Man in the Moon

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One possible interpretation of the Man in the Moon as seen from the Northern Hemisphere
The Man in the Moon is struck by a spacecraft in the 1902 fantasy film Le Voyage dans la Lune. This frame from the film is an example of a conventionalized image bearing no relation to actual lunar features.

The Man in the Moon refers to any of several pareidolic images of a human face, head or body that certain traditions recognise in the disc of the full moon. The images are actually composed of the dark areas of the lunar maria, or "seas" and the lighter highlands of the lunar surface. Various cultures recognise other examples of lunar pareidolia, such as the Moon rabbit.

In the Northern Hemisphere, one common Western perception of the face has it that the figure's eyes are Mare Imbrium and Mare Serenitatis, its nose is Sinus Aestuum, and its open mouth is Mare Nubium and Mare Cognitum.[citation needed] An older European tradition sees a figure of a man (Maria Serenitatis, Tranquilitatis, Fecunditatis and Nectaris) carrying a wide burden (Mare Vaporum and Lacus Somniorum) on his back.[citation needed] He is sometimes seen as accompanied by a small dog (Mare Crisium).

Conventionalized illustrations of the Man in the Moon seen in Western art often show a very simple face in the full moon, or a human profile in the crescent moon, corresponding to no actual markings.

"The Man in the Moon" can also refer to a mythological character said to live on or in the moon, but who is not necessarily represented by the markings on the face of the moon. An example is Yue-Laou, from Chinese tradition.

Origin stories[edit]

There are various explanations as to how there came to be a Man in the Moon.

A longstanding European tradition holds that the man was banished to the moon for some crime. Christian lore commonly held that he is the man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath and sentenced by God to death by stoning in the book of Numbers XV.32-36.[1] Some Germanic cultures thought he was a man caught stealing from a neighbor's hedgerow to repair his own. There is a Roman legend that he is a sheep-thief.

One medieval Christian tradition claims him as Cain, the Wanderer, forever doomed to circle the Earth. Dante's Inferno[2] alludes to this:

"For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
On either hemisphere, touching the wave
Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
The moon was round."

This is mentioned again in his Paradise:[3]

But tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy spots
Upon this body, which below on earth
Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?”

There is also a Talmudic tradition that the image of Jacob is engraved on the moon,[4] although no such mention appears in the Torah.[5][6]

John Lyly says in the prologue to his Endymion (1591), "There liveth none under the sunne, that knows what to make of the man in the moone."

In Norse mythology, Máni is the male personification of the moon who crosses the sky in a horse and carriage. He is continually pursued by the Great Wolf Hati who catches him at Ragnarok. The name Máni simply means "Moon".

In Chinese mythology, the goddess Chang'e is stranded upon the moon after foolishly consuming a double dose of an immortality potion.[7] She is accompanied by a small group of moon rabbits.

In Haida mythology, the figure represents a boy gathering wood, who was taken up from the earth as a punishment for disrespect.[8]

Traditions[edit]

There is a tradition that the Man in the Moon enjoyed drinking, especially claret. An old ballad runs (original spelling):

"Our man in the moon drinks clarret,
With powder-beef, turnep, and carret.
If he doth so, why should not you
Drink until the sky looks blew?"[9]

In the English Middle Ages and renaissance, the moon was held to be the god of drunkards, and at least three London taverns were named "The Man in the Moone".[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harley, the Rev. Timothy, FRAS (1885). Moon Lore, London; Swan Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowry. p.21. Archived at Internet Sacred Text Archive. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  2. ^ Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, canto 20, line 126 and 127. The Dante Dartmouth Project contains the original text and centuries of commentary.
  3. ^ Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, canto 2, line 51.
  4. ^ Wolfson, Elliot R. "The Face of Jacob in the Moon" in The Seductiveness of Jewish Myth: Challenge or Response? edited by S. Daniel Breslauer, Albany NY; SUNY Press, 1997
  5. ^ Harley, the Rev. Timothy, FRAS (1885). Moon Lore, London; Swan Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowry. P.21
  6. ^ Harley, Timothy (1885). "II. THE MAN IN THE MOON." Internet Sacred Text Archive. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  7. ^ Houyi#Chang'e's ascent to the Moon
  8. ^ The Hydah mission, Queen Charlotte's Islands Charles Harrison, Church Missionary Society c. 1884
  9. ^ The Man in the Moon drinks Claret, as it was sung at the Court in Holy-well. Bagford Ballads, Folio Collection in the British Museum, vol. ii. No. 119.
  10. ^ Poole, William (2009), "Introduction", in Poole, William, The Man in the Moone, Broadview, pp. 13–62, ISBN 978-1-55111-896-3 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]