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Man in the Moon

Man in the Moon

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The Man in the Moon is an imaginary figure resembling a human face, head or body, that observers from some cultural backgrounds typically perceive in the bright disc of the full moon
Full moon
Full moon lunar phase that occurs when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. More precisely, a full moon occurs when the geocentric apparent longitudes of the Sun and Moon differ by 180 degrees; the Moon is then in opposition with the Sun.Lunar eclipses can only occur at...

. The figure is composed of the dark areas (the lunar maria
Lunar mare
The lunar maria are large, dark, basaltic plains on Earth's Moon, formed by ancient volcanic eruptions. They were dubbed maria, Latin for "seas", by early astronomers who mistook them for actual seas. They are less reflective than the "highlands" as a result of their iron-rich compositions, and...

, or "seas") and lighter highlands of the lunar surface.

In one common Western perception of the face, the figure's eyes are Mare Imbrium
Mare Imbrium
Mare Imbrium, Latin for "Sea of Showers" or "Sea of Rains", is a vast lunar mare filling a basin on Earth's Moon and one of the larger craters in the Solar System. Mare Imbrium was created when lava flooded the giant crater formed when a very large object hit the Moon long ago...

 and Mare Serenitatis
Mare Serenitatis
Mare Serenitatis is a lunar mare that sits just to the east of Mare Imbrium on the Moon.It is located within the Serenitatis basin, which is of the Nectarian epoch. The material surrounding the mare is of the Lower Imbrian epoch, while the mare material is of the Upper Imbrian epoch...

, its nose is Sinus Aestuum
Sinus Aestuum
Sinus Aestuum forms a northeastern extension to Mare Insularum. It has selenographic coordinates 10.9° N, 8.8° W, and it lies within a diameter of 290 km....

, and its open mouth is Mare Nubium
Mare Nubium
Mare Nubium is a lunar mare in the Nubium basin on the Moon's near side. The mare is located just to the southeast of Oceanus Procellarum. The actual basin is believed to be of Pre-Nectarian system, with the surrounding basin material being of the Lower Imbrian epoch. The mare material is of the...

 and Mare Cognitum
Mare Cognitum
Mare Cognitum is a lunar mare located in a basin or large crater which sits in the second ring of the Procellarum basin. The basin material is of the Lower Imbrian epoch, while the basaltic mare material is of the Upper Imbrian epoch...

. An older European tradition sees a figure of a man (Maria Serenitatis, Tranquilitatis
Mare Tranquillitatis
Mare Tranquillitatis is a lunar mare that sits within the Tranquillitatis basin on the Moon. The mare material within the basin consists of basalt formed in the intermediate to young age group of the Upper Imbrian epoch. The surrounding mountains are thought to be of the Lower Imbrian epoch, but...

, Fecunditatis
Mare Fecunditatis
Mare Fecunditatis is a lunar mare which is 840 km in diameter. The Fecuditatis basin formed in the Pre-Nectarian epoch, while the basin material surrounding the mare is of the...

 and Nectaris
Mare Nectaris
The Sea of Nectar is a small lunar mare or sea located between the Sea of Tranquillity and the Sea of Fecundity . Montes Pyrenaeus borders the mare to the west and the large crater near the south center of the mare is known as Rosse...

) carrying a wide burden (Mare Vaporum
Mare Vaporum
Mare Vaporum is a lunar mare located between the southwest rim of Mare Serenitatis and the southeast rim of Mare Imbrium. The lunar material surrounding the mare is from the Lower Imbrian epoch, and the mare material is from the Eratosthenian epoch. The mare lies in an old basin or crater that is...

 and Lacus Somniorum
Lacus Somniorum
Lacus Somniorum is a plain located in the northeastern part of the Moon's near side. It is located at selenographic coordinates 38.0° N, 29.2° E, and has a diameter of 384 kilometers...

) on his back. He is sometimes seen as accompanied by a small dog (Mare Crisium
Mare Crisium
Mare Crisium is a lunar mare located in the Moon's Crisium basin, just northeast of Mare Tranquillitatis. This basin is of the Pre-Imbrian period, 4.55 to 3.85 billion years ago. This mare is in diameter, and 176,000 km2 in area. It has a very flat floor, with a ring of wrinkled ridges...

). Conventionalized illustrations of the Man in the Moon often seen in Western art show a very simple face in the full moon, or a human profile in the crescent moon, corresponding to no actual markings.

"The Man in the Moon" can also refer to a mythological character said to live on or in the moon, but who is not necessarily represented by the markings on the face of the moon. An example is Yue-Laou
Yue-Laou, the "old man of the moonlight," is a figure in Chinese traditional prose and poetry. He appears at night, and "unites with a silken cord all predestined couples, after which nothing can prevent their union." He is immortal and is said to live either in the moon or in the "obscure...

, from Chinese
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...


Origin stories

There are various explanations as to how there came to be a Man in the Moon.

A longstanding European tradition holds that the man was banished to the moon for some crime. Christian lore commonly held that he is the man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath and sentenced by God to death by stoning in the book of Numbers XV.32-36http://www.sacred-texts.com/astro/ml/ml00.htm. Some Germanic cultures thought he was a man caught stealing from a neighbor's hedgerow to repair his own. There is a Roman legend that he is a sheep-thief.

One medieval Christian tradition claims him as Cain, the Wanderer, forever doomed to circle the Earth. Dante
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

's Inferno alludes to this:
"For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
On either hemisphere, touching the wave
Beneath the towers of Seville
Seville is the artistic, historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of above sea level...

. Yesternight
The moon was round."

This is mentioned again in his Paradise:
But tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy spots
Upon this body, which below on earth
Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?”

There is also a Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

ic tradition that the image of Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

 is engraved on the moon, although no such mention appears in the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...


John Lyly
John Lyly
John Lyly was an English writer, best known for his books Euphues,The Anatomy of Wit and Euphues and His England. Lyly's linguistic style, originating in his first books, is known as Euphuism.-Biography:John Lyly was born in Kent, England, in 1553/1554...

 says in the prologue to his Endymion
Endymion (play)
Endymion, the Man in the Moon is an Elizabethan era stage play, a comedy by John Lyly. The play provides a vivid example of the cult of flattery in the royal court of Queen Elizabeth I, and has been called "without doubt, the boldest in conception and the most beautiful in execution of all Lyly's...

(1591), "There liveth none under the sunne, that knows what to make of the man in the moone."

In Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, Máni
Mani is a name or word occurring in several etymologically unrelated languages and cultures, including:* Maní - a legend of the indigenous tribe Tupi in Brazil.* Mani , the founder of Manichaeism....

 is the male personification of the moon who crosses the sky in a horse and carriage. He is continually pursued by the Great Wolf Hati
In Norse mythology, Hati Hróðvitnisson is a wolf that according to Gylfaginning chases the Moon across the night sky, just as the wolf Sköll chases the Sun during the day, until the time of Ragnarök when they will swallow these heavenly bodies, after which Fenrir will break free from his bonds and...

 who catches him at Ragnarok
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures , the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water...

. The name Máni simply means "Moon".

In Haida mythology
Haida mythology
The Haida are one of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. Their national territories lie along the west coast of Canada and include parts of south east Alaska....

, the figure represents a boy gathering wood, who was taken up from the earth as a punishment for disrespect.


  • There is a tradition that the Man in the Moon enjoyed drinking, especially claret. An old ballad
    A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many...

     runs (original spelling):

"Our man in the moon drinks clarret
Claret is a name primarily used in British English for red wine from the Bordeaux region of France.-Usage:Claret derives from the French clairet, a now uncommon dark rosé and the most common wine exported from Bordeaux until the 18th century...

With powder-beef
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East , Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in...

, turnep
The turnip or white turnip is a root vegetable commonly grown in temperate climates worldwide for its white, bulbous taproot. Small, tender varieties are grown for human consumption, while larger varieties are grown as feed for livestock...

, and carret
The carrot is a root vegetable, usually orange in colour, though purple, red, white, and yellow varieties exist. It has a crisp texture when fresh...

If he doth so, why should not you
Drink until the sky
The sky is the part of the atmosphere or outer space visible from the surface of any astronomical object. It is difficult to define precisely for several reasons. During daylight, the sky of Earth has the appearance of a pale blue surface because the air scatters the sunlight. The sky is sometimes...

 looks blew?"

Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, in his treatise, Of the Face appearing in the roundle of the Moone, cites the poet Agesinax as saying of that orb,
"All roundabout environed
With fire she is illumined:
And in the middes there doth appeere,
Like to some boy, a visage cleere;
Whose eies to us doe seem in view,
Of colour grayish more than blew:
The browes and forehead tender seeme,
The cheeks all reddish one would deeme."

In the renaissance, the man in the moon was known as Moonshine and carries a lantern as a traditional accessory.
Ay, or else one must come in with a bush of thorns and
A lantern, and say he comes to disfigure, or to present,
The person of Moonshine.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (3.1.51-53)

There is a traditional Mother Goose
Mother Goose
The familiar figure of Mother Goose is an imaginary author of a collection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes which are often published as Mother Goose Rhymes. As a character, she appears in one "nursery rhyme". A Christmas pantomime called Mother Goose is often performed in the United Kingdom...

 nursery rhyme
Nursery rhyme
The term nursery rhyme is used for "traditional" poems for young children in Britain and many other countries, but usage only dates from the 19th century and in North America the older ‘Mother Goose Rhymes’ is still often used.-Lullabies:...

 featuring the Man in the Moon:
"The man in the moon came down too soon,
and asked his way to Norwich
Norwich is a city in England. It is the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom...

He went by the south and burnt his mouth
By supping on cold plum porridge."

The Traditional English verse reads
"The man in the moon came down too soon,
and asked his way to Norwich
Norwich is a city in England. It is the regional administrative centre and county town of Norfolk. During the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important places in the kingdom...

They sent him south and he burnt his mouth
By eating cold pease-porridge."

Pareidolia and other things on the moon

The Man in the Moon is an example of pareidolia
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse...

. Other cultures perceive the silhouette of a woman
Chang'e (mythology)
Chang'e, Ch'ang-O, Chang-Ngo or Sheung Ngo , originally known as Heng'e or Heng-O , is the Chinese goddess of the Moon. Unlike many lunar deities in other cultures who personify the Moon, Chang'e only lives on the Moon...

, a hare
Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. Hares less than one year old are called leverets. Four species commonly known as types of hare are classified outside of Lepus: the hispid hare , and three species known as red rock hares .Hares are very fast-moving...

Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world...

, a frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

, a moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

, a buffalo
American Bison
The American bison , also commonly known as the American buffalo, is a North American species of bison that once roamed the grasslands of North America in massive herds...

, or a dragon
A dragon is a legendary creature, typically with serpentine or reptilian traits, that feature in the myths of many cultures. There are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons: the European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related to Greek and Middle Eastern...

 (with its head and mouth to the right and body and wings to the left) in the full moon. Alternatively, the vague shape of the overall dark and light regions resemble a Yin Yang symbol
Taijitu is a term which refers to a Chinese symbol for the concept of yin and yang...



In Elizabethan England, the spots of the Moon were supposed to represent a witch carrying sticks of wood on her back, or an old man with a lantern (which was illustrated by Shakespeare in his comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

). A more recent Western image is the profile of a coiffed woman wearing a jeweled pendant, the jewel being the crater Tycho
Tycho (crater)
Tycho is a prominent lunar impact crater located in the southern lunar highlands, named after the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe . To the south is the crater Street; to the east is Pictet, and to the north-northeast is Sasserides. The surface around Tycho is replete with craters of various sizes,...

, which at full moon is very bright and has bright radiating lines (rays
Ray system
A ray system comprises radial streaks of fine ejecta thrown out during the formation of an impact crater, looking a bit like many thin spokes coming from the hub of a wheel. The rays can extend for lengths up to several times the diameter of their originating crater, and are often accompanied by...

In New Zealand Māori legend
Maori mythology
Māori mythology and Māori traditions are the two major categories into which the legends of the Māori of New Zealand may usefully be divided...

, the moon shows a woman with a local tree, the Ngaio. However, throughout Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

 and Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

, the moon is seen to be a cook over a three-stone fire.

Many lunar deities are also female, e.g. Hecate
Hecate or Hekate is a chthonic Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads.She is attested in poetry as early as Hesiod's Theogony...

, Selene
In Greek mythology, Selene was an archaic lunar deity and the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia. In Roman mythology, the moon goddess is called Luna, Latin for "moon"....

 and Artemis, whose Roman name is Diana
Diana (mythology)
In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt and moon and birthing, being associated with wild animals and woodland, and having the power to talk to and control animals. She was equated with the Greek goddess Artemis, though she had an independent origin in Italy...

, in Greek Mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

. See :Category:Lunar goddesses.

In Chinese Mythology
Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

, Chang'e
Chang'e may refer to:* Chang'e - a traditional Chinese lunar goddess* The Chinese Chang'e space program, part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program :** Chang'e 1 - the first CLEP lunar orbiter, launched on 24 October 2007...

 (various spellings) lives on the moon. She was mentioned in the conversation between Houston Capcom and Apollo 11
Apollo 11
In early 1969, Bill Anders accepted a job with the National Space Council effective in August 1969 and announced his retirement as an astronaut. At that point Ken Mattingly was moved from the support crew into parallel training with Anders as backup Command Module Pilot in case Apollo 11 was...

 crew just before the first moon landing:

Toad and toadstool

"The toad was seen by Chinese Taoists as ... the moon, representing Chang-O, the transformed wife of Yi, the excellent archer. ... According to Robert M. DeGraaff, in some representations of the moon-toad, the ling chih fungus is shown growing out of the creature's forehead."


In Chinese culture
Culture of China
Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest and most complex. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces...

, the rabbit in the moon (a companion of Chang'e
Chang'e (mythology)
Chang'e, Ch'ang-O, Chang-Ngo or Sheung Ngo , originally known as Heng'e or Heng-O , is the Chinese goddess of the Moon. Unlike many lunar deities in other cultures who personify the Moon, Chang'e only lives on the Moon...

) is pounding medicine. Similarly, in Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 and Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

, popular culture sees a rabbit making mochi
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time...

 and tteok
Tteok is a class of Korean rice cakes made with glutinous rice flour , by steaming. Normal rice flour can be used for some kinds of tteok. There are hundreds of different kinds of tteok eaten year round...

, respectively, in the moon. The mythology of Pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

 also featured a lunar rabbit, for example, Tecciztecatl
In Aztec mythology, Tecciztecatl was a lunar deity, representing the old "man-in-the-moon". He could have been the sun god, but he feared the sun's fire, so Nanahuatzin became the sun god and Tecciztecatl was promptly thrown into the moon...

, the Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 moon god, was sometimes pictured as an anthropomorphic rabbit.

Hazrat Ali's name on the moon

Shia Muslims believe that the name of Hazrat Ali
' |Ramaḍān]], 40 AH; approximately October 23, 598 or 600 or March 17, 599 – January 27, 661).His father's name was Abu Talib. Ali was also the cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and ruled over the Islamic Caliphate from 656 to 661, and was the first male convert to Islam...

 Ibne-Abi Talib (Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

's son in law) is written on the moon. This interpretation has roots in several hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 by Muhammad where he compares Ali to the Moon and himself to the Sun. There are also other esoteric interpretations of this analogy in Islamic philosophy.

External links


  • Rabbit in the Moon Contrasting Asian and Aztec legends about the Moon Rabbit (See also Mochi (food))

Chinese moon festival legends

  • Chang Er flies to the Moon Another version of the Chang Er
    Chang'e (mythology)
    Chang'e, Ch'ang-O, Chang-Ngo or Sheung Ngo , originally known as Heng'e or Heng-O , is the Chinese goddess of the Moon. Unlike many lunar deities in other cultures who personify the Moon, Chang'e only lives on the Moon...

  • The Legend of Wukang A sort of Chinese Tantalus
    Tantalus was the ruler of an ancient western Anatolian city called either after his name, as "Tantalís", "the city of Tantalus", or as "Sipylus", in reference to Mount Sipylus, at the foot of which his city was located and whose ruins were reported to be still visible in the beginning of the...

  • The Man in the Moon