Friday, May 13, 2016

Lunar Superstitions by J. M. Wheeler 1895



MOON-LORE by J. M. Wheeler 1895

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The wide prevalence of lunar superstitions tends to show their antiquity. Mr. W. F. Mayers {Notes and Queries on China and Japan, p. 123) says: "No one can compare the Chinese legend with the popular European belief of the 'man in the moon' without feeling convinced of the certainty that the Chinese superstition and the English nursery tale are both derived from kindred parentage, and are linked in this relationship by numerous subsidiary ties. In all the range of Chinese mythology there is, perhaps, no stronger instance of identity with the traditions that have taken root in Europe than in the case of the legends relating to the moon." The Rev. J. Doolittle, in his Social Life of the Chinese (vol. ii., p. 65), mentions their making moon-cakes. In Jeremiah vii. 18 we read: "The women knead dough to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven." According to Rashi, an image was stamped on these cakes. Our hot-cross buns probably commemorate the worship of the moon—Diana of the crossways. The Greeks made, for Selene, cakes called moon-shaped; and moon-cakes used to be made not so long ago in Lancashire.

The Virgin Mary has been, by some, connected with the moon. She is depicted standing on a crescent, and surrounded with stars. She is called in the Missal "Sancta Maria, coeli Regina, et mundi Domine." Her first worshippers were the female Collyridians, who sought her favor by libations and offerings of cakes. In the Apocryphal Gospel of Matthew, and in the Gospel of Mary's Nativity, we read that when the Blessed Virgin was an infant she ran up the fifteen steps of the temple at full speed, which may, perhaps, describe the progress of the new moon to the full.

What Tacitus says of the Germans, that they believe that certain things are best undertaken in the new moon, or before its full, is applicable to the peasant to-day; and not to the Teutonic race only, but to Slavs, Kelts, Chinese, and Central Africans. Tusser, in his Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, writes:—

Sowe peason and beanes in the wane of the moone—
Who soweth them sooner, he soweth too soone—
That they with the planet may rest and arise
And flourish, with bearing most plentiful-wise.

In Cornwall people still gather their medicinal plants when the moon is of a certain age, and pigs must always be killed when the moon is coming to the full. By performing all sorts of operations at stated times and seasons, unlettered people kept themselves in time with the lord of growth, the light of darkness, and great time regulator, the moon. While the calendar remained lunar thirteen was a lucky number, but when solar reckoning came in it became a feminine symbol and unlucky.

Aubrey, in his Remaines of Gentilisme (p. 33), says: "In Yorkshire, etc., northwards, some country woemen doe worship the New Moon on their bare knees, kneeling upon an earth-fast stone. And the people of Athol, in the High lands in Scotland, doe worship the New Moon." Camden, in his Britannia (vol. ii., p. 380), writes of the Irish: "Whether or no they worship the moon I know not; but when they first see her after the change they commonly bow the knee and say the Lord's Prayer; and, near the wane, address themselves to her with a loud voice, after this manner: Leave us as well as thou foundest us." Halliwell Phillips mentions, among his Popular Rhymes:—

I see the moon, and the moon sees me;
God bless the moon, and God bless me.

This looks like a Christian adaptation of older moon-worship. In Devonshire it is lucky to see the moon over the right, but unlucky to see it over the left shoulder. To see it straight before you is good fortune to the end of the month.

T. Thiselton Dyer says: "Various forms of moon-worship survive in the divinations and superstitious rites still associated, here and there, with its changes, many of which are supposed to influence the affairs of daily life. Thus the peasant considers it unlucky to have no piece of silver money in his pocket to turn for prosperity when he first sees the new moon. In Yorkshire the only way of averting this ill-omen is at once to turn head over heels." "I have known persons," says Mr. Hunt (Popular Romances of West of England, p.429), speaking of Cornish superstitions, "whose attention has been called to a clear new moon, hesitate: 'Hey, I seed her out a'doors afore.' If not, they will go into the open air, and, if possible, show the moon a piece of gold, or at all events turn their money."

In Berkshire and other counties, says Mr. Dyer, at the appearance of a new moon, young women go into the fields, and, whilst looking up at it, repeat the following rhyme:—

New moon, new moon, I hail thee!
By all virtue in thy body,
Grant this night that I may see
He who my true love is to be.

Georgina F. Jackson. Shropshire Folk-Lore, p. 256, says: "I was myself accustomed in my childhood, on the first sight of the new moon, to curtsey three times, turning round between each curtsey in the expectation of receiving a present before the next moon. Some require nine bows or curtseys without the mystic turns, and some Shrewsbury friends simply perform the ceremony 'for luck,' without the definite expectation of a gift. The rite prescribed by a lady at Ruyton is to curtsey three times, saying, 'Pretty moon, pretty moon, pretty moon!' It is also lucky to get someone to kiss you when you see the new moon."

Mr. F. E. Sawyer, in his Sussex Folk-Lore and Superstitions, mentions a Sussex girl admitted to one of Dr. Barnardo'a Village Homes who (Night and Day, 1881) says she had no knowledge of God; "the only thing she had any reverence for was the moon." She said: "You mustn't point at the moon like that, and you mustn't talk about it." A clergyman of Shrewsbury says he was instructed in childhood that it is wicked to point the finger at the moon! In Germany it is held wicked to point at the stars, "because they are angels' eyes." Mrs. Latham says that in West Sussex they bow or curtesy to the new or lady moon, as she is styled, to deprecate bad luck. The Rev. Mr. Parish says little girls curtsey three times to the new moon, and adds that it would be useless to remonstrate with his churchwarden for trying to catch sight of the new moon over his left shoulder, "especially as he might detect me in turning over my money three times at the same moment." Here I must pause and explain. In old symbology the left side is feminine, the right masculine. To look over the left shoulder has a totally different significance from looking over the right, being the proper- way to regard a lady. Turning money in the pocket comes simply from the idea that the increase of the moon causes other things to increase, for which spitting on them is also efficacious.

At the first appearance of the first new moon of the year Sussex girls go out, and, looking on the moon, repeat these lines:-

All hail to thee, Moon, all hail to thee!
I pray thee, good Moon, reveal to me
This night who my lover or husband will be.

In many parts there is a practice of divination by counting the reflections of the moon in the water. This is to tell when the lover, husband, or baby will come. Somerset folk, I believe, are called moon-rakers through this practice. In days gone by it was a common practice among peasants to say, when the moon was full: "It is a fine moon, God help her."

An astronomer showed some Sussex laborers the moon through his telescope. One, being asked his opinion, replied: "Well, sir, it be a gashly sight. Tester, he said so, when he see it; and he wur quite right; for you know, sir, that he haint never been to say well since."

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