Luna was the planet closest Earth, according to pre-Copernican astronomers.
Because Luna only ever got to rule the night, whereas Sol ruled the day, it was thought that she might be an envious planet, discontented with her secondary role. In Romeo and Juliet (1595) Shakespeare writes, ‘Arise, fair Sun, and kill the envious Moon . . . Her vestal livery is but sick and green.’
Luna waxes and wanes approximately every 30 days. Because this period is roughly the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle, the Moon became thought of as a feminine planet.
In Greek and Roman myth she was associated with a number of differently named goddesses, such as Selene, Artemis, and Cynthia, and these goddesses survived into medieval and renaissance times. For instance, in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, published in the 1590s, Cynthia drives across the night sky in a chariot pulled by two horses, ‘the one black, the other white’.
Another of her names was Diana, who was the goddess of hunting (when the Moon is bright it is possible to hunt at night). Luna’s whiteness and brightness also made it natural to associate her with the metal silver.
The Moon’s effect upon the tides of seas and rivers meant that Luna became linked with the idea of wateriness. Since water is not solid, but insubstantial and unsupportive, Luna was thought to be responsible for inconstancy and doubt.
Above Luna’s sphere everything in the heavens was considered perfect and unchanging, but within and beneath Luna’s sphere everything was subject to alteration. One thing that might change as a result of Luna’s influence was human location (travellers and wanderers were under her sway) and another was sanity, which is why people who lost their wits were called ‘lunatics’. In the Gospel According to St Matthew, ‘lunatics’ are among the sick people healed by Christ (Matthew 4:24).
LUNA IN BRIEF
- DAY: Monday (Moonday)
- METAL: Silver
- LEWISIAN NAME: In the Ransom Trilogy, Lewis calls Luna ‘Sulva’
- QUALITIES: envy; wateriness; confusion; lunacy; boundary between certainty and mutability; sponsor of hunting and wandering