I've seen many NGE issues addressed on the internet, but I've yet to see one tackle the relationship between Rei and the moon. This is of course, purely my own interpretation, and I am not suggesting the following was the intention of Mr. Hideaki, or anyone else involved with NGE.

Feminists have argued that the Lunar Goddess is extremely important in the Paleolithic and Neolithic times.The deities worshiped at this point in human history are female, often faceless and voluptuous in figure. They often have markings corresponding to the lunar cycle. The Lunar Goddess was the personification of the cycles and rhythms of nature, of life and death, of feminine energy which is usually described as dark, shifting, mysterious, cold, passive (remind you of anyone? ~_^) This is not to say all females are like this; men have feminine energy too! Other symbols of the Lunar Goddess include cows, birds, snakes, horses, cats, stars (especially Venus), water, and later on, plants and crops.

The development of the Western Lunar Goddess can then be traced to Ancient Mesopotamia where the deities Inanna and Ishtar were worshiped in Sumeria and Babylon, respectively. The domain of these goddesses included life, death and rebirth, but also great wisdom and insight; war and destruction; fertility and creativity; chastity, love and sacred prostitution (the great whore of Babylon described in the Bible is most likely Inanna); maidens, mothers, and crones; sisters, daughters and wives. Unlike later goddesses of Greek Mythology and Christianity, the Mesopotamian goddesses are not so segregated and marginalized.

The myths of the Lunar Goddess began to recede as the Mesopotamian civilization fell into decline. Entering the Iron Age, new myths concerning the Solar Hero began to arise and dominate our mythology today. While the Lunar Goddess began to diminish, she could still be found in different cultures. In Egypt, she is Isis who restores her husband Osiris back to life. In Greece, she is Gaia, Hecate/the Fates (note presence of three gray women, possibly symbolizing their roots to the three lunar stages of waxing, full and waning); Artemis, Aphrodite and Demeter. In Christianity, she is Lilith, Eve and Mary (Mary is also a triad: Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany) and Sophia. However, with each successive alteration, the goddesses become more fractured, lose more power and have left us in the state we are today: with patriarchal gods, myths, societies and ideologies.

But what does this have to do with Rei? To begin with, there are a few striking similarities between Rei and the Lunar Goddess despite the fact she comes from a Japanese context, and the lunar goddess I have traced is Western. Like the great myth of descent which all goddesses are related to in some way, Rei sacrifices her life for Shinji's and is reborn. Note there are three Reis in the series (the one killed by Dr. Akagi, the one who kills herself in battle, and the one who becomes that giant angel thing). Rei is also connected with Lilith - they merge together in The End of Evangelion, Lilith symbolizing the dark half of Inanna, the dark side of the moon.

While there are none of the traditional images of the Lunar Goddess in NGE (unless you count the very first scene we see Rei - her ghostly image disappears to the sound of bird's wings) there is a subtle connection between Rei and water, Rei and the Great Mother as she is derived from Yui (Shinji's mother) and the angel Lilith. She's wringing out a towel, or swimming, or floating around in LCL. Images of water abound in Shinji's head trips, and especially when he connects with his mother. Rei is also shown rotating in water under a full moon during the ending credits. There is also a general feel for the unconscious - everything is stored deep underground, including Lilith and all the little Dummy Plug Rei shells. There are also her red eyes; red relating us back to blood, menses and life.

Then there is Rei's Eva, the prototype model. The mandala image of the Eva's single eye recalls to mind the Cyclops - the undifferentiated Self, the oroborous (image of the snake eating its tail), and the full moon. This matches well with the symbol for zero - a big 0. Strangely, Zerogoki changes its colours. It begins as an orangey yellow and then is repainted blue (shift from sun/fire to moon/water?).

And there is the name itself: Rei. My favourite translation of Rei is zero, which relates her to Zerogoki, but as well as that, coincides well with her identity as a genetically engineered shell (much like the Evas themselves). When she sees herself, she is empty; soulless. She is only soulless because she lacks consciousness. The Lunar Goddess herself, is not so much empty, but only seems that way as she is filled with all that is unconscious, and undifferentiated. Rei seems to be blank within, yet when we are invited inside her mind, we realize the situation is much more complex. She calls to mind the Nasadiya Sukta (creation hymn) of the Rg Veda: There was neither non-existence nor existence then... Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning; with no distinguishing sign, all this was water.

There is a crucial difference between Rei and the goddesses mentioned, however. Of all the goddesses, Rei is the coldest, and the most passive. Despite the fact that her image arises in the twentieth century amidst society's worship of technology and reason, she is the closest in resemblance to the original pre-culture, pre-literate Goddess. She has no facial expression, she does not speak. After returning to our unconscious minds, after the rise and glorification of the Solar Hero myth, the Goddess who comes to contact our consciousness is highly undifferentiated, dispassionate, volatile and mystifying.


For more information on the Lunar Goddess and her descent, I recommend reading the following sources. While I don't subscribe to the notion that old, matriarchal egalitarian human societies were full of love and peace, there has definetely been a general shift towards patriarchal rule and the glorification of consciousness, at the expense of the unconscious...
The Myth of the Goddess: the Evolution of an Image | Anne Barring and Jules Cashford
Descent to the Goddess: a Way of Initiation for Women | Sylvia Brinton Perera
Lilith, the first Eve: historical and psychological aspects of the dark feminine | Siegmund Hurwitz