The Moon goddess, Selene, takes her origins back to Greek mythology when she was known as the sister to Helios, the sun god. It was her duty to guide the Moon across the sky.
She was depicted as a woman riding side-saddle on a horse or driving a chariot drawn by a pair of winged steeds. Her lunar crescent was either a crown set upon her head or the fold of a raised, shining cloak. She was sometimes said to drive a team of oxen and her lunar crescent was likened to a pair of bull's horns. Selene is Greek for moon and it is in her name that the scientific study of the Moon was given, selenology.
Selene was known to have had several lovers. One was the mortal Endymion, and one myth is that she left her nocturnal duty to be with him. Zeus was angered by the darkened sky and cast Endymion into eternal sleep. It is when Selene slips away for a few nights each month to caress her sleeping lover, that she leaves behind the darkened moonless sky.
In the above image Phosphorus is on Selene's right and Hesperus on her left. Phosphorus was the personification of the Morning Star in Greek mythology and his half-brother was Hesperus, the Evening Star. The Morning and Evening Stars were thought to be different celestial objects but were later accepted as the same planet, Venus, and subsequently dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite, the Roman equivalent being Venus.
There are varying archetypal themes associated with the Wheel of the Year, with the basic premise being the relationship between the god and goddess. Together they are seen as the duality of the Divine, their different aspects a symbolic balance of the natural passage of life in the world around us. The god symbolising the life force of the Sun and the goddess the Earth.
The Triple Goddess is represented by the division of a circle into three parts and corresponds to three phases of the Moon - the waxing Moon being the virgin or maiden aspect of the goddess, the full Moon being the fullness of the mother, and the waning Moon the aging, wise crone aspect. The Triple Goddess does not make finite the many phases of the feminine life cycle but instead is used to express a perpetual cyclical movement. Combined, they symbolise the endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth that is reflected in nature.
The Moon goddess Selene with Phosphoros and Hesperos
Image credit: Louvre Museum
Original artwork by Lisa Mitchell