Both the Moon and Star or Stars are among the most popular tattoo designs in the world. But what is the unique significance and symbolism behind a Crescent Moon, accompanied by a Star?
Many, many moons ago, long before the Turks converted to Islam and adopted the crescent moon and star as central emblems for their national flag, the moon and the star were symbols of their shamanistic beliefs. It was also the symbol of the ancient city of Byzantium (Istanbul), which was conquered by Osman, founder of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Osman dreamt of a crescent moon hanging over the entire world, so he kept it as a symbol of his conquest, and as a symbol of the Ottoman dynasty.
As battles between Turks and Christians raged across Europe and beyond, the crescent moon and star were mistakenly attributed to the Islamic faith. However, Islam has historically had no symbol or symbols – in fact there is a disdain within Islam for the use of iconic symbols – and many Muslims find its use blasphemous, even to this day. After all, the moon and star used in conjunction were originally pagan icons. Though the Crescent Moon and a Star appear on the flags of several Muslim countries, it should be seen more as a historical symbol of the land, the territory or the empire, rather than of a state religion.
The flag that fluttered over the ancient city of Byzantium probably paid homage to the ancient gods of vegetation and the hunt. It may also have honored the Goddess, Diana. In the West, we know of the moon as governing the female principles of instincts, moods, tides, mystery, receptivity, feminine strength, and sex. It’s all about stillness and darkness. A deeper look suggests however that the moon is the embodiment of the Divine, from which everything comes, even the masculine.
The ancients, and early man – hunters and gatherers – believed that out of darkness came light, the moon gave rise to the sun and the masculine emerged from the feminine. Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Sumeria held the crescent moon as representative of both the masculine and feminine. A crescent moon is in itself a symbol of transition and transformation as the moon moves through its cycles. There is symbolic significance to all the stages of the lunar cycle, from full moon, to waxing and waning and the rare occasions when the moon disappears – often as part of an eclipse.
For early farmers and agricultural societies – the very seed of modern civilization – there were often very strict guidelines that used the cycles and stages of the moon as a calendar for the planting and harvesting of crops, and for religious and civil ceremonies. The moon literally was the time-keeper for early cultures. Thus a crescent moon and a star represent the heavens and all that is divine, with powerful feminine overtones. That is a powerful tattoo symbol!
‘Moon’, the word itself, can be traced back to its ancient Indo-European root meaning, “to measure”. Time was measured by the moon, and tides could be predicted from the moon’s position, which led to the development of the calendar. The god of the moon was also Lord of Time. From prehistoric times, earth’s nearest celestial neighbor has been an object of fascination and curiosity. Many cultures regarded it as a deity and believed its power and magic could transform humans into beasts and send people crazy. Hence the word, Lunatic, which comes from the Latin, luna.
The Australian aborigines believed that the moon made women pregnant, based on the recognition of the moon influencing the woman’s menstrual cycles. In India it represents the principle of reflection, since, without light from the sun, the moon would not be seen. It is also seen as the ruler over the senses and emotions.
When moon worship clashed with established religious practices (particularly in Europe), many signs and symbols associated with the moon were considered evil or demonic. Bats, black cats and witches on broomsticks with the full moon lighting their way became symbols of darkness and evil. More benign symbols associated with the Moon are the owl, symbol of wisdom and sacred lunar mysteries. The crystal represents the full moon and its divinatory powers, while the moonstone is said to cure nervousness and bring good luck to its owner. The Aztecs believed that the black jaguar or panther pulled the moon across the night sky and that the yellow jaguar pulled the sun across the day sky. Many cultures associate animals, particularly predators that hunt at night, with the magic of the moon and with special powers of transformation. Wolves and owls are two good examples of this. These animals were often seen as spirit guides for Shamans, Healers and Medicine Men.
As a symbol of mystery and romance, the silvery moon continues to shine its magic for lovers and poets proclaiming its powers. In a more down to earth way, its symbolism works wonders when promoting commercial products. The crescent moon, associated all over the world with the cycles of the month, and by extension, the ocean tides and women, was used in Japan as a logo for selling pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and hygiene products, as far back as the 1870′s. The shining symbols of the crescent moon and the star were thought to imbue commercial products with auspicious associations, specifically the illumination of heaven and the gods.
Get inspired by some really great images and tattoos in our Crescent Moon Tattoo Gallery