Thursday, February 25, 2021

I have moons, you have moons, all God's children have moons

...and lest there be any confousion concerning what I am talking about, I'm talking about the moon that orbits our Earth, the moon up in the sky.

I noticed in my reading that the moons in different months have different names, and that according to The Old Farmer's Almanac these names were mostly first used by Native Americans. It set me to wondering if other parts of the world use the same names we do here in Ye Olde United States of America. Read this post first, then tell me in the comments how your moons differ from mine.

The information in the rest of this post is from an article entitled "Traditional Full Moon Names" by Vigdis Hocken and Aparna Khera on a website called timeanddate.com.

Full Moons had given names in many ancient cultures. The Full Moon names we use today often reflect the changing seasons and nature, like Harvest Moon, Strawberry Moon, or Snow Moon.

Full Moon names have roots in nature.

In ancient times, it was common to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year, which our modern calendar is based on.

Ancient Month Names

For millennia, people across Europe, as well as Native American tribes, named the months after features they associated with the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, and many of these names are very similar or identical. Some Native names are often attributed to tribes who lived in a vast area stretching from New England to Lake Superior, and whose languages are related. They are sometimes called Algonquian or Algonkian peoples, but they are not to be confused with the Algonquin tribe who lives in Canada. However, other sources list completely different Native American Moon names.

January: Wolf Moon

The Full Moon in January is the Wolf Moon named after howling wolves, which may stem from the Anglo-Saxon lunar calendar. Other names: Moon After Yule, Old Moon, Ice Moon, and Snow Moon.

February: Snow Moon

The Snow Moon is the Full Moon in February, named after the snowy conditions. Some North American tribes named it the Hunger Moon due to the scarce food sources during mid-winter, while other names are Storm Moon and Chaste Moon, but the last name is more common for the March Full Moon.

March: Worm Moon

The last Full Moon of the winter season in March is the Worm Moon because of the earthworms that come out at the end of winter. It is also known as the Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon, and Chaste Moon. The Old English/Anglo-Saxon name is Lenten Moon.

April: Pink Moon

The Full Moon in April is the Pink Moon, from the pink flowers – phlox – that bloom in the early spring. Other names for this Full Moon include Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon, Hare Moon, and the Old English/Anglo-Saxon name is Egg Moon. It is also known as the Paschal Moon because it is used to calculate the date for Easter.

May: Flower Moon

The May Full Moon is known as Flower Moon to signify the flowers that bloom during this month. Other names for the Full Moon in May are Corn Planting Moon, and Milk Moon from Old English/Anglo-Saxon.

June: Strawberry Moon

June’s Full Moon is the Strawberry Moon as these little red berries ripen at this time. Other names are Hot Moon, Mead Moon, and Rose Moon.

July: Buck Moon

The Full Moon for the month of July is called Buck Moon to signify the new antlers that emerge on deer buck's foreheads around this time. This Full Moon is also known as Thunder Moon, Wort Moon, and Hay Moon from Old English/Anglo-Saxon.

August: Sturgeon Moon

The Full Moon for August is called Sturgeon Moon because of the large number of fish in the lakes where the Algonquin tribes fished. Other names for this Full Moon include Green Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Fruit Moon, and Grain Moon from Old English/Anglo-Saxon.

September / October: Harvest Moon

Technically, the Harvest Moon is the Full Moon closest to the September equinox around September 22. Most years it is in September, but around every three years, it is in October. The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name which is determined by the equinox rather than a month.

September: Corn Moon

The Full Moon in the month of September in the Old Farmer's Almanac is called Harvest Moon, which corresponds with the Old English/Anglo-Saxon name, while other names are Corn Moon or Full Corn Moon or Barley Moon.

October: Hunter's Moon

Every three years, the Hunter's Moon is also the Harvest Moon. Traditionally, people in the Northern Hemisphere spent the month of October preparing for the coming winter by hunting, slaughtering and preserving meats for use as food. This led to October’s Full Moon being called the Hunter’s Moon, Dying Grass Moon, and Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. However, this should not be confused with a Total Lunar Eclipse – Blood Moon.

November: Beaver Moon

According to folklore, the Full Moon in November is named after beavers who become active while preparing for the winter. It is also known as Frosty Moon, and along with the December Full Moon some called it Oak Moon. Traditionally, if the Beaver Moon is the last Full Moon before the winter solstice, it is also called the Mourning Moon.

December: Cold Moon

December is the month when winter begins for most of the Northern Hemisphere, and the Full Moon is called the Cold Moon. The Old English/Anglo-Saxon name is the Moon Before Yule, while another name is Wolf Moon, however, this is more common for the January Full Moon.

Full Moons with No Name

Some years have 13 Full Moons, which makes at least one of them a Blue Moon, as it doesn't quite fit in with the traditional Full Moon naming system. However, this is not the only definition of a Blue Moon.

About every 19 years, there is no Full Moon in February. This is one of several definitions of the term Black Moon. The other definitions refer to a New Moon which does not fit in with the equinoxes or solstices, similar to a Blue Moon.

Latin Names Took Over

When the Julian calendar was introduced in 45 BCE, Latin month names gradually became more common in Europe. However, the ancient Pagan names were not forgotten. Old High German month names were introduced by Charlemagne (Charles the Great) who ruled as King of the Franks and later Emperor of the Romans from 774 to 814. And Old English or pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon month names were collected by the English Monk Venerable Bede in 725.

Adopted as Full Moon Names

Today, many of these ancient month names have been adopted as names for the Full Moon of each month. A common explanation, published in the Old Farmer's Almanac, is that Colonial Americans adopted Native American names and incorporated them into the modern calendar. However, it seems that the Full Moon names we use today also have Anglo-Saxon and Germanic roots.

(End of article)

That's a lot to take in, so let's recap:

Here are the traditional Full Moon Names:

Wolf Moon – January
Snow Moon – February
Worm Moon – March
Pink Moon – April
Flower Moon – May
Strawberry Moon – June
Buck Moon – July
Sturgeon Moon – August
Harvest Moon – September or October
Full Corn Moon (Harvest) – September
Hunter's Moon (Harvest) – October
Beaver Moon – November
Cold Moon – December

Finally, I have figured out (wouldn't you know it?) that the reason every third year has 13 full moons is that, using generally accurate numbers, a year has 365.25 days and the moon's trip around the earth takes 29.5 days. So in every year (do the math, 365.25 divided by 29.5) there are 12.38 lunar orbits of the earth. Rounding off to 1/3, in one year there are 12 and 1/3 moons, in two years there are 24 and 2/3 moons, and in three years there are -- voila! -- 36 and 3/3 moons, or 37 full moons.

Finally, the definition of a Blue Moon that I am familiar with is a calendar month that contains two full moons, which is of course possible because the lunar orbit is 29.5 days and every month but one has either 30 or 31 days.

Finally, and I really mean it this time, let's all listen to Kate Smith sing, as only she could, "When the moon comes over the mountain, every beam brings a dream. dear, of you" (3:13).

14 comments:

  1. I can still hear in my mind Kate Smith singing When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain which is closely followed by God Bless America. What a voice!

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    1. Emma, yes, what a voice! It was pure and strong! And now you were able to hear her again via my link.

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  2. The only moon that had a name when I was a child was the Harvest Moon which, as farmers, was always noted by my family. It is only relatively recently that I have become aware, via the media, that other moons have names. I discovered that they are fairly random names and that names that we have given moon in the UK may not be the same as the names you have in the US. I do not like the randomness of it all and that people who use the names generally have no idea whatsover about farming or the farming year. I still only recognise the Harvest Moon and ignore all the other names. I do not, however, ignore the full moon.

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  3. Rachel, that is my history too, except that my family were not farmers, although we did live in a rural area. Harvest moon was the only one of which I was aware, and it was associated in my mind with church youth groups going on hayrides.

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  4. It's surprising all the folk knowledge there is about common things like moons. So in the future I see a post on songs with moon as a theme???

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    1. Red, it hadn’t occurred to me until you suggested it. It’s a very good suggestion!

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  5. The only moons I'm aware of are Blue, Harvest and Wolf. I love watching all moons in any stage but especially Full Moons.

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  6. Bonnie, so this post was educational then, very “enlightening” even.

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  7. Great article! One of my mom's favorite sayings was "once in a blue moon". As a kid I didn't know what that was.

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  8. Jeannelle, I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I went back and checked just now and you left your first comment on this blog on January 17, 2008. A lot of water has gone over the dam or under the bridge or down the stream since then, hasn’t it? I hope that most of it has been both gently and merrily, merrily.

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  9. A moon for every occasion it seems.
    Alphie

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  10. Alphie Soup, maybe there should be a Pandemic Moon then?

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  11. Interesting post! I had heard of a few of them since our weatherman seems fond of telling us the names of some of the moons. I remember being disappointed in the Supermoon though.
    I'm with Red, you should do a post of moon songs. :)
    Love Kate Smith!
    How about...
    When the moon hits your eye, like a bigga pizza pie, that's amore.
    Shine on harvest mooon...
    and that's all I got.

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