fertility, growth and rejuvenation, like the phases of the man’s life.
The feast day of the sixth day is viewed as the victory of Osiris. It is an important element in funerary rituals where the deceased is identified with the Moon associated with the night sky. In the Book of the Dead, this also contains spells and pronouncements so that the dead can pass judgment and reach the land of the West where they can live a happy afterlife. Every rite and rituals must proceed in accordance with the phases of the moon.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas