Full Moon On Midnight Snow

Photo: Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

There was snow that swept through the country last night. Here, it was followed by rain and what did fall anew is gone. There are still piles from that last snowstorm, but that is the most unappealing snow.

It is quite lovely to see a Full Moon on a clear winter night when the ground is covered with fresh, glistening snow.

From November through February the Moon is high at midnight.  From May through July the Moon is very low in the sky. In  March, April, August, September and October the Moon is somewhere between. So, tonight’s Full Moon will be high in the sky at midnight.

Looking through a very long list of Moon names used by American Indian tribes, I found great variety for this January Moon. The Algonquin call it the Moon When the Sun Has Not the Strength to Thaw. That would be true in the North. The Chippewa and Ojibwe use the name Great Spirit Moon. The Apache, being in a warmer climate, call this the Time of Flying Ants. But colder January times figure into most names, such as Northern Arapaho’s When the Snow Blows Like Spirits in the Wind and the Cheyenne Moon of the Strong Cold. I like the Muscogee (Creek) name for this Full Moon – Winter’s Younger Brother.

For those who follow such things, this first Full Moon of 2022 falls in the intuitive, sensitive sign of Cancer, a sign that is supposed to remind us of feeling at home within ourselves. As with New Moons, this Moon of the new year could be a signal for a fresh start and letting go of what we don’t want to carry into the new year.

A friend who does follow astrology told me in an email that tonight I should “cleanse my aura.” I had to research that suggestion.

First of all, what is my aura? “Your aura is the energy field that surrounds your body. It acts as a magnetic field of energy that picks up on emotions, health, psychic debris and circumstances around you. Your aura can experience stress as you exchange energies with those around you, which is exactly why you need to clean your auric field from time to time.”

It turns out there are many ways to do this and some of them are things I do fairly regularly, such as getting into nature, soaking baths, or meditation. There are cleansing tools, such as crystals, herb sticks, bells, sage smudging. Using a New or Full Moon as a time for self-reflection is certainly not a bad twice a–month reminder

 

Celebrating the Solstice and Endless Summer

poster

As a year ends, we often look back on what we have experienced. That review may bring to mind what we have accomplished and good memories. It may include regrets, things undone, and things we wish we could forget.

In this month’s writing prompt at my Poets Online e-zine, I noted an old poem (1784), “New Year’s Verses” by Philip Freneau, in which he blesses the calendar maker who came up with the idea of a year.

Blest be the man who early prov’d
And first contriv’d to make it clear
That Time upon a dial mov’d,
And trac’d that circle call’d a year;

Do you bless or curse the coming of winter?

December is filled with holidays that mark the Winter Solstice and the end of the year. That solstice is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day of the year. But you only have to move south of the equator for it to be the start of spring. and winter won’t arrive there until June.

In my brief youthful surfer days, the film The Endless Summer was a cult classic documentary. In 1966, I had that day-glo poster on the wall at the foot of my bed and stared at it every day. The surfers in the film were in search of the “perfect wave” but what interested me more is that their travels showed that you could follow summer around the globe. It could always be summer if you moved from hemisphere to hemisphere.

That was a few years after I had figured out the chords to The Beatles’ “I’ll Follow the Sun” which in my mind was saying the same thing. I didn’t keep surfing and never really progressed very far on the guitar and never did get to follow the Sun. I suppose it became more of a metaphor than a reality. Follow your bliss. Head for the positive.

Though some of us in the North might be sad to see summer and autumn ending and winter starting since ancient times astronomical winter and the solstice was a joyous celebration. After the solstice, the days get longer building daylight hours until the vernal equinox and the start of spring.

Societies globally have held festivals and ceremonies marking winter solstice which was seen as the day of the Sun’s rebirth. Symbolically, fire or light is often a component. Other symbols include things representing life and death, the rising Sun, and the Moon.

A good example is Yule which was a celebration of the ancient Norsemen of Scandinavia and it ran from the solstice through January. You might know about Large Yule logs which were set on fire at one end.  More modern and tamer versions have taper candles inserted into a smaller log and decorated with evergreen clippings, holly, mistletoe, or ivy.

log burning

Bonfires also figure into many ceremonies in order to encourage the sun’s return. There is a large fire traditionally burning on Mount Fuji each year.

Hanukkah is another happy celebration that features light via the fire of candles or oil lamps.

In the Hopi tradition of Soyal, the Sun Chief takes on the role of announcing the setting of the sun, after which an all-night ceremony begins with the kindling of fires and dancing.

The Winter Solstice arrives on the 21st mid-afternoon here in Paradelle.  If that isn’t appealing, head south and enjoy summer’s arrival.

The winter solstice (also called the hiemal solstice or hibernal solstice) occurs when either of Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the Sun. This happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere. For that hemisphere, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky. If you are at the North Pole on the 21st, you’ll experience continuous darkness or twilight.

I don’t love winter, but I have lived with it all my life. The four seasons are strong reminders of cycles – birth, maturity, aging, death, rebirth. There is something about losing summer that makes its return all the more miraculous to me.

A Child’s Moon of Oak and Mistletoe

December Moon
Druid, Oak, Mistletoe, Full Moon

The Moon becomes full on Saturday, December 18, 2021, at 11:37 P.M. EST but it always looks full the day before and the day after to the naked eye.

You can look for it just before sunset as it appears above the horizon and this month’s Full Moon has a distinctive high trajectory across the sky and so it sits above the horizon for a longer period of time and at midnight it will be high in the night sky.

You’ve heard (or read here) names for this December Moon. Cold Moon is a Mohawk name, Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), and Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki), Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota) and Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), and Hoar Frost Moon (Cree) are all possibilities of names filled with wintery images. They are all very Northern Hemisphere names.

The Long Night Moon (Mohican) is a name that became popular with colonists because it connects to the Winter Solstice and the “longest” nights of the year.  December’s Full Moon also shines above the horizon for a longer period of time than most Full Moons.

Some believe that the Oak Moon name ties back to ancient Druid traditions of harvesting mistletoe from oak trees, a practice first recorded by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder in the 1st century CE. The term “druid” may derive from the Proto-Indo-European roots for “oak” and “to see,” suggesting “druid” means “oak knower” or “oak seer.” The mistletoe tradition remains with us, though it devolved into a kissing tradition.

Mistletoe growth is what is knowns as parasitic symbiosis. It is an unromantic relationship when one organism exploits the other. Mistletoe seeds embed on oak trees and roots into the oak and steal water and nutrients. A few are harmless but a heavy mistletoe infestation can even kill the tree.

European pagans had long known this as the Moon Before Yule to mark the Yuletide festival celebrating the return of the sun at the Winter Solstice.

I discovered recently that this could be called the Child’s Moon. On the NASA website, they relate the story of 7-year-old Astrid walking home from school with her father and seeing the rising full Moon. She said: “You know what this Moon is called? It’s called a Child Moon. Because the Moon rises at a time that the children, they can see it, because they’re not in bed, and they might even be outside like we are right now.”

My new granddaughter is 20 months old, so this winter is the first time she is aware of it getting dark while she’s still awake for a few hours. I will have to look up at the Full Moon with her this month. Good night, Moon.

child moon
Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER

My Guiding Star

star spin

Anyone who looks up at the night sky and can identify a few stars, constellations or planets knows that everything is always moving.

Or is everything moving? Maybe we are the one who is moving.

There is an expression that your “North Star” is the thing that guides you. The actual North Star or Pole Star – which is named Polaris – is known for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it.

It really was a guiding star for ancient travelers and sailors. Like a compass, it showed you due North.

Polaris is located nearly at the north celestial pole which is the point around which the entire northern sky turns. If you painted stars on the ceiling of a room and had your own Pole Star at the center of the room and stood right below it, you could spin like a top and all the stars would circle over your head. Except for that Pole Star.

In my lifetime, the stars have been essentially fixed relative to one another, but over time they are moving around the center of the galaxy.  I wrote earlier about how even the North star has moved and the Pole Star has not always been Polaris.

The universe is still at times unimaginable.

November’s Micro Beaver Blood Moon Eclipse

moon approach
NASA image

The next full moon will be on Friday, November 19th at 4:02 am ET. This month you can hang many labels on the Full Moon.  Micro Beaver Blood Moon Eclipse is a mouthful, so let me explain.

Common names for this Full Moon are the Beaver Moon, Frost Moon (or Freezing Moon depending on your location) and the Deer Rutting Moon.  But this year it will get more attention because it will be what some people call a blood moon eclipse.

The Moon will reach its full redpoint 4:02 a.m ET and Americans can get a quick glimpse if they are awake. If you want to see the complete eclipse, you’ll have to start watching at 2:18 a.m ET when the white moon starts shifting to red.

This is a  partial lunar eclipse but it will put 97% of the Moon into darkness. Depending on where you are in the world it occurs on Thursday, November 18 and into the early hours of Friday over North America. It will also be visible from Australia, New Zealand, eastern Asia and part of South America.

The big buzz in the media is that this will be the longest partial lunar eclipse since 1440. The entire eclipse lasts around 6 hours, Not to spoil things but the longest lunar eclipse in recent history was the total lunar eclipse of July 27, 2018, which lasted about 12 minutes longer than the one this week.

Here’s another label to hang on this lunar event. Lunar eclipses only happen on the night of a full moon. This month’s Full Moon will be the smallest full moon of the year. This is known as a “micromoon” which is the opposite of the “supermoon.” Supermoons are a popular term for when the Moon is closest to Earth. This month, the Moon will be at near apogee (the point in its orbit when it is farthest away from the Earth) and so it is a micromoon. It will appear about 14% smaller and 30% dimmer than a supermoon. Will you notice this with the naked eye? Probably not.

If there are no clouds obscuring the Moon, you should be able to see it even in a light-polluted place, unlike meteor showers. If its cloudy or you don’t want to go outside, the timeanddate.com website will be providing live coverage of the event on YouTube from 2 a.m. ET.

North America will experience a pair to total lunar eclipses next year in May and November.

A Comet Comes from Leo

Today is the anniversary of the first recorded observance of a meteor shower in North America. It is now known as the Leonids.

Certainly, people observed this event for centuries before in North America and elsewhere, but it is Andrew Ellicott Douglass who was the first to record it here.

Douglass was an American astronomer who was on a ship off the Florida Keys on November 12, 1799, when he saw them. He wrote that the “whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with skyrockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after day break.”

Leo

The Leonids meteor shower occurs every November. The debris from the comet known as Tempel-Tuttle seems to originate in the constellation Leo the Lion when the burning debris appears to us on Earth.

The shower is visible from November 6 to the 30th and will peak the morning of November 17.

According to earthsky.org, visibility depends on when you watch, where you watch, and on the clarity and darkness of your night sky. Ideally, be in a rural location and when the Moon is new or a smaller crescent phase just before dawn when the Moon has set.

Tonight the Moon is in its Waxing (growing) Gibbous phase and is about 60% illuminated as it moves to full on the 19th.

When the comet’s orbit actually takes it back to that Leo part of the solar system (which happens about every 33 years) the meteor shower is especially spectacular.