Mother Eve and the Moon

Happy Monday. Or, more traditionally, happy Mōnandæg (Old English) or Monenday (Middle English). All three mean Day of the Moon. Moon is also the root of the word month, alluding to the many lunar, rather than solar, calendars. Monday was the day upon which our pagan ancestors worshiped the sky’s lesser light. Both Jeremiah and 2 Kings note and condemn moon worship among the Jews. The practice is also expressly forbidden by chapter of 4 of Deuteronomy:

And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

In many ancient cultures, the moon is associated with femininity in the form of a moon goddess. For example, Artemis (Greek), Luna (Roman), Mani (Norse) and Myeongwol (Korean), though there often male equivalents. Moon worship may even predate the worship of the sun. Some historians and feminist theologians argue that humans initially worshipped the Great Mother Goddess who was subsequently replaced by male deities. As a Bible believer I reject this, but I do see that worship of the feminine moon was extremely popular millennia ago. Interestingly, ancient Japanese religion has a sun goddess and no moon deity, which seems to invalidate my point, but the word for god- kami- used in Shintoism, is non-gender specific. However, the symbol of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism, popular in Japan, is the moon.

Why is the moon so often pictured as feminine?

-It’s lesser light reflects the typically lesser physical strength of the female body.

-Women have traditionally played a reduced role in national and familial life, reflecting instead the male’s more vivid, boastful glory.

-The 28-day lunar cycle corresponds with the female body’s average monthly cycle.

-If man worked in the fields by day (sun), the home in which he spent his evening (moon) was the female’s domain.

-The beauty and tranquillity of the moon better reflect the supposedly traditional female virtues, with the burning, heated sun reflecting the male’s.   

-The heat of the sun, though useful, sometimes causes pain and burning, but the gentler light of the moon generates admiration and awe. Feminist theologians point out the violence and domination produced by masculinity as opposed to the gentleness and wisdom of womanhood. 

So why would the lesser sky light prove initially more popular than the greater, the sun?

My own theory is that the sun and moon represented Adam and Eve in the minds of their early descendants. As humanity scattered over the earth, a dim recollection of our race’s foundation survived in the various creation stories handed down. Adam and Eve both knew that God’s promised salvation would come from the woman, which would have been earnestly communicated to each subsequent generation:

And I will put enmity

Between you (the serpent, evil) and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He shall bruise your head,

And you shall bruise His heel (Gen. 3:15) 

Although Adam is condemned to work in the sun (‘In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread’) which also nourishes and sustains the ‘thorns and thistles’ which the earth now brings forth, there was something optimistically salvic about woman. This refers to the Messiah’s being born of a virgin woman, fulfilling the aforementioned prophecy. Perhaps this was reinforced by the moon’s occasional eclipsing of the glaring sun.

In Genesis 4:1, Eve rather ingenuously says “I have acquired a man from the Lord”, upon having Cain. Perhaps she reckoned her first-born the rather immediate fulfilment of the Messiah prophecy- and what bitter disappointment he must have caused. Like all false hopes, he brought pain and death. Lamech, father of Noah, similarly declares at his birth in 5:29:

“This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”

Noah provided a salvation for his family and animal life, but he wasn’t the long hoped-for Seed of the Woman. Nevertheless, beyond the Flood and Babel, mankind honoured Woman because of the expected Deliver she would bring forth. Unfortunately, this genuine hope morphed and twisted into idolatry, with the creation of the Mother Goddess cult and moon-worship. When Paul preaches the Messiah at Ephesus in Acts 19, the mob cry “Great is Artemis (the moon goddess) of the Ephesians!”, as though she were Christ’s rival.

I suspect that Eve is faintly remembered in many ancient tales. For example, in the Pelasgian creation myth, Eurynome the goddess of all things, creates Ophion, a great serpent, with whom she goes on to mate. From this union come humans, though she later crushes the serpent’s head when he taunts her, kicking out his teeth and hurling him from a mountain to dark caves below the earth. Another example is that of Nemesis, which means ‘she who distributes or deals out’. She is the Greek goddess of divine vengeance as well as the sacred grove or orchard. She carried about an apple-branch, whose fruit she offered to heroes. Interestingly, the Romans preferred the names Invidia (Jealousy) and Rivalitas (Jealous Rivalry) for her, a reference perhaps to Eve’s desire for forbidden fruit and later ‘desire’ for her husband, which is linked to his ruling over her.

Our ancestors, even without the scriptures, remembered the Genesis account of how we got here, how it went wrong and the hope of future redemption. They looked about for symbols in nature that these hopes might be pictured. They saw the moon and it reminded them of their ancient mother, through whom salvation would come. Nevertheless, the moon is not Eve, and neither it, nor Eve, nor the virgin Mary, can save anything or anyone. Rather, the Messiah, the bright morning star, descended of woman, came to earth that women and men who believe in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life. 

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

Revelation 12:1-5