The Buddha Full Moon

Though it is behind clouds here in Paradelle, the 2011 May Full Moon occurs tonight, May 17. This Full Moon has many names including Hare Moon, Merry or Dyad Moon, Fright Moon, Flower Moon, Frogs Return Moon, Thrimilcmonath (Thrice-Milk Month), Sproutkale, Winnemonoth (Joy Month), Planting Moon, and Moon When the Ponies Shed.

The Greek goddess Maia, the most important of the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades) and said to be the mother of Hermes, gave the name to this month. Some form of this goddess’s name was known to people from Ireland, to as far away as India. The Romans called her Maius, goddess of Summer, and honored her during Ambarvalia, a family festival for the purification and protection of farm land.

In the Celtic cultures, May was called Mai or Maj, a month of sexual freedom. Green was worn during this month to honor the Earth Mother. May 1 was the Celtic festival of Beltane, a festival celebrating fertility of all things. Cattle were driven through the Beltane bonfires for purification and fertility. In Wales, Creiddylad was a character connected with this festival and often called the May Queen. The maypole and its dance is a remnant of these old festivities.

Bona Dea, the Roman Good Goddess, had her festival on the night between May 2 and 3. No men were allowed to attend.

The Greeks had a special festival for the god Pan during May. Pan was a wild looking deity, half man, half goat. Pan invented the syrinx, or pan-pipes, made of reeds.

In Finland, May 1 was celebrated as Rowan Witch Day, a time of honoring the goddess Rauni, who was associated with the mouton ash or rowan. Twigs and branches of the rowan were, and still are, used as protection against evil in this part of the world.

This year I chose the name of the Buddha Full Moon for my post title. This full Moon occurs on May 17 which is known as the Buddha-Wesak Festival. It is said that Buddha was born, died and received enlightenment on the Full Moon in Scorpio and many followers consider this the highest spiritual day of the year.

Turning to nature, May’s many blooms give this month another full moon name of the Flower Moon in many cultures.

Each full moon has many names and they are often related to the natural or planting cycles. The natural cycles are more closely connected to Native Americans. The planting cycles are generally more associated with the early colonists. However, both groups seem to have called this the Corn Planting Full Moon.

Native Americans did not domesticate cows, so it was the settlers who also named the May full moon the Milk Moon. During May, cows, goats and sheep enjoy the abundant sprouting weeds, grasses, and herbs in the pastures and produce lots of rich milk.

There was a belief that the same Moon force that pulls the tides and pulls a horseshoe crab ashore to mate, also causes crops (particularly those that bear fruit above ground) to sprout faster from the earth during the full moon. Conversely, when the moon is waning (appearing smaller after the full moon) and the pull decreases,  good old gravity has its way and roots and root crops like potatoes and carrots are best planted.

Believers would also say to plant nothing when the moon is “dark.” That’s when plants rest. Gardeners should kill weeds then because they won’t grow back.

In the Native American tradition of the Medicine Wheel, the Corn Planting Moon is the third moon of Wabun, the Spirit Keeper of the East. The stone on the wheel representing this moon is placed three-quarters of the way between the eastern and southern stones in the outer circle of the Medicine Wheel.

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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.

8 thoughts on “The Buddha Full Moon”

  1. Hey, from Finland!

    Thanks for an interesting post. I´m really curious where you got that information about “Finnish Rowan Witch Day”, “Rauni”, “branches of the rowan still used as protection against evil” etc.? I´m a Finnish cultural anthropologist and am besides other cultures and their rituals of course quite aware of our own tradition – and have never ever heard a single word of what you write above about Finland. It would be of course nice to know, if this is part of our tradition, hah hah, so please write me what are your sources…? Thanks if you find time to answer,

    Mia / Helsinki, Finland


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