Lunar Deities

Full moon over seascape and horizon
Chris Clor / Getty Images

For thousands of years, people have looked up at the moon and wondered about its divine significance. It should come as no surprise that many cultures throughout time have had lunar deities–that is, gods or goddesses associated with the power and energy of the moon. If you're doing a moon-related ritual, in some traditions of Wicca and Paganism you may choose to call upon one of these deities for assistance. Let's look at some of the better known lunar deities. 

01
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Alignak (Inuit)

Winter Moon Over Snowy Cabin
Alignak is an Inuit god of the moon. Milamai / Moment / Getty Images

In the legends of the Inuit peoples, Alignak is the god of both the moon and weather. He controls the tides, and presides over both earthquakes and eclipses. In some stories, he is also responsible for returning the souls of the dead to earth so that they may be reborn. Alignak may appear in harbors to protect fishermen from Sedna, the wrathful sea goddess.

According to legend, Alignak and his sister became deities after they committed incest and were banished from the earth. Alignak was sent off to become the god of the moon, and his sister became a goddess of the sun.

Marble statue of Artemis, from Ephesus, Turkey
Artemis was a lunar goddess in Greek mythology. De Agostini / G. P. Cavallero / Getty Images

Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt. Because her twin brother, Apollo, was associated with the Sun, Artemis gradually became connected to the moon in the post-Classical world. During the ancient Greek period, although Artemis was represented as a lunar goddess, she was never portrayed as the moon itself. Typically, in post-Classical artwork, she is depicted beside a crescent moon. She is often associated with the Roman Diana as well.

Cauldron
Cerridwen is the keeper of the cauldron of wisdom. emyerson /E+ / Getty Images

Cerridwen is, in Celtic mythology, the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge. She is the giver of wisdom and inspiration, and as such is often associated with the moon and the intuitive process. As a goddess of the Underworld, Cerridwen is often symbolized by a white sow, which represents both her fecundity and fertility and her strength as a mother. She is both Mother and Crone; many modern Pagans honor Cerridwen for her close association to the full moon.

04
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Chang'e (Chinese)

Great Wall of China in Moonlight
In China, brave Chang'e is associated with the moon. Grant Faint / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

In Chinese mythology, Chang'e was married to the king Hou Yi. Although he was once known as a great archer, later Hou Yi became a tyrannical king, who spread death and destruction wherever he went. The people starved and were brutally treated. Hou Yi greatly feared death, so a healer gave him a special elixir that would allow him to live forever. Chang'e knew that for Hou Yi to live forever would be a terrible thing, so one night while he slept, Chang'e stole the potion. When he saw her and demanded she return the potion, she immediately drank the elixir and flew up into the sky as the moon, where she remains to this day. In some Chinese stories, this is the perfect example of someone making a sacrifice to save others.

05
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Coyolxauhqui (Aztec)

Man in Indigenous Warrior Regalia
The Aztecs honored Coyolxauhqui as a lunar deity. Moritz Steiger / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

In Aztec stories, Coyolxauhqui was the sister of the god Huitzilopochtli. She died when her brother leaped from their mother's womb and killed all of his siblings. Huitzilopochtli cut off Coyolxauhqui's head and threw it up into the sky, where it remains today as the moon. She is typically depicted as a young and beautiful woman, adorned with bells and decorated with lunar symbols.

06
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Diana (Roman)

Temple of Diana
Diana was honored by the Romans as a goddess of the moon. Michael Snell / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images

Much like the Greek Artemis, Diana began as a goddess of the hunt who later evolved into a lunar goddess. In Charles Leland's Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, he pays homage to Diana Lucifera (Diana of the light) in her aspect as a light-bearing goddess of the moon.

A daughter of Jupiter, Diana’s twin brother was Apollo. There is significant overlap between the Greek Artemis and the Roman Diana, although in Italy itself, Diana evolved into a separate and distinct persona. Many feminist Wiccan groups, including the aptly-named Dianic Wiccan tradition, honor Diana in her role as the embodiment of the sacred feminine. She is often associated with the powers of the moon, and in some classical artwork is portrayed wearing a crown that features a crescent moon.

2nd century B.C., Germany, Berlin, Pergamonmuseum (Archaeological Museum), Hellenistic art
Hecate is associated with magic and the full moon. DEA / E. LESSING / Getty Images

Hecate was originally venerated as a mother goddess, but during the Ptolemaic period in Alexandria was elevated to her position as goddess of ghosts and the spirit world. Many contemporary Pagans and Wiccans honor Hecate in her guise as a Dark Goddess, although it would be incorrect to refer to her as an aspect of the Crone, because of her connection to both childbirth and maidenhood. It's more likely that her role as "dark goddess" comes from her connection to the spirit world, ghosts, the dark moon, and magic.

The epic poet Hesiod tells us Hecate was the only child of Asteria, a star goddess who was the aunt of Apollo and Artemis. The event of Hecate's birth was tied to the reappearance of Phoebe, a lunar goddess, who appeared during the darkest phase of the moon.

08
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Selene (Greek)

Full Moon Over Parthenon
The Greeks paid tribute to Selene on the night of the full moon. Grant Faint / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

Selene was the sister of Helios, the Greek sun god. Tribute was paid to her on the days of the full moon. Like many Greek goddesses, she had a number of different aspects. At one point she was worshiped as Phoebe, the huntress, and later was identified with Artemis.

Her lover was a young shepherd prince named Endymion, who was granted immortality by Zeus. However, he was also granted eternal slumber, so all that immortality and eternal youth was wasted on Endymion. The shepherd was doomed to sleeping in a cave forever, so Selene descended from the sky every night to sleep beside him. Unlike most other lunar goddesses of Greece, Selene is the only one who is actually portrayed as the moon incarnate by the early classical poets.

09
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Sina (Polynesian)

Full Moon in Polynesia
In Polynesia, Sina resides within the moon itself. Grant Faint / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Sina is one of the best-known Polynesian deities. She resides within the moon itself, and is the protector of those who might travel at night. Originally, she lived on earth, but got tired of the way her husband and family treated her. So, she packed up her belongings and left to go live in the moon, according to Hawaiian legend. In Tahiti, the story goes that Sina, or Hina, simply got curious about what it was like on the moon, and so paddled her magical canoe until she got there. Once she had arrived, she was struck by the moon's tranquil beauty and decided to stay.

Thoth Carving in Temple
Thoth the scribe is associated with the moon's mysteries. Cheryl Forbes / Lonely Planet / Getty Images

Thoth was an Egyptian god of magic and wisdom, and appears in a few legends as the god who weighs the souls of the dead, although many other stories assign that job to Anubis. Because Thoth is a lunar deity, he is often portrayed wearing a crescent on his head. He is closely associated with Seshat, a goddess of writing and wisdom, who is known as the scribe of the divine.

Thoth is sometimes called upon for workings related to wisdom, magic, and fate. He may also be invoked if you're working on anything to do with writing or communications–creating a Book of Shadows or writing a spell, speaking words of healing or meditation, or mediating a dispute.