Yin Yang Myths Part Two: Sun and Moon

Hello there readers, and welcome back! Today’s post is on a series of Sun and Moon myths as there are many all over the world, and yet they’re all quite similar.

In my research, something I found interesting was that in casual conversation, we might consider the sun and moon to be opposite, as day and night are opposite, yes? Well in the four Sun and Moon myths I’m covering, the two are about as opposite as siblings. In fact, the sun and moon are often family, if not siblings in varying folktales and myths. Naturally, because of this the sun and moon get jealous of each other, but the story doesn’t always go the way one might think. Not in the Cherokee myth Sun and Her Daughter, anyway.

Once settled in what is now the Appalachian Mountains, Georgia, Tennessee, and North and South Carolina, the Cherokee tribe (or Keetoowah or Tsalagi, as the word Cherokee is derived from the Creek word which means, “People of different speech”) were once forced to walk 2,200 miles where approximately 4,000 people died due to cold or hunger. This walk in history has been named The Trail of Tears. *

In the myth Sun and Her Daughter, Sun is angry with the people on Earth as whenever they look up at her, they’re always making faces at her. When looking at her daughter, Moon, however, they’re always smiling. Out of jealousy, Sun sent the people of Earth a fever. Many died, but the few that were left decided they would use magic to get their revenge on Sun. The people conjured up a rattlesnake and sent it to Moon’s door, so that when Sun came to Moon to visit, Sun would get bitten. Moon opened the door when the snake knocked, however, and she was the one to get bit. When Sun found her daughter dead, Sun hid herself in her home. The people no longer had a fever to worry about, but the world was cold and dark. They chose seven people to go to the land where ghosts dance to bring Moon back. When they had Moon trapped in a box, Moon complained of not being able to breathe, and so the box was opened a crack and she flew out and back to the land of ghosts. Seeing the people of Earth return empty handed, Sun began to cry, thus causing a great flood. To stop the flood, the people thought to entertain her by dancing. This is why some tribes do the Sun dance.

In this story, Sun and Moon aren’t considered opposites, however, Sun does get jealous of Moon and takes it out on the people of Earth. Which completely backfires. However, while these two characters aren’t perceived as opposites, they are treated differently. Even in our lives, we treat the sun and moon differently even though they’re roughly the same. They both provide light and they both encourage the circle of life: they help plants grow, they influence the weather, and animals can hunt or rest during the different times of day. Yet we associate the moon with darkness, mystery, and evil deeds, and the sun with happiness, purity, and goodness. Much of these stigmas surrounding the sun and moon have to do with religion and folktales. Where Sun is jealous of Moon in Sun and Her Daughter, another Indigenous American tale has a reverse narrative.

The Tsimshian myth One Who Walks All Over Sky features the sun and moon as brothers. Once settled in the Pacific Northwest, the Tsimshian people were known for their carved and painted “totem poles”. In their story, the younger brother is named One Who Walks All Over Sky, and the older is One Who Walks About Early. One day, One Who Walks All Over Sky decided he was going to make a mask out of wood and pitch because he was sad to see the sky so dark. He lit his mask on fire and traveled across the sky, only returning below the horizon to rest, the cinders from his mask floating into the void and creating stars. This impressed the boy’s father. Out of jealousy, One Who Walks About Early created a mask out of fat and charcoal and traveled across the sky while his brother slept, thus becoming the moon.

This myth has a lighter ending than Sun and Her Daughter, however, Sun and Moon do still get jealous. In this myth, it’s the moon who’s jealous of his younger brother, and yet the two become similar entities in that they both traverse the sky to make their father proud. Again the two are viewed differently, and yet they’re one in the same. Remember that phrase from my last post, “It’d all be the same if it were different.” Keep that in mind as you continue to read.

For my third myth, we’ll be leaving the North American continent and heading to Africa to meet Liza, the sun god to the Fon people of West Africa. Also known as Dahomey, the Fon people live in what is now known as the southern part of Benin and other adjacent parts of Togo. In the myth titled Liza, we get the legend of how the world was created. Liza, the god of the sun, and his twin sister Mawu were lovers and created the universe with the help of the celestial serpent, Da. One of the ways in which the two shaped the world was by using Liza’s son, Gu, as the divine tool, shaped as an iron sword. It was Gu who eventually taught the people of Earth crafts such as ironworking. Liza is associated with heat, work, and strength, while his sister Mawu is associated with the nighttime and motherhood.

In this myth, the sun and moon are both siblings and lovers. (I know). The two don’t battle each other, or try to trump the other with clever acts. They work together to create the world as we know it. Just as in Part One of my Yin Yang Myths series, Lycoris Radiata, these two halves create one whole. Liza and Mawu were partners and were so creative that they had to ask Da to coil around their creations to keep them safe, thus forming the world. Both Liza and Mawu watched over the world as they created it. They were divine partners, siblings, and lovers. Together in all things. Mawu embodies the feminine half of the world and Liza embodies the masculine half, like Yin and Yang.

For my final myth we will travel to the world of the vikings for the Norse gods Sol and Mani. The vikings traveled all over the world and settled in what used to be called Scandinavia, which is modern day Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Germany, parts of Scotland, and Denmark. Sol and Mani don’t have their own myth, however, they do have a character background. Like outlining a novel, Sol and Mani have their own details that makes them who they are, talks a bit about how they were created, and who their enemies are.

Sol, goddess of the sun and her brother Mani, god of the moon were created without purpose. As the universe was being formed, they sprung into existence. Only when the gods met together and they created different parts of the day and times of the year were Sol and Mani given their purpose. Like their Greek and Roman counterparts, Sol and Mani ride in horse-drawn chariots across the sky, pursued by the offspring of Fenrir, Skoll (meaning “Mockery”) and Hati (meaning “Hate”) (first mentioned here) who will overtake them during Ragnarok.

All over the world, the sun and moon are seen in a similar light (pun not intended), as siblings, sometimes as lovers, but often as two parts of one whole. They are two parts of the same sky, overlooking the same Earth, bringing about light. They are the balance of masculine and feminine energies in one organism (the world) and some of the most ancient gods in varying dogmas. And one does not descend without the other’s ascending. They are part of the balance which doesn’t involve opposites, but complementary pieces.

Thank you for reading,

-M

 

*I personally believe The Trail of Tears is an important fact for all Americans to know about as it describes some of what was done to Indigenous Americans for the founding of modern day America. It’s important to know all of history, not just what the victors have written in textbooks.

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