In a lot of modern Pagan religions, such as Wicca and Druidism, there is a certain amount of emphasis placed on the moon. Phases of our celestial companion become symbolic stand-ins for various god and goddess figures, or particular aspects of those figures (as in the famous Maiden/Mother/Crone cycle). With the full moon upon us, I thought I might take a little look at just how American witchcraft interacts with that lovely sphere.
There is a great deal of lunar lore found in Native American legends. In one tale from the Kalispel Tribe of Idaho, the moon is equated with the famous trickster/father figure, Coyote:
“Once there was no Moon for someone had stolen it. The people asked “Who will be the Moon?” The Yellow Fox agreed to give it a try but he was so bright it made the Earth hot at night. Then the people asked Coyote to try and he agreed. The Coyote was a good moon, not to bright – not to dim. But from his vantage point in the sky the Coyote could see what everyone was doing. Whenever he saw someone doing something dishonest he would shout “HEY! That person is stealing meat from the drying racks!” or “HEY! That person is cheating at the moccasin game!” Finally, the people who wished to do things in secret got together and said “Coyote is too noisy. Let’s take him out of the sky.” So someone else became the moon. Coyote can no longer see what everyone else is doing but he still tries to snoop into everyone else’s business” (WWU Planetarium American Indian Starlore page).
The Cherokee thought of the Moon as brother to the Sun (an instance of the moon being seen as male, which appears in several cultures).
The image of the Man in the Moon is frequently found in American folklore. Many of these traditions hail from European lore, including poems found in Mother Goose:
THE MAN IN THE MOON
The Man in the Moon came tumbling down,
And asked the way to Norwich;
He went by the south, and burnt his mouth
With eating cold pease porridge.
(from The Real Mother Goose)
In other cultures, the moon contains figures less familiar to most Americans. The Old Farmer’s Almanac includes examples of the moon seen as a woman with child, a toad, a giant, a rabbit, and a boy and a girl carrying a bucket (as in “Jack and Jill”).
There are also particular moons associated with particular months. A good list of them can be found at the Farmer’s Almanac site, here. Many are linked with agricultural cycles (such as Green Corn Planting Moon or Harvest Moon), and some are clearly linked to hunting (like the Buck Moon).
There is a plethora of magical lore associated with the moon. My earlier posts on planting by lunar signs and weather lore both have lunar connections within them. Likewise, the witch initiations post mentions the practice of shooting at the moon to become a witch. Edain McCoy, in her book In a Graveyard at Midnight, also has a fun bit of moon magic:
“To remove a curse from your home, you can try shooting your shotgun out an open window at the full moon, while shouting a curse at the Devil. However, don’t try this if you live in a city or populated area, or you will likely find the police at your door” (McCoy, p. 107)
There are also beliefs about marriage and courtship dates associated with lunar phenomena – waxing-to-full moons are best for “tomcattin’” according to Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore.
Of course, witches can find lots to do under a full moon. Personally I find it to be an ideal time for:
- Storytelling gatherings (especially around a campfire)
- Divination and fortune-telling
- Working with Otherworld entities like spirits, ghosts, fairies, etc.
- Possession-based magic and shapeshifting
- Love and beauty magic
- Crafting magical tools and supplies
These are only my thoughts on the subject, of course, and there are plenty of great sources on lunar folklore out there. And, of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to making the most of a full moon. I’d love to hear what you all do with regards to lunar-linked magic. Please feel free to share your methods, practices, ideas, and thoughts with us here!
Until next time, thanks for reading!