For as long as humans have walked the Earth, the moon has been a source of fascination. Moon worship is as old a religion as any other, and in primitive cultures the moon has variously been seen as a land of the dead or a place of rebirth — sometimes both at once. In the ancient world, the moon was often regarded as a deity. To the Egyptians it was Thoth; to the Greeks, Artemis; and to the Hindus, Chandra.
Due to similarities in the length of menstrual and lunar cycles, and therefore the moon’s connection with the feminine, moon deities have often been female, such as the Chinese goddess Chang’e and Mama Quilla of the Incas. And, of course, the moon is connected with strange behavior. The word “lunatic” itself derives from the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna — and we’re all familiar with werewolves.
About 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras determined that the moon was not a god but was instead a giant spherical rock that reflected the light of the sun. He was promptly arrested and exiled for his heretical notions. In 1609, Galileo Galilei used an early telescope to make sketches of the moon, including its mountains and craters. He, too, was persecuted for his observational astronomy.
Then, in one of the greatest achievements in history, humans reached the moon. The world watched and listened as Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969. Despite this achievement, and our ever-growing scientific knowledge, the moon has never ceased to inspire awe and wonder in us, as the following quotes show.
The moon's an arrant thief, and her pale fire she snatches from the sun.
— William Shakespeare
The moon, like a flower in heaven's high bower, with silent delight, sits and smiles on the night.
— William Blake
Little rocking, sailing moon, do you hear me shout — Ahoy! Just a little nearer, moon, to please a little boy.
— Amy Lowell, poet
Where, indeed, does the moon not look well? What is the scene, confined or expansive, which her orb does not hallow?
— Charlotte Brontë
The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the Earth.
— Jules Verne
Those are the same stars, and that is the same moon, that look down upon your brothers and sisters, and which they see as they look up to them, though they are ever so far away from us, and each other.
— Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women's rights activist
With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
— Oscar Wilde
I want to resemble a sort of liquid light which stretches beyond visibility or invisibility. Tonight I wish to have the valor and daring to belong to the moon.
— Virginia Woolf
If the moon smiled, she would resemble you. You leave the same impression of something beautiful, but annihilating.
— Sylvia Plath
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.
— John F. Kennedy
Not until a few centuries ago did the idea of the moon as a place, a quarter million miles away, gain wide currency. And in that brief flicker of time, we've gone from the earliest steps in understanding the moon's nature to walking and joyriding on its surface.
— Carl Sagan
Shoot for the moon; you just might get there!
— Buzz Aldrin
When I look at the moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.
— David R. Scott, Apollo 15 commander
Don't think, feel! It's like a finger pointing away to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!
— Bruce Lee
The moon is queen of everything. She rules the oceans, rivers, rain. When I am asked whose tears these are, I always blame the moon.
— Lucille Clifton, poet
If we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn't feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It's worth being cold for that.
— Philip Pullman
Photo credit: Pedro Lastra/ Unsplash