Native Americans and the Blue Moon

blue moon
The moon itself won’t be blue this week, but still…

There were two comments on the blog from Julia asking about what the Native American name for this unusual “blue moon” to end 2009 on December 31 would be. So, I thought I would add another post this week.

You would suspect that such a rare occurrence certainly would have attracted the attention of the ancients who paid far more attention to the heavens than we do today. People who tracked the moon and sun in a “scientific” way across a fixed calendar would have noted the exception.

Some people gave mystical powers to that moon. It was said that plans made under the Blue Moon will come true, though your wishes may be more than you want. That was one such belief.

Any December full moon has had many names attached to it. It was commonly called the  Long Night Moon.

Native Americans drew constellations, created a mythology around the stars, and built structures in alignment with the sky long before Europeans arrived on American shores. Like other ancient groups, they tracked the motions of the Sun to help them decide when to plant crops, move their camps, or stage sacred rituals.

Their stories contained explanations of the constellations they saw as patterns of bright stars, meteor showers, the Northern Lights, and saw in what we call the Milky Way a pathway to the afterlife.

Some tribes built great circles of stones to help them predict the changing seasons – none as large as the most famous, Stonehenge.  But ceremonial sites made of stones and mounds of earth in alignment with the Sun and stars, generally reflect the patterns they saw in the heavens.

The first full moon of December 2009 was on the second day and the appearance of another full moon 29 days later on what we call the 31st would not have had any special meaning (or special name) to Native Americans. Why? Because the full moon always occurred after 29 sunrises.

It is only people who use a fixed calendar that would place this moon in the same “month” as another moon. The next full moon occurs right on schedule on January 30, 2010.

It is likely that our Blue Moon this month would be called by Native Americans the Wolf Moon, Snow Moon or one of the other tribal names. The fact that it was off by a day from being “January” would be something that would only have troubled a Colonist. Again, this year’s Blue Moon occurring on our New Year’s Eve is quite unusual – for those who use a calendar.

My own interest in full moons and their lore is less about ritual putting order or having precision measurements, and more about ordering my own life and having a more mindful connection to the environment, both in the sky and on the ground. That’s why I have been posting about each full moon during 2009 and I will continue to track them in 2010 – and try to add to my knowledge base about them.

Whether you believe that the Sun, Moon, and stars are gifts from the gods, or from God, or the home of the spirit that rules our lives doesn’t change our interest in them. I love the science of the heavens because that also tells us that in that sky is where we came from and where we were going.

Look up!

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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