Tonight, December 17, will be the last Full Moon of 2013. We sometimes have two Full Moons this month, in which case the second would be a “blue moon,” but not this year. To many people, the moon looks “full” for a day or two before and after the true Full Moon.
We also have the Winter Solstice in just another four days – even it looks and feels like winter already in your hometown. When the midwinter night – the solstice that is literally the longest night – comes, it is long because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun. Earlier civilizations may not have had a scientific explanation for why this Moon of Long Nights marked the time when the winter cold had a firm grip on their lives and activities, but they knew these nights were the longest and darkest.
This last moon of our year has been called the Cold Moon, Long Night Moon (neo-pagan) or Moon of Long Nights, Oak Moon (Medieval English), Snow Moon, Moon of the Popping Trees, Her Winter Houses Moon, Big Freezing Moon, Frost Moon, Moon Before Yule and Moon After Yule (depending on the year), Oak Moon, Twelfth Moon (Dakota Sioux), Christmas Moon (Colonial America), Wintermonat (Winter Month), Bitter Moon (China), Heilagmonoth (Holy Month), Dreaming Moon and Big Winter Moon.
The Cherokee called this the Snow Moon [Vsgiyi] and the spirit being called “Snow Man” brings the cold and snow to cover the earth in the high places like a mother covering a child at night. This is seen as when the Earth rests and prepares itself for the rebirth of the seasons in the Windy Moon [Anuyi].
This was a time for families to prepare goods for the next cycle of seasons, and for the elders to be indoors teaching and retelling the old stories to the young people.
Marking the passing of the Full Moons fell away somewhat with the use of calendars. December was the tenth month on the old Roman calendar, the month containing the carefree celebration of 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, so this was their first Full Moon of the year.
For the Druids, the Full Moon in Hunlidh [hün’ lee] occurs in the third month of the year. It is called the Dreaming Moon & is a good time for resting. The first day of Hunlidh is the day of the Full Moon and that was when the Celts celebrated Yule.
Because these ancient “calendars” were based on the sun and moon, the dates varied from year to year. The month of Hunlidh shifts based on the Full Moons, but is considered to be from this month’s Full Moon Before Yule until the next Full Moon. It had a natural order, but not a scientific or accurate one that “more civilized” people eventually required.
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