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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/635

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SOUTH SLAVIC MOON-MYTHS.

walking. Coming to a small bay, lie sat down and rested there for three days, till, getting hungry, he began to catch crabs and eat them. He relished them so well as to eat up nearly all there were. But God would not let this come to pass, and therefore raised a great wind that took the saint up into the air. He traveled through space for three days, and reached the moon in the night. Here the saint was punished by having to look down into the sea all the night long and see the crabs grow. Then so great hunger came upon Elias that he bit off piece after piece from the moon and swallowed them; and if God the Lord had not been gracious enough to order the moon to increase, the saint would have died of hunger after eating it, and have fallen to the earth and been broken into a thousand pieces. Yet God spared him and transplanted him to the moon; else he would have eaten up all the crabs in the sea, and at another time would have had only empty disappointment. Thus the moon decreases and increases according as the saint eats or fasts.

If we divest the fable of its unessentials, which may be set to the account of some unknown poet, there is left a feature of international folk-lore, viz., that sins have to be expiated in the moon. As in German superstition, so also in that of the South Slavs, the man in the moon is a desecrator of the holy Sabbath rest. Sometimes he is a wood-cutter, sometimes a blacksmith. The story reads that a wood-cutter, having stolen some wood in the forest on Sunday, was condemned to be a wood-destroyer in the moon for all eternity. He can be seen at full moon, sometimes with an axe in his hand, sometimes with a bundle of sticks on his back.

Another version tells that there was once a blacksmith who knew how to make skeleton keys with which one could open any lock, and, because he did this on Sundays and holidays, was condemned to work forever in the moon. It may be in deference to the conception of the ghost of Frau Mictlwoch, who was punished for desecrating a holy day by spinning, that a spinner is sometimes substituted for a man in the moon. The Swabians also find a spinner there.

A maiden was accustomed to spin late on Saturday in the moonlight. At one time the new moon on the eve of Sunday drew her up to itself, and since then she has sat in the moon and spun. And now, when the "gossamer days" set in late in the summer, the white threads float around in the air. These threads are the spinnings of the lunar spinner.

The moon is especially a weird avenger of human arrogance, and has its humors, according to which things go well or ill with it. In its waxing it has a special force and a certain good-will for the earth and its inhabitants, while in its wane it is friendly