The Moon and Cultural Lunacy

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The Moon is our closest neighbor, and we know a lot about Her. We know how
far She lives from the Earth, the course of Her journey, and when to expect Her
visits. We know about Her surface, Her terrain, and Her atmosphere. We even
know the source of Her silvery iridescence. And yet, even with all these facts at
hand, the Moon’s power is still quite a mystery. A mystery that we shall never
fully uncover or understand. A mystery that’s been with us since the beginning of
time and shall continue long after its end. As elusive as it is, it’s this very
mystery that gives the Moon such timeless appeal. It keeps us looking to Her for
answers and searching out Her connections to our world. It’s exactly what makes
Her just as important to its today as She was to our ancestors.
Be that as it may, the Moon’s significance to the world has changed
somewhat with the times. It hasn’t lessened, though. If anything, it’s gained
momentum. Think I’m kidding? Then take a look at our vocabularies. We label
those whose behavior makes us crazy “lunatics,” and we call the craziness that
they shower upon us “lunacy.” Someone highly thought of is said to “hang the
Moon.” Couples in love often “moon” over each other, and a wedding vacation is
known as a “honeymoon.” But it doesn’t stop there. The Moon also sheds light
on the fields of snack food (moon pies), liquid libation (moonshine), and games
of chance (shooting the Moon). Then there’s that rather distasteful display of
baring one’s derriere-only performed by lunatics, of course-which is commonly
known as “mooning.”
And if craziness, love, whiskey, and childish antics weren’t enough
responsibility for the iridescent beauty of the night, She also figures into the
entertainment business. Who, for example, could forget the trio of field mice
who stole the show with their campy rendition of “Blue Moon” in the movie
Babe? Who hasn’t hummed along to the romantic strains of “Moon River?” And
who hasn’t felt abject terror creep into the pit of their stomachs while watching
Apollo 13?
I could go on and on, but there isn’t any need. The Moon, ancient though
She is, has managed to infiltrate every fiber of our lives. She’s a very real part of
our modern world. And with every beam of light She casts, She becomes more
firmly ingrained in our minds, our hearts, and our spirits.
But how did the Moon become so important in the first place? What roles
did She play? Why was She so revered? And what first prompted our ancestors
to worship Her?