Friday, July 20, 2012

The Buried Moon

The Uncanny Moon
            As a culture, we often focus on the 'uncanniness' of the dark side of the Moon.  Our collective beliefs about the Moon and its light are often negative, projecting insanity, lunacy, wild and foolish behavior, moonshine, whimsy, irrationality, 'mooning over someone' as the effects of the full Moon.   We are fascinated and horrified by the strange bestial transformations we imagine occur under the light of the Moon: people turning into werewolves, witchcraft and black magic practiced in the dark.  As we have seen in countless horror films, the 'night of the living dead' can burst into our lives at any moment.  The shadows of the night still hold terror for us, and it is not the moonlight that dispels these shadows for us, but our electric lights. 
            The English folk tale, The Buried Moon, shows us not only how far we have moved away from understanding the gifts of the Moon, but also how the Moon has been taken over by our darkest fears.
            Long ago, in my grandmother's time, the Car-land was all in bogs, great pools of black water, and creeping trickles of green water, and squishy pools which squirted when you stepped on them.  Well, when the Moon shone down, she lighted up the bog-pools, so that one could walk about almost as safe as in the day.  But when she didn't shine, out came the Things that dwelt in the darkness and went about seeking to do evil and harm; Bogles and crawling Horrors, all came out when the Moon didn't shine.
            Well, the Moon heard of this, and being kind and good - as she surely is, shining for us in the night instead of taking her natural rest - she was very troubled.  "I'll see for myself, I will," said she, "maybe it's not so bad as folks make out."
            Sure enough, at the month's end down she stept, wrapped up in a black cloak, and a black hood over her yellow shining hair.  Straight she went to the bog edge and looked about her.  Before her all was dark and watery - dark but for the glimmer of the stars in the pools, and the light that came from her own white feet, stealing out of her black cloak. 
            The Moon drew her cloak faster about and trembled, but she wouldn't go back without seeing all there was to be seen; so on she went, stepping as light as the wind in the summer from tuft to tuft between the greedy gurgling water-holes.  Just she came near a big black pool her foot slipped and she was nigh tumbling in.  She grabbed with both hands at a snag near by to steady herself with, but as she touched it, it twined itself round her wrists, like a pair of handcuffs, and gript her so that she couldn't move.  She pulled and twisted and fought, but it was no good.  She was held fast.
            Presently as she stood trembling in the dark, wondering if help would come, she heard something calling in the distance, calling, calling, and then dying away with a sob, till the marshes were full of this pitiful crying sound; then she heard steps floundering along, squishing in the mud and slipping on the tufts, and through the darkness she saw a white face with great fearful eyes.  'Twas a man lost in the bogs, running after the will-'o-the-wykes, who led him far from the path while the dead things grabbed at him.
            When the poor Moon saw that he was coming closer and closer to a deep pool, she was so mad and so sorry that she struggled and fought and pulled harder than ever.  And though she couldn't get loose, she twisted and turned till her black hood fell back off her shining yellow hair, and the beautiful light that came from it drove away the darkness.  Oh, but the man cried with joy to see the light again.  And at once all evil things fled back into the dark corners, for they cannot abide the light.  So the man could see where he was, and where the path was, and how he could get out of the marsh.  And he was in such haste to get away from the quicks and bogles and things that dwelt there that he scarcely looked at the brave light that came from the beautiful shining yellow hair, streaming out over the black cloak and falling to the water at his feet.  And the Moon herself was so taken up with saving him, and with rejoicing that he was back on the right path, that she clean forgot that she needed help herself.
            So the man ran off without helping the Moon.  Then she pulled and fought as if she were mad, till she fell on her knees, spent with tugging, at the foot of the snag.  And as she lay there, gasping for breath, the black hood fell forward over her head.  So out went the blessed light and back came the darkness, with all its evil Things, with a screech and a howl.  They came crowding round her, mocking and snatching and beating; shrieking with rage and spite, swearing and snarling, for they knew her for their old enemy, that drove them back into the corners, and kept them from working their wicked wills.
            The Witches and Bogles, the Things and crawling Horrors fought and squabbled all night about how to kill her, and soon the poor Moon wished that she was dead and done with, till a pale gray light began to come in the sky.  Dawn was near.  And when the wicked things saw this, they feared they wouldn't have time to work their will, so they caught hold of her with horrid bony fingers and laid her deep in the water at the foot of the snag.  And the Bogles fetched a strange big stone and rolled it on top of her, to keep her from rising.  And they set two will-'o-the-wykes to guard her.
            And there lay the poor Moon, dead and buried in the bog, till someone would set her loose; and who'd know where to look for her.
            Well, the days passed, and 'twas the time for the new moon's coming and the folk got ready to welcome her back, for her light kept them safe from the dark.  But days and nights passed and the new moon never came, and the nights were so dark that the evil things were worse than ever, for they came closer and closer to their homes.  Soon everyone was afraid to step out at night, and then they were afraid to turn out the lights and go to sleep, lest the evil things invade their very homes!
            The people at last sought out the Wise Woman who dwelt in the old mill and asked if she could find out where the Moon had gone.  Well, she looked in the mirror, in the brew pot and in the book but could not divine what had happened to the Moon.  She sent them on their way, telling them to come back to her if they heard aught of the Moon.
            Well, the people went their ways, and as the days went by, and the Moon never appeared, they talked and talked of nothing else - their tongues wagged at home, and at the inn, and in the garth.  And so one day, as they sat in the inn, a man from the far end of the bog lands sat up and slapped his knee.  "I'd clean forgotten, but I reckon I kens where the Moon be!"  And he told them how he was lost in the bogs and how, when he was nigh dead with fright, the light shone out and he found the path and got home safe.
            So they went off to the Wise Woman and told her about it, and she looked long in the pot and the Book again, and then she nodded her head.  She instructed them to set out at night for the bogs, with stones in their mouths and hazel twigs in their hand, and they were not to speak until they got home.  They were to search until they found a coffin, a cross and a candle.  That was where the Moon would be.       
            And so they all set out the next night, every man with a stone in his mouth and a hazel twig in hand, and feeling more terrified than each thought possible.  They stumbled and tottered along the paths into the midst of the bogs, seeing nothing in the darkness, while all around them they heard sighings and flutterings in their ears, and felt cold wet fingers touching them.  But all at once, they came upon the dark pool beside the great snag, where the Moon lay buried.  There they found a huge stone that looked like a coffin, and at the head of it was a cross-shaped snag with a little light on it.  And so they all knelt down in the mud and silently prayed  - first forward, because of the cross, and then backward, to keep off the Bogles.
            Then they came closer, and took hold of the big stone, and shoved it up.  Afterwards they said that for a moment they saw a strange and beautiful face looking up at them glad-like out of the black water; but the light came so quick and so white and shining, that they stept back mazed by it, and the very next minute, when they could see again, there was the full Moon in the sky, bright and beautiful and kind as ever, shining and smiling down at them, and making the bogs and the paths as clear as day.  The Moon's light stole into the very corners, as though she'd have driven the darkness and the Bogles clean away if she could. 4
            This beautiful folk tale speaks to the loss we suffer when we ignore the gifts and blessings of the Moon.  Darkness and evil do abound when we lose the capacity for reflection and imagination that the Moon symbolizes.  Because this darkness has been projected onto women, the Moon and feminine consciousness, our culture had lost this capacity for self-reflection and so we are left with our own fears undiminished.  We forget that the wise woman looks in her mirror, her boiling pot and her book to discover what is needed to fix the problem.  A wise person searches for answers in all different ways.

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