The Worship of the Moon
Because of its size and also because of the events which
accompanied the first appearance of the Moon, many ancient peoples regarded
the Moon as the chief of the two luminaries. The sun was of smaller
importance than the moon in the eyes of the Babylonian astrologers.
The Assyrians and the Chaldeans referred to the time
of the Moon-god as the oldest period in the memory of the people: before
other planetary gods came to dominate the world ages, the Moon was the
supreme deity. Such references are found in the inscriptions of Sargon
II (ca. -720)(2) and Nabonidus
(ca. -550).(3) The Babylonian
Sinthe Moonwas a very ancient deity: Mount Sinai owes its
name to Sin.
The Moon, appearing as a body larger than the Sun, was
endowed by the imagination of the peoples with a masculine role, while
the Sun was assigned a feminine role. Many languages reserved a masculine
name for the Moon.(4)
It was probably when the Moon was removed to a greater distance from the
earth and became smaller to observers on the earth, that another name,
usually feminine, came to designate the Moon in most languages.(5)
in Boll, Sternglaube und Sterndeutung, p. 4. [In
Babylonian cosmology the Moon-god Sin (Nanna) was considered to be
the father of the Sun-god Shamash (Utu) and was commonly addressed
as father Sin (S. Langdon, Sumerian and Babylonian
Psalms [1909), p. 193. F. Cumont noted the prominence of Sin in
the earliest historical period in Babylonia and found it remarkable
that at first the primacy was assigned to the Moon. (Astrology
and Religion among the Greeks and Romans, p. 124; cf. Lewy, The
Late Assyro-Babylonian Cult of the Moon ). According to the
Dabistan (ch. 29), a Persian work of early Islamic times, the Kaabah
of Mecca was originally dedicated to the worship of the Moon. On Moon
worship among the ancient Arabs, cf. also Tuch, Sinaitische
Inschriften, Zeitschrift des Deutsches Morgenlaendisches
Gesellschaft III (1849), p. 202, and Osiander, Vorislamische
Religion der Araber, ibid., VII (1853), p. 483. Cf. I.
Goldziger, Mythology among the Hebrews and its Historical Development
(1877), p. 72ff. The Greeks regarded the Moon as of greater importance
than the Sun: The suns subordination to the moon . . .
is a remarkable feature of early Greek myth. Helius was not even an
Olympian, but a mere Titans [Hyperions ] son. (R.
Graves, The Greek Myths [London, 1955] vol. I, sec. 42.1).
Christoval de Molina (An Account of the Fables and Rites of the
Yncas, transl. by C. R. Markham [London, 1873], p. 56) described
sacrifices to the Moon by the natives of Peru in the sixteenth century.
Also the Indians of Vancouver Island assigned greater importance to
the Moon than to the Sun (E. B. Tylor, Primitive Culture [New
York,, 1929], p. 299), as did several tribes in Brazil (ibid.,
IIs Display Inscription, lines 110 and 146: since
the distant days of the age of Nannaru. Cf. H. Winckler, Himmels
und Weltenbild der Babylonier (Leipzig, 1901), p. 31: Die
aeltere Zeit bezeichnet Sargon II als die Zeit der Nannareine
Erscheinungsform des Mondgottes. [A cuneiform
text describes the first appearance of the Moon: When the gods
. . . fixed the crescent of the moon, to cause the new moon to shine
forth, to create the month. . . . The new moon, which was created
in heaven with majesty, in the midst of heaven arose. R. W.
Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament (New York,
1912), p. 46.].
D. D. Luckenbill,
Ancient Records of Assyria (1926-27), II. 870; cf. J. Lewy,
The Late Assyro-Babylonian Cult of the Moon and its Culmination
in the Time of Nabonidus, Hebrew Union College Annual
(19xx), pp. 443, 461ff., 486.
in Hebrew, Sin in Assyrian, der Mond in German, Mesiatz
in Russian, and so on.
in Hebrew, Luna in Latin and several of the Romance languages,
as well as Russian, and so on. [Macrobius (Saturnalia
VIII. 3) quotes Philochorus as having said that men offer
sacrifices to the moon dressed as women and women dressed as men,
because the moon is thought to be both male and female. (Transl.
by P. Davies)].