This month’s Full Moon slipped past without a post, but I viewed it from a beach on July 19. A friend called to say, “Look outside at how red the Moon is tonight!”
There are several Full Moons that allude to the reddish color of the Moon. It is a characteristic of autumn full moons because they appear nearly full and rise soon after sunset for several evenings in a row. If you see them when they are low in the sky, shortly after they’ve risen, there is more atmosphere between you and the Moon than when the Moon is overhead and that extra air makes the moon look reddish. You’ll notice that a red moon will fade to white as it rises higher in the night sky.
This month, we often call it the Buck Moon because bucks begin to show antlers. A farmer might know this as the Hay Moon, and Thunder Moon has also been used due to the frequency of hot days with lightning and thunder.
The Celtic name is the Moon of Claiming, which is intriguing, but I have never found a good explanation for that name.
A Medieval name for the July moon was the Mead Moon because the hives were rich with honey and the time was right to make that honey wine.
Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants and berries. (It is the state fruit of Idaho.) We use the name for several edible berries that appear in mid-summer. The name ‘huckleberry’ is a North American variation of the English dialectal name variously called ‘hurtleberry’ or ‘whortleberry’ for the bilberry, which is almost identical in appearance to our blueberries. What people call huckleberries can be small berries with colors that may be red, blue or black.
Huckleberries were traditionally collected by Native American and First Nations people along the Pacific coast, interior British Columbia, and Montana for use as food or traditional medicine.
But the word “huckleberry” has a number of non-berry usages. Most people have heard of the novel by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. That was a good summer read of my youth, and I thought that drifting down a river all summer sounded pretty good. I was pretty naïve in my reading of this pre-Civil War South. White runaway kid Huck Finn joins fugitive adult slave Jim and they both “escape” down river. Nowadays, the novel is one of the most challenged and banned books for its “racist” language. You can view Twain’s novel as an indictment of the unenlightened thinking of his time, or as a classic coming-of-age novel. It definitely is one of the of the most influential books in American literature.
Ernest Hemingway was a fan. He said (in Green Hills of Africa) that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
On a much lighter side, you may know the cartoon character Huckleberry Hound. According to Wikipedia, as a slang term, the small size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, in a more affectionate way. The word shows up in the popular song “Moon River” and “I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job.
There are many American Indian names for the Full Moons because different tribes in different places focused on different signs in nature for their area and way of life. If you are an observer of nature, many of the Indian names will make sense:
Abenaki –Grass Cutter Moon
Algonquin –Squash Are Ripe Moon
Cherokee – Corn or Huckleberry Moon
Choctaw –Little Harvest Moon, Crane Moon
Comanche –Hot Moon
Cree –Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt
Dakota Sioux –Moon of the Middle Summer
Haida –Salmon Moon
Hopi –Moon of the Homedance
Kalapuya –Camas Ripe (the bulb of the camas lily was a staple food to the Kalapuya)
Lakota –Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black
Mohawk –Time of Much Ripening
Ponca –Middle of Summer Moon
Potawatomi –Moon of the Young Corn
Shoshone –Summer Moon
This Full Moon was for many Americans a Corn Moon. Roasting ears of corn was part of the “Green Corn Dance” or festival for Indians in the southwest. The Colonists called it the Corn Tassel Moon, so we can see the stage that corn was in for Northeastern settlers versus Southwestern Cherokee.
Let us not forget that for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere July is the Wolf Moon, Old Moon, or Ice Moon of winter. That is a cooling image to keep in mind as my ice cubes melt in my glass of iced tea and I type this during a 100 degree heat wave here in Paradelle. I suppose that I really should make a huckleberry moonshine cocktail though.