Once there was, and there was not, a village where love prevailed. The people treated one another with kindness, respected the animals, birds, trees, plants, all living things contained within the village boundaries. Beyond its borders there were treacherous bogs and noisome swamps. These the people avoided, fearing the great black pools of bog water, the deceptive greenery of the marsh moss, the foul smelling liquid that squirted out should someone step upon it.
Though they would gladly have remained always in their village, at times it was necessary to cross the swamp whether to visit a friend or family member, to consult a lawyer or business associate, to seek mentoring from a poet, artist or musician. These journeys were best made in daylight, but if someone needed to cross the marsh in darkness, the light of the loving Mother Moon would guide the villager’s steps among the pools and marshes.
But on nights when she did not shine, evil creatures who dwelt in the depth of the swamp would emerge to harm any villager they could find.
Word of this treachery reached Mother Moon. Her heart was stirred with compassion for her beloved villagers. She decided she must come to earth to see for herself what was happening. When the dark of the month came, she wrapped herself in her dark cloak, carefully tucking inside the hood her bright nimbus of golden hair. She took advantage of a shooting star that carried her to the edge of the bog.
She walked carefully across the oozing ground, guided only by the light of her graceful white feet below her cloak, and by the starlight reflecting in the dark pools. She was almost at the edge of a great sucking bog hole when she tripped. She reached out to a bush to regain her footing, but its fierce branches wound themselves around her wrists and arms.
The more she struggled to free herself, the more was she entrapped.
Just then, from across the swamp, she heard a cry for help. One of her beloved villagers, lost and afraid, was coming nearer to the flickering light reflected in the very black pool she herself had just avoided. How would she warn the man? Desperate to offer light, Mother Moon shook her head until her black hood slipped backwards. Her golden hair shone like a warning, a lighthouse in a stormy night sea. The evil creatures slithered away. The man, relieved to see them disappear, chose safer ground and hurried straight home.
Now Mother Moon struggled even harder to free herself. But all her efforts were in vain. At last her head bowed in exhaustion causing her dark hood to fall forward, snuffing the light of her hair.
At once, the evil creatures surged towards her, attacking her, biting, kicking, driving her deeper into the mud. When the first faint grey of dawn appeared, the evil ones found a heavy boulder. This they placed above her and slithered away.
Night after night came, and the new moon did not appear. Night-time without the moon’s light became a time of terror. Villagers were lost in the bog, and the evil creatures grew bolder, terrorizing the land. Everywhere there was suffering. People grew afraid of the darkness that swallowed the land each night.
Desperate, the villagers sought guidance from the wise woman who lived in the old mill at the edge of the village… She told them to take stones and hazel twigs with them to the marshes. They were to look for a large boulder close by a dark pool…
When they came upon the place, they glimpsed a small lip of light around the edge of the great stone. Together, men women and children placed their left shoulders against one side of the stone and pushed it over.
They looked down in wonder on the most beautiful face they had ever seen or imagined. She gazed back at them with immense love in her eyes. And as the fleeing creatures wailed in terror, vanishing forever, the moon rose into the sky bright and beautiful as ever on most nights.
And in the nights when she does not shine, the villagers stay home, gathering by their firesides. They tell their children the story of the loving Mother Moon who died for her people, and rose again.
(This old English folktale is adapted from Anita A. Johnston Eating in the Light of the Moon, Gurze Books, Carlsbad, California, 2000)