From Hunters to Blood, there’s nothing quite like a full moon
Did you see the full moon Oct. 13? The sky was clear, and the moon was not obscured behind clouds that evening. The fields and woods around the house were lit up so much the stars were partly obscured by the bright night sky. We had taken the dog out to “do his business” and it was if we were in pure sunlight. Our moon shadows followed us and though we didn’t leap and hop, we certainly enjoyed the natural moonlight.
The October full moon has several names, and it got me to wondering about how our moon gets its variety of names. I searched the internet for information on the full moon calendar for the year and discovered an interesting, well-sourced website called Space.com with a section on Science and Astronomy and the full moon calendar for 2019. I also found interesting information on the Farmer’s Almanac website. Here’s what I found out about full moon names.
The names of full moons around the world come from different cultures and for us in New England that means they derive from the full moon names used among the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. New England’s European settlers brought their Old English and Anglo-Saxon traditions with them including full moon names of their homelands.
The full moon names mostly correspond to the season the month falls. In the Southern Hemisphere, the season-based full moon names are reversed. Here are the full moon names that we are familiar with in New England.
January is the Wolf Moon named after the howling wolves and may have come from the Anglo-Saxon lunar calendar. Other names for the January moon are Moon After Yule, Old Moon, Ice Moon and Snow Moon.
The February moon is called the Snow Moon and that should be obvious since February is typically a snowy month here in New England. Some North American tribes also called it the Hunger Moon due to the difficulty finding food in winter during mid-winter. Another name for the February moon is Storm Moon.
March is the time of the Worm Moon when earthworms come out and signal the ending of winter. It is also known as the Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon, Sugar Moon and Chaste Moon. March seems to have many full moon names. For me I would choose Sap Moon for when the sap flows and we make maple syrup.
April is the Pink Moon derived from the pink flowers that bloom in early spring. It is also called the Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon, Growing Moon and in Old English /Anglo-Saxon the Egg Moon for Easter. Many of my friends would probably call it Fish Moon for the opening day of fishing season in mid-April.
May is the Flower Moon for the many flowers in bloom and was also called the Corn Planting Moon, Hare Moon and Milk Moon from Old English/Anglo-Saxon roots for when calves are born, and cows come into their milk.
June is Strawberry Moon for when the popular fruit ripens. It is also called the Hot Moon, Mead Moon, Honey Moon and Rose Moon.
July is Buck Moon when new antlers appear on the buck’s forehead. It is also called Thunder Moon, Wort Moon and from our European ancestors Hay Moon, time to get the hay in.
August has an interesting moon name of Sturgeon Moon for the large type of fish in the lakes where the Algonquin tribes fished. Other names include Green Corn Moon, Red Moon, Barley Moon, Fruit Moon and Grain Moon from Old English/Anglo-Saxon.
There is something about a large yellow Harvest Moon rising on the horizon and that is what we typically call the September moon. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, technically the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox, typically Sept. 22, however about every three years the Harvest Moon falls in October. The September moon is also called the Corn Moon, Full Corn Moon or Barley Moon.
The October Moon is the Hunter’s Moon (and sometimes the Harvest Moon). October is when meat is prepared by hunting and slaughtering livestock for food. The October Moon is also called the Dying Grass Moon, Sanguine Moon and Blood Moon. It should be noted that the Blood Moon is also the name of the Total Lunar Eclipse.
November is the Beaver Moon when beavers are active and preparing for the cold months ahead. It is also called Frost Moon. It is typically the last full moon before the Winter Solstice and is also called the Mourning Moon.
The Cold Moon is the full moon of December when winter begins for us here in the Northern Hemisphere. The Old English/Anglo-Saxon name is Moon Before Yule and can also be called the Long Night’s Moon.
So, where does Blue Moon come from? “Once in a blue moon” is something that doesn’t happen very often – like a month that has two full moons. Some years there are 13 full moons and one of them is a Blue Moon. About once every two decades there is no full moon in February, and this is one of the definitions for the Black Moon.
There you have it – the names for our full moons that we enjoy here in New England and The Last Green Valley. No matter what the name we give it, there is nothing quite like a full moon, seeing the moon shadow and enjoying the beautiful light it creates.
We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley. Under any moon whether full, half, crescent, waxing or waning, I hope you’ll join us in caring for it, enjoying it, and passing it on.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at email@example.com
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