Moon of the Long Night

moon trees

Our Full Moon this month coincides with the Winter Solstice today, Tuesday, December 21, 2010. This is somewhat unusual but it is rarer still because earlier this morning (around 2 a.m EST) there was also a lunar eclipse. The three together makes for a unusual astronomical event.

As I do each month, I want to look at the names given to this Full Moon and some of the ways this Moon appears in different cultures.

The December full moon is known as the Cold Moon and the Long Night Moon in some neo-pagan traditions. The latter seemed most appropriate this year.

The onset of winter weather in the northern hemisphere easily explains the multitude of names used by Native Americans and other such as Snow Moon, Moon of the Popping Trees, Big Freezing Moon, Frost Moon, and Cold Snow Moon.

This Twelfth Moon was called the Oak Moon or Moon Before the Yule Oak  by the Medieval English.  Colonial Americans often referred to this as the Christmas Moon or Moon Before Yule.

Yule or Yule-tide (“Yule-time”) is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. (more on Yule at Why Name It That?)

In most forms of Wicca, this holiday is celebrated at the winter solstice and modern Wiccans and neopagans often burn a Yule log decorated with holly as part of their celebration.

Also during the many Wiccan Yule rituals, the Holly King dies and the Oak King is born. This signifies the changes in the season.

If you want to try a Yule celebration yourself, take a look at

You will also find the German Wintermonat (Winter Month) used for this time.

December was the tenth month on the old Roman calendar, the month containing the care free Saturnalia.

The Franks called it Heilagmanoth, or Holy Month, because of its large number of sacred festivals.

On the old Tibetan calendar December 1 was the beginning of a new year.

As I wrote earlier for the Winter Solstice, this was a very important time for Druids. Hunlidh (hün’ lee)  is the third month of their year.  This Snow or Dreaming Moon is a good time for resting. The first day of Hunlidh (full moon) is when the Celts celebrate Yule.

In a much warmer climate, the ancient Mayan goddess Ixchel is still honored in southern Mexico with processions and rituals that bless boats and fields. She was also known as Lady Unique Circular Darkness, Lady Splotch of Blood, Lady of the Night , and Lady All Embracer. Her worship at one time extended through southern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, and as far as El Salvador.

The Winter Solstice and the Sun’s turn from autumn darkness back into increasing light is celebrated as the Bitter Moon in China.  In Japan, it was the time when the hiding Sun goddess Amaterasu came out of her cave.

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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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