The “man in the moon” is a common folklore myth of the Germanic nations situated along the North Sea coast. In Dutch this man in the moon is called “maanmannetje”. His shape is supposed to appear in the moon itself when one’s eye is sharp enough to spot it. This “man of the moon” is supposedly a fragment of a biblical story surviving in folklore, though we as Europeans know that everything in folklore is in fact based on the old religions of our ancestors and not on the Biblical tales of the Christians, as much as the Christians love to claim that their religion is in fact a very European one.
Where then, did this moon-man story originate from? Some have laid links between the story of the man in the moon and the Prose Edda stories of Snorri Sturluson where Máni (“moon”) appears as the representation of the moon, though being more of an entity than an actual deity with a specific character. Máni is the son of a man with the curious name Mundilfari, and his sister is called Sol, or Sunna, the sun. The name Mundilfari is made up from the words Mundil- and – Fari. According to Rydberg, Mundil means “the sweep or handle by which the movable millstone is turned”. In this case, the millstone could refer to two things: first of all it could be a representation of the revolving heavens (sun and moon). However, this is the classical academical interpretation of Mundil, which is reliant on the modern theories of “progress” and the notion that the ancients were largely “scientifically illiterate”. What is more probable is that “Mundil” refers to the moving of the millstone around an axis, and thus to the revolving of a round object around a central pole, ergo the revolving of the earth itself, seen as a round object, around its central axis.
The man in the moon echoes through in parts of modern culture, for example the DreamWorks logo. He is also often depicted with a fishing rod in his hand, the moon also being related to the watery element, whereas the sun is the fiery element.
One only needs to look at the Latin phrase “axis mundi” to see the truth of this theory. The axis mundi is the axis central to the revolving earth. Mundil refers to what Eliade calls “the central pole”, a central point in primordial man’s “world” around which the Kosmos was fixed. This Kosmos could appear on a very large or a very small scale, being either a house that was centered around a single fire place or beam, or an entire city that was centered around a large Ziggurat. The size of the Kosmos does not really matter, what matters is the fact that the pole exists in the middle of his Kosmos and that it represents the spiritual center of it (thus not the scientific center, we are not referring to the tilted axis of the earth but to a spiritual axis. This is why many ancient peoples placed some city or holy place at the center of the earth instead of bothering with calculating the actual scientific tilted axis. The scientific axis is namely spiritually inferior to the spiritual axis, as it is not fixed in a single point in time and space but able to move). From the fire place of the round Teepee, to the central Temple on the Frisian Terp, to the Hindu fire temple to Agni, to the entire Spartan state, for the ancient man everything was fixed around some point, and the land outside of the border of the “central area fixed around a pole” was unholy ground, that is to say it did not really exist. This is explained well by the Norse concept of Innangard and Utangard, where the inner circle of the Gard (home) is full of people one can trust and where the outer areas are full of trolls and other magical creatures who have the intent of harming the man who is not protected because he fares in an area of chaos, not fixed around any kind of spiritual center.
Having established that Mundil is the axis mundi, the purpose of Mundilfari as entity is quite obvious. He is the one who wanders or “fares” around the axis mundi, and thus he defines the living space that is sacral or real and protected because it is fixed around a center. From Mundilfari Sunna and Máni are “born” because these two “entities” also define him as the border between the sacral fixed area and the non-sacral chaotic area. Sunna defines day or Dagaz, because that is the time of the sun, or Innangard, where man can do his work, be safe and sound and live happily. Máni however, denotes the area outside of the border, or the night/Utangard, and thus he represents the chaos of darkness, in which man is not able to see and prey to robbers, bandits and all other sorts of mischief and mayhem.
Like Mundilfari, Sunna and Máni also “fare” in a circle. Because the axis of the world is a circle, it is namely quite logical that Mundilfari fares in a circle around this axis, and not in a square, because a square requires more than one fixed point to be defined geometrically. In fact, most ancient religious buildings or religious sites take up the shape of a circle. The medieval city for example, with its central religious building being a church still retains a circular shape, despite the loss of “pagan” beliefs during that era. The Muslims, whom despite their Semitic heritage still retain some traditional beliefs from Arabian paganism, walk in nine circles around their most holy symbol the Kaaba, which is coincidentally also an axis mundi for the Muslim world. According to René Guenon, the circle is the most primordial of all symbols, and the fall of man is represented by the fall from circle (or the spiritual “faring”) to cube (the materialistic attitudes of the Kali Yuga, represented as countable and solidified substance in time and space). Of course this circular movement also applies to the Sunna and Mani because Sun and Moon essentially follow each other up in the heavens, each circling across the heavens and then disappearing again just after the other entity appears on the other side of the sky. In this case Sun and Moon are placed on opposite sides of the central pole of the circle, Sun going down in the west while the Moon arises in the East. It is also known that the circular movement of Sun and Moon was not restricted to days in the olden times but that it determined the months of the year. The Old Egyptians used a lunar calendar of 13 months, and according to Varg Vikernes the ancient Scandinavians did so too, the 13 months being represented by the 13 “homes of the gods”.
When we go back to the Norse tradition we see that the play between sun and moon is represented in Futhark itself. The runes Jera (year) and Dagaz (day) in fact represent the same thing, the difference being that Jera also incorporates the holy day of the New Year (Wotansday) and that Jera “operates” on a larger scale than Dagaz. The rune Jera itself is in fact an abstract representation of a pairing couple, which are Sunna and Máni. It is namely only through the coupling of the fluctuating movement of sun and moon that the year comes forth, with its four seasons, each containing three distinct months. During summertime, Sunna is the most prominent one of the couple, but during winter her task is handed over to Máni, as the nights grow long and the days grow colder and rife with darkness. Of course, the same principles that are at work during the year also apply to the day and the month on a smaller scale. The day-cycle is identical with that of the year, with noon being midsummer (when the sun is at its highest) and midwinter, or Jul, being midnight (witches’ hour, when the night is darkest). The difference is that Dagaz knows effectively no seasons, whereas Jera does. This makes Dagaz and Jera interdependent on each other, because the season of Jera also determines the might of Sunna or Máni during the day.
Jera, being the fourth rune of the second Aett, is the Norse symbol for year. In this rune we can see the mating dance, or the coupling of Sunna and Máni, who are lying down together. The offspring of the mating of sun and moon is an entity in which half the time the Sun is prevalent and the other half of the time the Moon, thus creating the year, during one half of which the nights are longer than the days and during the other half of which the days are longer than the nights. The same principle applies to the Dagaz rune on a smaller scale and even to the moon cycle itself. When full moon occurs, the Sunna aspect of Máni shines brightest, and when an eclipse occurs the dark “Máni” aspect of Máni reigns. This is why many ancient ceremonies were often conducted during the most holiest of nights, the full moon, when most sunlight was reflected by the moon’s surface.
The Dagaz rune is the “day rune” in Futhark. It consists of the two triangles of an hourglass, the one half being filled with “night hours”, the other with “day hours”.
The only cycle that differs from those of Dagaz and Jera is the circulation of the month, because it is not dependent on the ways of the Sun or Moon but on Máni alone. The cycle of the month, just like the length of the month in the ancient days, is namely determined by the time it takes the moon to go from eclipse to full moon and back to eclipse again. The full moon is identified with the noon or the midsummer here, because at this moment Máni reflects the most light from Sunna and is thus in essence a mirror of solar might in the nighttime itself. During the eclipse the moon is completely dark, and thus the eclipse represents midwinter. Do take note that the monthly cycle is really the only one that drastically differs from the others and that Jera is only quite small when we compare it to millennia or aeons, which are mostly “spiritually” solar or lunar in power and are not represented by increasing nights or days.
Having established the most basic theory about the cyclical nature of Máni, Sunna, their respective symbols, their union in the day and the year and their origin from that which walks the border of the circle around the pole, we can now establish the exact identity of the man in Máni by an analysis of the feast to which he is related.
The moon itself, as a symbol is associated with three feasts: the beginning of its cycle in the year, the middle of its cycle and the end of its cycle. In this article I will only analyze the last feast, or “high festival” of these three, namely the festival of Easter. Now a Christian festival, the modern Easter festival is all about Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs with a thin Christian veneer. However, the feast used to be quite different in the old days, and we will go over some of its outward forms and their connection to Máni.
Easter is actually one of the least Christianized feasts in the Indo-European tradition, despite its strong Christian heritage, and this is even evident in its very name. The word “Easter” comes from the name of the Germanic Goddess Ostara or “Éostre” in Anglo-Saxon. Her festival day was known as Easterdaeig, pronounced Aysterday, and this day is we know as “Easter”. Éostre was the Goddess of the dawn, as the name quite literally means “moving with the sun”. She drove a chariot over the wide fields and through the forests filling the air with the scent of spring flowers and the golden rays of the awakening sun. Thus, Éostre is also the Goddess of the newly awakening nature, creation and the birth of many things. A reason why the moderns mockingly say that spring is the season of love is because of the simple fact that this “superstition” is true: during the spring everything awakens again including the slumbering instincts of the human male and female and thus many new things are created or born during Easter, including babies and relationships.
It is no surprise that the Easter bunny, which many believe to be a quite modern myth, is also part of a very old mythology. Hares were said to have pulled the chariot of Ostara when she came riding over the land proclaiming the dawn of a new “summer half-year”. These bunnies brought presents in the shape of eggs, that is to say, they brought new knowledge and presents that had been buried (hidden) during the long wintertime. Brahma himself has been said to reside in an egg from in which he retreated after he shaped the world. After the long winter Brahma returns with new knowledge, coming out of the egg after the dark age and shaping the minds of men and the mind of the Kosmos anew. Like Brahma, man is allowed to find the eggs hidden during the winter in the springtime, and he is also allowed to open them, flooding the world with the victorious powers of a new creation.
The connection between Ostara and the moon-hare is depicted well in this picture. The hare descends from the moon, in order to bring the world the eggs which were hidden during the winter, while the Goddess of the dawn lies in wait under the soil until she can bring new life and the plants and trees will sprout again.
The Easter bunny, as a symbol, is a symbol of Máni himself. As I have said earlier, this bunny used to be a hare, who pulled Éostre’s chariot. This hare is in fact the exact same figure as the man on the moon described in the introduction. In Japanese folklore, the hare lives on the moon, where he is busy crushing rice for a rice cake. The rice cake is called Mochi, which also means moon in Japanese. These moon-hares pulled the chariot of Éostre, quite literally representing the moon which is running away before the light of a new dawn (the Goddess of the dawn), but who in the meanwhile also pull the chariot of dawn with them over the land, because the diminishing of Máni’s year-half must implicitly mean the rise of Sunna’s year-half (whose rise is the rise of Ostara, the Goddess of spring and the dawn being nothing but another facet of the face of Sunna). Easter symbolism is so deeply ingrained in Japanese culture that its very flag symbolized the upcoming sun of the dawn.
The Japanese national symbol before 1945 is a symbolical representation of the Easter Goddess herself. Éostre can namely also be translated as : “Ost-stara” or “Oostster”, which means “Eastern star”. The East-Star is an analogy for the Rising Sun.
However, at this point one might ask: where do we find this figure of a moon-hare in the Norse and Germanic myths? The hare is quite simple to find, but one needs to know where to look exactly. It is namely expressed in abstract form as the Elhaz rune, as a “body” with two long ears. It is not a coincidence that the Elhaz rune also suspiciously looks like a man who is stretching his arms out towards the warming and rising sun, as if he were trying to encircle it or encapsulate it with his arms and trying to catch the first golden rays of spring. And these are not the only two things the Elhaz rune represents; there are many more variants to the theme of two limbs or horns encircling a solar circle. The primordial cow Audhumbla for example is also represented by Elhaz, with the upcoming sun of the dawn being situated between her horns. This brings us back to the Indo-European theme of the primordial cow, whose milk created the seas of heaven and who nourished the ice so that the first men and gods could be born from the frozen salt of Niflheim.
The Elhaz rune is the seventh rune of the second Aett. The rune is also known under the name Algiz, and symbolizes a man that looks up to the sun with widespread arms, but also an Elk or the ears of a Hare.
Even the Elhaz rune plays into the symbolism of rebirth that comes with Ostara’s promise of the new dawn of knowledge, creation and truth. The Buddhi of ancient India extended their earlobes because between their ears, on the crown of their head rested the holy sun, located between the long ears. The sun between the horns of Audhumbla is namely related to the holy Indo-European tripartite of man (right horn), woman (left horn) and the divine child (the sun in between them, the horns also symbolically represents the belly of the mother) which is born because of their coupling (remember the mating dance of Sunna and Máni in the Jera rune!). These two horns encircling the sun even bring us back to the very beginning of this article, where I mentioned that Mundilfari was the central axis of the circular world of primordial man. By the virtue of circle itself, which is the unity of man and woman, the new axis, a child, is born around which new worlds can form and around which the society will center itself in the future. This child is the spawn of the tears of the sun and the sweat of the moon, the yogi in the lotus, and the magus whom reveals himself or herself though the cracking of the egg.
Let us thus rejoice in the glory of our lady of the Dawn, Ostara, the star who rises in the East. For night falls over the Abendland, but we know that after this night a new sun will rise in the East, after which the hidden eggs will be opened when the hares of the dark age have fled, pulling the young Goddess of a new creation in their wake.