Grass Moon of May

moon grass

What can I say about this month’s Full Moon that has not been said before? It occurs tonight, May 18th, at 5:11 P.M. in Paradelle. But you might have looked up last night and said, “Oh, it’s a Full Moon tonight,” because it certainly looked pretty full then.

This May Full Moon is often called the Flower Moon, for obvious reasons. Things are probably blooming in your Northern Hemisphere neighborhood. In Paradelle, we are past all the early spring bulbs like crocuses, daffodils and tulips. We have moved on to azaleas, rhododendrons and irises. Mother’s Day was often the time for my mom’s iris bed to be filed with blooms, but this year we are behind by almost two weeks because of a very wet and cool spring. But we will catch up eventually.

Flies are buzzing and ants are trying to eat up my home’s framework. I’m sure the mosquitoes are very happy about all the vernal pools, unintentional puddles and water filled objects around for their breeding.

Does this feel like Flower Moon or the Planting Moon, or the Medieval Hare Moon?  I have written about it being the Buddha Full MoonCorn Planting Moon, Hare Moon, Moon When Frogs Return, and Milk Moon.

In 2016, it was a Blue and Day for Night Moon.

In my neighborhood, it feels like the Grass Moon this year. The American Indian name of  Moon When the Grass is Green mixes well with the Milk Moon because of the grass and cows connection. The Dakotah Sioux called this the Moon When the Leaves Are Green.  With all the grass peaking in its chlorophyll green, historically this is the time of the hay harvest.  It is a planting time for vegetables, so rather than celebrate harvests, this is seen as a time of hope and promise.

No cows in Paradelle, but lots of rain has made lots of grass in my front and back lawns. It is at its peak green. I could use a few cows or goats to graze there, because my lawn mower refuses to start. So, for this Full Moon, I will be pulling apart the carburetor and cleaning the float and checking the gas line and pulling the starter a bunch of times. The rabbits are enjoying the grass for now, waiting for me to plant my vegetables.

The grass needs cutting.

The April Full Fish Moon

This morning at 7:12 A.M., the Moon will go “full” and, of course, it will still look quite full tonight.

The Cherokee word for the Full Moon at this time was Kawohni (duck) as in “Moon when the ducks return.”  Some American Indians called this the Wildcat Moon. The European wildcat and the Asian wildcat (Felis silvestris ornata) are different animals from what Americans would encounter and the term was usually given as a nickname to the lynx and bobcat. These are not animals that hibernate in winter, but they are more likely to be seen in warmer months. Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are very solitary animals during the winter months, but in early January or February, adult male bobcats begin searching for females, though pregnant females can be seen throughout the year.

Most of the Full Moon names for this spring season Moon reference nature. The Dakotah Sioux called this the Moon When Geese Return in Scattered Formation. Colonists had names like Seed Moon, Pink Moon, and Sprouting Grass Moon.

In some years, we have an Egg Moon. When there is a Full Moon before Easter, it can be called the Egg Moon. This month’s Full Moon just qualifies by occurring two days before Easter. That naming comes from several nature and religious traditions. In nature, hens begin laying more eggs with longer days, and many wild bird species also lay their eggs now. Even fish spawn now and deposit their eggs. Eggs have long been a symbol of spring, regeneration, and rebirth.

In Celtic tradition, this is the Growing Moon, which could refer to nature or to ourselves.

American shad – via Wikimedia

I’m thinking of this Full Moon as the Fish Moon. Here in Paradelle, trout season opened this month, but that is a fish event that is man-made. Spring time, and perhaps right now in your area, is when bass come out and start feeding after a long, lazy winter. Frogs emerge and along with the worms of last month’s Worm Moon, they are both tasty treats for bass. And in Paradelle, this is the time when shad swim upstream to spawn.

Herring and hickory shad spawning. They are anadromous fish, meaning they migrate from the ocean to freshwater streams each spring to spawn (release or deposit eggs).

Although it was said that in spring a young man’s fancy turns to love, humans have no spawning season. But we do need to plant in the spring, whether because it is our job to provide food, or we just feel some inner need to make things grow.

There is planting folklore concerning the New Moon and Full Moons of spring that some still follow, although it doesn’t have scientific backing.

Root crops, such as carrots, radishes etc., are said to grow better when planted during the days between the waning moon that comes after the Full Moon, until the New Moon.

Above-ground crops, like tomatoes, corn and pepper, should be planted during the waxing moon phase from the New Moon until the next Full Moon. Those times work pretty well in my neighborhood.

seedlings

 

A Super Equinox Full MoonWorm

The March Full Moon is often called the Worm Moon due to the early spring appearance of worms reappearing and the robins and other birds that enjoy them.

In 2019, it occurs on March 20 for those of us in the United States, but in any location it will be less noticed for worms and more noticed for two other aspects.

It will reach fullness just ahead of the vernal/spring equinox, which is a nice coincidence. This full moon will also be the third and last last “super moon” of the year.

The rising full moon will look slightly bigger and brighter because it is near its closest approach to Earth in its monthly orbit.

Perhaps you are someone who believes there are no coincidences, and so this triple crossing of celestial events will have greater meaning.

To astronomers, it is just another full moon, though I did read that the full moon on equinox day will allow for some interesting calculations. This is something that occurs every 19 years.

If you measure the shadow cast by a perfectly vertical stick when the Sun us at its highest point (zenith) on equinox day, the angle will be your latitude.

Or you can just look up and wonder at the big, beautiful Moon of ours.

 

The Bone Moon of February

On February 19, 2019 at 10:53 am ET, we will see the February Full Moon. Often called the Snow Moon, that name for this Full Moon might not make much sense if you are in a climate where snow is rare or non-existent.

I have written about most of the Full Moon names below (click links for earlier posts). The Wolf Moon may be one English name for this month, but in the U.S. the January Full Moon is the one sometimes called the Wolf Moon.

American Indian tribes have the most variety in naming the Full Moons which were a very important way of marking the passage of time.

Transposing the Cherokee names for our Julian calendar months, our February would be Kagaʔli or Gŭgăli, the Bone Moon or the “month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens.” I couldn’t find the exact reason for the “bone” symbolism. Maybe the bare bones of a difficult time of year when it came to food? There might be little food and you might even gnaw on bones and eat bone marrow soup. This was the traditional time for families to mark those who had departed this world with a family meal with places set for the departed. Maybe it is the bones of the departed?

Other tribes called this Full Moon the “Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon” (Wishram Native Americans), the “No Snow in the Trails Moon” (Zuni Native Americans).

In colder climes, Snow, Storm, Winter and Ice Moon were names that were used by Colonists.

Month Colonial America Cherokee Choctaw Celtic Medieval England Neo-Pagan Wiccan Algonquian English
February Trapper’s Moon Bony/Bone Moon Little Famine Moon Moon of Ice Storm Moon Snow Moon Storm Moon Snow Moon Wolf Moon

There is snow and ice in Paradelle at this time, but thankfully there is no famine or gnawing at bones or wolves waiting for me outside.

Eclipsing the Moon

January 2019 lunar eclipse animation.gif
The eclipse will take place in the constellation of Cancer, just west of the Beehive Cluster.   Animation by Tomruen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Even people who don’t pay attention to the sky or even notice stars, planets and the Moon’s phases will probably take a look at the total lunar eclipse on January 21, 2019. The media have been talking about it for a few days already and throwing around terms like “Supermoon” and “Blood Moon.”

Here in the Americas, the eclipse will take place between the evening of Sunday, January 20 and the early morning hours of Monday, January 21. This eclipse will be visible in Paradelle and the New York metro area starting at 9:36 pm local time. The Earth’s shadow will be covering the lunar surface until 2:48 am – so plenty of time to get outside to look before bedtime and even more viewing for insomniacs.

The eclipse will be visible in its entirety from North and South America, as well as portions of western Europe and northwest Africa. Observers at locations in Europe and much of Africa will be able to view part of the eclipse before the Moon sets in the early morning (pre-dawn) hours of January 21.

The eclipse will occur at a time when the Moon is closer to Earth (perigee) than at other times and that is where the “super” comes from. It will appear somewhat larger to most viewers.

As with most lunar eclipses, the moon will appear somewhat reddish during the eclipse because of an optical phenomenon (Rayleigh scattering) of sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s basically the same reason that we see sunsets as more reddish than the Sun at earlier parts of the day.

If you somehow miss the event, this is the last total lunar eclipse until May 2021.

A Sassafras Moon in Taurus

Tonight, our Moon will be full and that often obscures some stars or planets in its glare.  But the star charts tell me that Aldebaran, a bright star that forms part of the “face” of Taurus the Bull, and the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus’ “shoulder” should still be visible. I am away from Paradelle and near a dark ocean, so viewing will be different from my home turf.

The November Full Moon is often called the Beaver Moon or Frosty Moon. Back in Paradelle, frosty would be the right word to describe the weather conditions tonight.  I’m not in the Southern Hemisphere, but I am close today, so it feels more like spring than late autumn. In either location, this Full Moon shines in front of Taurus the Bull for this third and final full moon of our Northern Hemisphere autumn (or the Southern Hemisphere spring).

Sassafras albidum growing in Paradelle

We might also use one of the American Indian names for this Full Moon. I believe it is the Choctaw that call this the Sassafras Moon. Sassafras is a tree commonly found throughout the eastern United States that grows up to about 60 feet in height. The tree is also sometimes called cinnamon wood.

I’m sure that the native Americans observed deer and porcupines eating the leaves and twigs. Rabbits eat sassafras bark in winter. Sassafras fruits are eaten by many species of birds, including bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, gray catbirds, pileated and downy woodpeckers. Sassafras root and bark was used in cooking and also herbal remedies. The leaves were used for tea.

Sassafras was also a component is commercial sodas, especially root beer – hence the root name. The key word is was. Sassafras has fallen out of favor because the root bark contains safrole, a volatile oil that the FDA banned as a potential carcinogen in the 1960s. With the safrole removed, it can be legally sold as a topical skin wash or as “aromatic potpourri.”

Whether tonight will be wintry frosty cold or spring like warm, this season we are in runs from the September equinox to the December solstice.

In December, the full moon will occur less than one day after the December solstice, a nice combination, though we will miss having four moons in this season.

Taurus
Taurus as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London in 1825 as part of a treatise on astronomy.