Weekly Deity: Selene


Roman version of Diana/Selene

Selene, the Greek goddess of the moon.  In Rome she was known as Luna.  Selene was the Titanic pantheon precursor to Artemis, who then became the dominant moon goddess in the Olympian pantheon.

Attributes

Like her brother, Helios, Selene rides in a chariot across the sky.  It is silver and pulled by two horses.  Sometimes she is seen riding a horse or a bull.  She resembles a young woman with an extremely white or bright face, she wears robes and carries a torch or torches, and upon her brow is a crescent moon.

Mythology

Selene was a Titan, which means she came before the Olympian gods (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, etc.).  Selene, being the moon, was an archaic and ancient deity, and held a very high-ranking place in the pantheon before the Olympians took over.  Her parents were Hyperion, the Titan god of light, and Theia, a Titaness of primordial origin who has no clear-cut function, but is associated with light and the sun.  Selene has two siblings, Helios and Eos, the sun and the dawn.  She has one child by Zeus, a daughter named Pandia, the personification of brightness and the goddess of the full moon.  By her long-time lover Endymion who is practically her husband, Selene had fifty daughters, the Menae, who were nymphs/goddesses who presided over the phases of the moon.

The most well-known story of Selene involves Endymion.  Selene fell in love with Endymion, a mortal.  Different versions list him as a shepherd, a hunter, or a king.  He was so handsome that Selene asked Zeus to grant him eternal sleep so he would stay young forever.  Another version says that Selene asked Zeus to grant Endymion the chance to choose his own fate, because she loved him so much.  He did, and Endymion chose to never grow old in an endless sleep.  Here the two versions join again, for Endymion sleeps forever and is visited every night in his sleep by Selene and kissed by her rays of moonlight.

The Roman orator Cicero noted that Selene acted on her own, without asking Zeus.  Her asking permission instead of granting the wish herself in the version we have now is not likely to be the original story, considering what Cicero said, and it is rather the transformation of an older story to reflect the rise of the Olympian gods’ power.

After Helios finishes his rides across the sky in his fiery chariot, Selene bathes in the sea and begins her own journey.

Light and Dark Sides

Selene is a very interesting goddess.  She has such personality, and she seems so genuine, that it’s hard not to like her.  Her love affairs don’t appear to hurt anyone, nor does she seem to be jealous or vindictive (there is no record of such a myth, at least).  But she does seem to be heavily influenced by emotion, and specifically love.  She asks for a mortal to be given eternity simply because she loves him–that’s a steep price to pay for the love of a goddess.  However, she is said to have the form of a young woman, and despite her age as an ancient figure, she behaves rather like a young woman overcome constantly by love and desire.  This is in keeping though with some of the attributes of the moon, namely that it has an effect on mortal emotions and actions depending on its phase (when the moon is full it’s said there are more people acting crazy than when it’s not, for example, and many police and hospital personnel will confirm that).

Overall, she doesn’t seem to cause any real harm to anyone, nor does she ever seem to harbor ill-will.  Her actions may have been somewhat selfish in regards to Endymion, but it also depends on the version you read–if you read the one in which he chooses his fate, then Selene is relieved of that burden.  Therefore, she is a Light goddess, with mostly benevolent influence and intentions.

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One response to “Weekly Deity: Selene

  1. Pingback: Weekly Deity: Eos | A Witchy Life

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