The Hunter’s Moon—also known as Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon—is the first full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. In most years, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October.
It was so named as it was the preferred month to hunt summer-fattened deer and for the hunts of the fox who is unable to hide in the baring fields. Like the Harvest Moon, the Hunter’s Moon seemed to be particularly bright and long in the sky, giving hunters the opportunity to stalk prey at night. It was suited to hunting migrating birds in Northern Europe. The name is also said to have been used by Native Americans as they tracked and killed their prey by autumn moonlight, stockpiling food for the winter ahead.
The Hunter’s Moon and Harvest Moon are not really brighter, smaller or yellower than during other times of the year. But all full moons have some special characteristics, based more on where the ecliptic in the sky is at the time of year that they are visible. The full moons of September, October, and November, as seen from the northern hemisphere, are related to the full moons of March, April, and May as seen from the southern hemisphere.
October or Octem was the eighth month in the oldest Roman calendar. This Blood Moon does not take its name from blood sacrifices, as some might guess. It is from the old custom of killing and salting down livestock before the Winter months made it impossible to feed them and saving only the choicest stock. Today we still do something of the same when we do preparations such as “winterizing” the car, garden, and house.
The Greek festival of Thesmophoria came every year in honor of Demeter and was confined to women only. This was a three-day remembrance of Kor’s return to the Underworld. At this festival, the initiates shared a sacred barley drink and cakes. One feature of the Thesmorphoria was a deterrent to offenders against the sacred laws and temples, especially the temples of Demeter and Artemis. It was believed that anyone so cured would die before the year ended.
In Tibet, the Buddhist Lent occurred along with the Descent from Heaven festival which celebrated the end of the rainy season.
In general, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, as it moves in orbit around Earth. All full moons rise around the time of sunset. The Harvest Moon and Hunter’s Moon are special because—as seen from the northern hemisphere—the time of moonrise on successive evenings is shorter than usual. The moon rises approximately 30 minutes later, from one night to the next, as seen from about 40 degrees N. latitude, for several evenings around the full Hunter’s or Harvest Moons. This gives us no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise, around the time of these full moons. The reason for the shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moon rises around the time of the Harvest and Hunter’s Moon is that the orbit of the Moon makes a narrow angle with respect to the horizon in the evening in autumn, leading the Moon to higher positions in the sky each successive day.
The Hunter’s Moon was traditionally a feast day in parts of western Europe and among some Native American tribes, called simply the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon, though the celebration had largely died out by the 18th century.
The Cherokee Moon Harvest Moon, Dunin(i)di, is the time of the “Harvest Festival” Nowatequa. The people give thanks to all the living things of the fields and earth that helped them live, and to the “Apportioner” Unethlana. Cheno i-equa or “Great New Moon” Festival is customarily held at this time. Ritual fasting would be observed seven days prior to the festival.
Other names for this moon are: Travel Moon and the Dying Grass Moon, Moon of Falling Leaves, Moon When the Water Freezes, Blood Moon, Moon of the Changing Seasons, Leaf Fall Moon, Basket Moon, Big Wind Moon, Blood Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Ten Colds Moon, and the Moon of the Changing Season.
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