Man in the Moon

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.

The Man in the Moon looked out of the moon,
Looked out of the moon and said,
"'Tis time that, now I'm getting up,
All children are in bed."

Look at what's rising: Luna, Selene, man in the Moon.

Much of the universe, as we know it, is strange and distant, full of lifeless orbs and wild cataclysms and dark voids. We know little about the quasars and nebulae and supernovae of outer space. Through our telescopes we peer at stars and planets and galaxies, but how well do we really know them? We can only see what we can see.

Full Moon Poster The moon is different. It is closer to us than any other heavenly object, both physically and imaginatively. It has been part of our stories and dreams since the dawn of time. It's the stuff of nursery rhymes.

Long before our kind walked on the moon we traversed its mountains and plains in our imaginations a million times or more. We named its dark lava flows and its craters and its peaks. We'd visited the Sea of Tranquility for centuries before our spaceship touched down.

"The Moon is unique in being the only celestial body with surface features visible to the unaided eye," notes Scott Montgomery in his history of ‘The Moon and the Western Imagination' (University of Arizona Press, 1999). "The Moon was a subject of detailed portrayal very early on... the tradition of depicting a figure or face in the Moon's orb recurs, like a template, in both word and paint throughout the whole of the classical and medieval periods."

No one really knows when, or why, the face of the moon became a man. In ancient times, the Moon was always associated with goddesses and female powers. But by the Middles Age all the pictures and accounts of the Moon's face had become male.

As Montgomery's history of the Moon points out, people of many different cultures and walks of life have been gazing upon that face for ages, and all have staked some claim upon it with their perceptions.

It has been mapped and worshiped and probed and photographed and fantasized and studied time after time. And when we finally return to its surface to colonize the place with space stations and mining camps, it will not be some strange world that we're colonizing, but an old familiar one, ripe with history and tradition.

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