Moon Mythology

Forever the book pilgrim today I discovered a little treasure for 99 cents, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, written by, Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould 1834-1924 Edited by, Edward Hardy (1987). Below is an excerpt from The Man in the Moon myth. The book illustrations are all Albrecht Duer.

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In Scandinavian mythology Mani, the moon stole two children from their parents, and carried them up to heaven. Their names were Hjuki and Bil. They had been drawing water from the well byrgir, in the bucket Soegr, suspended from the pole Simul, which they bore on their shoulders. These children, pole and bucket, were placed in heaven ‘where they could be seen from earth’. This refers undoubtedly to the spots on the moon, and so the Swedish peasantry explain these spots to this very day (1866) as representing a boy and a girl bearing a pail of water between them. We are once reminded of our nursery rhyme:

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water;

Jack fell down and broke his crown,

And Jill came tumbling after.

This verse, which to us at first sight seems nonsense, I have no hesitation in saying has a high antiquity, and refers to the Eddaic Hjuki and Bil. The names indicate as much. Hjuki, in Norse, would be pronounced Juki, which would readily become Jack; and Bil for the sake of euphony, and in order to give a female name to one of the children, would become Jill. The fall of Jack and the subsequent fall of Jill simply represent the vanishing of one moon-spot after another as the moon wanes.

But the old Norse myth had a deeper significance than merely an explanation of the moon-spots. Hjuki is derived from the verb jakka, to leap or pile together, to assemble and increase; and Bil from bila, to break up or dissolve. Hjuki and Bil therefore signify nothing more than the waxing and waning of the moon, and the water they are represented as bearing signifies the fact that the rainfall depends on the phases of the moon. Waxing and waning were individualized, and the meteorological fact of the connexion  of the rain with the moon was represented by children as water-bearers.

 

Baring-Gould, S. (1987). Curious Myths of the Middle ages. (E. Hardy, Ed.) New York: Crescent Books.