Thursday, January 3, 2013

The lunar Deities of Hellenismos

Okay, so, the graphic representation of Zeus' affairs has put me in a mythology mood again. On top of that, I recently had a discussion with my friend about the moon-centered worship of (Neo-)Wicca and certain Eclectic Witches. Nothing major, but it got me thinking about the Hellenic lunar deities. I've spoken about the phases of the moon before, and linked briefly to the Theia associated with them in that post. Today, however, I want to discuss those Deities in more detail.


The prime lunar Deity is the Titan Selene (Σελήνη), who is the personification of the moon. She is linked to everything the moon can be connected to, including the night, ocean tides, magic, childbirth, dew, lunacy, nursing and the months. She's Hēlios' sister and thus has the same family tree: born from Hyperion and Theia (Hesiod, Pindar), or Hyperion and Euryphaessa (Homeric Hyms). Hyperion (Ὑπερίων), meaning 'The High-One', was born from Gaea and Ouranos. Theia and Euryphaessa are generally regarded as the same Deathless woman: 'Theia' is the Hellenic word for 'Goddess', so it was likely 'Theia Euryphaessa' translated to 'Goddess Euryphaessa'. This means that Selene's family tree is as follows:

     Chaos ------------ Gaea
         |         |
   Ouranos --- |
                       Hyperion --- Euryphaessa
                   |
                  Selene

Like Apollon for Hēlios, Artemis (Αρτεμις) is often confounded with Selene. The Divine Huntress was born from a union between Zeus and Leto, and assisted Her mother with the birth of Apollon, Her brother. Like Selene, Artemis is associated with the moon and childbirth, but also with the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, virginity, the protection of young girls, and bringing and relieving disease in women. Artemis' family tree is as follows:

                     Chaos ----------------------- Gaea
                             |                      |       
      Ouranos --- | ----------------- | 
                      |                      |
                     Kronos --- Rhea  Koios --- Phoibê
                      |                      |
                      Zeus -------------- Leto
                     |
                     Artemis

From this family tree also comes Phoibê (Φοιβη), daughter of Gaea and Ouranos. She's another Titan, married to her brother Koios, and mother to Leto and Asteria. Phoibê is the Titan Goddess of bright intellect. She was the third Goddess to hold the Oracle of Delphi, and gifted it to Her grandson Apollon on His birthday. Because of Her connection to all things bright and the Roman writing of Her name (Phoebe--an honorary title and/or epithet of Artemis), Phoibê is often falsely identified with the moon.

A Goddess who was associated with the moon in ancient Hellas was Hekate (Ἑκατη). The Titan Goddess of the night, the moon, and protection against witchcraft, ghosts and necromancy. She is mostly associated with the new moon, when the Hena Kai Nea, or Hekate's Deipnon is celebrated. Her genealogy is a muddled mess. In some versions, she'd the child of the Titan Asteria, but her father could be either Zeus, Persaeus or Perses. She might also be the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Pheraea or Hera. She might also be the daughter of Leto or Tartarus. Most likely, the Titan Goddess was imported from Thrace. She rules in heaven, on the earth, and in the sea, and it is She who bestows wealth on mortals, victory, wisdom, good luck to sailors and hunters, and prosperity to youth and to the flocks of cattle; but if mortals do not deserve Her gifts, She can also take them away. I'm not going to attempt to reconstruct Her family line, if you don't mind.

The last moon Goddess I want to give special attention to is Pasiphaê (Πασιφαη). Pasiphaê is most famous for her illicit affair with a bull, which led to the birth of the Minotaur of Krete. Her love was a punishment for hubris against the Theoi, and she paid for it dearly. Within this myth, Pasiphaê is the immortal daughter of Hēlios. Most likely, she was imported from Krete as an early moon Goddess, similar to the classical Selene. She lost most of these traits to Selene upon her integration.

Beyond these, there are several minor Goddesses associated with the moon, as well as some major Goddesses, who are linked to the moon remotely. Hera, for example, and her sister Eileithyia, Goddess of childbirth, are linked to Selene through their children and family-oriented domains. Achelois, a minor moon Goddess, was worshipped via the Dodonian Oracle. Her name means 'She who casts away pain'. For a suitable sacrifice, She will relieve your pain. Pandeia (Πανδεια), daughter of Zeus and Selene, is regarded as the Goddess of the full moon. Bendis (Βενδις) is a Thracian moon Goddess and Goddess of hunting. She is often identified with Artemis and Selene and was worshipped with ecxatic rites deep in the wilds of Thrake.

These are the Goddesses associated with the moon. I would have loved to write about male lunar deities... but the Hellenic pantheon doesn't have any as far as I'm aware. Are you familiar with more? Let me know in the comments.

5 comments:

UltravioletAngel said...

this has made me think .. thanks for sharing.

Elani Temperance said...

Very welcome. It was an interesting discussion :)

Carliro said...

Actually, Hermes is associated with the Moon, particularly in regards to his role as a psychopomp.

Elani Temperance said...

@Carliro: That's interesting! Do you have a source for that? I have to admit this is news to me.

Carliro said...

Manilius offers a good insight, especially in relation to the sign of Cancer. Also, in late antiquity Hermes is equated with lunar gods like Thoth and Sin.