A composite enhanced image of the Moon as taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1992.

Our first Full Moon of 2014 occurs on Thursday, January 16.

All full moons rise around the time of sunset. Because the moon orbits the earth in the same direction the earth is rotating, the moon rises later each day – on average about 50 minutes later each day.  The moon rises approximately 30 minutes later from one night to the next, and that means there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise for several days following the actual date of the full moon.

This was the Cold Moon (called Unolvtani in Cherokee celebrations) that marked the start of the season of personal and ritual observance, fasting and personal purification. It was a time for families to prepare for the coming of the next season which would start with the Full Moon in March.

A common name used for the January moon by American Indians and Colonists was the Wolf Moon. The name came from the howling of hungry wolves outside villages and encampments during this time of scarcity. My posts in past years using that name have been some of the most read posts on the site.

Other possible names to use for this month’s full moon include the Winter Moon, Hunger Moon, Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.

I decided this year to mark the Full Moon with the neo-Pagan name of the Ice Moon (AKA the Cold Moon). Modern Wiccans and Pagans regularly celebrate an Esbat. It is a time of magic performed for the gods and goddesses at their monthly meetings, generally at the Full Moon.  The word esbat is of French origin, from s’esbattre, which loosely translates to “frolic joyfully.”

A Moon ceremony might involve a bonfire and the lighting of candles to each of the four directions and a group circle chant.

We gather tonight to rejoice by the light of the moon.
We celebrate the season of darkness,
knowing that the next turn of the Wheel will bring light.
We use this time of darkness for thought,
introspection, and growth.
As the moon above, so the earth below.

If you’re celebrating, you might want to bring along the wassail or cakes and ale.

Historically, our month names were the names of moons (lunations, not necessarily the Full Moons) in the older lunisolar calendars. But since the introduction of the solar Julian calendar in the Roman Empire and later Gregorian calendar, our names for the months are no longer “Moon names.”

The word January comes from the Roman  Janus, a god with two faces who ruled over beginnings and endings, and the past and future. Janus was an appropriate god for the start of a year. This time has long been considered the time to put aside the outdated in your life and make plans for new and better things. It’s not much of a stretch to see where we got our idea of making New Year’s resolutions.

Venus, the moon and Mercury rising on December 11, 2012 – Photo by Mike O’Neal via

In looking to the heavens, it was noted by the ancients that this was also the time when the Morning Star first appeared in the east. The Morning Star isn’t a star at all, but the name that was given to the planet Venus because it appears looking like a very bright star in the east to greet the sunrise. The Greeks referred to it as Phosphorus, the Dawn-Bringer (AKA Heōsphoros or Eosphorus in English).

Venus will bring the dawn brilliantly throughout most of 2014 and it enters the eastern morning sky in late January 2014 after passing between Earth and Sun (inferior conjunction). It will reach its greatest brilliance February 11th this year.