Every group of people around the world and every culture has its own collection of traditional tales, folktales, fables, myths and legends. These stories are told to entertain and to educate. Through the stories, children learn the beliefs and customs of their people.
Myths and legends are the tales that are told to explain how the world came to be the way it is today. Different cultures' myths and legends have many common themes. There are tales about how the world came about, gods, people, the weather, plants, how we got fire and how animals came to be the way they are.
Beautiful tales are told about the wonders of the heavens, the sun, moon and stars. It is fascinating to see the different explanations for them in different traditions.
If you've missed my first post about the beliefs of the moon, click here to catch up.
In Alaska the man in the moon is part of the Eskimos' spiritual beliefs. They believe that the an in the moon is the keeper of the souls of men and animals. Shamen, their priests, claim to have the power to ascend to the moon and talk with him.
In Hindu traditions Soma is the god of the moon. He rides in a chariot drawn by white horses through the skies. But Soma is also the name of a holy drink that makes the gods immortal so that they cannot die and the moon where this holy drink comes from. So, in Hindu belief, when the gods drink soma from the moon, the moon wanes and becomes smaller and smaller. Parts of Hindu traditions also entail that a hare lives on the moon - and so hares are sacred as they are incarnations of the god Soma.
According to the San people, the moon is the shoe of the god Mantis. He threw it into the sky for guidance. On its way up it was red like the dust of this land and cold like old leather, and when the moon is full and round and beautiful, it makes the sun jealous. The sun is so jealous that it slices off bits of the moon with its sharp rays until there is just a sliver left and then the moon cries out: "Oh, please, please, leave a little backbone for the children!" The sun then leaves the moon in peace for a while and she starts growing full and round again.
Perhaps the saddest tale of why the moon waxes and wanes is the tale of The moon bride...
The sun was the ruler of the sky - the giver of warmth, and light and life! Animals and plants loved the sun, and needed him for their very existence. Have you seen how creatures love to bask in the sun? The lazy lion, rolling over on his back with his paws in the air. Or the sunbird singing in the warmth?
But as time went by, the sun became full of his own importance. Sometimes he disappeared for a time and everything became dark and cold, and sometimes he became fierce and angry and sent down blazing rays that scorched and burnt.
And so the Little Tortoise, creator of the heavenly bodies, decided it was time to give the sun a wife...Maybe the loving kindness of a beautiful bride would calm the sun's moods.
Little Tortoise clothed the moon in a beautiful silver gown and sent her off to be the bride of the sun, and for a while, all was well. The sun was so happy with his new bride that he didn't disappear or scorch the earth. The moon even gave the sun time off and kept the sky alight while he was gone. They had many beautiful children - the stars - that also shone brightly in the sky at night alongside the moon.
It was all sunshine and roses, but as time went by, the sun became used to his beautiful bride, and his temper returned.
One day, he became so angry with the moon, he disappeared under the earth, dragging her with him. He planned to kill her and so the moon became terrified and sad. She shrank smaller and smaller, and grew colder and colder.
Little Tortoise realized what was happening and came to rescue her. When she found the moon, she was badly hurt. All her heat was gone. Her rays were cold and she shone with a dim yellow light - a slim little sliver of her former self. Little Tortoise took care of her and slowly the moon recovered. She grew full and round and beautiful again and she became full of hope that the sun would lover her once more.
For a short time, he did - but then his evil temper surfaced again. The sun's anger made the moon shrink with fear and unhappiness until she was merely a thin sliver again, but the moon never gives up! Each time she grows full and round and beautiful again, she looks to the sun for love and warmth. For a time she finds it and then the cycle repeats itself...waxing and waning until eternity!