Thursday, September 1, 2016

Who is the Moon Goddess?

It is popular in modern times, especially in neopagan circles, to think of the moon as representing a goddess. But what did the ancients think? Was the moon female to them?

In late Roman times, Diana absorbed the traits of many goddesses, becoming an all encompassing divine figure. In Ephesus, in modern day Turkey, she merged with the mother goddess Cybele and became a sort of virgin-and-mother who influenced the development of the Christian Mary. 

Paradoxically, those who continued to worship her as Diana were eventually condemned as witches by the Catholic church.

So much for Greece and Rome, but, ancient as they were, they were hardly the first civilizations on the block. What about the really ancient cultures, the ones who emerged in the fertile crescent 5,000 years ago, creating the first cities and the first written records in history? Was the moon female to the ancient Egyptians or the Sumerians and Babylonians of Mesopotamia (Iraq)? 

It may surprise you to learn that the answer is no. To these very old cultures, the moon was male, a god. 

In Sumer this god was Nanna, in Babylon the same god was called Sin. Nanna was the father of the Queen of Heaven, Inanna (later Ishtar), who was identified with the planet Venus, known then as the morning and evening star.

In Egypt, the celestial representation of the Moon God was Thoth, God of Wisdom and Magic, who was credited with the invention of writing. Thoth was depicted with the head of an ibis. In later times, Egypt’s Queen of Heaven, Isis, would be one of several goddesses whose original solar connections would be replaced by lunar ones.

The old Teutonic goddess Hertha (the Earth) was a Virgin, but was impregnated by the heavenly Spirit (the Sky); and her image with a child in her arms was to be seen in the sacred groves of Germany.

It’s worth noting that Diana and Isis were among Christianity’s chief rivals for popular worship in Christian Rome and both goddesses bear more than a little resemblance to the newest Queen of Heaven, Mary, who is often depicted standing on the moon.

Over time, then, in the foundational cultures of Western Civilization, the Queen of Heaven went through a metamorphosis, switching from an earlier association with Venus, the sun, and the dawn, to an identification with the moon.

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