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In mythology, a lunar deity is a god or goddess associated with or symbolizing the moon. These deities can have a variety of functions and traditions depending upon the culture, but they are often related to or an enemy of the solar deity. Even though they may be related, they are distinct from the solar deity. Lunar deities can be either male or female, and are usually held to be of the opposite sex of the corresponding solar deity.
The monthly cycle of the moon, in contrast to the annual cycle of the sun's path, has been implicitly linked to women's menstrual cycles by many cultures, as evident in the links between the words for menstruation and for moon in many resultant languages. Many of the most well-known mythologies feature female lunar deities, such as the Greek goddesses Phoebe, Artemis, Selene, and Hecate as well as the Chinese goddess Chang'e.
Male lunar gods are also frequent, such as Sin of the Mesopotamians, Mani of the Germanic tribes, the Japanese god Tsukuyomi. These cultures usually featured female Sun goddesses. There are also many lunar deities that were prevalent in Greek and Egyptian civilizations. For example, Ibis and Chonsu of Thebes were both lunar deities. Thoth was also a lunar deity, but his character is considerably more complex than Ibis and Chonsu.
Also of significance is that many religions and societies are oriented chronologically by the Moon as opposed to the sun. One common example is Hinduism in which the word Chandra means Moon and has religious significance during many Hindu festivals (e.g. Karwa Chauth, Sankasht Chaturthi and during the eclipses).
While many Neopagan authors and feminist scholars claim that there was an original Great Goddess in prehistoric cultures that was linked to the moon and formed the basis of later religions, the Great Goddess figure is highly speculative and not a proven concept. It may be noted that most of the oldest civilizations mentioned above had male lunar deities and it was only later cultures, the classical ones most people are familiar, that featured strong female moon goddesses.