The Moon is the same size as the Sun. At least, that is what our minds tell us. And sometimes she is a lot bigger. But, we have been told, our minds are wrong, and the Sun is a vast amount larger. So what does that say about the relative importance of the masculine and feminine principles in our culture? And how do we need to think if we want those principles to be balanced?
If we want to be balanced human beings, then we need to believe our senses above what we have been told. Has anyone actually seen the Sun as larger than the Moon? NO, they haven’t. There is a logical case for it, but that is just one perspective. It doesn’t make all the others wrong.
In early Greek mythology, the Sun was subordinate to the Moon. I don’t want to go in the other direction and undervalue the masculine principle, but this is interesting. Astrologically, the Moon is our emotional/instinctual/physical nature, and it is something of a given, it is stable, it is what it is. Up to a point. It can be relied on. Functioning well, it keeps us on-planet and healthy and possessed of a certain instinctive wisdom about living. Whereas the Sun is a more dynamic principle, it will take us somewhere, it is our future: but it also doesn’t know who it is, it keeps messing up, and in our early years at any rate it needs the protection of the Moon.
There are a number of goddesses associated with the Moon in Greek Mythology. I’ve been searching around for some illustrative stories, but I haven’t been able to find any. There is Selene, who kissed the youth Endymion while he was asleep, and he has been asleep ever since. And Acteon watched the chaste goddess of the hunt Artemis while she bathed naked. For this, she changed him into a stag and had him torn apart by his own hounds.
But neither of these particularly bring out the nature of the Moon. And then I thought why does it need to be Greek? After all, we are dealing with universals here, ‘archetypes’, that are found all over the world under different names. And it’s not like astrology is some pure tradition with solid roots in Greek mythology. No, I think it’s been cobbled together piecemeal, like any tradition, and all I’m doing is a bit more cobbling. The important thing here is to have stories that illustrate the nature of these astrological gods.
At root, astrology is a bunch of stories about gods that are then crystallised down to principles, and then get turned into stories again, but about the person you are doing a reading for. It’s not a ‘science’, it’s an art. The person has their own story about their life, and as the astrologer you tell them a story about themselves that resonates and clarifies their own story and they go wow! And the reason it works is that there are only so many stories, and they all have an archetypal, a universal, root, so your story is going to be in there somewhere, and the astrologer’s job is to find it and tell it compellingly. And as an astrologer how can you talk about the Moon or any other god(ess) compellingly unless you’ve read their biographies?
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So I’m going to tell you a story about the Moon and I want you to listen, because it’s a true story. It is called The Dead Moon, and it happened long ago in East Anglia, which is a flat, windy, marshy area in the East of England. It was before the marshes were drained for farmland and they went on for miles and at night it was easy to get lost in them. There were hidden pools and snags and creepers that would wrap round your legs and pull you down. And worst of all, if the Moon was not shining all the bogles and sprites and creatures from hell came out, and there were many stories of men returning home on a dark night after a drink too many who wandered into the marshland and were never seen again. Or, in some ways worse, who were found the next day out of their minds with terror, curled in a ball, crying for their mothers, and were never the same again.
Now the Moon heard about what happened when she was not shining. She had a tender heart, she cared about the people of the marsh, and she thought she had better see for herself what happened when she wasn’t shining. Maybe, she thought, it’s not as bad as people make out.
So one night, at the dark of the Moon, she went down to the swampland, disguised in a cloak and hood over her shining yellow hair. And she started to walk forward into the marsh, the only light being the stars and her feet where they poked out under her cloak.
And presently she started to hear things and sense things. A witch, a bogle. The dead, who’d been taken by the marshes, rose up with empty eyes, staring blindly around. Dead hands, covered in slime, reached out to her.
And then she slipped on a snag of peat, and it reached round and trapped her foot. She struggled against it, and it only made it worse. Presently her wrists were trapped as well and she could hardly move. And then she heard a terrified yelling from afar. A man had wandered into the marsh and was lost. Slimy dead hands were brushing against him, voices were whispering his hidden fears and secrets, witches would appear as beautiful women and beckon him, and he would stumble forward into a mud pool. Bogles would appear out of nowhere and scream terrifyingly in his ears.
The Moon’s instinct was to help this man. She forgot about her own peril and struggled again to be free. As she did so, her hood slipped over her head and her light shone brightly and warmly and all the terrors of the night fled. The man could now see firm ground and ran off, too terrified and relieved to inquire where the light had come from.
And then she remembered her own predicament and struggled again, and her hood fell forward over her head and her light went out. And the creatures of the night descended on her. They knew who she was, knew she was their old enemy who stopped them in their dreadful ways, and they decided to put an end to her once and for all. They plunged her into a deep pool and covered it with a large boulder and that was that, the Moon was dead.
Back in the villages people waited for the New Moon as they always did, for that would be when they were safe again at night. And they waited and waited and the New Moon never came. And the bogles and boggarts and things of the night grew ever more confident and came out of the marshes and knocked at people’s doors and broke the windows and stole the children.
And no-one knew what to do. They consulted the wise woman of the village, and she said let me think about it. In the meantime, put a pinch of salt, some straw and a button on your doorstep each night and that will keep the horrors out.
But still the Moon never came. One day, in the pub, the local men were drinking and talking about the Moon’s absence. And a stranger heard them and he was the very man who had been rescued by the Moon all those months earlier, and he realised it must have been the Moon, that soft light she gave out. So he told them what had happened and where it had happened.
So off they went to the wise woman again and she said you must rescue the Moon. You will have to go at night with stones in your mouths and hazel twigs in your hands and you mustn’t speak a word until she is recued. And they were afraid and said won’t the horrors get us first, and she said just do as I say. She is buried in a pool under a large boulder.
So they went at night, and the horrors were grabbing at them, but they kept going and finally they reached the place where the Moon was buried and together they levered the boulder. Out came a woman in a cloak and hood and they thought she must be dead, but no she threw back her hood and the Moon’s light shone as brightly and softly and radiantly as ever, and before they knew it she was up in the sky again, a Full Moon.
And she was shining into every nook and cranny in the marsh, and there was not a bogle or a boggart or creeping dead thing in sight. And since then the Moon has continued to shine, and particularly strongly, it is said, in the marshlands of East Anglia.
So I think this story says quite a lot about the nature of the Moon. She is tender-hearted, she cares about people, she protects them, she wants to make sure they are happy and well. She is the Mother archetype.
But I think she is also more than that. I don’t think it is stretching it too far to say that she is also a mediator with the Unconscious: she helps us deal with our demons. She is not trying to DO anything, she is just being her natural self, shining her gentle light. And that is the way I think we can best deal with our demons. Just stay conscious, stay with them, but don’t let them take over or undermine you, keep that gap between them and you.
The Moon is happy with who she is on a basic, natural, emotional level. The Sun is maybe not so, he wants to go places, he uses will, he has vision, he tries to change things – all these things have their place. But the inner realm, the inner depths, are different. They are not the Sun’s realm. You need to stop and be aware of your feelings and think well of yourself.
Mercury is also a mediator between conscious and unconscious: he will, for example, carry the dream messages from Neptune’s realm. But a healthy Moon gives us the ability to feel comfortable with this darker place, the ability to absorb whatever comes our way from it.
The Moon comes out at night, her strength is for when we turn inwards, when we are just with ourselves. You can look at the Moon and feel her warmth, her comfort, her encouragement when it’s all getting a bit much.
And I think she is neglected nowadays. People are under pressure to keep busy, not just to survive, but because being busy, working long hours, is seen as a validation, it makes people feel virtuous, good about themselves. And the prospect of just stopping can create anxiety, for we may have to feel those uncomfortable feelings.
But the Moon will look after us. That is her nature. When we are children, she is the mother. When we are adults, she is the mother on another level, helping us feel nourished, banishing unnecessary anxieties and fears, taking us down and into ourselves and supporting us on those difficult inner journeys.