image: Wikimedia commons (link).
This Sunday, September 27, marks the beginning of the traditional celebration of mid-Autumn festival in China and Vietnam. It is a very ancient holiday, its observance stretching back to as early as 3600 years ago, and perhaps even earlier, and it is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. Great effort is usually made to travel and be with family on this day, much like Thanksgiving in the US, and for several days around the holiday many businesses and markets are closed as people make their way back to the places where they grew up, in order to celebrate with their extended families.
The Chinese characters for this holiday are 中 秋 節 which is pronounced Zhong Qiu Jie in Mandarin and Jung Chau Jit in Cantonese, and which translates literally into "Mid-Autumn-Day" or "Middle-Fall-Holiday" (or even more literally the "Mid-Autumn-Node").
Jung Chau Jit is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, the fifteenth day corresponding in general to the full moon in a lunar month (because a lunar month commences with a new moon, and the moon waxes for fourteen days to become full, which happens on the fifteenth day, and then wanes for fourteen more days to the point of another new moon), and so this festival always falls very close to or directly upon the day of a full moon, as it does this year.
Thus, the Mid-Autumn Holiday is also a Moon Festival, and is in fact often called the Moon Festival, and an important tradition during the days (weeks!) leading up to this holiday and on the day of the holiday itself is the giving of round "mooncakes," light gold in color and filled with a variety of different kinds of heavy, sweet fillings, and sometimes with a candied egg yolk:
image: Wikimedia commons (link).
These are traditionally served by being cut carefully into four equal quarters (a little combination cutting-and-serving implement, something like a small version of a cake trowel, is often included in commercially-sold mooncake boxes or packages), with each person present being given one section. The cakes themselves often have "blessing" words baked into the top of them.
Being a Moon Festival, the holiday is also closely associated with the Moon Goddess, pictured at top, whose name is 嫦 娥 which is pronounced Chang Er in Mandarin and Seung Ngo in Cantonese and translates rather directly into "Chang the Beautiful" or "Seung the Beautiful."
There is a legend about Seung Ngo and her husband, 后 羿 being banished from the heavenly realms by the Jade Emperor (whom we met in the earlier discussion of the Lantern Festival, which takes place in the first lunar month) and having to live down upon the earth as mortals (his name is pronounced Hou Yi in Mandarin and Hau Ngai in Cantonese, and it means something like "King Archer").
In the legend, he is distraught at the idea that his beautiful wife, having been banished from the celestial realms, is now faced with mortality, and so he seeks and eventually obtains an elixir of immortality which will restore their immortality to them. However, as so often happens in such myths, the plan goes awry, when she is forced to drink it all herself (either to keep it from a marauding robber who breaks in to steal it from her while her husband is away, or because she is overcome with curiosity while he is asleep, and drinks the whole elixir without knowing the consequences).
As soon as she does, she feels herself floating up into the heavens, without her unfortunate husband, who is left behind as a mortal. The two are thus separated forever, but Seung Ngo settles on the Moon, where she can look down upon Hau Ngai, and he can gaze up to her new home and think of her.
Having examined some of the most prominent aspects of this important ancient holy day, we are now in a position to benefit from the deep knowledge contained within its symbols and forms.
Because this poignant myth, and all the other symbols of the Mid-Autumn Festival, are powerful symbols which speak to truths about our incarnate existence, this existence in which we find ourselves crossing the "underworld" of the material realm in a physical body -- which is closely associated with the figure of the moon in the ancient system of celestial metaphor -- but doing so with the dimly-remembered awareness that we are separated from our true home (and disconnected from our higher "divine twin") during this earthly sojourn, and that we are in fact actually spiritual beings as much or more than we are physical beings.
The festival, positioned in the time of year next to fall equinox, contains the same symbols of a goddess and the fall from the celestial realm into the mortal incarnate life associated with the point of autumn equinox literally worldwide in the ancient myths.
- The presence of a goddess-figure (in this case, the goddess Seung Ngo, or Chang Er), goddess figures being shown in the previous post to be associated in ancient myth the world over with the point of fall equinox and the plunge into incarnation.
- A myth in which there is a prominent theme of expulsion from the heavenly realm and banishment to the earthly realm (the plunge into this lower realm), featuring a duo in which one of the pair is mortal and one divine: just as we, in this incarnate life, find ourselves "crossed" with a physical body and an internal divine spark.
- The incorporation of moon-themes to go along with the incarnation theme of the fall equinox (dominated by the presence of a goddess at the point of incarnation). As Alvin Boyd Kuhn demonstrates in extended discussions found in Lost Light, published in 1940, the ancient myths and sacred traditions very often used the moon to symbolize our incarnate form, and the sun our divine spirit, which lights up and animates our physical body in the same way that the sun gives its light to the moon (see pages 115 and following, for example, or 520 and following, or 139 and following, or 521 and following). In that exploration of ancient myth, Kuhn says quite explicitly: "The sun types soul, always, the moon, body" (479), and elsewhere: "The moon being the parent of the mortal body, lunar symbolism was prominently introduced into the portrayal "(140).
- The connection of the moon (our incarnate side) with the idea of water, seas, oceans, and incarnation (through the tides, and also through the internal tides of our body), which also connects with the goddess-ocean connection discussed in the previous post (with examples which demonstrated the "mother-ocean" connection inherent in the names of Mary, Tiamat, and Aphrodite, as well as in the Chinese ideograms for mother and ocean).
- The tradition of gathering together with family at the Moon Festival, representative of the idea that we align the cycle of our personal lives and our physical motions (often traveling great distances) with the cycles of the earth, sun, moon and stars: reinforcing the profound connection between "microcosm" and "macrocosm" discussed in the preceding post (and many others), a connection which the ancient myths and sacred traditions of the human race the world over all seek to convey.
- The tradition of gathering together with family at the Moon Festival, which also commemorates our physical, material entry into this incarnate life, which is celebrated when we honor our family and especially our parents.
- Traditions in this holiday (especially as celebrated in Vietnam) which focus on children and proclaim it to be a holiday which honors young children, who are just embarking upon their journey through the incarnate human life.
- The tradition that mooncakes are cut up into four quarters, which is clearly connected with the lunar symbology, but also with the concept of "crossing" or the crucifixion of this incarnate life (see numerous previous posts which demonstrate that the Great Cross of the year was associated in ancient myth with the twin components of incarnate human existence: the horizontal component representing the physical, "dead," "animal" nature of our body, and the vertical component representing the spiritual, divine, celestial component of the invisible and infinite realm which the ancient myths tell us is actually all around us and also within us and within every other being with whom we come into contact).
Clearly, then, the Mid-Autumn Festival preserves a great many symbols which carry a profound spiritual message, using the symbology of the moon (associated with incarnation), the casting down from the spiritual realms into incarnate existence (in the story of Hou Yi and Chang Er, or Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo), the myth regarding a married couple who are extremely close but who find themselves in the condition of one divine and one mortal (the "divine twin" pattern found around the world, including in the myth of Castor and Pollux but also of Jesus and Thomas and many others), the traditions of gathering with family and ordering our lives in accordance with the cycles of earth, sun, moon and stars, and the traditions of honoring our physical family and our parents, who brought us into this incarnate body in the first place.
It is also worth pointing out, in passing (although it could become a full-length examination and discussion) that a great many Chinese characters which use the symbol for "the moon" actually refer to our physical human body. The Chinese ideogram for "moon" is:
Other words whose ideograms use this as a "radical" in their Chinese character, and which relate to the physical human body, include:
The ribs or chest:
The armpit, or arms:
Pelvis, groin or thighs:
Internal organs, guts, viscera:
Fat, plump, or obese:
And there are many others.
Some scholars or those familiar with Chinese radicals may argue that none of the above characters are actually connected with "the moon," even though the radical looks just like the Chinese symbol for the moon, because the actual radical for "meat" -- which looks like this --
ends up looking like the symbol for "the moon" when it functions as a radical in a compound character.
That is a valid argument, but we must ask ourselves why that "meat" symbol turns into a "moon" symbol in all of these ideograms? The answer, of course, could very well be the fact that the ancient wisdom of the human race universally acknowledged an esoteric connection between the moon and the physical, corporeal, carnal ("meat") body.
And so it becomes clear that all of the symbology of the culturally significant and anciently-established Mid-Autumn-Festival can be shown to be connected to other mythological symbols used in other myths around the world -- all of them designed to impart to us profound gnosis regarding our human condition here in this incarnate life, including the fact that we are not merely physical beings but that our human nature consists of both a physical and a spiritual component, that our physical "moon" form (associated with water) is illuminated by our spiritual "solar" and divine nature (associated with fire and with air -- or spirit).
Now, very briefly, let us also note the fact that because the Mid-Autumn-Festival always falls on or very near a full moon, it will also periodically happen that this anciently-ordained observation will coincide with a lunar eclipse. Previous posts on the actual celestial mechanics of the moon phases (see here, here, and here) have explained why lunar eclipses must always coincide with a full moon, and why solar eclipses must always correspond to a new moon (not every full moon is a lunar eclipse, of course, nor every new moon a solar -- but every lunar eclipse occurs at full moon, and every solar eclipse occurs at new moon).
This September 27 full moon also happens to take place when the moon is passing through a "lunar node" (a "crossing point" with the plane of the ecliptic of the earth) and will therefore result in a total lunar eclipse visible for most of the Americas, Africa and Europe (see resources from Sky & Telescope regarding this eclipse available here).
Not only is this a total lunar eclipse, but it is also a total lunar eclipse which corresponds to the moon's closest approach on its orbit around the earth, when it is physically closer to us and thus appears physically larger in the sky -- all of which add up to the promise of a spectacular heavenly event this weekend.
This particular moon (all month long) is in fact known universally as the Harvest Moon (in China also), which is traditionally understood to be the brightest moon of the year.
All of these factors argue that this weekend's lunar eclipse should be worth going out and watching, if at all possible in your particular global location and circumstance.
As the moon enters the shadow of the earth, it will take on a dusky red hue -- which (only recently) has begun to be designated as a "blood moon" by some in the popular media and in certain evangelical circles (largely based upon a literalistic interpretation of certain Old and New Testament scriptures which I believe can be definitively shown to be esoteric in nature and not literalistic in nature). Scriptures in the Old and New Testament which describe the moon as turning to blood or being bathed in blood include the following texts:
Joel 2:31 "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come."
Acts 2:20 "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:"
Revelation 6:12 "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;"
Alvin Boyd Kuhn actually addresses many of these Biblical passages directly, and argues (with extensive textual evidence) that the description of the "moon becoming as blood" only emphasizes even more dramatically the esoteric symbolical connection between the moon and our physical body in this human life.
Discussing the passage cited above from Revelation 6, he explains among the metaphors given:
along with the darkness over the earth, the veiled sun, the blood-stained moon, is that "the stars from the heavens fell." In the same place we read that "when the message of the third angel was sounded forth, a great star went down from heaven and it fell upon the earth." Another star fell at the sounding of the trumpet of the fifth angel. The various legends, then, of falling stars become invested with unexpected significance as being disguised allusions to the descent of the angelic myriads to our shores , -- to become our souls. 116.
In other words, Kuhn here argues that the metaphors in Revelation 6 (and indeed throughout the Bible) all have to do with our incarnate condition, consisting of a "crossing" between spirit (symbolized by the sun) and matter (our material bodies, symbolized by the moon).
This interpretation (according to Alvin Boyd Kuhn) would include the metaphor of the earth being enshrouded by darkness -- because we plunge down to incarnation in the lower half of the zodiac wheel, as described in numberless previous posts. The lower half of the wheel is the half in which night triumphs over daylight (initiated by the fall equinox, when the hours of darkness begin to be longer than the hours of light, in each 24-hour period):
It would include (according to Kuhn) the moon being bathed in blood -- because the moon represents our incarnate condition, our sojourn in a body composed of water and blood and clay, our crossing of the "Red Sea" (which can be metaphorically seen to be the crossing which each and every human being undertakes, going through life in a human body through which courses the "red sea" of the blood in our veins and arteries).
It would include (according to Kuhn) the stars being cast out of heaven and forced to "fall upon the earth" -- for this is the very condition in which we find ourselves, as human souls who dimly realize that we come from a spiritual home, but who have been exiled (just like Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo) upon this material plane.
In other words, the passages in Revelation (and all the other esoteric Biblical scriptures) are describing our own human experience, our experience as divine beings who have been "crossed with" physical, material, animal bodies during this incarnate life.
And this is just what all the other Star Myths of the world are trying to convey to us as well! (Note that it can be conclusively demonstrated that the passages of the book of Revelation involving the opening of the seven seals are absolutely based upon metaphorical descriptions of the constellations in our night sky, as I demonstrate briefly in this previous post regarding Revelation Chapter 9: they are all allegorical celestial metaphors which use the awe-inspiring motions of the heavenly cycles to convey truths to us about the invisible realm).
Indeed, all of these metaphors and sacred scriptures are designed to convey to us the very same truths conveyed through the ancient metaphors connected to the Mid-Autumn-Festival celebrated in China and Vietnam and some other surrounding cultures from time immemorial.
As the day of the first full moon after fall equinox approaches, it is a time for contemplation and reflection upon our human condition in this incarnate life -- our "plunge into matter" which in ancient myth was associated with the point of the fall equinox, with the goddess at the edge of the ocean (or the goddess of the Moon), and with the "crossing" of our divine nature with a physical body.
And yet, even as we are plunged into this physical human form, we are given forms and symbols and myths and stories and scriptures to remind us that this material world that is visible and perceptible to our senses is not all that there is, and that this physical "animal" human body we inhabit is not all that we are.
Just as the moon is illuminated by the fire of the sun's life-giving rays, so our material nature is illuminated and animated by a higher spiritual self that exists "above and beyond" our merely physical carcass.
Just like the mooncake in the Jung Chau Jit celebration, which is divided and quartered into four equal sections, we ourselves are made up of a "cross," a "crucifix," a "quartered whole" consisting of both a horizontal line (between the equinoxes, and associated with matter) and a vertical line (between the solstices, reaching towards infinity, and associated with all that is spiritual, and with raising the spiritual aspect within ourselves and with calling it forth in those we meet and indeed in all of creation around us).
I sincerely wish you a very blessed Mid-Autumn Festival, and harmony between the microcosm and macrocosm. May all beings be freed from suffering and filled with peace and joy, love and light.