I tend to be obsessed with the sun and moon in mythology, likely because of its implications when it comes to human gender. The other week, I was pondering the missing moon deity situation. While climbing the stairs, an idea came to me: Look at Midir.
In Ceiswr Serith’s reconstructed Proto-Indo-European system, the moon deity is a god: Menos, the measurer. Among the Norse, this deity would be known as Mani, among the Slavs as Myesyats. If the Celts followed the PIE pattern (female Sun, male Moon) rather than the Greco-Roman pattern, who would be the moon god?
One possible meaning of Midir, or Midhir, derives from the word “to measure” — as does Serith’s Menos. The moon has long been linked to measurement; its cycles compose a natural calendar system. Is Midhir the same as Menos?
The evidence is inconclusive, at best. Midhir is Aonghus Og’s foster-father and a son of Dagda — nothing that would prevent him from being the moon god. The likely sun goddess candidate, Aine/Grian, is a daughter of Manannan. Parentage is no guarantee, although origins among the Tuatha de Danann are likely more promising than those among the Fomhoire or Firbolg.
He’s known most for his second wife, Etain, whom his first wife, Fuamnach, transforms magically into a variety of shapes. Etain, as many know, becomes human and is eventually returned to Midir, both traveling in the form of swans to his brugh. While it’s not exactly common in the workaday world, I imagine this sort of scenario can happen to many a polyamorous God.
His purported daughter is Blathnat — flower-face, similar to the Welsh Blodeuwedd. His sacred animal is the crane; he had a triad of them that were no friend to travelers, urging them to pass the house by. (Perhaps they were the first security system.) Bad luck birds, those cranes — loony, perhaps.
Quite a few Web sites out there regard Midhir as an underworld deity, similar to Hades or the Welsh Annwn. Frankly, I’ve never gotten that impression when I’ve read the myths where he’s been featured. And I’m drawn back to that moment on the stairs, when the name of Midhir came to me.
Is Midhir the moon god? There’s no firm evidence either way, other than the name. But it’s an enticing possibility.