Tomorrow, January 9, 2012, is the Full Moon that starts the new year.
This Cold Moon (called Unolvtani in Cherokee celebrations) marked the start of the season for personal and ritual observance, fasting and personal purification. It was a time for families to prepare for the coming of the next season which will start with the Windy Moon in March. The tools for planting are repaired, and new ones are made. The ancestors are honored with the telling of stories about them to young ones.
This month is the time of a Cold Moon Dance in communities. Another tradition found here in America by natives was also a part of celebrations by ancients in Europe. To mark the ending of one cycle of seasons and welcoming the beginning of the new cycle, community hearth fires are put out and new ones are made. The putting out of Fires and lighting of new ones was the duty of holy men of certain clans.
This time also coincides with the first arrival of the Morning Star in the east. Of course, the Morning Star isn’t a star at all, but the name given to the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise. The Greek referred to “Phosphorus” (meaning “Light-Bringer”) or Heōsphoros [AKA Eosphorus in English] meaning the “Dawn-Bringer” for Venus in its morning appearance.
While names for the Full Moons were used by Native Americans and other ancient civilizations to keep track of the seasons, their names applied to the time period that began with the full moon and extended until the next Full Moon. Remember, they did not use a calendar, so weeks, months and years were not concepts of time for them. No messy leap years, time zones or daylight savings time to negotiate.
Some of the Native American names that I have seen for the January full moon are the Cold Moon, Cooking Moon, Moon of the Terrible, Moon of the Raccoon, Full Snow Moon (also applied by some tribes to the February moon).
Why so many different names? Most variations in naming can be explained geographically. Tribes of the southwest and the northeast did not share the same climate, plants or animals and the names of the moons show that. One name that comes from far northern tribes is the Moon When Trees Pop.
A very common name used for our January moon is the Wolf Moon, a name inspired by the howling of hungry wolves during this time of scarcity that would gather outside villages and encampments.
Other names for this month’s full moon include the Winter Moon, Hunger Moon, Old Moon (an Colonial settlers name borrowed from Native Americans), Moon After Yule, the neo-Pagan Ice Moon.
The word January comes from the Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces and ruled over beginnings and endings and the past and the future. It was considered the time to put aside the old and outdated in your life and make plans for new and better conditions. It is not hard to see that we have maintained the idea in our annual ritual of new year’s resolutions.
The Holiday Moon is a name used in China. The Chinese celebration is actually similar to the Romans in celebrating their New Year, which occurs on the first day of the New Moon when the Sun is in Aquarius. This is considered a time for settling debts, honoring ancestors, and having family reunions. Paper images of dragons are carried through the streets and set off fireworks to chase away evil entities and misfortune.
In Tibet, the year began at the end of January and there was a celebration to expel the Old Year. They would make a human image from dough for the demons to inhabit. The image was worshiped then for seven days and then it was taken outside the village to a crossroad and abandoned. Why worship the demons? These negative beings, who have accumulated during the Old Year, get recognized for their existence. Then, by leaving the image outside the village, they are told that they are not welcome.
I also like the Druid name for this Moon. Our January is Llianth, their fourth month of the year, and the full moon is known as the Poet’s Moon. It is a good time for peace, creativity, and inspiration.