lunar hero

Lunar hero – a birth of the man

lunar hero

Lunar hero seems to be forgotten in our culture. We still remember solar heros connected with sun (even in Christianity, Jesus is often compared to sun as a solar hero). As solar hero is the triumph of consciousness, lunar hero is  searching for the secret knowledge. It represents that what is hidden.

Moon is a woman

Moon is connected with the ancient mythology that goes back over 40 ooo years ago – to the Bronze age. Moon and the night sky were then very important and gave birth to the first human knowledge – astrology and mathematics connected with vegetation, important in rural societies.

The major theme of lunar mythology is death and regeneration—sometimes expressed as resurrection or return from the underworld. The Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, the Eleusinian Mysteries of Greece, and the later Christian myth all carry this same ancient theme of lunar mythology; all endured for thousands of years¹.

Of course moon itself was mostly represented by the Goddess. It cycles: crescent, fullness, wane and disappearing were the metaphor of the cycle of life, Nature but also fertility – feminine (that’s why it is correlated with menstruation). Furthermore, it represented the cycle of life and death (and resurrection) – light and darkness, in other words – eros (energy) and thanatos (entropy). The moon Goddess was representing  fertility but she also ruled the Kingdom of Death, not understand as a Underworld exactly, but the other dimension – that what is hidden and can not be seen by mortal’s eye.

Journey to the Underworld

And the lunar hero? He is the one that has to go to the inferno. He needs to save the maiden sacrificed to the monster, later often represented by a dragon or a serpent – creatures connected with the Mother Earth. The Earth Goddess was probably the first devine in the history of the religion².  She represent the archetype of the Great Mother – the one that can give birth and death. She could be generous but also dangerous. She represents unconsciousness – pure instinct, nature in its ambiguity. According to Johan Jakob Bachofen the cult of this goddess was based on the ritual prostitution. Marriage supposed to be a resistance to the religious/ natural law³.  So according to Bachofen, marriage is the first institution that created the culture order, from then traten as oposite of the nature order, in a culture perspective seen as chaos. But the institution of marriage creates not only civilization, but also a man.

As woman in culture is seen as a natural cykle being – menstruation is the initiation to the womanhood and menopause to the elderly. Men don’t have that possibility, so they can be seen as “boys” all their life. Of course it’s more a metaphor, but we all know men with a Peter Pan syndrome.  That’s why, in a opinion of many anthropologists, people created the ritual of initiation (in many cultures are both for boys and girls, but basically it was created to initiate boys, because they don’t have a natural initiation as girls do). Rituals of initiation are present in every change of status of  entity (or society), that means also, and maybe most of all, in a wedding structure.

According to Arnold van Gennep every ritual of initiation has a 3 level structure:

  1. separation form the community
  2. liminal period
  3. inclusion in the community♥

The most important is liminal period in which neophyte is separated from the society – he/she belongs to other world (dimension/order), in myths illustrated as a journey through the infernal world.  The maiden and future wife is the one that has been kidnapped by the forces of the Underworld (they belong to Mother Earth) and the lunar hero – future husband – is the one that has to rescue his fiancee and bring her back to the community. One of the best examples of that myth is a story of  Kore and Demeter.

It is possible that the idea of sacrifice or propitiation of the powers of darkness developed originally in order to ensure the return of the crescent moon. The lunar hero was the one who could rescue the crescent moon — the maiden — from the darkness of the underworld or the power of the dragon that was associated with the dark phase of the moon. When Hermes fetches Persephone from the underworld and restores her to Demeter, he is following in the footsteps of the lunar hero♠.

Hermes is known as a psychopompos – he guides souls. That is of course correlated to the moon as a other dimension. He is also the god of thieves and he represents logos but the one connected with the Moon Goddess not the sun (ego), which is symbolized by caduceus – the staff with 2 snakes, sometimes surmounted by wings, that the god is holding in his left hand (feminine side). Caduceus simbolices individuation – a combination of the oposites parts of psyche . Hermes as a protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves  is representing other important thing in a lunar myth. Steeling and paying is connected with a sacrifice to the Great Goddess that is given instead of a maiden. The hero to rescue his lover must often steel something to get the secret knowledge of the Underworld.

Many of you will know that Parmenides wrote an extraordinary poem that describes his journey into the Underworld — riding in a chariot drawn by mares through great gates that stretched from earth to heaven, and his encounter with one whom he calls simply “Goddess” although we know that her name was Persephone. He was her messenger – bringing back into this world the wisdom she taught him in another♣.

That’s why often the maiden is  scarified to a dragon – the representation of a underground power, as it was in the casus of Andromeda rescued by Perseus – the other example of lunar hero, who has to give a substitute sacrifice to appease a lost of the Great Mother.

See also Who am I? The role of identity in postmodern culture

Lunar heros in myths

Let’s stay in a Greek mythology and talk about the other best examples of this topic – Odysseus and Hercules. According to Polish scholar, Piotr Grzonka, there is a correlation between those two heros i na structure of Odyssey and Twelve labours of Hercules♦.

Hercules, as we all know, was a super strong but also impulsive demigod – son of Zeus and a mortal. Hera – Zeus wife and queen of heaven – hated Hercules, because her husband cheated on her with a mortal. But  originally Hera was the Moon Goddess, venerated Myken culture. She became “only” wife of a main god after the triumph of new patriarchal religion of Indo-European immigrants. And name  Hercules means “Glory of Hera” . So, as we can see, Hercules was actually a “knight” of Hera – the Moon Goddess – a lunar hero.

Odysseus is also connected to the Moon Goddess in her other Greek representation – Athena, as his patroness. He is also connected to Hermes◊, who, as it was shown in previous paragraphs,  has also characteristics of a lunar hero (or is an important aspect of the phenomenon). Also Penelope, Odysseus’s wife,  is connected to the Moon Goddess as her representation by weaving garments. Weaving is a activity dedicated to the Moon Goddess as a paralel to her control over fate.

It seems that those two heros are representing the two aspects of lunar hero – intellect (Odysseus) and energy-libido (Hercules). Simular correlation can be found in  a nordic mythology, where the main god – Odin is the one who gain the secret knowledge (by a journey to inferno) and Thor – his son – the masculine energy symbolized by storm. Wisdom of a Goddess seems to be needed for a man to control his energy and be albo to cohabit with a woman as her husband.

The other good example of lunar hero is Xbalanque – the charakter from Maya’s Popol Vuh and the myth about Xbalanque’s marriage of Q’eqchi’. In Popol Vuh Xbalanque – representing the moon – and his twin brother Hunahpu – sun – are going to the Underworld – Xibalba – to gain its rulers in a holy game,  simular to today’s football. In Q’eqchi’s myth Hunahpu is the older brother and Xbalanque tries to gain the hart of a Mountain Spirit’s daughter¹¹.

To sum, up the lunar hero is a way of the chaman who has to rescue the soul – the maiden by going to the infernal world, where she was kidnapped. He gains the secret knowledge and can become the man -the entirety that can be equal to the woman. In that way he can become her partner, not as it was – a son, a everlasting boy.


¹ Source: http://www.annebaring.com/anbar12_lect18_lunarhero.htm, 3.4.2017.

² R. Radford Ruethers, Goddesses and the Devine Feminine. A western religion history, Berkeley Los Angeles London 2005, p. 3.

³J.J. Bachofen, Matriarchat. Studium na temat ginajkokracji świata starożytnego podług natury religijnej i prawnej, translated to Polish by R. Reszke, Warsaw 2007, p. 30.

♠ Source: http://www.annebaring.com/anbar12_lect18_lunarhero.htm, 3.4.2017.

♥ A. van Gennep, Obrzędy przejścia. Systematyczne studium ceremonii, to Polish translated by B. Biały, Warsaw 2006,  p. 30.

♣ Source: http://www.annebaring.com/anbar12_lect18_lunarhero.htm, 3.4.2017.

♦ P. Grzonka, Oko zaświatów. Struktury symboliczne mitologii infernalnych, Cracow 1998, p. 269.

◊Ibidem, p. 277.

¹¹ H.E.M. Braakhuis, Xbalanque’s marriage. A Commentary on the Q‘eqchi‘ Myth of Sun and Moon,  Leiden 2010 (unpublished), p. 1,  online, 30.10.2017.

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