Friday, August 17, 2012

The Moon and the Ancient Cults of the Moon God

Since time immemorial people were fascinated by heavenly bodies like the sun, moon and the stars. Observing and studying them, the ancient people could determine the ideal time to plant and harvest crops, predict the weather and the tides, and navigate unfamiliar places. They also used celestial bodies to foretell the future as well as good and bad omens. For these reasons the ancients believe that heavenly bodies have a power of control over their lives, and they worshipped them and even considered them as gods.

Ancient societies such as Anatolian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, Mayan and Chinese included the gods and goddesses of the sun, moon and the stars in their pantheon. The sun and the moon were depicted either as a male or female depending on the society they were worshipped in. In most cases they were depicted as spouses with the stars as their children.

Of all celestial bodies in the sky it is the moon, which reflects the light of the sun that is the most visible because it is very proximate to the earth. It can even be seen in a bright sunny day. The worship of the moon god was most prevalent in the areas of Babylonia especially during the biblical times. A cult of the moon god Sin was established and temples of him were built in Ur and in Harran. The cult spread to other areas that stretched from Anatolia to Arabia. The name of the place Sinai is believed to have been derived from Sin, one of the ancient moon gods.

In Akkad the people called the moon god as Nannar. He was known as Sin in Sumer. His consort was Ningal and their children were Shamash and Ishtar. The latter was the goddess of the planet Venus. She was also the goddess of fertility, sexual love and war. During the reign of Nabudinus, the last king of Babylon, he attempted to replace Marduk, the sun god and the chief of god of the pantheon, with Sin.

Sin was regarded as the father of the gods and creator of all things. His emblem was the crescent moon, the horns of a great bull and the number 30 which correspond to the lunar month. Sin and his children Shamash and Ishtar were triad of deities. A festivity of Sin was celebrated with the sighting of the new moon.

The moon deity can be male or female and was called different names in several places. The moon goddess was called by the Greeks as either Artemis or Selene, while the Romans called her Diana or Luna. In Arabia the moon god was called Hubal who was supreme of the 360 gods. The common symbol of those gods or goddesses was the crescent moon.

In Canaan, the god of fertility and the chief god was Baal. The word “Baal” originally meant owner or lord. The word was later used to refer to any false god or the demon. There are many verses in the Bible that pertain to the worship of celestial bodies. One of them is Deuteronomy 17:3 which says: “Who has gone and served other gods and worshipped them, either the sun or the moon or any of the host in heaven, which I have not commanded.” Therefore, it is an abomination to the true God if people worship any of the heavenly objects. The demons want to be worshipped too, and they can fulfill their desire through false gods which were represented with the heavenly bodies.

Some people give meaning and superstition to the appearance of the moon in the sky. The full moon is associated with the coming out of werewolves and other evil spirits and other phases of the moon are associated with good or bad luck. It is also believed that behavior of some people with mental issue is affected by the phase of the moon. It is where the word “lunatic” was derived in reference to the Roman moon goddess Luna.

The spread of modern religions particularly Christianity and Islam effectively ended the old practice of celestial body worship. The gods or goddesses of the heavenly bodies are myths, and the cults of the moon god are now a thing of the past.