For as long as humankind has gazed skyward, the moon, which according to NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is 385,000 kilometres (240,000 miles) from our planet Earth, has been a focus of fascination.

Muslim countries like Brunei

During the entire month of Ramadhan, Muslims are obligated to fast, every day from dawn to sunset. The start of the fasting month of Ramadhan fluctuates each year because the lunar Islamic calendar follows the phases of the moon. The beginning and end of Ramadhan are determined by moon sighting committees.

Did you know that people of all countries cannot see the moon simultaneously despite it being a satellite of the Earth? That’s why the moon is sighted earlier in some countries while people in other countries see it later.

According to astronomers, the moon is sighted earlier in the West whereas it is seen later in the East. That is why religious occasions like Ramadhan or the Hari Raya (Aidil Fitri) festivities, which are based on a sighting of the moon, are held earlier in some countries and later in other countries.

In Brunei, the moon sighting will be conducted on Monday (April 12, 2021) by Syariah Court judges and officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA), State Mufti’s Office and Survey Department at the DST Tower and Bukit Agok, Jerudong and Tanjung Batu, Pekan Muara in Brunei-Muara District; Bukit Ambog in Tutong District; and Bukit Lumut in Belait District.

If the moon is sighted on that day, then the first day of Ramadhan will fall on Tuesday (April 13, 2021).

Otherwise, the first day of Ramadhan will be on Wednesday (April 14, 2021).

Click on the photo to check out our past article – “What I Learnt From Fasting As A Non-Muslim In Brunei”

This week, we here at What’s Neue will be taking a closer look at interesting beliefs that many cultures around the world have about the moon.

Algonquian (Native American)

Did you know that there are also special names for the full moon during each month of the year? The names for the full moon were made up by the Algonquian tribes of Native Americans. Most of the Algonquian people hunted and fished to get food, but some also grew crops. The names they had for the moon are related to nature, seasons, hunting, fishing and farming.

The Full Moon in January is called the Wolf Moon. It is named after the hungry packs of wolves that howled at night. (Photo: Windows to the Universe / Randy Russell)

For instance, in January it is known as ‘Wolf Moon” because this is the time when hungry wolf packs would howl at night. In September, it’s a “Harvest Moon” because that’s when farmers can stay in their fields late, after sunset, harvesting their crops by the bright light of a full moon. Click here to find out what other full moons are called based on different months.

The Algonquian people lived all over the northern and eastern parts of North America. When settlers from Europe met up with them, some of the settlers started using most of the same names for the full moon.

Aztec Mythology

Coyolxauhqui was the moon goddess, according the Aztec mythology. Her name means “Golden Bells”. She was the daughter of the Earth goddess, Coatlicue and the sister of the Sun god, Huitzilopochtli. Coyolxauhqui encouraged her four hundred sisters and brothers to kill their dishonoured mother.

“The Coyolxauhqui Stone”, a giant monolith found at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan. (Image by the Museo del Templo Mayor, Mexico)

Coatlicue gave birth to Huitzilopochtli after a ball of feathers fell into the temple where she was sweeping and touched her. Huitzilopochtli sprang out of his mother as an adult fully armed and saver her. Coatlicue regretted such violence. Thus, Huitzilopochtli cut off Coyolxauhqui’s head and threw it into the sky to form the Moon.

Mayan Mythology

Ix Chel, the “Lady Rainbow”, was the old moon goddess in Mayan mythology. The Maya people lived around 250 AD in what is now Guatemala and the Yucatan in Mexico. Mayans associated human events with phases of the moon.

An artist’s depiction of Ix Chel. (Source: Windows to the Universe)

Ix Chel was depicted as an old woman wearing a skirt with crossed bones, and she had a serpent in her hand. She had an assistant sky serpent, whom they believed carried all of the waters of the heavens in its belly. She is often shown carrying a great jug filled with water, which she overturns to send floods and powerful rainstorms to Earth.

Her husband was the benevolent moon god Itzamna. Ix Chel had a kinder side and was worshipped as the protector of weavers and women in childbirth.

Inuit (Greenland)

Anningan is the name of the moon god of some of the Inuit people that live in Greenland. The word “Inuit” means “people”. Anningan continually chases his sister, Malina, the Sun goddess, across the sky. During this chase, he forgets to eat, and he gets much thinner. This is symbolic of the phases of the moon, particularly the crescent.

Shamans would wear masks such as this one during healing ceremonies. (Image courtesy of Planet Art)

To satisfy his hunger, he disappears for three days each month (new moon) and then returns full (gibbous) to chase his sister all over again. Malina wants to stay far away from her bad brother. That is why they rise and set at different times.

Hindu Beliefs

Chandra Darshan is the observance of sighting the moon after the Amavasya (the new moon). In Hinduism Chandra Darshan or moon sighting holds immense religious significance. Devotees on this day worship Chandra Dev and offer special prayers. It is believed to be very auspicious to see the moon just after the Amavasya.

This day after Amavasya is celebrated as Chandra Darshan in honour of the Moon God. The most favourable time for sighting the moon is just after sunset. Predicting the most appropriate time for Chandra Darshan is a difficult job even for Panchang makers. Chandra Darshan is observed with great fervour and devotion in different parts of the country.

Chinese Beliefs

In ancient times, Chinese people believed that there were 12 moons as there were twelve months in one year. Likewise, Chinese people believed there were 10 Suns as there were ten days in the Chinese week. The mother of the 12 moons was the same as that of the 10 suns.

Eighteen-century embroidered emperor’s robe. It portrays a dragon surmounted by the moon where a white hare is believed to live according to Chinese mythology. (Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

At the beginning of each month, the mother, Heng-O, washed her children in a lake at the extreme western side of the world. Then each moon, one after the other would travel in a chariot for a month journey to reach the opposite east side of the world. There, the suns would begin their journey. It was believed that the moons were made of water, and either a hare or a toad were living in their interior

Click on the photo to check out our past article – “Surprising Facts About Mid-Autumn Festival”

What’s Neue With You?

We here at What’s Neue would love to hear your thoughts about the moon. What do you think about when you gaze at the moon? What cultural or historical stories are associated with the moon for people in your country? Does your culture believe that the moon has a gender?

(Sources: NASA, Windows2Universe, National Earth Science Teachers Association, Prokerela)