Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cold, Long Night Moon

Cold, Long Night Moon

Since I began wearing necklaces to remind me of the moon's phases [Moon Time], I am more aware of, interested in, and thankful for the moon in particular——and our natural world in general.
    In their wisdom, Native Americans named the full moons. Here, pinched from the Farmer's Almanac website and lightly edited by me, is an East Coast view of Native American Moon names.

    Full Moon Names and Their Meanings

    Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac's list of the full Moon names.

    • Full Wolf Moon - January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January's full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.

    • Full Snow Moon - February Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February's full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.

    • Full Robin Moon - March As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

    • Full Egg Moon - April Other names for this month's celestial body include the the Sprouting Grass Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

    • Full Flower Moon - May In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

    • Full Strawberry Moon - June This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

    • The Full Buck Moon - July July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month's Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

    • Full Sturgeon Moon - August The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

    • Full Corn Moon - September This full moon's name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested. Most often, the September full moon is actually the Harvest Moon.

    • Full Harvest Moon - October This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.

    • Full Beaver Moon - November This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.

    • The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon - December During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.


    Barry said...

    Much more evocative and poetic names than January, February etc.

    I vote we rename the months of the year to correspond with the aboriginal names for the phases of the moon, although I wish there was a more "manly" name for my birthday month of April and I'm not certain how my brother would feel about being born in the Full Beaver month!

    steven said...

    dan i'm with barry here. i could live with these names to guide me much more easily and naturally than the ones we live by now. thanks for this. steven

    jinksy said...

    It's certainly a full cold moon in England tonight!

    Dan Gurney said...

    Barry, I agree with you so much that I decided to do a little editing (not much) and fix April. Though Egg is only a little better than "Pink." Feel free to use April's moon's alternate names, Fish Moon or Sprouting Grass Moon.

    Dan Gurney said...

    hi steven, I'm going to return to these names with each passing full moon and remember to see them that way. By the way, the names apply when the first new moon crescent appears, so, for example, we're already almost two weeks into the Cold, Long Night Moon.

    Dan Gurney said...

    Hi Jinksy,

    I just emailed you about your offer to share some texts. So you're in England? My blog seems to have more readers in the UK, Canada, NZ, and Australia than in the US!! Ah well.

    Sarah Lulu said...

    Absolutely fascinating.

    Happy New Year Dan. xxx

    Dan Gurney said...

    Hi, Sarah Lulu,

    Yes, I think our names for the months ought to reflect the natural seasons. Of course you guys down under would have a whole different set of names and they wouldn't translate well to those of us up here in the Northern Hemisphere. But I can't get over looking at photos of Christmas trees in New Zealand and Australia with tank tops, shorts, and flip flops. Don't you guys know IT'S COLD IN DECEMBER???

    Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

    There is much value in creating a personal relationship with the elements, plant-life, Earth's creatures and our solar system ... giving them names and including them in our thoughts and even conversations is a meaningful way to acknowledge the thread of life that connects all things.

    This was a very interesting post Dan!

    Delwyn said...

    Hi Dan

    I loved these moon names and they reminded me of the deep connection the Japanese culture has with nature. - Of how life was dictated by the seasons and the moods of the land and there was cause and opportunity to celebrate and to ruminate and grieve - within the course of the year. We have become almost oblivious to nature and eat foods all year round from all over the globe. I am grateful to fellow bloggers for reinvigorating that natural response to the earth and it's cycles and their appreciation to the seasons and the changes they encapsulate.

    Happy days Dan

    Dan Gurney said...

    Hi, Bonnie, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'm quite sure that my enriched connection with the natural world has been helped by my almost total lack of tv, radio, movies.

    Dan Gurney said...

    Hi Delwyn, Nice to hear from you. Yes the Japanese have a relationship with the natural world that far far exceeds what's common in my culture. One way we can improve is to become locavores and eat only what grows near us, and eat it in season.

    日月神教-向左使 said...