Sky gazing is a favorite pastime of our species. This was especially so back before there were televisions, radios, or even the written word to keep the mind occupied.
Astronomy is the oldest science and from its inception it has been closely tied to culture. The earliest humans were aware of the movements of the Sun, the phases of the moon and the intermittent appearance of a variety of astral events such as meteor showers and comets. They looked to the skies to track time, make calendars and plot the seasons. They depended on this knowledge for agriculture, most obviously, but also used it in religion, mythology, navigation, architecture, and art. Eclipses are the most mysterious and dramatic of astral events, and they have inspired terror and religious ecstasy. The sky played some role in the formation of every human culture and is still playing an active part in everyday life.
Dr. Sanlyn Buxner and Shawna Holbrook, in African Cultural Astronomy
From the most remote times men have felt the fascination of the starry night and have noted with astonishment the regularities which characterize the motions of the Sun, the Moon and the Planets through heaven. We are entitled to say that astronomy is the most ancient pure science, and, like many other pure sciences, it found soon practical applications, as making calendars, useful to organize agricultural work, to register the chronicles of past times, and to do plans form the future.
Dr. Julio A. Gonzalo, The Intelligible Universe: An Overview of the Last Thirteen Billion Years
It is impossible to say just when astronomy began, but even the earliest men capable of coherent thought must have paid attention to the various objects to be seen in the sky, so that it may be fair to that astronomy is as old as Homo sapiens.
Patrick Moore and Robin Rees, Patrick Moore’s Data Book of Astronomy
This is the moon.
It is the largest and brightest object in the night sky. Naturally, it captured the most attention when gazing at the night sky. Its round shape has often inspired people to liken it to… an egg.
Fig. 2: The triune creator god of ancient Egypt, here in his identity as the Memphite cosmic craftsman Ptah, is seen (as per the relief’s caption) turning the egg of the moon on his potter’s wheel; based on a bas-relief from Philae.
Much like the common phenomenon of cloud gazing, staring at a fully lit moon for long periods of time eventually inspired some people to try and pick out recognizable shapes in the different shades on the lunar surface.
Mankind has a natural propensity for seeing the shapes or images of familiar objects in such unlikely media as clouds, rocky outcrops or cliffs, profiles of distant mountains, and so on. This facility includes the night sky, of course, and the natural groupings of the stars have been likened to various animals, personages, inanimate objects etc. since prehistoric times. The pattern of light and dark markings visible on the Moon, notably at or near the full phase, has likewise evoked similar comparisons.
Dr. Ewen A. Whitaker, Mapping and Naming the Moon: A History of Lunar Cartography and Nomenclature
The silver orb that dominated the night sky held people transfixed long before they began to unravel its mysteries. Early people knew nothing of the topography of the moon; they saw the moon as a god or a goddess, or an abode of the gods and goddesses, and they fancied all sorts of immortals living there, their dark images silhouetted against the bright lunar surface. The lunar features have since been identified as seas and craters, but they were known to the ancients only as dark spots. Early moonwatchers saw patterns in those spots, and they struggled to find explanations for why and how those patterns appeared.
Tamra Andrews, Dictionary of Nature Myths: Legends of the Earth, Sea, and Sky
To many people, the patterns made by the light and dark areas on the Moon suggest familiar shapes. They are best seen when the moon is full or nearly full.
Dr. Ben Bussey and Dr. Rob Houston et al., DK Eyewitness: Moon
Many folks saw a face on the lunar surface.
Sulla: I think that I should first like to learn whether there is any need to put back for a fresh start to those opinions concerning the face of the moon which are current and on the lips of everyone. … Apollonides: The dark spots in the moon do not appear as one buts having something like isthmuses between them, the brilliance dividing and delimiting the shadow. Hence, since each part is separated and has its own boundary, the layers of light upon shadow, assuming the semblance of height and depth, have produced a very close likeness of eyes and lips.
Plutarch, Moralia 920B, 921C (1st cen.)
Fig. 3: Images based on the “face” in the moon (B. & C.), outlined above (A.).
Fig. 4: Pre-Columbian Aztec depiction of the face in the moon, from the Florentine Codex, Book VII.
Some saw a “man in the moon,” one who carried wood across his back, and/or a bundle of thorns.
A Teutonic myth pictures the “man in the moon” carrying a bundle of sticks on his back.
Dr. George Reed, Dark Sky Legacy
The story is curiously dissimilar from the European myth of the man with a bundle of sticks on his back ‘doomed to reside in the moon till the end of all things’.
Dr. John A. Boyle, in Folklore
Fig. 6: An outline illustrating the “man in the moon.”
Fig. 10: The inscription allegedly translates as- “I will teach you, Walter, why I carry thorns in the moon.”
Others saw a boy & girl carrying a pail on a wooden rod. The curvature of the dark side being seen as a hill, which the children walked up in the waxing phase, and tumbled down in the waning phase.
A great deal of folklore concerns the light and dark patches on the moon’s surface. … Scandinavian peasants believe they see the figures of a boy and girl carrying a bucket between them. The children are named Hjuki (pronounced Juki) and Bil from the Norse words jakka and bila, which means “to increase” and “to dissolve.” Each of the children represented by a dark spot on the moon which seems to climb up as the moon waxes and to fall down when it wanes. Thus Juki and Bil—or, for the sake of euphony, Juki and Jil, or in English, Jack and Jill—go up the hill to fetch a pail of water (the moon is thought to control rainfall); then Jack falls down and breaks his crown and Jill comes tumbling after
Robert Wallace, in Life [11 ]
Jack and Jill and their pail of water is really a story about the moon. Originally, it was an ancient Scandinavian tale about two children, a boy named Hjuki and a girl named Bil. According to Snorri Sturluson, who tells us in the Prose Edda just about everything we know about them, they were kidnapped by Mane the moon. Returning from the well called Byrgir and carrying a pole named Simul and a bucket known as Soeg, the two kids were conscripted for reasons unknown. There’s not much else to go on except the piece of Swedish folklore that identifies the marks on the moon as a boy and girl who carry a bucket of water on a pole between them. S. Baring-Gould, a pioneering British folklorist in the nineteenth century, pointed out the relationship between the names Hjuki and Bil and Jack and Jill. He also said the name Hijuki was related to the verb jacca, which means “to pile together, to assemble, to increase,” Bil comes from bila, “to break up, to dissolve.”
Dr. Edwin C. Krupp, Beyond the Blue Horizon: Myths and Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Planets
An ancient Scandinavian folktale speaks of Hjuki and Bill, perhaps the original Jack and Jill, who, carrying a pail of water, tumble down a hill as they run from their cruel father. They are rescued by the embrace of the Moon. For Scandinavian kids, the “Man in the Moon” is the image of Hjuki and Bill, complete with pail.
Dr. Christopher De Pree and Dr. Alan Axelrod, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy
Fig. 11: An outline of Hjuki & Bil/Jack & Jill carrying their pail.
Others still saw a tree. In some cases, it was a tree which granted resurrection & eternal life.
What wonder then if on the moon there grow roots and seeds and trees that have no need of rain nor yet of snow but are naturally adapted to a summery and rarefied air?
Plutarch, Moralia 939E
There is a cassia tree in the moon.
Huainanzi (2nd cen. BCE)
The cinnamon tree in the moon is documented since since Huai-nan-tse (T’P’YL 957, 5a) and, therefore, it was not nessary for the Yu-yang tsa-tsu to use Buddhist texts of a later date as documentation (Jung-chai-hsū-pi 16, 4b). Doubtlessly this was an East-Asian and not an Indian concept. The cinnamon tree is evergreen (Kuang-chih: T’P’YL 957, 5b) and was, therefore, a symbol of perpetual life. At the same time, and perhaps for that reason, it was supposed to be the most distinguished of all medicinal plants (Shuo-wen=T’P’YL 957, 6a). Cinnamon wine was mentioned already at an early time (Ch’u-ts’ih, Chiu-ko). All this reminds us of the ideas of immortality which were mentioned previously in Chain 4 in the discussion of the fire gods. The concepts of the man in the moon and the tree in the moon were consequences of the observation of the lunar spots which could be interpreted in this fashion.
Dr. Wolfram Eberhard, The Local Cultures of South and East China
Books on marvels say that the cassia on the moon is five thousand feet high and there is someone under it who is always chopping the tree but the gash in the tree soon becomes whole. This man’s family name is Wu, and his given name is Kang, and he is from the West River area. They say that because he made a mistake in his quest for immortality, he was exiled and forced to chop the tree.
T’ien chih, Yuyang tsa-tsu 
Keikyū is another name for the moon (tsuki). According to the priest, keikyū makes reference to a chinese legend which says that katsura trees grow on the moon; katsura is a Japanese tree species (Japanese Judas tree or Cercidiphyllum japonicum), which blooms with beautiful purple flowers. From sitting on the deck of the Tree-Burial house, the priest explains that one may observe the beautiful katsura when the full moon crosses over the mountain.
Dr. Sébastien Penmellen Boret, Japanese Tree Burial: Ecology, Kinship and the Culture of Death
There is a report that on the island of Raiatea, the religious-mythological and political center of the Society Archipelago, Hina, one of the culture-bringers of ancient Polynesia, made her tapa from this tree. Hina also played an important role in the arrival on earth — in other words, on the island of Raiatea — of the ora tree, a third source of tapa. During a stay on the moon, Hina made clothing for the gods from the branches of this tree, which is visible from the earth as the dark spots on the moon. One day, in gathering these branches, she used her foot to break one off with such force that the branch flew out into space and finally landed near Opoa, the religious center of Raiatea where the god Oro was worshiped. The branch took root and became the first ora tree on the earth.
Dr. Simon Kooijman, Tapa in Polynesia
It was also said that there were trees and fruits in the moon, and that a bird of Tahiti once flew up thither and ate of the fruit, and on its return dropped some of the seeds from which a great tree sprang.
Robert W. Williamson, Religious and Cosmic Beliefs of Central Polynesia: Volume 1 
There is an interesting myth about the spots on the moon: those are caused by the shade of an aśvattha planted there. Its shade obscures the moon’s brightness in order to help thieves handle their business unobserved.
Dr. Albertina Nugteren, Belief, Bounty, And Beauty: Rituals Around Sacred Trees in India
Soma drops: libations of the juice of the Soma, or Moon-plant … Soma: is here the Moon.
Ralph T.H. Griffith, The Hymns of the Ṛgveda
In thee be juicy nutriments united, and powers and mighty foe-subduing vigour, Waxing to immortality, O Soma: win highest glories for thyself in heaven. … To Indra have the Soma drops, exceeding rich in sweets, been poured, Shed in the seat of sacrifice. … The Tree whose praises never fail yields heavenly milk among our hymns, Urging men’s generations on.
Rigveda, Book I.XCI.18, IX.XII.1 & 7
Fig. 15: An outline of the tree & man in the moon, in this case, Wu Kang with his axe.
Fig. 16: An illustration of Wu Kang chopping the immortal tree of the moon.
There is a reason why this moon tree was associated with immortality/resurrection, which shall be made evident later. Anyway, notice how in Fig. 17 there is a supporting character, a little critter which is most relevant to the title of this blog post. Many ancient peoples also saw in the moon the image of… a hare/rabbit.
Many early mythmakers identified moon spots as animal forms and, commonly, as a hare or rabbit. In one Native American legend, the gods struck the moon in the face with a rabbit, and it stayed there lighting the world on clear nights. In an Aztec legend, the moon was once as bright as the sun, but a god threw the rabbit into the moon’s face and darkened it. The story of the rabbit in the moon took many forms and appeared in legends around the world. In ancient China, Sri Lanka, and Africa, the markings on the moon’s surface were called the “Mark of the Hare.” Chinese legends told of a hare who sacrificed its life to satisfy Buddha’s hunger and was sent to the Moon as a reward. Many ancient tales glorified the rabbit as a symbol of enlightenment and good fortune—qualities the ancients often attributed to the moon.
Tamra Andrews, Dictionary of Nature Myths: Legends of the Earth, Sea, and Sky
The Celts believed they saw the shape of a hare on the face of the full moon.
Dr. Hope B. Werness, The Continuum Encyclopedia of Animal Symbolism in Art
The association of the hare with the moon was one of the most widespread ideas, long before Kit Williams’ Masquerade became a best seller. The Chinese represent the Moon as a hare or rabbit pounding rice in a mortar. In other fables the hare does not have such a noble character as in the Buddhist tale. According to the Hottentots of South Africa, the hare was sent from the Moon to Earth with a message to give Man a symbol of hope: just as the Moon died and rose again, so Mankind should die and rise again. The hare, either out of forgetfulness or malice, distorted the message to say that as the Moon rose and died away so Man should die and rise no more. On the hare’s return, the Moon questioned him about the message he had delivered. The Moon was so angry with the hare’s evasions that she picked up a hatchet to chop off his head, but missed her aim and cut the hare on the mouth. Incensed by such treatment, the hare stretched the moon’s face with his claws and the two of them are disfigured to this day.
Enid Lake, in New Scientist
The Hare, as Resurrection Symbol, pounds the Herb of Immortality in the Moon
It is of interest further to note one final observation by Carl Hentze regarding the ‘hare in the moon’ as a resurrection symbol. Referring to the well known Chinese mythical motive of ‘Spittle flowing out of a vessel’, he says: ‘This is a widespread mythical motive, whose connection with the New Moon is often quoted. … The connection of the vessel with the New Moon in China is due to the fact that the Chinese “Hare in the Moon” pounds the Herb of Immortality” in a mortar. … Since the hare belongs to the moon, “immortality” can here only refer to the new rising (or resurrection) of the moon, so that the mortar is evidently the New Moon in which the “Herb of Immortality” is prepared, that is to say from which rejuvenation springs.’
Dr. John Layard, The Lady of the Hare: Being a Study of the Healing Power of Dreams
Fig. 18: An outline of the hare/rabbit in the moon.
Fig. 19: Pre-Columbian Aztec depiction of the hare in the moon, from the Florentine Codex, Book VII.
Fig. 20: The hare in the moon, from the Pre-Columbian Borgia Codex.
Fig. 21: Pre-Columbian basalt stone Aztec sculpture.
Fig. 22: The lunar hare, Mesoamerican.
Fig. 23: Roman hare mosaic, currently at the Corinium Museum at Cirencester.
Fig. 24: The moon goddess Chang’e & the lunar hare, from a Tang dynasty mirror.
Fig. 25: The lunar hare making the elixir of immortality which brings the moon back to life.
The moon is our planet’s only known naturally occurring satellite. It makes a complete revolution around the earth once every ~28 days. It makes twelve complete revolutions with the span of one solar year (and part of a 13th). This is how our ancestors originally divided the year into 12 months. The moon reflects the light of the sun during our nighttime. It acts as the sun’s vicar in the darkness, a lesser sun, so to speak. As it makes its way around the earth, the side which faces the sun becomes less and less visible to us. This is the “waning” of the moon. As this phenomenon progresses, and the dark side, from our perspective, appears to overtake the lit side. Visually, this gives the impression that the moon is changing its shape. It gradually goes from a full moon to a “half moon,” and from a half moon to a “crescent moon.” Ultimately, the entire moon is immersed in darkness and invisible to our naked eyes. This is the time of the “new moon.” This entire process takes around 14 days. This is where we get the unit of time known as a fortnight, an abbreviated form of “fourteen nights.” Half of this is what we call a “week,” based on quarter moons. The following ~14 days the moon repeats the process in reverse, returning to a full moon. It is during that time of the “new moon” transition that is of special interest to this blog post. Heading into this phase the moon wanes weaker & weaker, as though approaching “death.” Then it is finally immersed or “buried” in darkness. And there it remains buried until it emerges from its metaphorical tomb on the third day. After those three nights, the moon once again becomes visible to the naked eye of mankind, and then begins to wax strong again until it returns to its full state.
When the moon first appears on the third day, it becomes visible as full moon on the sixteenth. It wanes the remaining time (of the month) during 13 days.
Heraclitus of Ephesus (6th-5th cen. BCE), Commentary on Odyssey XX, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 3710 col. iii, 7-11 (trans. Lebedev, emph. added.)
It indicates fair weather if the outline of the moon on the third day is bright.
Theophrastus of Eresus (4th cen. BCE), On Weather Signs 51 (n. 73)
From them thou canst learn touching the month that is begun. If she is slender and clear about the third day, she heralds calm: if slender and very ruddy, wind; but if thick and with blunted horns she show but a feeble light on the third and fourth night, her beams are blunted by the South wind or imminent rain. If on the third night neither horn nod forward or lean backward, if vertical they curve their tips on either side, winds from the West will follow that night. … The signs of the half Moon are followed by those of the fourth day from the end of the waning month, and they in their turn by those of the third day of the new month.
Aratus of Soli (3rd cen. BCE), Phaenomena 780-810 (n.73)
To an imaginative mind, this would appear as though the moon had died, was buried, and then arose out of that grave on the third day & returned from the dead, alive once more. Hence many characters of myth & legend associated with the moon often had a similar corresponding motif within their mythos. E.g. Egyptian texts state:
May I renew my youth like the moon.
Inscription of the Statue of Montemhet from Karnak § 11 (7th cen. BCE, trans. Lichtheim)
Raise yourself, Osiris the King, you first-born son of Geb, at whom the Great Ennead tremble! May you be pure at the monthly festival, may you manifest at the New Moon, may the three–day festival be celebrated for you.
Pyramid Texts, Utterance 483 § 1012 (24th cen. BCE, trans. Faulkner)
Numerous reports trace the day on which the moon disappears (UD.NÁ.A, ūm bubbuli). According to SAA VII §346, the moon ideally vanishes on day 27 and remains covered for a maximum period of three days.
Dr. Jonathan Ben-Dov, Head of All Years: Astronomy and Calendars at Qumran in Their Ancient Context
The Sun is always the same, but the Moon’s appearance to us on Earth changes – waxing, waning, disappearing, then returning after three nights.
Hamish Lindsay, Tracking Apollo to the Moon
The Moon then disappears for about three days, lost in the light of the Sun at the new moon.
Robin Heath, Sun, Moon, & Earth
The next phase of the Moon is called the Waxing Crescent phase; this phase occurs approximately 3 days after the New Moon.
Stephen D. Butz, Science of Earth Systems
The Moon is in turn a symbol of death and resurrection, the eternal recurrence. The Moon remains the high symbol of the dead and resurrecting god … three days in the tomb, just as the Moon is three days dark.
Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light: Eastern Metaphors of the Eternal
Observation of the four pillars on mountain Picchu enabled the Incas to define the day when the sun sets in the anti-Zenith position and a monthlong period around the date of August 18. With this observation they fixed within the solar year a synodic lunar year of twelve months counted from June 6, starting with three days of invisible moon.
Dr. R. Tom Zuidema, in Archaeoatronomy in the New World: American Primitive Astronomy
The Yolngu people call the Moon Ngalindi and he too travels across the sky. Originally, he was a fat lazy man (corresponding to the full Moon) for which he was punished by his wives, who chopped bits off him with their axes, producing the waning Moon. He managed to escape by climbing a tall tree to follow the Sun, but was mortally wounded, and died (the new Moon). After remaining dead for 3 days, he rose again, growing round and fat (the waxing Moon), until, after two weeks his wives attacked him again. The cycle continues to repeat every month. Until Ngalindi first died, everyone on Earth was immortal, but he cursed humans and animals so that only he could return to life. For everyone else, death would thereafter be final. The Arnhem Land stories go much further, even explaining why the Moon is associated with tides. When the tides are high, water fills the Moon as it rises. As the water runs out of the Moon, the tides fall, leaving the Moon empty for three days. Then the tide rises once more, refilling the Moon. So, although the mechanics are a little different from our modern version, the Yolngu people obviously had an excellent understanding of the motions of the Moon, and its relationship to the tides.
Dr. Ray P. Norris, in Astronomy and Cosmology in Folk Traditions and Cultural Heritage
It should also be noted here that the ancients often calculated time using inclusive reckoning, in which even part of a unit of time that fell within a designated period caused the entire unit to be added to the sum. For example, one popular dying & rising hero whose resurrection is celebrated around this time of the year is said to have been buried in a tomb for three days, even though he was buried on a Friday evening (the 1st day) and rose the following Sunday morning (the 3rd day). Hence there did not have to be a full 72 hours to be counted as three days (although in some cases it would be), thanks to inclusive reckoning. So it was also with the moon’s “resurrection” on the third day.
Also, it would appear as though this three-day motif of the lunar cycle was merged into the solar cycle as well. Just as the solar year drifts out of alignment with the civil calendar, requiring us to add an extra day every four years to realign them (i.e. a leap year), so too the lunar year drifted out of alignment with ancient civil calendars, requiring an extra three days every 16 years, what the Greeks called the hekkaidekaeteris. As stated by the astronomer Geminus of Rhodes (1st cen. BCE):
Then in 16 years we will fall 3 days short with respect to the Moon. For this reason, 3 days are added to the Moon’s course each sixteen-year period, in order that we may reckon the years by the Sun and the months and days by the Moon.
What’s interesting is that this means this would happen again at the end every 32nd & beginning of every 33rd year, which also just so happened to be the year of age a certain dying & rising deity was when he had his own three-day rebirth experience. Well, depending on who you ask, since Irenaeus of Lyons, for example, tried to claim the dude was over 50. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway, as stated previously, the moon goes through this waxing/waning process twelve complete times within a natural year, so what does this have to with Easter? What makes the lunar cycle of this particular time of year so special as opposed to the other 11 cycles?
At the time of the new moon in the month of Phamenoth they celebrate a festival to which they give the name of “Osiris’s coming to the Moon,” and this marks the beginning of the spring. Thus they make the power of Osiris to be fixed in the Moon.
Now ask yourselves, how has the date of Easter each year traditionally been determined?
Easter henceforth was to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Norman Russell, Theophilus of Alexandria
So what makes the lunar cycle of Easter so special is that it involves the moon’s first resurrection/rebirth after the spring equinox. And what is the spring equinox? It is the annual moment when the length of time of the daytime matches, and then surpasses, the length of the nighttime. So the light finally conquers the darkness. Thus the days become longer, and the earth moves closer to the sun, bringing the extra warmth and sunlight needed to revive the earth itself. I.e. spring time comes and with it the botanical life begins to bloom again or resurrects/reawakens from its winter death/slumber. Hibernating animals also begin to awaken and emerge to activity once again. The birds and other migratory animals start heading north again. With the spring equinox, with the light’s triumph over the darkness, life is restored to the earth once more. And since this is the time of year when the “resurrection” seems to be nature’s theme, it was the moon’s own resurrection during this time of the year which gained special significance and was attached to the holidays celebrated during this time. The chief example of which is, of course, Easter. Hence the rabbit of the lunar egg as the icon for said holiday.
Rabbits & eggs, however, were not the only mythic themes which corresponded to the lunar resurrection of spring time. One such example, a “man in the moon” so to speak, was the Phrygian character known as Attis. As the story goes (although sources do vary on certain details, of course), Attis was a handsome shepherd boy from Phrygia who caught the eye of the goddess Cybele and became her lover. The god Zeus became jealous of this great attention Attis was receiving, and so he sent a boar to slay the youth. The Phrygians tried to recover his corpse for proper burial to appease Cybele, but could not find it. Apparently, this was because his corpse had been transformed into a pine tree, giving rise later to an annual tradition of hanging effigies of Attis upon trees.
You also came, tendriled ivies and grapes, And elms cloaked in vines, mountain ash and pines, Arbute trees loaded with ruby-red fruit, The pliant palm, victory’s prize, and the girded pine With high crown, pleasing to the Mother of the Gods Ever since Cybele’s beloved Attis Shed his human form and stiffened into its trunk.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.103-09
Attis is driven mad by Kybele and castrates himself, then dies or is turned into a fir tree.
Dr. Jennifer L. Larson, Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore
According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Attis was himself transformed into a pine tree.
Dr. Luke Roman and Monica Roman, Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology
Fig. 28: A bust of Attis turning into a pine tree, the trunk and branches of which can be seen already sprouting forth from his head; based on a stone altar, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the Museum of Périgord in Périgueux.
Fig. 29: Attis as a pine tree, his paraphernalia (Phrygian cap, flute, cymbals, etc.) hanging from the branches; based on a damaged altar to Cybele from Marof, Slovenia.
How interesting, a tree was also one of the many images seen on the moon’s surface as mentioned above. Anyway, Attis did not remain a tree forever. Evidently, when the tree began to bud/bloom again in the spring, Attis emerged from the tree through a cone or calyx alive once more. Just as the trees gave birth to new fruit in the spring, so too a tree gave birth to a new Attis.
Fig. 30: Attis emerges reborn from a pine-cone/calyx as the tree gives birth to new “fruit.” The left is based on part of a bronze bracket from the Fanum Martis in Corseul, 1st-3rd century CE. The right is based on a bronze bust of Attis, Roman Imperial Era, from the Balkan region.
Attis as a child emerging from a calyx with a pine-cone. … Bust of Attis emerging from a calyx placed on a high pedestal. He wears a Phrygian cap and a fastened shoulder-cape. The pedestal is engraved with a pine tree. … Bust of Attis arising from a calyx. The childish head wears a Phrygian cap. At the reverse of the bronze an oblong hole for attachment. … Bust of Attis, in Phrygian cap, arising from a calyx. Childish face. At the back an oblong hole for attachment. … Bust of Attis emerging from a calyx. In the back a hole for attachment.
Dr. Maarten J. Vermaseren, Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque I & V
Fig. 31: As per Dr. Maarten J. Vermaseren, “this periodic resurrection” is here shown from left to right in chronological sequence- Attis dying, Attis as a pine tree, and then “another young Attis stands ready to replace the dying one.”
Like vegetation, Attis was reborn every year in the spring. Initiation into the cult of Cybele occurred during a spring festival that began with the cutting of a pine tree to represent Attis. Participants were expected to fast for one day by not eating fruits and vegetables, although eating meat was permitted. The rites came to a head on “the day of blood,” in which participants worked themselves into a frenzy dancing to the sounds of horns, drums, and cymbals. They slashed their bodies with knives, sprinkling blood on the sacred tree as a means of calling Attis back to life.
Dr. Frank L. Kidner et al., Making Europe: The Story of the West
Like Adonis, Attis is another resurrection-god, and their personalities become merged in the tradition. Like Adonis, Attis may die not through his self-inflicted wounds but by the tusk of a boar. Furthermore Attis, like Adonis, comes back to life with the rebirth of vegetation. We have evidence of springtime ceremonies at which the public mourned and rejoiced for the death and rebirth of Attis.
Dr. Mark P.O. Morford and Dr. Robert J. Lenardon, Classical Mythology
Attis, a vegetation god whose death and resurrection were celebrated in the spring, was closely associated with the Phrygian Great Mother goddess, Cybele.
Dr. David A. Leeming, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology
And as per the holiday rituals observed during this time of the year in the early Roman Era (at least as early as the reign of Claudius), it appears that Attis was understood to have been reborn/resurrected on the spring equinox three days after his death & arborification.
On the 11th day before the Kalends of April, a pine tree would be carried on the Palatine by the dendrophori [“tree-bearers”]. The festival was established by the Emperor Claudius … On the 8th day before the Kalends, the spring equinox.
John the Lydian, De Mensibus 4.59-61
The trunk of a pine tree was brought to the sanctuary of Cybele and wrapped in cloth and decorated with flowers as if it were a corpse. An effigy of Attis was placed on it. On the third day of the ceremony—the “Day of Blood”—the priests of Attis cut themselves and during a frenzied Dionysian dance splattered the “corpse” with their blood. … All the worshippers then mourned the death of Attis until during the night there appeared a light and the tomb was opened to reveal that the god had risen from the dead. The next day—probably on the vernal equinox, the resurrection of Attis was celebrated in a carnival-like “Festival of Joy.”
Dr. David A. Leeming, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology
From the 11th to the 8th before the Kalends of April, that’s March 22-25. That’s a difference of three days from the pine ritual (representing Attis’ arborification) to the spring equinox, i.e. the rebirth of nature. This is in perfect correlation with what was covered previously about the moon. Attis was both a man and a tree, both of which are images traditionally seen in the moon’s surface. Attis died and was reborn three days later, also like the moon. And this only makes sense, given that Attis was identified with the moon. That’s right, after his rebirth Attis was transfigured into a god, a god of the moon & night sky, hence he ascended to heaven to become the “shepherd of the shining stars”- Bagos Papaeus. As the Phrygians declared in their hymns- he was first a corpse, and then a god.
I shall sing of Attis … as shepherd of the shining stars.… Greek wisdom, the heavenly crescent moon … Phrygians [call you] sometimes Papas, Sometimes corpse or god.
Phrygian Hymns to Attis (1st cen. CE)
Now Cybelê, the myth records, having arrived at full womanhood, came to love a certain native youth who was known as Attis, but at a later time received the appellation Papas; with him she consorted secretly.
Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History 3.58.4 (1st cen. BCE)
One of the names under which they identified Attis was Papas, which directly relates to the well-documented cults in Phrygian epigraphy during the first centuries of the empire.
Dr. Philippe Borgeaud, Mother of the Gods: From Cybele to the Virgin Mary
The Scythians say Papaeus is the supreme God.
Origen Adamantius, Contra Celsum 5.46
Fig. 32: The risen Attis has ascended into heaven, transfigured into a god of the moon & stars. “Bust of Attis wearing a Phrygian cap decorated with stars, a torques and a tunica. Behind his shoulder a crescent. … Date: late Hellenistic period.”
Fig. 33: Attis in his posthumous cosmic form, the rays of his halo radiating from his head as he holds a shepherd’s crook in his left hand, clearly in his role as “shepherd of the shining stars.” He also dons a crescent moon upon his cap (albeit damaged), identifying him as a lunar god; based on a dedication monument by C. Cartilius Euplus from Ostia, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the Vatican’s Gregorian Profane Museum.
Fig. 34: Attis risen from the dead and transformed into a god, as clearly evidenced by his newfound wings with which he appears to be in flight “dancing the hilaria after his resurrection as the new-born child Attis;” terracotta figurine from Myrina, 1st century BCE, currently at the Pergamon Museum.
Fig. 35: The resurrected and divinized Attis; terracotta incense burner from Tarsus, 2nd-1st century BCE, currently at the Louvre Museum.
Fig. 36: The winged god Attis Papaeus leaning on a pillar; based on a Roman statue, 1st-3rd century CE, currently at the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul.
Fig. 37: The reborn & deified Attis bears newborn fruit in a cornucopia; based on a Roman bronze sculpture, 1st-2nd century CE.
Since, shown previously, Attis was known to have died in sources predating the Common Era, and was also already identified by his posthumous cosmic form in sources predating the Common Era, then logically he was already understood to have been reborn into a god after death in times predating the Common Era. Anyway, in keeping with the correlation of the rebirth of Attis with the rebirth of the moon and of the botanical life of the earth, evidently his rebirth brought forth grain. It brought forth grain, the plant from which bread is made, from the very flesh of his risen body. This can even be seen in Fig. 33, in which ears of grain are sprouting forth from the very top of Attis’ head.
Fig.38: Stalks of grain sprout forth from the head of Attis, thus his body becomes bread.
Hail to you, Attis … harvested green sheaf.
Phrygian Hymn to Attis (1st cen. CE)
Attis is the very thing that grows from the crops, and the punishment which he suffered is what a harvester with his sickle does to the ripened crops. His death they interpret as the storing away of the collected seeds, his resurrection as the sprouting of the scattered seeds in the annual turn of the seasons.
Firmicus Maternus, The Error of the Pagan Religions 3.2
Along with the many other images seen in the lunar surface, an association with the moon often leads to an association with the bull, whose horns resemble the crescent moon.
Fig. 39: The bull as hypostasis of the moon; based on various bronze coins, 3rd-1st century BCE.
Fig. 40: One of the many lunar & bovine gods of ancient Egypt, Osiris, with the moon between his bull horns upon his head.
Fig. 42: Osiris in his bull form, known as Apis (Osar-Apis or Serapis), with the moon between his horns.
Fig. 46: Guan Yin rides the moon in hypostasis as a bull.
Fig. 47: “Hey diddle diddle.”
Now notice how in Fig. 33/38, the (damaged) lunar crown of Attis looks similar to horns protruding from his head, almost like that of bovine. And indeed there is indication that Attis, like many moon gods (such as Osiris, pictured above, with whom Attis had been identified), was either represented vicariously as, and/or manifested as, a bull. This is seen below in Fig. 48, as well as in Fig. 31, where beneath the dying Attis there is a bull which likewise appears to be dying or dead.
Fig. 48: The bull (right) established as a symbol of Attis (left); based on various coins from ancient Cyzicus, 5th century BCE.
In the cultic complex of Ostia dedicated to the Great Mother, the Campus Magnae Matris, there is an area that is connected but autonomous, dedicated to him, the Attideion. From there come some interesting finds. The first is a marble statue of a bull which displays between its horns a crescent moon decorated with a star. The second is an image of Attis, castrated.
Dr. Maria G. Lancellotti, Attis Between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God
Another bovine deity with lunar associations was the primeval bull of the mysteries of Mithras.
Fig. 49: Mithras slaying the bull.
As the story goes, before the earth was in the form it is now, Mithras captured the primeval cosmic bull and slew it. This sacrifice released the life force from the bull and apparently into heaven & earth itself. The slaying of the bull is often placed within some representation, be it arch or circle or square, etc., of the zodiac- the twelve stellar bodies of the sun’s journey through the twelve months (see Fig. 49 above). The archetype of “the Twelve” aside, it appears as though the slaying of the bull “set the universe in motion” and thus initiated the cycles of time as understood by man, such as the 12 months of the year and especially the precession of the equinoxes, hence the zodiac. But moreover, releasing the bull’s life-force from its body apparently imparted that life-force into the barren earth, allowing it to be reborn with new botanical life. This is the main theme deduced from the iconography of the Mithraic Mysteries- transformation/rebirth. Much like Attis, the bull’s body was transformed into grain, and its shed blood was transformed into grapes. Such was the origin of each of these crops upon the earth.
From the tail and blood of the primordial bull sacrificed by Mithra upon the creation of the world, sprang the first ear of grain and—significantly in our case—the grape vine.
Dr. Marta Simidchieva, in Oriente Moderno
The killing of the bull has nothing to do with mere slaughter or destruction, rather with transfiguration and transformation. The transformation is often depicted, namely in the cases in which corn-ears or a cluster of grapes are shown beneath the wound on the bull’s neck, or the tail ends in one or more ears of corn. … The significance attributed in the mysteries to grain and wine, the two most important basic foodstuffs in the ancient world, can easily be seen in the cult-legend. As I described earlier, Mithras kills the bull that he has overcome, and at that point an extraordinary transformation occurs: ears of wheat grow out of its tail, and grapes burgeon from the blood at the knife-wound.
Dr. Manfred Clauss, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries
When Mithras slays a bull, wheat sprouts out of its spine and grape vines grow out of its blood. On the marble display which portrays this myth in the British Museum, Mithras’ dagger is still in the wound, and instead of blood, three full ears of wheat are emerging from it. Elsewhere the tail ends in sheaves of wheat.
Photina Rech, Wine and Bread
Mithras was originally a Persian god. He was a sun god who carried out a number of tasks. One of these involved killing a bull along with the help of a dog, raven, snake, and two human companions. As it died, a stem of wheat sprang from the bull’s spine and a grapevine from its blood.
Richard Woff, A Pocket Dictionary of Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses
This is why the tauroctony scene often depicts animals rushing to the bull to drink its life-giving blood, to receive its transformative life-force.
We can explain why the dog, serpent and scorpion are so eagerly pushing their way towards the bull by assuming that the dying beast is emitting some sort of magical force.
Dr. Manfred Clauss, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries
Mithras, who wears brown sandals, grasps the bull with his left hand under the chin and thrusts the dagger into the heart. The bull’s tail seems to end either in one large ear of corn or in three fine cornears. A brown dog leaps up against the bull’s breast and licks the blood. A long, dark green snake is creeping over the soil, lifting up its head to drink the blood.
Dr. Maarten J. Vermaseren, Mithriaca III: The Mithraeum at Marino
Grain sprouts out of the bull’s tail, a raven appears over Mithras’s shoulder, a dog drinks the blood from the wound, a serpent and a cup rest below the bull.
Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete, Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia
A large central motif represents Mithras as bull-slayer. The god, his left knee on the bull’s back, plunges his dagger into the animal’s neck, and the dog, usually portrayed in the act of stretching out to lick the blood from the wound, is figured by a motif added afterwards en barbotine.
Vivienne J. Walters, The Cult of Mithras in the Roman Provinces of Gaul
The ubiquitous bull-slaying scene (Tauroctonos), an icon central to the Roman cult, depicts the moment when the dagger was thrust into the bull. A dog and snake lapped up the blood.
John D. Shepherd, The Temple of Mithras, London
Fig. 50: Wheat sprouts forth from the wound of the bull’s body; based on a marble statue from the reign of Trajan (98-117 CE), currently at the British Museum.
Fig. 51: The tail of the bull transforms into ears of wheat, while a dog drinks the blood from the knife wound; white marble relief, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the Vatican Museum.
Fig. 52: The Mithraic tauroctony. Although not legible here, on the bull’s body there are two inscriptions, one on the torso and the other on the neck where the blood flows out from the stab wound. The latter of these reads “NAMA SEBASIO,” meaning “juice of Dionysus”- i.e. wine. The blood of the bull becomes wine, which the dog drinks.
Fig. 53: Mithras wounds the bull in the neck, from which the blood flows out and turns into grapes; Roman votive-relief from Bologna.
Fig. 54: The bull & the grape; based on a couple of coins from Eretria, 4th-2nd century BCE.
Mithras & his followers seem to have had the same idea in mind when they harvested these crops from the bull’s corpse and consumed them as bread & wine. This they did in order to obtain its obvious ability to bring about transformation & new life. Just as the bull’s death caused the earth to be reborn with grain & grape, so too might those who ate it be reborn. Hence they ate the bull’s body & drank its blood in the form of bread & wine so that they might be born again.
The central belief of the cult was the sacrifice of a bull by Mithras. This act was both creative and redemptive. The worshipper looked back to a sacrifice at the beginning, when life had come out of death, and forward to the final sacrifice by Mithras when the last animal to die would give men the elixir of immortality. A foretaste of this divine gift could be shared in the regular communion meal of bread and wine in which the priest represented Mithras.
Dr. E. Geoffrey Parrinder, Religions of the World: From Primitive Beliefs to Modern Faiths
Mithras’ care guides him who is piously reborn and created by sweet things. … And you saved us after having shed the eternal blood.
Inscriptions of the Santa Prisca Mithraeum § 11, 1
Fig. 55: Harvesting the fruits which grew from the flesh & blood of the slain bull; sandstone relief from Mithraeum I at Nida-Heddernheim.
Fig. 56: Drinking wine made of grapes from the slain bull, whose hide is used as a table cloth; replica of a relief from Mithraeum I in Lopodunum-Ladenburg.
Fig. 57: Mithraic feast with bread & wine.
Not only did the bull’s death bring about new life & rebirth for the earth and for the followers of Mithras. It also resulted in the rebirth of the bull itself.
On the Roman monuments, Mithra sacrifices the white bull, who is then transformed into the moon. … At the very moment of the death of the bull, a great miracle happened. The white bull was metamorphosed into the moon; the cloak of Mithra was transformed into the vault of the sky, with the shining planets and fixed stars; from the tail of the bull and from his blood sprang the first ears of grain and the grape.
Dr. Reinhold Merkelbach, in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica
Creation arises from the death of the bull, who, as a symbol of the Moon, embodies death and rebirth. … The bull’s body has been made to allude to the Moon.
Dr. Manfred Clauss, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries
At a deeper level, Mithras himself is surely to some degree to be identified with the sun and the bull slain by him with the moon. This is not a proposition that I need to argue at any length here, since most scholars would, I think, grant its truth as one interpretation among other perhaps more profound. That Mithras is in some sense the sun I take to be self-evident from the literally scores of inscriptions that name him such. For the identification of the bull with the moon one may cite the fact that the animal and the luminary are regularly linked in the symbolism of late antiquity and also the fact that Porphyry, in an important and clearly Mithraic passage of De antro nympharum (ch. 18), explicitly calls the moon a bull: σελήνην τε οὖσαν γενέσεως προστάτιδα Μέλισσαν ἐκάλουν ἄλλως τε ἐπεὶ ταῦρος μὲν σελήνης καὶ ὕψωμα σελήνης ὁ τᾶρος, βουγενεῖς δʹ αἱ μέλισσαι, καὶ ψυχαὶ δʹ εἰς γένεσιν ἰοῦσαι βουγενεῖς, καὶ βουκλόπος θεὸς ὁ τὴν γένεσιν λεληθότως ἀκούων.
Dr. Roger Beck, in Journal of Mithraic Studies
The bull can signify Taurus and the Moon simultaneously without contradiction. … In the star-talk lexicon used in the tauroctony, the most interesting of the polysemous signs is the bull. The bull, as we have seen, means Taurus, as both sign and constellation. It also means the Moon: Bull (sign 1) means the Moon. Why do I so confidently claim this other meaning? First, it is warranted by a string of mystery-cult meanings set out by Porphyry in De antro 18. The ancients called the priestesses of Demeter Bees, as initiates of the earth goddess, and the Maiden they called the Honey-sweet and the Moon who presides over genesis the Bee, especially since the Moon is a bull and the exaltation of the Moon is Taurus, and souls going into genesis are ox-born, and he who secretly listens to genesis is the cattle-stealing god. Since the ‘cattle-stealing god’ (bouklopos theos) means Mithras, it is clear that this mystery-talk belongs to his mysteries as much as to Demeter’s and the Maiden’s. … If Mithras in the tauroctony means the Sun and the bull means the Moon, then the encounter of Mithras and the bull means the conjunction of Sun and Moon, the monthly event we call ‘new moon’, and the victory of the bull-killing Mithras signifies, whatever its ulterior meaning, the Sun’s triumph over the Moon.
Dr. Roger Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire: Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun
Fig. 58: The bull ascends to heaven, having been resurrected and transformed into the moon (top center); votive relief of Titus Aurelios Macus, currently at the National Museum of the Union.
Fig. 59: The reborn bull traverses the sky as the moon (at the top within the arch, to the left of the center); white marble bas-relief from Turda, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the National Museum of History in Cluj-Napoca.
Fig. 60: The risen bull becomes the moon (top center); marble votive relief from Alcsút, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest.
Fig. 61: The bull as the moon (top left); based on white marble fragments from Sisak, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb.
Now it is interesting to note how that in much Mithraic iconography, the bull is castrated (another recurring motif in the dying-rising hero archetype) by a scorpion.
If then the nippers of the scorpion are in fact cutting nippers, the final result will be the severing of the scrotum, and so castration. The scorpion’s role in the bull sacrifice seems, therefore, to be that of inflicting another death on the bull (or at least of threatening it), the death of its vital energy, located in the central organ of its virility and fertility. If we consider that the scorpion is the animal and the sign of the zodiac connected with the third level of the Mithraic hierarchy, that of the miles, we can imagine that the soldiers of Mithras, not without emotional involvement, focused their attention on the exploits of their patron saint. Moreover, the Scorpio and the Mithraic milites fall quite significantly under the protection of Mars, both as a god and a planet, and the aggressive and destructive nature of this god may be of significance here. To see the bull’s castration, the aggression against the virility of the highest emblem of virile potency, as the other side of the Mithraic sacrifice accords with the ideology of the military caste, within which, as is well-known, a considerable part of the initiates of the Mithraic brotherhood was recruited. It was of course an ideology centering upon masculine values and thus prone to be obsessed by the terror of the loss or absence of virile potency.
Dr. Giovanni Casadio, in Numen
Fig. 62: The scorpion castrates the bull during the Mithraic tauroctony; marble statue, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the British Museum.
So why is that relevant? Well, since the bull was emasculated at death, when it was reborn it was evidently reborn as a female. More specifically, it was reborn and then transformed into the goddess Luna/Selene, the goddess of… the moon, of course.
The evident relationship of Mithras to Sol establishes a parallel relationship of the bull to Luna; since the former relationship (at a certain level) is that of identity, so, we may conclude, is the latter: the bull and Luna are one; thus, the bull is the Moon. … Some features signify things which are not constellations at all (either in addition to, or apart from, a constellation meaning or meanings): the individual stars Spica (the bull’s wheat-ear tail), Aldebaran and Antares (Cautes and Cautopates), and Regulus (Mithras); the array of celestial opposites denoted by the torchbearers; and above all the two great luminaries, Sun and Moon, doubly signified, exoterically by Sol and Luna, esoterically and centrally by Mithras and the Bull.
Dr. Roger Beck, in Studies in Mithraism
Creation arises from the death of the bull, who, as a symbol of the Moon, embodies death and rebirth. Porphyry, whom I have already cited on several occasions, has this to say about Luna in relation to the cult of Mithras: ‘The Moon is also known as a bull and Taurus is its “exaltation” ’ (De antr. nymph. 18, tr. Arethusa). On the Mithraic cult-image, Luna is depicted as often as Sol: her bust, with its characteristic crescent, is placed in the top right-hand corner of the scene. There is a close relationship in Graeco-Roman mythology between Moon and bull; the Moon’s striking crescent, reminiscent of a bull’s horns, was known as the cornua lunae, the ‘Moon’s horns’. … The fifth- or sixth-century commentator on Statius known as Lactantius Placidus has the following observation about the two lines from the Thebais (1.719-720) I have already cited several times, where the poet describes Mithras overcoming the bull. He writes:
(Mithras) grips the bull‘s horns with his two hands. The interpretation of this concerns Luna… In these lines (the poet) reveals the secrets of the mysteries of the Sun. For the Sun (-god) sits on the bull and twists his horns, so as to teach Luna by dint of his strength that she is not so great as he, and inferior.
Mithras, as the Sun, overcomes the bull, and thereby also the Moon, from earliest times a symbol of death and restoration to life. … The signs are so positioned that Leo, the astrological ‘house’ of the Sun, is leaping up towards Sol, and Taurus, the ‘exaltation’ of the Moon, is by Luna.
Dr. Manfred Clauss, The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries
Luna means the Moon. … The principal players in the tauroctony are Mithras and the bull. As agent-signs in the discourse they mean ‘Sun’ and ‘Moon’, and those too are the meanings of Sol and Luna in the upper corners of the composition. The tauroctony is thus star-talking about the interaction of Sun and Moon.
Dr. Roger Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire: Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun
The general astrological connection between the moon and fertility, and the specific Mithraic connection between Luna and the bull (through the fact that Taurus is the domicile of Luna), are too familiar to require rehearsal.
Dr. Richard L. Gordon, in Journal of Mithraic Studies
The polysemy of symbols: a symbol can have several referents (‘meanings’), and these can be in play concurrently. The law of non-contradiction does not apply. Thus, the bull slain by Mithras can—and I think did—signify both Taurus and the Moon. Moreover, two symbols in the same context can refer to the same thing. Redundancy in symbolism is not a mistake. In the tauroctony the bull as well as the bust of Luna can symbolize the Moon.
Dr. Roger Beck, Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works with New Essays
In the middle [of the Moon] can clearly be seen the face of a young girl whose eyes are γλαυχότεραν than χυανιο.
Hegesianax, in Moralia 920E (2nd cen. BCE)
O divine queen, O light-bringing and splendid Selene, O bull-horned Moon, crossing the air as you race with night.
Orphic Hymn to Selene 1-2 (trans. Athanassakis & Wolkow)
The skies redden and the horns of the waning Luna vanish … Curved at the end like Luna’s horns.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.124, 3.756 (trans. Lombardo)
The Moon herself, bullshaped, horned, driver of cattle, being triform is Tritonis Athene. … Inspired incantations have often enchanted Selene as she passes through the air like an untamed bull.
Nonnos, Dionysiaca 5.72-73, 36.345-47 (trans. Rouse)
Fig. 63: The transformation of the moon from the horns of a bull to the face of a woman. In the words of Zeno of Verona: “She first appears as a scarcely visible crescent. It is as if she were a child of tender years, just come from the cradle. Then she grows slowly into a girl and then into a damsel, and as she follows her wide course and fulfills her task in the world, she daily grows older. When she is finally grown, and the golden fire of the flaming, light-giving charioteer has caused the small circle of her silver disc to become fully rounded- her own travail having been not less than that of her brother -then she inclines slowly toward old age, until having been wholly consumed by death, she starts her life a-fresh.” (Trans. H. Rahner & B. Batteshaw, 1963.)
Fig. 64: Outline illustrating the lady in the moon, which Graeco-Roman culture interpreted as Luna/Selene.
Fig. 65: The moon as the bull on the top-left, the moon as Luna on the top-right; based on a bronze plaque from Munich, Roman Imperial Era.
Fig. 66: The moon as the bull (top- left of center) and then as Luna (top right corner); marble relief, Roman Imperial Era, currently at the Brukenthal National Museum in Sibiu.
Fig. 67: Luna within the circle of the full moon bearing her torch of reflected light of the sun, still donning her bovine horns upon her head, a remnant of her previous life as the primeval bull; sarcophagus of Tomb D from Via Belluzzo, Roman Imperial Era.
Also attesting to her resurrection was Diodorus of Sicily, who wrote in the 1st century BEFORE the Common Era. In his Library of History 3.57.5, he wrote of a Greek tale in which Luna/Selene, along with Sol/Helios (who was identified with Mithras), were killed then resurrected & made immortal to become the gods of the moon & sun. And that taken together with the data above, it can be said that she was resurrected after three days.
Anyway, one last possible connection with lunar motifs worth noting here is seen below in Fig. 68. There it appears that Mithras is drinking water being poured out by his two comrades/hypostases, Cautes & Cautopates, which they are carrying in a pale borne on a rod. This is conspicuously similar to the motif covered above in Fig. 11-14 concerning Hjuki & Bil/Jack & Jill.
Fig. 68: From the Israel Museum Collection 97.95.19.
Anyway, the lady in the moon was not a motif exclusive to Mithraism or Graeco-Roman society. It was found in several cultures, but the one example in particular that is relevant here is that of the ancient Sumerian goddess Inanna, the daughter of the moon.
Eldest daughter of the Moon … O maiden Inanna sweet is your praise
Enheduanna, Lady of Largest Heart (24th-23rd cen. BCE)
Dumuzi waited expectantly. Inanna opened the door for him. Inside the house she shone before him. Like the light of the moon. Dumuzi looked at her joyously. He pressed his neck close against hers. He kissed her. Inanna spoke: “What I tell you Let the singer weave into song. What I tell you, Let it flow from ear to mouth, Let it pass from old to young: My vulva, the horn, The Boat of Heaven, Is full of eagerness like the young moon. …
Inanna, the First Daughter of the Moon.
The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi (3rd millenium BCE)
In order to care for the life of all the lands, The exact first day of the month is closely examined, And on the day of the disappearance of the moon, On the day of the sleeping of the moon, The me are perfectly carried out So that the New Year’s Day, the day of rites, May be properly determined, And a sleeping place be set up for Inanna.
The Joy of Sumer (3rd millenium BCE)
The dominant tradition regarded Inanna as the daughter of the moon god Nanna-Su’en.
Dr. Paul-Alain Beaulieu, The Pantheon of Uruk During the Neo-Babylonian Period
Inanna/Ishtar herself was also associated with the moon, either because of the moon’s changeable mood expressed through its phases or the parallelism between lunar and menstrual cycles.
Dr. Stephen Bertman, Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia
Although fragmented, the story of Inanna as I began to perceive it followed the same pattern as the archetypal Moon Goddess. … Thus the moment each month when the crescent moon took its shape was a time of great import for Sumer, for it symbolized the time when the raging Inanna purified herself and assumed her role as divine woman, wife to Dumuzi, the King of Sumer, and guide to her people.
Diane Wolkstein and Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer
By extension of this lunar association, Inanna too, like Attis, Osiris, or the Mithraic version of Luna, etc., was given a bovine aspect.
To the great lady of heaven, Inanna, I would say: “Hail!” … In heaven she surely stands, the good wild cow of An.
Sacred Marriage Hymn of Iddin-Dagan
O my divine ecstatic wild cow … praise be to Inanna.
Enheduanna, Exaltation of Inanna
Here again Inanna is associated with the ecstatic while also being identified with the crescent horns of the wild cow, a symbol of Nanna’s new moon crescent.
Dr. Betty De Shong Meador, Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna
A stone pendant from Mesopotamia displays a rough emblem of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, the Cow of Heaven and patroness of the city of Uruk.
Dr. David A. Leeming, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology
And also like those aforementioned deities, and like the moon itself, Inanna died and came back to life.
Inanna abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, To the nether world she descended, Abandoned lordship, abandoned ladyship, To the nether world she descended. … Upon her entering the seventh gate, All the garments of ladyship of her body were removed. “What, pray, is this?” “Extraordinarily, O Inanna, have the decrees of the nether world have been perfected, O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world.” Bowed low [text missing] The pure Ereshkigal seated herself upon her throne, The Anunnaki, the seven judges, pronounced judgement before her, They fastened (their) eyes upon her, the eyes of death, At their word, the word which tortures the spirit, [text missing] The sick woman was turned into a corpse, The corpse was hung from a stake. After three days and three nights had passed, … Upon the corpse hung from a stake they directed the fear of the rays of fire, Sixty times the food of life, sixty times the water of life, they sprinkled upon it, Inanna arose. Inanna ascends from the nether world.
Descent of Inanna (early 2nd millenium BCE)
In Inanna’s death and return, we also find our first extant myth of resurrection.
Dr. David A. Leeming and Jake Page, Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine
Inanna has descended to the Nether World probably to satisfy her ambition to become queen of the regions below, as well as of the heavens above. There she is put to death by Ereshkigal, the legitimate queen of the World of the Dead. After three days and nights, she is brought back to life with the help of Enki, the god of wisdom, and is ready to reascend to earth.
Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer, History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Man’s Recorded History
The three-day period may be connected to the moon’s disappearance from view for three days each month. This relates to Inanna’s aspect as First Daughter of the Moon. … Inanna’s descent is needed to set in motion the annual cycle of life on earth. According to the me, which dictate the order and form of things, a New Year’s Day is ordained that marks the earth’s awakening to new life. All year the people have brought their goddess tribute in the form of plants and animals, her creations. But now, when the earth is ready to be seeded, to bring forth plants which will give the people the holy power of life, and when the new moon has just been reborn, the divine spark is needed once again. The mystery of human life, connected to the mystery of natural, dwells with the Goddess of Love. It is she who brings fertility to all things. The sacred bed, strewn with her holy plants and designed with her symbol of the lion, is thus carefully prepared to entice the Queen of Heaven to earth.
Diane Wolkstein and Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer
Her ascension from the realm of the dead was not without a price. A substitute was required to die in her place. Inanna ended up offering up her own husband, the shepherd Dumuzi/Tammuz.
Inanna was about to ascend from Hades (but) the Anunnaki seized her (saying), “Who of those who ascended from Hades Ever did get up scot-free? If Inanna is ascending from Hades Let her give a substitute as substitute for her.” … Holy Inanna gave the shepherd Dumuzi into their hands.
Although, like Inanna, Dumuzi was also eventually granted a resurrection and was allowed to return from the realm of the dead annually.
“You half a year, your sister half a year; While you are walking around (alive), She will lie prostrate, While your sister is walking around (alive), You will lie prostrate.”
Descent of Inanna
The story seems to be composed of no less than three separate myths, each dealing with a dying and reviving deity, which are combined so that the revival of one deity is the cause of, or coincides with, the death of another. The revival of Inanna becomes the cause of the death of Dumuzi, and the revival of Dumuzi—at least for half of the year—depends on the death of Geshtinanna.
Dr. Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion
Dumuzi, according to the Sumerian mythographers, rises from the dead annually and, after staying on earth for half the year, descends to the Nether World for the other half.
Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer, in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
Egypt is not alone in the Near East in having the teaching about the god who dies, but who conquers death nevertheless. The teaching has its counterpart, for example, in Mesopotamia’s cult of Tamuzd. This Near Eastern faith in a god who dies, but is resurrected, who can grant man the sought-after immortality, is no doubt an important background.
Dr. Torgny Säve-Söderbergh, Pharaohs and Mortals
That is quite reminiscent of the Greek tales of Persephone and Adonis. And this Dumuzi/Tammuz was the same Tammuz who was also worshipped by another Near-Eastern civilization. Their own religious scriptures even admit to as much, and that they did so right in their own god’s temple complex.
The prophet is still within the northern gateway dividing the inner court of the temple from the outer court. He is now in another room of the gateway that lies upon the threshold of the inner court. Here “sat women weeping for Tammuz.” The women had to enter by way of the inner court. The entrance to the gate facing the outer court was blocked. … In addition, they were “weeping for Tammuz.” Tammuz/Dumuzi/Adonis, originally a Sumerian deity, had come into the popular religion of Syria and Canaan from Mesopotamia. He was a prime example of the myth of the dying-and-rising god of vegetation, whose annual death, in the heat and drought of summer, signified the decay of nature. Mourning for him and sympathetic magic led to his resurrection when the winter rains brought new life back to the soil. Weeping for Tammuz was thus a manipulative rite of sympathetic magic.
Dr. Bruce Vawter and Dr. Leslie J. Hoppe, A New Heart
From Mesopotamia the theme of the death of Dumuzi and his resurrection spread to Palestine. … It is not at all improbable that the myth of Dumuzi’s death and resurrection left its mark … in spite of the profound differences between the two accounts. … Sumerian prototypes have been known for some time: the resurrection of a deity after three days and three nights in the world below; the fact that “thirty shekels” [is] a Sumerian term for contempt and disdain; such epithets as “shepherd,” “anointed,” and perhaps even “carpenter”; the fact that one of the gods with whom Dumuzi came to be identified was Damu, the physician, who whom was entrusted the art of healing by exorcising demons. To all those motifs can now be added the torturing of Dumuzi by the merciless galla … Above all, Dumuzi played the role of vicarious substitute for mankind—had he not taken the place of Inanna, the goddess of procreation and fertility, in the Nether World, all life on earth would have come to an end.
Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer, History Begins at Sumer
So it is interesting to note that this culture was clearly acquainted with the story of Dumuzi/Tammuz centuries prior to the Common Era. This is interesting because it was in the first century of the Common Era that this same civilization developed their own story of a deity who was likewise a shepherd, or Poimḗn/ποιμήν if you will, who descended into hell to act as an intercessor. This story, as Dr. Kramer stated, “did not originate and evolve in a cultural vacuum; it must have had its forerunners and prototypes, and one of the most venerable and influential of these was no doubt the mournful tale of the shepherd-king Dumuzi and his melancholy fate, a myth that was current throughout the Near East for over two millennia.” Aside from playing the role of royal shepherd and messianic intercessor, Mr. Poimḗn was also (much like many of the motifs covered earlier besides just those of Inanna & Dumuzi):
• symbolically identified with a sacred bovine
• burdened with wood & thorns
• walked up a hill
• a hill which, when mounted, bore the image of a face
• hung on a tree
• then died & returned to life on the third day, emerging from a stone conspicuously shaped like the moon
• was reborn to new life which was symbolized by an egg, traditionally called a “mandorla”
• and of course, was symbolized by bunnies as well 😉
• and he also offered the promise of eternal life.
Dumuzi/Tammuz was also identified with Adonis, who likewise was a dying-resurrecting god. But to read more details on that aspect of the Adonis mythos, check out The Perennial Gospel. But what’s interesting there is that Plutarch (Moralia 671B-672C) explicitly said Mr. Poimḗn’s Levatine people worshiped Adonis too. Now some of you might be wondering why Mr. Poimḗn has lunar motifs in his mythos when he is more commonly alleged to fit the pattern of a solar archetype. Well, with several deities associated with either the moon or the sun, they were at times considered to be manifestations or hypostases of BOTH. Mostly this is because the ancient peoples, who also were aware that the moon revolves around the earth and reflects the light of the sun, knew that the REAL reason the moon disappears during the new moon phase is because the moon is on the same side of the earth as the sun, as opposed to its full moon phase where it is directly opposite the position of the sun in our sky (thus allowing it to fully reflect solar light). Because during the new moon the moon was thought to be in the same position as the sun, bringing them into conjunction (see Fig. 4), these two heavenly objects were considered to be temporarily merged together into one single being. Hence there came an overlap in solar/lunar motifs (e.g. see above regarding the hekkaidekaeteris in relation to the 3-day motif). One example of this is seen in Egyptian mythology in which Re represents the sun and Osiris represents the moon, and the two gods perpetually merge into one being when they meet in the netherworld, making Osiris (and Re) both a moon god AND a sun god. And Egyptian texts explicitly state as much.
You come to us as child in moon and sun, We cease not to behold you!
The Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys § 4 (4th cen. BCE)
The translator, Dr. Miriam Lichtheim, comments- “In this section Osiris is viewed as a cosmic god manifest in both sun and moon.”
O Osiris, foremost in the West, you endure in the sun disk in the sky every day. O Osiris, foremost in the West, you will enter the sound eye daily.
Papyrus BM 10507, I, 11-12
O Osiris, foremost in the West, raise yourself up (twice). Do not be weary, for your son Horus overthrows your enemies so that you might rise up to the sky and unite with Re.
Papyrus BM 10208, II, 9-10
Hence the Greeks & Romans followed suit.
Namely, the sun … whom they called respectively Osiris.
Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History 1, 11.1, 25.2
Father Phoebus[Roman epithet of the sun god] … bestow your love and favour upon Juno’s fields, whether ‘tis best to call you rosy Titan in the fashion of the Achaemenian race, or Osiris the grain-bringer.
Statius, Thebaid 1.696, 715-19
There are some who without reservation assert that Osiris is the Sun.
Plutarch, Moralia 372D
It is no secret that Osiris is none other than the sun.
Thus Osiris’ mythos often contains motifs that are both solar AND lunar archetypes. There is no contradiction there. Nor is there any contradiction when other Near-Eastern deities have both lunar & solar motifs in their mythos as well. In fact, besides just the monthly new moon at night, there is another point of conjunction between the sun and the moon which happens during the day, one often considered miraculous by ancient peoples. And that is the moment of a complete solar eclipse, when the moon appears to quite literally merge with the sun, blocking out its light.
May the dark(ened sun) make Osiris (N.) blessed on earth and powerful in the west.
Book of the Dead, Spell 168 A b S 10
How interesting, because a similar phenomenon of a darkened sun was said to have happened during the death of Mr. Poimḗn, was it not? A hint of solar-lunar conjunction from an earlier strain of the myth, perhaps?
And just as the sun is buried in darkness as the moon rolls in front of it, so Mr. Poimḗn was buried in death as a moon shaped stone was rolled in front of him. And just as the sun returns and the daylight comes back to life as the moon rolls out of the way, so too he rose back to life as the stone rolled out of his way.
Things that make you go “hmmm,” eh?
Ah, who the hell knows?
Anyway, this idea of solar-lunar conjunction and death, burial, & resurrection on the third day are but a few among scores of parallels to be found with the mythos of Osiris, but to see more, you’ll have to read The Perennial Gospel. 😉
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David K. Lynch and William C. Livingston, Color and Light in Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995-2001), 212.
 Enheduanna, Lady of Largest Heart, in Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna , trans. B. De Shong Meador (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 117, 136.
 Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1983), 36.
 Ibid. 107. (Emph. added.)
 Paul-Alain Beaulieu, The Pantheon of Uruk During the Neo-Babylonian Period (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2003), 111.
 Stephen Bertman, Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2003), 120.
 Wolkstein and Kramer (1983), xvi, 170.
 Daniel Reisman, “Iddin-Dagan’s Sacred Marriage Hymn,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 25, no. 4 (1973): 186.
 Meador (2000), 176, 180.
 Ibid. 207.
 Leeming (2005), 196.
 Samuel Noah Kramer, Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millenium B.C., Revised Edition (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1961-72), 88, 92-95.
 David A. Leeming and Jake Page, Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 61. (Emph. added.)
 Samuel Noah Kramer, History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Man’s Recorded History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1956-81), 322.
 Wolkstein and Kramer (1983), 159, 173.
 Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness: A History of Mesopotamian Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 59, 60.
 Ibid. 61.
 Ibid. 62.
 Samuel Noah Kramer, “Dumuzi’s Annual Resurrection: An Important Correction to ‘Inanna’s Descent’,” in Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 183 (1966): 31.
 Torgny Säve-Söderbergh, Pharaohs and Mortals, trans. R.E. Oldenburg (Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Soners Förlag, 1958), 256.
 Bruce Vawter and Leslie J. Hoppe, A New Heart (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 67-68.
 Kramer (1956-81), 323-24.
 Ibid. 324.
 See Origen Adamantius, Selecta in Ezechielem 8.12.
 Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature Volume III: The Late Period (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980-2006), 118. (Emph. added.)
 Ibid. 121 n.5. (Emph. added.)
 Mark J. Smith, On the Primeval Ocean (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002), 121.
 Diodorus of Sicily, Library of History, in Diodorus Siculus: Library of History, Books 1-2.34, trans. C.H. Oldfather (London: William Heinemann Ltd., and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1933-67), 37, 79.
 Statius, Thebaid, in Statius: Thebaid, Books 1-7, trans. D.R.S. Bailey (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003), 91-93. Bailey comments in n.76 that “Osiris too appears here as a sun god by conflation with Re-Horus.” (Emph. added.)
 Plutarch, Moralia, in Plutarch’s Moralia: Volume V, trans. F.C. Babbitt, (London: William Heinemann Ltd., and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936-62), 129.
 Macrobius, The Saturnalia, trans. P.V. Davies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), 142.
 Thomas G. Allen, The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 164-65. (Emph. added.)