Unlike the sun, the moon does not present the same face every day. It waxes, or grows larger, until it becomes a glowing silver-white disk. Then night by night it wanes, or shrinks, to a curved sliver until it vanishes altogether. A few days later a slender new moon appears and begins to grow again in an endless cycle that repeats each month. In ancient times, people used these phases of the moon to measure time.
Native American Indian
A native American Indian legend tells of an Indian village near where the sun sets and the people had the moon. Other people were trying to go there and steal the moon to put it back in the sky. The Indians knew the other people wanted to take the moon. The Indians were hiding the moon and planned to kill the other people when they tried to steal the moon from them.
Two antelopes decided that they would steal the moon themselves because they were so fast and could outrun everyone. So the antelope snuck by the Indians and stole the moon. The antelopes ran so fast the Indians weren't even close to catching up with them. The antelopes ran for a very long time until they got too tired to go any further. Then they stopped at the next Indian village. They put the Moon outside a teepee and went inside.
A very sneaky man called Coyote saw the Moon and thought he could steal it without the antelopes hearing. Coyote crept up very quietly and grabbed the moon. After Coyote got the moon he ran the fastest he had ever run. The antelopes heard him and started after him. They could not catch up to Coyote because he had such a head start. Coyote was heading towards the lake. When he got there he threw the moon into the lake as far as he could, and it still lies there today.
Malina is the Sun goddess and Anningan the Moon god of the Inuit people who live in Greenland. The word Inuit means "people." Its singular form is Inuk. According to legend Malina and her brother, Anningan, lived happily together and used to play games.
But when they grew up, things changed. One night, while they were playing in the dark (as they used to do when they were children), Anningan, jealous of his sister’s beauty attacked her. During the fight, a seal-oil lamp overturned, covering Malina's hands with black grease. While they were fighting, she blackened his face with her greasy hands. He was very angry. Malina ran as far away as she could up into the sky, where she became the Sun. Anningan, still angry, continued to chase his sister in the sky where he became the Moon.
This eternal race makes the Sun alternate with the Moon in the sky. But occasionally, the Moon god reaches the Sun goddess and attacks her again, causing a solar or lunar eclipse. Anningan gets so angry with his sister that he often forgets to eat. So as the days go by, he gets thinner. Once a month, the Moon disappears for three days, so the Moon god can eat. He always returns to chase his sister again. This is how the Inuit people explained the phases of the Moon.
According to Hinduism, every part of the cosmos is seen as an action of a god. Time is the endless repetition of the same long cycle where gods, demons and heroes repeat their mythological actions. In Hindu mythology, Soma represents the god of the Moon. He rides through the sky in a chariot drawn by white horses. Soma was also the name of the elixir of immortality that only the gods can drink. The Moon was thought to be the storehouse of the elixir. When the gods drink soma, it is said that the Moon wanes because the gods are drinking away some of its properties. Some people think that the Moon is inhabited by a hare.
Australian Aboriginal People
According to Aboriginal legend, when the world was young, there was no heat or light. Life was very difficult for the people. They searched for their food in the dark and then ate it raw because they had no cooking fires. One day, Purukupali (the first man in the world) and his friend Japara were rubbing two sticks together to see what would happen, when they discovered fire! Purukupali realised that this discovery would give them light, something to cook their food with and something to keep them warm. He gave a large torch of burning bark to his sister Wuriupranala, and another smaller one to Japara, telling them that whatever happened they must always keep the torches burning.
When the creation period came to an end and the mythical people became other things, Wuriupranala became the sun-woman and Japara became the moon-man.
Every morning the sun-woman rises in the East with her torch of burning bark and the people leave their camps to hunt in the light. In the evening the moon-man with his smaller torch travels across the sky to light up the night.
The Chinese Moon Festival, or sometimes called the Mid-Autumn Festival, takes place on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. The festival dates back to the Tang dynasty 618 AD and celebrates the biggest and brightest full moon of the year, the harvest moon.
One of the legends about the Moon Festival is about a builder or architect named Hou Yi and his divinely beautiful wife, Changer. Hou Yi built a beautiful jade palace for the Goddess of the Western Heaven who is sometimes called the Royal Mother. The Goddess was so happy that she gave Hou Yi a special pill that contained the magic elixir of immortality. But with it came the condition and warning that he may not use the pill until he had accomplished certain things. However, one day Changer found the pill and without telling her husband, she swallowed it. The Goddess of the Western Heaven was very angry and as a punishment, Changer was banished to the moon where, according to the legend, she can be seen at her most beautiful on the night of the bright harvest moon.
In a Maori legend Rona was the daughter of the sea god Tangaroa. She was the Tide Controller. One night when she was carrying a bucket with stream water home to her children the path suddenly became dark. The Moon had slipped behind the clouds making it impossible to see anything. As Rona was walking, she hit her foot against a root that was sticking out of the ground. She was so upset that she couldn't see the root, she made some unkind remarks about the Moon.
The Moon heard her and put a curse on the Maori people. The Moon grabbed Rona and her water bucket. Many people today see a woman with a bucket in the Moon. It is said that when Rona upsets her bucket, it rains. This Maori story symbolizes the influence of the Moon on the rain and on the waters of the Earth, and especially on the tides.
In a different Maori myth, Rona is a man whose wife has run away. He travels everywhere looking for her and eventually finds her on the moon. To this day, the two take turns eating each other and becoming thin. They then replenish themselves in the waters of Tane and begin battling again. This is how the phases of the Moon were explained.