Moon mythology refers to the legends, folklore, and spiritual beliefs surrounding the Earth’s natural satellite. Such mythology has existed for thousands of years in cultures around the globe. Early moon mythology often imagined the lunar body as a god or divine presence of some kind. In later eras, myths about the moon involved its appearance or influence on Earthly events. These myths persist in modern times in the forms of folklore and urban legend.
The moon is easily observable by the naked eye as it regularly orbits the Earth in illuminated paths, or phases, that occur with cyclical regularity. For this reason, it has been an object of fascination to humans since long before the advent of recorded history. Many cultures, both primitive and advanced, saw the moon and sun alike as deities to be worshiped. Others connected the cycles of the moon with similar monthly cycles, such as female menstruation. The full moon, in particular, has been linked to everything from werewolves to increased human fertility.
Many ancient cultures saw the moon as a divine presence, a common form of moon mythology. These cultures sometimes worshiped the sun as well and often represented one of these astronomical bodies as male and the other as female. Two of the best-known lunar deities are the goddesses Artemis and Diana, from Greek and Roman mythology, respectively. In other cultures, the moon was a male god, such as Tsukuyomi, from the Japanese Shinto faith. In modern times, many neo-pagans revere the moon as a symbol of their mother-goddess.
Popular folklore is another kind of moon mythology, sometimes deriving from whimsical tales rather than actual belief systems. Many cultures, for example, had a variation on the saying that the moon is made of green cheese. Another common folk tale involves the man in the moon or other figures that can be imagined from examination of the full moon’s visible craters. Some cultures believed it was better to plant crops or start a new endeavor during the full moon. Astrology is the popular belief that the moon and other celestial bodies predict or dictate human behavior.
Moon mythology continues to exist in the form of urban legends about the moon. The persistent and erroneous belief that the full moon causes high levels of human violence and insanity inspired the words “lunatic” and “loony.” There are many theories about the influence of the full moon on Earthly activity, some carried over from ancient folklore. Other widely held but false beliefs suggest the moon can influence earthquakes, menstruation, and even stock market trends. A famous urban legend holds that the NASA moon landings were faked by the U.S. government, which surely qualifies as a modern form of moon mythology.