According to the last count, Saturn has 83 moons to lead all of the Solar System’s Planets in sheer numbers of natural satellites. Jupiter comes in a close second with 79, Uranus and Neptune have 27 and 14 to round out the Gas Giants. Meanwhile, Mars has two moons, and our Earth has only one. There are no moons circling Venus and Mercury.
As a child, I once asked my fourth grade teacher why our moon does not have a name like other planets’ moons. She said that ancient people did name the Moon long ago. The Greeks called it Selene and the Ancient Romans called it Luna. That was a good enough explanation for nine-year-old me. I just thought that our moon was pretty special because it was so noticeable in the sky.
Contemplating the Moon is a favorite occupation and pastime of us humans. Who among us has not been mesmerized by this captivating celestial object? It’s not surprising that so many ancient peoples believed that the Moon is a god or goddess. The Moon appears to have magical properties. It seems to follow us as we travel across the Earth. Then there are its mysterious phases. We are enlightened by the Full Moon and inspired by Crescent Moons. Indeed, the image of a crescent is a universal symbol for night.
The Moon is so important to our culture that we named a day after it–Monday. In the Anglo-Saxon language “mondangaeg” means “the Moon’s day”. In traditional Scandinavian and Nordic culture, Moon’s Day was devoted to worshipping the god of the Moon–Máni, Sol’s (the Sun’s) brother. The possessive form of Máni is Mōnan so his day became Mōnandæg. It’s interesting that Sol is a goddess and Máni is a god. Many other cultures ascribe masculinity to the Sun and femininity to the Moon. Of course, assigning gender to these two celestial objects was important to the creation myths of various cultures.
“The Moon will guide you through the night with her brightness, but she will always dwell in the darkness, in order to be seen.”–Shannon L. Alder
According to the predominant, contemporary gendering of these two objects, the Moon represents the feminine or inner nature. This is seen as more “spiritual” than the outright assertiveness of the Sun. Poets and songwriters have composed great works inspired by the Moon. The cool, calm Moon seems more romantic and comforting than the blazing Sun.
I hope you enjoy a pleasant “Moon’s Day” and can contemplate tonight’s Waning Gibbous Moon.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Commander of Apollo 15, David R. Scott. “For when I look at the Moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.”