Given that the Moon is such an everpresent feature in all of our lives, it is no surprise that every culture and many religions have their own Moon mythology. The Moon is often seen as feminine with goddesses like the Greek Selene and Roman equivalent Luna, but we also talk about The Old Man in the Moon, and the Egyptians had a moon god in Khonsu. These personifications are much beloved by poets and writers through the ages.
Scientifically, the Moon always presents a single side to us, but we see it in segments through to the full disc through its phases. We also wonder about its mysterious dark side. The tides of Earth’s oceans are controlled by the Moon around a quarter of a million miles away. Given the Moon’s influence on our tides, it is no wonder that throughout the centuries, that farmers have examined the Moon’s effects on growing plants. Then, there is the fact that on July 20, 1969, we landed a man on the moon.
This lovely small hardback is absolutely full of Moon lore, presented as an almanac going through the year month by month. So much of said Moon lore relates to the changing monthly character of the Moon as it moves in its elliptical orbit, and of course the different seasons of the northern and southern hemispheres give contrasts each month. I was surprised to find that the Romans originated the custom adopted by the Americans as Groundhog Day which occurs under a February moon.
The ancient Romans watched hedgehogs emerging from their burrows during this month. If they case a shadow under a clear moon, this was believed to signal six more weeks of winter.
The lore for each month is accompanied by a selection of quotations and classic poems. It’s a shame that a wider range of quotes and poems couldn’t be included, but the author has stuck to those out of copyright which is fair enough. There are plenty of proverbs and words of traditional wisdom included too and moon-related idioms.
There is some science, with plenty of moon facts in the book, simple explanations of how the phases work and so on, but these are more to fascinate rather than bamboozle with technical jargon, and the astronomy complements the nature and folk wisdom.
The text is in blue on white, or white on blue throughout. Little illustrations by Alisha Gronska are scatterred throughout the text, with full page white on blue drawings for each month. Each paragraph is separated by a little Crescent moon – a bit more variation would have been nice in these, and some of the small illustrations featured the same moons and suns repeatedly, but that is a small criticism. An index to moon names and cultural references would have been handy for me to aid re-finding particular facts, but this isn’t really that kind of book.
I learned plenty about the Moon in folklore and nature from this book. Ideally, rather than reading it through from cover to cover, you’d want to dip into it month by month, reading with the Moon which would be a nice thing to do. With its reflective foiled cover, this book would make a charming Christmas present for those who like folklore and moon staring.
Source: Review copy – Thank you.
The Moon Almanac by Judith Hurrell, Summersdale Books, hardback, 208pages.
BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P)