English is a very accessible language. We can put “the” before any common noun, and that’s it. Speakers of many other languages are busy sorting out whether a word is male, neutral or female and then choose the correct determiner.
In terms of the name, languages seem to disagree. The Latin word “Luna” is female. Same goes for: Hold, Lune, Lua, all girls. But wait.. The German word for moon: Mond, is male?
How about the sun? The Greek sungod Helios is male. The Latin word Sol is male, en the related French Soleil is also a dude. The German-speaking disagree. Die Sonne is a mrs. Astrologically this seems incorrect, the sungods are male. Looking at the history of the languages this seems also wrong at first glance. The why do the Germans mix things up?
There are a couple of theories for this:
The Bad-Weather-Theory: Some Germans think their sun is male because of the weather, “We never see the sun, so our sun is a wimp and not a real guy”. Something tells me that this theory must have been conceived by a man during bad winter weather, and that South-Germans, Austrans and the Swiss will not agree with this.
The Rare-Tales-Theory: A Dutchman on a question-and-answer website explains that Mond has “a Middle-High-German predecessor; ‘Man(e)’, which refers to the Man in the Moon”. (The face that can be recognized in the moon’s disc). I can’t however find any literature in this world to support this theory.
The Gods-Theory: Charles Musès, an American esoteric shamanic philosopher (don’t ask), suggest that in the other languages, the sungods became male later. The Tuvans (Turkish shamanic people) explain as follows:
“The Sun is my Mother, [..] If there is no sun, then there will be nothing on earth [and] if there is no mother, there will be no children. The sun and mother have the same duties. [..] The moon is called Father because a father is always away and does not stay long in the yurt. Likewise, the moon does not appear in the sky every day too: it either appears or disappears.”
According to him, it were the female priests that honoured the sungodess. THe male priesthood took this over and concluded that the power of the sun must be male. Let the moon (providing less light) be female. So it is time for a feminist movement that makes an end to all this.
This would explain why there are two ancient languages that share the sun / moon relationships with the German speaking: The Goidelic (Derived from Celtic) and ancient Sanskrit. According to this theory, the German speakers are actually keeping it the way that makes most sense.
In the ancient cultures…
Other theories also suggest that the gender of the Sun is derived only from the gender of the gods. Let’s summarize those of the oldest cultures:
Africa: To the Tiv, an old ethnic group, the sun is a male deity, and the moon is his daughter.
Aztecs: The Aztecs defined the Sun as the only God, the leader of the sky.
Buddhists: Suryaprabha is the female embodiment of the sun, and in Japan also of moonlight.
Chinese Mythology: Explains that the sun is originally one of 10 brothers. The moon god was also a guy.
Egypt: The earliest known were the seven solar goddesses who followed one another: Wadjet, Sekhmet, Hathor, Nut, Bast, Bat, and Menhit. The Moon (Khons) was a dude. In more recent times, all became male. This ties in with the story of the Tuvaan from the previous theory.
Hindus: Has many currents, but the best known, Surya (sun god) and Chandra (Moon God), are masculine.
Babylonians: The Sun (Shapash) is a woman, later a man (Yarhibol) who was the first moon god, and Aglibol (from northern Syria) became the new moon god.
Then, closer to home. In the old Germanic and Gothic mythology the sun was also usually a woman, and the moon a man:
Old English: Siȝel. Proto-Germanic Sôwilô
Nordic: Sól and her brother Máni
Latvian: Saulė (sun) and her husband Mėnuo (moon), the earth is their dochter.
Old Finnish and Hungarian: Beiwe and Kuu.
Old High German: Sunna and Mani.
The confusing part is that Sanskrit-related languages (Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Portuguese) have always defined the sun as male, and the moon as female.
In many older versions of the same Indo-European origin (Sanskrit, German and Gothic), but also Babylonian and other dialects from the Middle East, the word for the moon is always masculine and the word for the sun always feminine. There must have been a time in history where this changed; probably during a time when male dominance was important and needed to be shown, the sun and the moon changed sexes in most languages.