We’ve all had them. They haunted us in our childhoods as ghosts, monsters, and hordes of spiders with fang-tipped grins of meanness that taunted us in the night and then evaporated in the warming rays of the morning sun. For some of us who grew up with gender issues amid the hostility of family, family friends, and family religion must have received at least a double dose of those terrors. Perhaps those who remember too well have a special understanding for the pain of today’s trans youth whose liberties appear on the verge of eclipse.
Some of those terrors appear with deep synchronicity, and may seem apocalyptic, prompting some to scorn a dreamer, saying, “He thinks he’s a prophet. He’s crazy.” Sometimes the synchronicity thereof can spook a parent too.
I remember one such case in 1964, the same year in which an intense dream emphasized that the girl within me was struggling to get out. On the night prior to Good Friday as I lay awake in the middle of the night and the world ponders the horrors of the crucifixion a wonder chilled me to the bone. An organ like that of a church loudly played one of its dirges. But this dirge did not end in a few minutes as would hypnapompia. The dirge blasted on and on and on with its ghoulish anthem, hurting my ears for half an hour as the covers on my bed quivered from my terror. I shielded my face for I was too terrified by the wonder to look anywhere in my room and too afraid to close my eyes. But I had managed a fleeting glance at my clock before diving under the blanket, noticing that it was the 2:00 hour.
Upon hearing of it the following morning my mother’s countenance faded as pail as a beige tablecloth that had surrendered its color to the grayness of years. She had heard nothing during the night. But she slept on the other side of the house. Who would be playing an organ like that at 2 in the morning? Only one neighbor even had an organ and it wasn’t a church organ. It didn’t have the capability to wake up the whole neighborhood and that neighbor had taken a couple of days off to be with relatives for Easter weekend anyhow. But even that didn’t seem to be the end of it.
The Saturday the paper boy plopped the morning edition of the Fullerton Tribune onto the porch with a report of great evil. A great earthquake had struck Alaska.1 The Earth swallowed up 28 in Valdez about 15 hours after that dirge chilled my blood: fifteen like the fifteenth key of the Tarot, “The Devil.”2
My parents read the article and looked at me suspiciously. They both kept quiet about it, especially with the timing of that dirge that so disturbed me. They could account for none of this.
They had no need to do so. The dirge wasn’t about the Great Alaska Earthquake. The timing might have been a meaningful coincidence, but the dirge had a different significance.
The fact was, I had been dreaming many apocalyptic dreams at the time. In some, the sun had become a nova. In another the clouds had gathered and become iron, slowly creaking as they lowered to crush the inhabitants of the Earth. I gathered my family together to pray at a nearby park, and a girl was there to join us, to plead with God to give the human race another chance. That girl looked a lot like me.
But the night almost constantly visited me with nightmares. No night light comforted me. One light in particular terrified me more than anything.
It was the light of the Moon.
What particularly terrified me was the appearance of the face that everyone around me said was the “Man in the Moon.” I shook when I saw it. It frightened me because the expression was that of eyes open in shock like that of a torture victim and a mouth that screamed with a howl of pain that echoed my own.
Then the moonlight fought against me with chilly darts while dancing images of ghosts upon the wall of my room followed the approach of cars on Orangethorpe Avenue. The rays that fell on my bed seemed like an attack of Moon-knives trying to slice through the fabric of the covers with the eagerness of the children who attacked me at school and on the street engaged against me every day when they hunted me down “the faggot” for sport.
So I hid again in the inky darkness of the covers, afraid to look at the light of the Moon. The terrors I had associated with it had been taught to me by those who too often took pleasure in their perceptions of my weakness, for “the girly boy who thinks he’s a prophet and by God the faggot deserved it didn’t he?” Or so they said. I had no friend in those days.
But those perceptions melted away one day when a writer offered an insight about the Man in the Moon when I read from the adult section of the library. I often did that because the adult section offered a lot better reading material for a kid who had been reading from the newspaper at age 2. In fact I learned about sex from the adult library long before I had sex education in school, but that’s another story.
The insight offered by that writer resonated with me. I learned that, like me, the Man in the Moon really wasn’t a man after all.
Instead of a man with a look of horror and torture I began to see something else. When I saw her I fell to my knees and wept like one who had lost her mother.
“She’s beautiful,” I said.
The Lady Moon looks to the left and her hair tumbles to the right. When she rises she bows to the East and in the evening watches fondly over her children.
The Man in the Moon changed as if being overshadowed by Isis or Hathor, as if the sacred Cow really did jump over the Moon with the early awakening of my “cat-in-the-fiddle.” The night ceased to be a time of terror and darkness and became fairer than day, a time of rest and renewal.
After that I could gaze at the Lady Moon with fondness from a cot in the back yard, gazing till the Earth seemed to fall away and I became as one floating in space with nothing but the Lady before me… and I smiled.
One day I would also transition just like the Man in the Moon transitioned from male to female; and one magickal day I awoke in a recovery room in Thailand when a nurse said, “Good mo-o-orning… you are a woman now.” And I watched in the evening from my hospital bed the Lady Moon that seemed to glance over toward me and smile knowingly. My perceptions echoed my own internal truths bringing me halfway around the planet to fulfill them.
But whether or not your perceptions of the Moon echo a personal need to transition; take care lest conventional wisdom and folk traditions induce unnecessary fears. Don’t show them a Man in the Moon with a look of tortured horror designed to disturb their sleep. Show them the Lady. Show them the softness of the evening and the magickal hours of the night.
“For as the Moon glistens on the jasmine,
As the Wind sings his bittersweet air
The suffering ones
Become daughters and sons
Who have tasted the sweet fruit of knowing.
Come to Her;
Drink of her Understanding and Truth.
Come to Her
In quiet abodes set apart,
In temples unknown in your heart.”3
May your evenings be full of love and joy and laughter in the softness of the Lady Moon. Shalom.
- Mielke, Coleen. 1964 Alaska Earthquake Fatalities (2015) Web: RootsWeb, Ancestry.com: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~coleen/1964%20alaska%20earthquake.html. Retrieved February 8, 2017
- Stuart, Lynnea Urania. Come To Her (1996), Song.