Moon

My photo of the moon.

Another full moon is upon us this week, whitewashing the night sky and making it tough on stargazers. We’re also getting into the time of year when the full moon makes a higher arc across the sky as it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. Don’t get me wrong. I love the magic of a full moon as much as anybody but at the same time I get a little frustrated how it messes up the darkness of the sky making it tough to find celestial treasures like distant galaxies, star clusters, and such. Even so the full moon is good for the soul!

The full moon is truly a celestial treasure all by itself and has been celebrated by all cultures throughout the ages. This week in Starwatch I want to touch on some of the many, many moon mythologies from cultures all over the world. There’s no way I could cover it all. There’s just so much! But at least I want to give you a very small sampling of some of the moon lore. You can try to read this column by the light of the moon, although you might need a few more lumens than that. Just like Mom and Dad said…You need more light to read…you’ll wreck your eyes!

The lunar mythology that’s probably best known is from the Greeks. Artemis was the goddess of the moon whose job it was to drive a flatbed cart across the sky every night pulled by magical flying horses. On the flatbed was the moon. Her twin brother Apollo was the god of the sun who had the job of steering the sun with his flatbed with his horses across the daytime sky. Their father was Zeus the king of the gods. There are many stories about Artemis but one of the ones that I’ll go into more detail about when I feature the constellation Orion is how Artemis fell in love with the hermit hunter Orion. It was a definite no-no for gods and goddess to fall in love with mortals and because of that Zeus arranged for Orion to be killed by a giant scorpion. In similar Roman mythology Artemis is known by her Roman name, Diana.

According the ancient Aztecs mythology from the Valley of Mexico,Coyolxauhqui was the daughter of Coatlicue, the goddess of the Earth. Coatlicue according to lore was also the mother to four hundred or so other gods and goddesses….no birth control there! It’s like the story of the old woman in her shoe with all her children, multiplied several times over! Anyway, Coatlicue for reasons I don’t have the time to go into right now became heavily wrapped in corruption and all her kids became very disgusted with her. Coyolxauhqui was so incensed she encouraged many of her siblings to murder their own mom. They all signed on to this except for Huitzilopochtli, the goddess of the sun. She was well armed and thwarted any attempt of her mommy’s life. When Coatlicue learned that Coyolxauhqui was the ringleader of the plots against her she snuck up on her moon daughter while she was napping one afternoon and cut off her head. She then flung the cranium of her dead daughter in the night sky and it became the moon. Don’t mess with this mama!

In ancient Hindu mythology as it is with many other cultures all the parts of the day and nighttime sky were controlled by one god or another. Soma was the god of the moon. Similar to Artemis the Greek goddess of the moon Soma rode across the night sky in a chariot pulled by four white horses. But in the Hindu story the moon was also seen as a storage chamber of a magic elixir that energized all the gods. As the moon wanes in its monthly cycle and becomes smaller it’s said that the gods were depleting the potion. Somehow as the moon waxed and became full again the supply of the magic fluid became restored. How that happened is not exactly clear. There has to be more to this story!

Shinto which means the way of the gods is one of if not the oldest Japanese religions. Tsuki-Yomi was the moon god and his sister was Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. Tsuki-Yomi and his sister had a distant cousin, Uke Mochi who served as the goddess of food. Uke as I refer to him had it in for Tsuki. We really don’t know why. Maybe it was jealousy. After all Tsuki-Yomi was a much higher ranking god than the goddess of eats. Anyway Uke invited his cousin Tsuki for dinner one night and told him that he had prepared a very special new dish from a recipe he just came up with. After dinner Uke laughed in Tsuki’s face and told him that he actually finished a meal made up of ingredients so gross that I can’t even tell you what they are! Trust me on this one!

Tsuki lost it right then and there. He choked his cousin on the spots. Definite anger issues here! His sister Amaterasu heard of his bro’s overreaction and never wanted to see him again, ever! She had it arranged that they never be together in the sky at the same time. The sun controlled by Amaterasu would only be seen at night and Tsuki-Yomi controlling the moon would be restricted to the night shift. In actually though you can see the moon during the daytime depending on where it is in its monthly cycle of phases. You can’t let reality through get in the way of neatly packaged mythology yarn!

As I said before there’s many more moon tales and in a few more moons I’ll share some more with you! Happy moon bathing!


Coming attraction

I’ll be in Rochester this month for a couple of Starwatch Programs and I hope you can join me!

Rochester Community Education Presents: Minnesota Starwatch Program

Bamber Valley Elementary School : Parking Lot, 2001 Bamber Valley Road SW

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct 25

Admission $15

Rochester Community and Technical College Learning Is ForEver (LIFE) Program Presents: Minnesota Starwatch Program

Heintz Center Room H1415, 1926 Collegeview Road SE

1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25

LIFE Member Fee: $12 Non-Member Fee: $15

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and professional broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul and is author of the book, “Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations” published by Adventure Publications. Send questions to mikewlynch@comcast.net.

The Rochester Astronomy Club welcomes new members and puts on public star parties. Their website is rochesterskies.org.

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