Our human culture has been transfixed by the Moon for ages. The Inuit people of northern regions like Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland believed the goddess Malina and her brother, the god Anningan once lived together. One day, they got into a heated argument and Malina spread black grease over Anningan’s face. Regretting her decision, she ran away and became the Sun. Anningan chased after her and became the Moon. And this is how the day and night rotation was born.
A much happier story emerges from Africa wherein Mawu is a Moon god who is forever linked in unity with the sun goddess Liza. It is believed that lunar and solar eclipses are related to the lovemaking times of the celestial couple. This myth is clearly about the power of the moon, the sun, the sky and love and desire.
Other legends grew around the physical attributes of our closest neighbor. Chinese legend has it that a beautiful woman, Chang-e was exiled to the Moon with only a rabbit for company – you can still see the rabbit today. This legend traveled to the Moon in July 1969 with the Apollo 11 crew.
In the hours before the first Moon landing, the following exchange occurred:
Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, is one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-O has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.
Michael Collins: Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.
What do you see when you look at the Moon? Join the world in celebrating International Observe the Moon night this evening. But also try to take a moment every night to let yourself be lost in the wonder the Moon still holds. And also remember the cultural heritage it preserves on more than 80 sites which contain evidence of human activity. For as romantic as legend may be, it is the truth of our history that will sustain our future success.