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Full Moon Names |
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Different human cultures tend to give different & unique names to the full moon. They generally do this to keep a track of the seasons and even as an identification of the whole month. The Algonquin tribes from the area of New England and westward to Lake Superior are known to give the most popular names to the full moon. However, this tradition is not limited to them; you would find moon phases and cycles named by Chinese, Old English, New Guinea and some Native American tribes as well.
The below list of moon names are the most common ones, with some variations also mentioned. However, these are not the only ones, as along with Algonquin tribes there have been other tribes too throughout North America, which gave their own distinct variations to the full moon names.
January: The Wolf Moon
You could hear the wolves howling giving an echo effect in the cold still air. Due to the heavy snow gathering in the deep woods, some tribes also gave the name Snow Moon to the moon in January month. It was often to use this name for the next month though.
February: The Snow Moon
It was a challenge to hunt in the month of February, as the snow piles were at their peak during this time. And so did the name Hunger Moon seem reasonable to the tribes, who called it Wolf Moon in January. Hunger Moon is also known as the most common one.
March: The Worm Moon
The signs of spring were seen in the form of melting snow, softer grounds, casting or fecal matter of the earthworms, the cawing of crows, crust on the snow and the tapping maple trees. All these signs resulted in different variations of names for the moon, like the Crow Moon, the Crust moon, the Sap moon etc. People following Christianity preferred to consider March as the last winter month and called it the Lenten Moon.
April: The Pink Moon
The appearance of plants, the pink or the wild ground phlox spreading all over showed more signs of spring and so the other variations, like Sprouting Grass Moon, Egg Moon and Fish moon could be heard. These were most common among the coastal tribes.
May: The Flower Moon
Flowers started blossoming in May. It was time to plant the corn. So came in the names like Corn Planting Moon and Milk Moon.
June: The Strawberry Moon
All Algonquin tribes agreed that June is the month when strawberries are at their peak to be picked. So The Strawberry Moon was the favorite choice of all.
July: The Buck Moon
July is the month when we see buck deer in velvety hair-covered antlers. Due to regular thunderstorms in New England some called it the Thunder Moon. Some other tribes called it Hay Moon as well.
August: The Sturgeon Moon
Naming the moon on a fish’s name was because it was easier to catch the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other nearby bodies of water during August. The moon appeared a bit reddish during this time, so Red Moon was also one of the favorites. Some other tribes called it the Green Cord moon and the Grain moon.
September: The Harvest Moon
The moon during this time was brighter than the previous months and so resulted in some European farmers using its solid light to harvest their crops. Many of the Native American tribes also gather their staple foods, like corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and rice during September. One thing worth mentioning here, is that the name Harvest Moon actually came out of the tradition closest to the autumn equinox that is seen during October only once or twice in a decade. Some also call it the Corn Moon.
October: The Hunter's Moon
October is the time for hunters. Due the reaped fields and the fallen leaves it is easy o ride and spot animals like fox, deer etc. Deer are fat and most eatable then. As mentioned previously also, we do see Harvest moon in October instead of September in some months.
November: The Beaver Moon
It is always easy to set-up up beaver traps in November, as they are busy preparing for the winter. It is time to trap beavers and hoard some warm fur before the swamps freeze again. It is also called the Frost Moon by certain tribes.
December: The Cold Moon
The rising temperatures and a more stable winter result in long nights. The low sun sees the moon staying longer above the horizon. It was right to call it the Long Night Moon or the Cold Moon. Christians also called it the “Moon before Yule”.
It is not possible to have exact dates of the full moon every year. These dates move due to the 29-day lunar cycle. This variation leads to an extra full moon, the 4th one in some seasons; when generally the number doesn’t cross 3. This extra moon was called the “blue moon”, though there was a confusion created by a March 1946 edition of Sky and Telescope magazine, which called the 2nd full moon of a calendar month as the “blue moon”. This misunderstanding was cleared and the mistake was finally rectified in 1999.
The moment, when the harvest moon turns full, is when it is at a particular spot opposite to the sun. That is why it occurs at a pretty specific time. To be exact, it happens on 13:59 Greenwich time on the Saturday that is nearest to the fall equinox; generally it is September 23rd. Although this happens once every 3 years in every October, the name Harvest Moon is given to the September one due to ease that the farmers feel in harvesting the crops during this time. They can see clearly in the night in the bright light of the full moon. We could see the same moon for 3 consecutive days, but only the one that is seem on Saturday is given this name. There are some other names worth mentioned here, like Wine moon, the Elk Call Moon and the Singing Moon. The crops are harvested during the same time when this moon appears in the Northern Hemisphere and so it received the name Harvest Moon.
This is not the only significance of the Harvest Moon, there are also some other creatures on this earth, which wait for this time to arrive; and those creatures are birds. Birds actually wait for the harvest moon, before they begin to migrate. They almost rely on this moon for their migration between areas. Bird lovers enjoy watching the birds migrating under the soothing light of this moon.
Then there is also a class of people called “moon watchers”. They love to gaze between day and dawn and can see the harvest moon 20 minutes earlier. Generally, the moon rises 50 minutes later each day of the year; however, the harvest moon rises 30 minutes later each day. The wildfires in North American and the dust storms in Africa result in the air getting filled with aerosols that gives a unique range of colors by the low hanging harvest moon. The moon illusion can be seen in the way moon looks bigger while rising or setting.
How often do we see people using the saying “once in a blue moon”? If we think about the reference of their saying this, we would know that it is about the relatively rare occurrence of that particular thing or the event. Actually, as we mentioned earlier, “blue moon” appears once every 3 years or 33 months. When the number of days in a month is more than 29.5, which is the cycle of the moon, it appears twice in the same month, once during the first days and once during the end. It is has nothing to do with the color of the moon. Just some atmospheric effects such as a big forest fire can make the moon appear blue in color due to a lot haze.
The Blue moon can of course not happen in February, as we all know, this month has lesser days than any other month. Time zone also has a part to play in its occurrence. For example, in 1993 if you lived east of the Atlantic ocean line, the blue moon occurred in September for you, but it occurred in October if you lived west of that line.
There are certain origins of the definition of a blue moon. Like the Farmer’s Almanac call the 3rd full moon of any season as “blue moon” when they experience 4 full moons in that season. Generally, a season consists of 3 full moons. The 4 or the 2 full moons is just a result of the lunar cycles.
As seen with some other traditional beliefs, facts about the “blue moon” have also gone through a lot of misinterpreted ideas and unproven assumptions. A 1943 article in the magazine Sky and Telescope claimed that the 2nd full moon in the same month is called blue moon. They said that it was based on the data found in an edition of the 1937 Maine Farmer’s Almanac. This wrong interpretation got repeated so much over the decades that it became a “fact”. The details can be read here on the Sky and Telescope website.
The difference between what the modern science recognizes and what the archaic Christian ecclesiastical calendar says, lead to the confusion about the exact meaning of a season. Season isn’t exactly a quarter of a year. The church used that calendar to determine the dates of some holidays, like Easter.
Upcoming Blue Moon Dates
The below dates are based on the more scientific and known definition of “blue moon”, i.e. a second full moon of a particular calendar month.
1999 January & March
2001 October & November
2018 January & March
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