The Man in the Moon
From Ian’s Lunar Pages:
There are many European legends explaining how the man in the moon got there, the most popular says that he was banished there by Moses, for gathering firewood upon the sabbath.
“And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the lord said unto Moses, The man shall surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones till he died.” (Numbers XV. 32-36)
The belief that the man was banished to the moon persisted throughout the middle ages.
… In his book “Curious myths of the middle ages” Sabine Baring-Gould reproduces other versions of this story, and finds references to the figure in the moon, from ancient Rome and Egypt. In one version of the story, the man is carrying willow bows. In another he is a sheep stealer who entices sheep with cabbages.
The man is formed from the Mare Serenitatis, tranquilitatis and foecunditatis. The dog is the Mare Crisium. According to one interpretation, The forked stick which he carries is a ray from the crater “Tycho” (click here to see the Man in the Moon).
Carl Sagan, quoted on “The Man in the Moon and other weird things”:
What do we actually see when we look up at the Moon with the naked eye? We make out a configuration of irregular bright and dark markings – not a close representation of any familiar object. But, almost irresistibly, our eyes connect the markings, emphasizing some, ignoring others. We seek a pattern, and we find one. In world myth and folklore, many images are seen: a woman weaving, stands of laurel trees, an elephant jumping off a cliff, a girl with a basket on her back, a rabbit, the lunar intestines spilled out on its surface after evisceration by an irritable flightless bird, a woman pounding tapa cloth, a four-eyed jaguar. People of one culture have trouble understanding how such bizarre things could be seen by the people of another.