Monday, September 12, 2011


Associated with: Greek and Roman mythology
Also known as: Luna
Earliest recorded mention: c. 700 BCE
Major texts: Hesiod's Theogony; Virgil's Georgics; The Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus

Selene was the original Greek moon goddess, a Titan who was the daughter of Hyperion and Theia. Her brother was Helios, the sun god, and her sister was Eos, the dawn. When the gods of Olympus overthrew the Titans, Artemis (Diana) supplanted Selene as goddess of the moon.

Selene was famous for falling in love. The most famous of her loves was Endymion, a human shepherd (or, in some versions of the story, a hunter or a king). Because he was human, and therefore inconstant and mortal, Selene put him to sleep permanently (or, in later versions of the story, asked Zeus to do so). She kept the sleeping Endymion with her forever, and managed to have 50 daughters by him — exactly how, I'm not clear, and perhaps it's better not to ask.

The full moon was enormous as it rose tonight. I'd have taken a picture, if I took pictures. Of all the nature-inspired gods, a moon god or goddess makes the most sense to me. Unlike the sun, the moon has a face. It ebbs and flows, seeming to draw closer to us and then pull farther away. Its 28-day cycle controls the tides, within and without. Although a few civilizations had moon gods, is it any wonder most civilizations saw the moon as female?

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