Man in the Moon
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the northern hemisphere and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2010)|
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
- "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."
- 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?”
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".
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?"
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".
- Harley, the Rev. Timothy, FRAS (1885). Moon Lore, London; Swan Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowry. p.21
- Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, canto 20, line 126 and 127. The Dante Dartmouth Project contains the original text and centuries of commentary.
- Dante, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, canto 2, line 51.
- 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
- Harley, the Rev. Timothy, FRAS (1885). Moon Lore, London; Swan Sonnenschein, Le Bas & Lowry. P.21
- Houyi#Chang'e's ascent to the Moon
- The Hydah mission, Queen Charlotte's Islands Charles Harrison, Church Missionary Society c. 1884
- 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.
- Poole, William (2009), "Introduction", in Poole, William, The Man in the Moone, Broadview, pp. 13–62, ISBN 978-1-55111-896-3