Chang’O, Lady – The Moon Lady
Although other places describe a man in the moon, in Chinese cosmology, the moon is inhabited by Lady Chang’O, a beautiful, lonely woman. There are different versions of how she ended up there, but in all of them, she secretly swallows the Elixir of Immortality, which may have been intended for her husband, Yi the Archer, only, or possibly for both of them. She either swallows his portion, or if there are two, then she swallows both. She receives more than she anticipated: Chang’O expected to be made an immortal, which indeed occurred. However, she unexpectedly floated up into the sky and onto the moon. Lady Chang’O lives alone on the moon in a palace made of cinnamon wood; her sole companions are a three-legged toad and the rabbit in the moon who pounds out the elixir of immortality with his mortar and pestle.
Lady Chang’O was never just an ordinary mortal. Prior to her marriage to Yi the Archer, Lady Chang’O was among the attendants of Hsi Wang Mu, Queen Mother of the West. Even in exile on the moon, Lady Chang’O is a powerful presence on Earth. China’s lunar exploration program is named in her honour. She stars in The Moon Lady, the best-selling children’s book by Amy Tan and Gretchen Schields.
Lady Chang’O is celebrated during the annual Moon Festival, also known as the Autumn Harvest Festival. It’s the time to invoke her blessings and also the time when she grants secret wishes. (Not just any wishes: they must be your secret desires.) Her moon festival celebrates the power of Yin: the universe’s divine feminine force. Although the Moon Festival is her big night, those who adore her may venerate Lady Chang’O year round. Votive statues are available.
Lady Chang’O provides oracles during the Moon Festival. Light a stick of incense for her altar, then whisper your wish or question. Be silent and listen. The first words heard from passersby represent Lady Chang’O’s answer.
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Lady Chang’O is invariably described as very beautiful.
Gaze up at the full moon celebrated at the Moon Festival and articulate your secret wish, addressing Lady Chang’O. This may be done silently; make sure no one else hears. It’s crucial that the wish be secret. Theoretically, Lady Chang’O expects no payment for favours done on this night: it’s an example of noblesse oblige, but it wouldn’t hurt to light some incense for her and pour her a libation of wine.
The Moon Festival occurs on the 15th day of the 8th Chinese lunar month.
During the Moon Festivals, altars dedicated to Chang’O are placed outside in the moonlight. Votive statues of the lady may be incorporated, but the focal point of the altar is usually an image of the Moon Hare surrounded by thirteen moon cakes, one for each month of the lunar calendar. Add five more plates, each filled with a different fruit representing different blessings: apples, grapes, melons, peaches, and pomegranates.
Candles; incense sticks; moon cakes: special round, filled pastries commercially available during the Moon Festival. Fillings often represent desires: for instance, a filling of watermelon seeds may indicate the wish for sons. The tops of the small cakes may be ornamented with pictures of the moon rabbit, Lady Chang’O, or auspicious wishes for longevity or good health. (They may be imprinted with the name of the bakery, too.)
- Chieh Lin;
- Hsi Wang Mu;
- Jade Maidens
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.