Posted: 8/23/11 11:25 AM ET
Avid moon watcher that I am, I must confess that I never could recognize the face of the man in the moon. How could anyone conceivably mistake that face — that round, profoundly gentle face, jolly and eternally indulgent, that unconditionally comforting countenance — for male?
The dark marks that define her features are in reality the bodies of water on her surface: the sea of tranquility, the ocean of storms and the sea of fertility. Sounds like a woman to me! My version of the ma’am in the moon will always be Aunt Jemima. The ultimate maternal perfection fantasy figure: purveyor of affection, protection and pancakes.
Women are inextricably connected to the moon, to her rhythms and waves. A woman’s blood waxes and wanes with the moon. Her urges and juices ebb and flow. And the moon, as she grows from crescent to full every month, mimics the pregnant swell of a woman’s belly, or a bunny’s, or a dog’s.
The moon as mother is a prevalent, primal mythological theme. The West African Nigeriens believe that the great moon mother sends the moon bird to Earth to deliver babies. The Baganda of Central Africa bathe their newborns by the light of the first full moon following birth. In Ashanti tradition, the moon Akua’ba, is a fertility figure. Women carry effigies of her tucked into their skirts at the small of their backs as an aid to conception and a guarantee of sturdy children.
Moon, O Mother Moon, O Mother Moon,
Mother of living things,
Hear our voice, O Mother Moon!
O Mother Moon! O Mother Moon!
– Gabon Pygmy Song
Women in Europe did the same. During the Renaissance, long after the mass acceptance of Christianity, it was understood that if a woman wanted anything, she should pray not to God, but to the moon mother for succor. Saint Augustine denounced women for dancing “impudently and filthily all the day long upon the days of the new moon,” even as their Hebrew sisters were scorned for wearing lunar amulets by the biblical prophets in Isaiah 3:18.