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There was no Full Moon last month, so did you miss seeing a big Moon in the sky?

Someone asked me how the ancients or Native Americans must have reacted to no Full Moon. They didn’t react at all. The distance between Full Moons is always about the same. We only notice because we are locked into our calendars which are a fairly modern way of viewing time.

Look at some of the names for the March Full Moon. It can be the Fish Moon since frozen waters are melting and fish are more active. It is called the Windy Moon also the Moon of Winds and March is often a windy month. Even Winnie the Pooh would tell you it is a month of blustery days.  I’ve written about the Worm Moon before. And a name with religious connections is the Lenten Moon.

Hopefully, this is not a Big Famine Moon for you. But if your tribe is running low on winter food stocks and it is too early to plant or harvest new crops, that name applies. It is certainly true for many animals. The suburban deer in my neighborhood are pretty desperate for anything green to eat and are grabbing even the tiny shoots of bushes and bulbs that popping up early due to a few early spring days.

March is a month that can look like winter – bare and snow-covered – or like spring – warm with fresh green growth.

Tonight’s Full Moon also coincides with the start of Passover and the eve of Easter.

Tonight is another Blue Moon – that label hung on the second of two full moons in a single calendar month. There is an older definition that defines a Blue Moon as the third of four full moons in a single season. There was a Blue Moon on January 31, 2018 that was also a supermoon with a total eclipse. You don’t get that trifecta too often.

A seasonal Blue Moon (third of four full moons in one season) can occur in the same calendar year, but that would mean there are 13 full moons in one calendar year and 13 full moons in between successive December solstices.

The rarity we associate with the phrase “once in a blue moon” doesn’t seem so rare in recent years. I have posted about blue moons fairly regularly. But two Blue Moons in a single calendar year last happened in 1999. If you’re still around in 2037, February will have no full moon, and the months of January and March will each feature two full moons.

And though the Moon will not be any more “blue” tonight than on other nights, moonlight does tend to look blue in color – especially when you photograph it – so you might get some atmospheric or photographic blue with your moonlight tonight.

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We get a Blue Moon when there is a second full moon in one calendar month. That happens on Wednesday, January 31. But our Moon will also pass through the Earth’s shadow to give us a total lunar eclipse. And the triple play comes with this also being the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons.

There will be another Blue Moon in 2018, and supermoons occur every few months. Eclipses are rarer, but the three occurring all at once is rarer still. This will be the first Blue Moon total eclipse in 150 years for the Americas.

The Moon will be entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow (totality) for a bit more than an hour.

The term Blue Moon still makes me think of the song “Blue Moon.” It is an oldie, written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. Lots of singers and groups have recorded it (Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé had early hits) and versions by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, The Mavericks, Dean Martin, The Supremes, Rod Stewart and even an adapted anthem version used by English Premier League football club Manchester City are out there.

But the recording that always pops into my head is the 1961 big hit for doo-wop group The Marcels.

The song pops up in one of my favorite horror-with-a-comedic-twist films, American Werewolf in London, which would be an excellent film to watch on Wednesday night.

If you are more of a listener than watcher, I suggest the film’s soundtrack which is full (no pun intended) of moon songs.

By a commonly accepted definition, a supermoon has to come within 225,027 miles (362,146 km) of Earth.  They are not that rare and happen every few months. The Full Moons January 1 and 31, 2018, count as supermoons, and we can call the January 31 Moon a Blue Moon (a second in the same month).

It is a rarer occurrence that the new year is bookended by Full Moons on the first and last day and that both are “supermoons.” That popularized term is used to describe a new or full moon that occurs at roughly the same time the moon is nearest Earth (perigee) in its monthly orbit.

This New Year’s Day Full Moon is most often called the Wolf Moon, which is not a name that feels optimistic.

Why even give the Full Moons names?  That’s simple to answer. From the ancients through many other groups, including the early Native Americans, months didn’t exist because they didn’t use a Julian or Gregorian calendar. People gave each full moon a nickname to keep track of the seasons and lunar months. Lunar calendars came into being and are still used. The Moon’s phases are easier to observe than solar movements, but they are more variable.

Lunar Calendar by Fernando de GorocicaOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Most of the Full Moon names relate to an activity or an event that took place at the time in each location, so names are often both cultural and geographically bound. Your “Snow Moon” may well be quite warm and snow-free. Some groups  counted four seasons a year while others counted five, and some defined a year as 12 moons, while others said there were 13. Colonial Americans adopted some of the Native American names and so they were written down and still survive.

For January, “Wolf Moon” was used in Europe as well as here in America, but other European names included Ice Moon and Old Moon. Still, I was searching for a more optimistic January Moon name after a personally and nationally tough 2017.

There is the Chinese Holiday Moon, the Moon After the Yule and the Celtic Quiet (Quite) Moon which all sound kinder. But the new name I settled on for this year’s post is from New Guinea – the Rainbow Fish Moon. That calendar does not follow our months but this is the name listed for January’s Full Moon.

I could not find why this little fish is associated with this time. Does it spawn now or appear in greater numbers? Anyone from New Guinea reading this post who can comment?

There is a children’s book, The Rainbow Fish, that is new to me but apparently a very popular book. It has eye-catching foil stamping  illustrations that glitter on every page. The story is  about a beautiful fish who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions and about individualism. Good messages, though it seems that has been interpreted differently by some.

The story was made into an animated television series of the same name.

And if you are reading this in the Southern Hemisphere, are you calling this the Hay Moon, Buck Moon, Thunder Moon, or Mead Moon? Post a comment!

The last Full Moon of 2017  came to fullness at 10:47 am ET.  It is a “supermoon” which, by a commonly accepted definition, is when a full moon comes within 225,027 miles (362,146 km) of Earth. It’s not that rare, and happens every few months. The two full moons on January 2 and 31, 2018 also count as supermoons and that double full moon appearance in a month means we can call that second full moon on January 31, 2018 a Blue Moon.

This early full moon of December was often called the Moon Before Yule by the European colonists who also knew it as the Oak Moon (Medieval English), Frost Moon, Freezing Moon, Christmas Moon (when it occurs later in the month) and Snow Moon.

A nice book to read kids for all the full moons is When the Moon is Full. It has lovely woodcuts and poems that portray the twelve full moons of the year. They use the “traditional Native American names,” so this month is the Long Night Moon.

This is classified as a “children’s book” but it will not be difficult to read and reread as an adult. There is also some factual Moon information included in the book, like defining a blue moon. The poetry text is by Penny Pollock with illustrations by Mary Azarian.

It should be noted that to say that the December full moon is called by Native Americans the “Long Night Moon,” an asterisk should note that there are many Indian names for the full moons because they varied by tribe and especially by location. It was also called the Cold Moon, Small Spirits Moon, When the Wolves Run Together (Cheyenne) Moon of Respect (Hopi) and the Shawnee washilatha kiishthwa or Eccentric Moon.

This year I chose the name Moon of Popping Trees, but I have also read that the Sioux of The Dakotas and the Cree call the first New Moon of the new year something similar, sometimes translated as Moon of the Cold-Exploding Trees (which doesn’t sound quite Indian to me).

Cold weather can actually cause trees to explode by freezing the sap. The water in the sap expands as it freezes and can create a pop or even as a sound like a gunshot from the splitting bark.

The Choctaw called this the Peach Moon and that name is probably appropriate to a tribe that originally occupied what is now Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. If you live there today, it just might be more a Peach Moon than one where trees are exploding.

Sometimes the Colonists later took on English versions of the Indian names. And the Native American Cherokee people called this the Snow Moon, as did the Medieval English. Much of  America gets snow this month, and even in the warmer Southwest the Snow Moon is the full moon when the first snows fall in the mountains. The Cherokee tell the story of a spirit being, Vsgiyi (Snow Man) who brings the cold and snow so that the the land can rest.

Beyond American shores, this full moon is also called Wintermonat (Winter Month), Bitter Moon (China), Heilagmonoth (Holy Month), Dreaming Moon and Big Winter Moon.

This year the Yuletide  will not be signaled by a full moon but by the winter solstice for 2017 which will slide into the Northern Hemisphere at 11:28 AM ET on Thursday, December 21.

 

 

Tonight’s Full Moon is often called the Hunter’s Moon or Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. There are lots of other names out there for the November Full Moon, including  the Travel Moon, Dying Grass Moon, Moon of Falling Leaves, Beaver Moon, Moon of the Changing Seasons, Leaf Fall Moon, Trading Moon,  Basket Moon, Big Wind Moon, Blood Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Ten Colds Moon,  and the Moon of the Changing Season.

Hunter’s moon is a very common name, but it only applies to November in some years. This is the name for the first full moon after the harvest moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. This year the Harvest Moon was in October, so this month is a Hunter’s Moon.  The Hunter’s Moon was once a feast day in parts of western Europe, and some Native American tribes also celebrated the hunt at this Full Moon.

Many American Indian tribes named this moon for the time the rivers started to freeze and the first snows and frosts came. As a child, my father told me that a frost in the fall or spring is more likely to occur on clear nights. That has some science behind it because thick cloud cover will retain some of the Earth’s heat. He also said that the night of a Full Moon is a likely frost night, but that would only be true if you clearly saw the Moon because it was a clear, cloudless night. Data on first and last frosts compared to the phases of the moon don’t show any correlation. Science ruins a lot of folklore.

Around Paradelle, November is the month when we will likely see a killing frost and some puddles will freeze overnight.  But not on this early November night – even with a Full Moon and no clouds.

 

 

 

Today is the Harvest Moon for 2017. It is often in September that the Full Moon is closest to the autumnal (fall) equinox, but this year that is the October Full Moon and not the previous one on September 6. It will be full at 2:40 pm for those of us on the east coast of the U.S.

Any actual harvesting in your area might already be done but traditionally it was because farmers could work later into the evening by the light of this moon. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and wild rice — the chief staples of Native Americans — were ready for gathering.

Usually, the moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night – just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe.

We notice the moon more when it stays out all night long, and that would be around the time of  the Full Moon. This is when the Moon is 180 degrees from the sun, or opposite the sun in our sky.

A Full Moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise. But after that, it is in a waning gibbous phase and rises later each night and sets in the west later each day after sunrise.

Harvest Moon reminds me of an old song that my parents would have sung and danced to in their youth – perhaps at a Harvest Moon Dance.  “Shine On, Harvest Moon” was a popular early-1900s song credited to the married vaudeville team Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth in the era of Tin Pan Alley songs. It became a pop standard, and is still performed today.

It is the tale of a guy who hasn’t had any loving for months and tonight he was ready to make his move on his girlfriend but the Moon wasn’t shining, so she was afraid to be out. He calls to the Moon to please shine.

The night was mighty dark so you could hardly see,
For the moon refused to shine.
Couple sitting underneath a willow tree,
For love they did pine.
Little maid was kinda ‘fraid of darkness
So she said, “I guess I’ll go.”
Boy began to sigh, looked up at the sky,
And told the moon his little tale of woe

Oh, Shine on, shine on, harvest moon
Up in the sky;
I ain’t had no lovin’
Since April, January, June or July.
Snow time, ain’t no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon;
So shine on, shine on, harvest moon,
For me and my gal.

I hope you have a nice Harvest Moon tonight that looks orange in color because that is the stereotypical way the October Full Moon is often portrayed. It looks very harvesty and Halloweenish. But this effect is not seasonal but is caused by the atmosphere of the earth. The reason for the orange color is due to the scattering of light by the atmosphere. When the moon is near the horizon, the moonlight must pass through much more atmosphere than when the moon is directly overhead.

Well, it’s a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
‘Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I’m trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
And all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush

 

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