The Man in the Moon is the supposed image of a man's face that some cultures believe to be visible on the surface of the moon. Most people agree that the face is only apparent when the moon is full. The image is said to be formed by a series of dark areas imitating two eyes, a nose, and an open mouth. These areas are actually some of the Moon's seas, such as the Mare Imbrium and Serenitatis, which with people associate the man's eyes.
Legend has it that the Man in the Moon is an actual man. The oldest traditions claim the face to be that of Cain, who was sentenced to circle the Earth and watch forever what he could not have because of his betrayal. Other legends say it is an old man hauling a bunch of sticks. Shakespeare mentions him in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and refers to his lantern, thornbush, and dog. Even in ancient Rome and Egypt there were already legends explaining the face on the moon.
While most of the legends do not attribute a specific origin to the Man in the Moon, some societies have an esoteric explanation for the face. For example, the Inuits believe that he keeps safe the souls of men and animals who have passed away. In a similar fashion, the Nepalese believe it is actually the face of somebody who has passed away, as people who die go to the moon.
The Man in the Moon is not always seen as a man's — or even a human — face. In some cultures, it is a woman or an animal, and the most common figures include that of a rabbit or hare, a frog, or a buffalo. In modern times, people have identified plenty of images when looking at a full moon, depending on their belief system and environment. Unusual sightings include pirates, a man with glasses, a young girl, and a frog.