If you ask what phenomenon played a vital part in developing the human imagination to believe in a life after death, it was, quite simply, observing the moon. The part that the moon has played in resurrection beliefs is one of the most fascinating subjects in the history of religions.
The sun is always the same.. The moon, on the other hand, is born new, grows to maturity, dies and is resurrected. The period of the new moon–the resurrection of the moon–became one of the most important religious celebrations in all primitive cultures.
As late as 600 B.C. in the Hebrew culture of the Old Testament, the new moon demanded special and generous offerings and sacrifices. The Hebrew Sabbath was originally a new moon celebration. As the moon is reborn at the end of the third day, so shall the dead be reborn to a new life.
And do not miss this next fact. Even church father St. Augustine, writing within the framework of 4th century Christianity, still used the cycles of the moon as his “proof” that there was a resurrection from the dead. Other church fathers used the same argument as “proof.” Little did they realize, in their primitive superstitions, that someday we would walk on that same moon.
“On the third day he rose again from the dead” is a phrase found in primal religious liturgies that refer to the resurrection of the moon after the third night of darkness. “As the moon dies and cometh to life again, so we also, having to die will rise again,” declared the San Juan Capistrano Indians in celebrating the new moon.
Basically the moon was “she,” for the Moon-Goddess created time, with its cycles of creation, growth, decline and destruction. This is why almost all ancient calendars were based on phases of the moon and menstrual cycles. Calendar and “time” consciousness developed first in women, because of their natural menstrual body calendar, correlated with observations of the moon’s phases.
Chinese women established a lunar calendar 4000 years ago based on the menstrual cycle. The great and well known Mayan calendar was based on phases of the moon and the menstrual cycles.
And so, even today in 2001, our date for the Christian “Easter” is still determined by the moon and the menstrual calendar. The first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox was the time also when the Goddess slew and re-conceived the Savior vegetation god for a new season.
Practically every ritual being observed today in Christian churches had their origin thousands of years ago in primitive religions, from ritualistic cannibalism to the date for Easter. Today’s “mass” and “communion,” where the people are asked to “eat” and “drink” of the body and blood of Jesus, is an obvious vestige of a universal ritual in our religious history.
“Easter,” of course, is not even a Christian word. It is the Springtime festival named for the Saxon Goddess Eostre, or Ostara. The sacred month of this Goddess was the Moon of Eostre and the menstrual calendar of this Goddess sets the date.
At the next resurrection of the new moon, stop and look up at that cosmic phenomenon with a new eye, and a new appreciation for all that moon-glow has contributed to your religious beliefs.