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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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Is today’s Full Moon (which occurred for me at 3:03 AM) the Harvest Moon? That is one of the Full Moon names that varies in the month that it occurs. You might be harvesting in your locale, but the Harvest Moon is traditionally the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. Most years, that is in September, though it can be in October. This year the equinox is on September 22, so the October 5th full moon is closer than the one on September 6. No Harvest Moon just yet.

September and October’s  moon when called Harvest and Hunter both share the idea that these moon’s particularly bright appearance and early rising aided farmers’ harvesting times and offered more light to stalk game.

The September and October Full Moons are sometimes said to be larger and even more orange in color. The warmer color of the moon might be seen shortly after it rises because of an optical illusion. When the moon is low in the sky, you are looking at it through more atmospheric particles and pollution than when the moon is overhead, so the atmosphere scatters the bluish component more than the red end of the light. That’s also conversely why moonlight is often seen and depicted as blue from the reflected white light from the sun.

Are these moons bigger? Well, not because the Moon is closer but because we perceive a low-hanging moon to be larger than one that’s high in the sky. This “Moon Illusion” can be seen with any full moon.

From the Choctaw people, I have selected the Mulberry Moon as the name for this month’s Full Moon. The Choctaw are a Native American people originally occupying what is now Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Mulberries are multiple or collective fruits, formed from a cluster of fruiting flowers. Each flower in this inflorescence produces a fruit, but these mature into a single mass. Botanically the mulberry is not a berry but a collective fruit. It looks like a swollen loganberry.

The small fruits swell, change color from red to a darker color and are fat and full of juice.  The color of the fruit does not identify the mulberry species, and there are white mulberries that produce white, lavender or black sweet fruit. Red mulberry fruits are similar but not quite as sweet as the black mulberry. It is the black mulberry fruits that are large and juicy, with a nice sweet and tart balance that gets them the best reviews. Some compare the tartness to a grapefruit. Mulberries also ripen over an extended period of time, so they don’t have to be picked all at once.

The most commonly used name for this month is the Corn Moon. The Celtic name is the Singing Moon and an English Medieval name was the Barley Moon.

There are many Indian tribal names for the Full Moons and they vary widely as they are centered in signs from nature in their geographic area. Moon When the Plums Are Scarlet is used by the Lakota Sioux, and Moon When the Deer Paw the Earth by the Omaha tribe. The Haida of Alaska would call this the Ice Moon, but the Dakotah Sioux call it the Moon When The Calves Grow Hair. The Cree tribe of Northern Plains Canada call this the Snow Goose Moon.

Ice and snow are thankfully not part of September here in Paradelle.

The full moon of September as seen from the northern hemisphere corresponds to the full moon of March as seen from the southern hemisphere, so you southerners can read my Whispering Wind Moon post today.

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The August Full Moon arrives in my neighborhood tomorrow, August 7 at 2:11 pm.

Names for the monthly Full Moons are very much culturally and geographically based. The August Full Moon is sometimes called the Corn Moon, but that name is used by others for the July Full Moon. It depends on your growing season. Similarly, I have heard it called the Barley Moon, which is also based on where you are located.

Some other names for the August Full Moon are: Worm Moon, Lenten Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Chaste Moon, Sap Moon. It is the Celtic Singing Moon.

I see the August Full Moon called the Harvest Moon in some places. That is another name that varies in the month that it occurs. You might be harvesting in your locale, but the Harvest Moon is traditionally the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. Most years, that is in September though it can be in October. This year the equinox is on September 22, so the October 5th full moon is closer than the one on September 6.

The month of August meant that sturgeons were plentiful in the waters of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, so the Algonquin who fished there called it the Sturgeon Moon. Originally, they used hooks made of small animal bones or the wishbones of birds.

The Assiniboine of the Northern Plains called this the Black Cherries Moon, while the Ponca were more concerned with it being the Corn In the Silk Moon and the Shawnee, “plum moon.” But August also meant that plants and animals were transitioning in preparation for colder weather. The Cherokee called this the Drying Up Moon, which certainly would be the situation in the Southwest.  The Cherokee have called it Dulisdi, Nut Moon, and the Dakotah Sioux refer to it as the Moon When The Calves Grow Hair.

I found that the Passamaquoddy people called this the Feather Shedding Moon which resonated with me because I have been seeing feathers on the ground on my walks lately.

The Passamaquoddy (Peskotomuhkati or Pestomuhkati in the Passamaquoddy language) are an American First Nations people who live in northeastern North America, primarily in Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.

Most birds molt once per year, but some lose their feathers slowly during the year.  A few, like the American Goldfinch, have two molts a year. I don’t know which species the Passamaquody were observing up North.  I suspect it may have been  ducks, geese and other waterfowl, some of whom lose most or all of their flight feathers all at once. This leaves them flightless for a short while, until new feathers grow in. Even a couple of flight feathers lost will inhibit their ability to remain airborne.

It seems counterproductive to lose all of them at once but it makes more sense for them to get the process done in one fell swoop rather than be inhibited throughout the year. I have read that many waterfowl molt after their nesting season.

Summer is half full, but I am seeing all the signs of it being half empty. There are Back-to-School ads already. A few nights have been autumn cool. Some leaves have fallen in the backyard. There are end of summer sales at the Jersey shore.

I say shed a few feathers, but don’t go flightless yet.

 

I will look for the Full Moon low in the eastern sky around sunset tonight, July 8. It will be highest around midnight. In my neighborhood it technically was “full” at 12:07 am EDT, but most of us only count it as full when we see it at night no matter what time the scientists tell us.

July is typically the stormiest month of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. The hot weather makes thunderstorms fairly common, so the Thunder Moon is a good name for most of us this month.

Thunder is the sound caused by lightning. Depending on the distance and nature of the lightning, thunder can range from a sharp, loud crack to a long, low rumble. As we learned in science class, the sudden increase in pressure and temperature from lightning produces rapid expansion of the air surrounding and within a bolt of lightning which creates a sonic shock wave, similar to a sonic boom.

Thor

The name of the Germanic god Thor comes from the Old Norse word for thunder. Thor is the most well-known of the many thunder gods in world mythologies.

Thor is also the origin of the weekday name Thursday. During the Roman Empire period, the Germanic peoples adopted the Roman weekly calendar, and replaced the names of Roman gods with their own. Latin dies Iovis (‘day of Jupiter’) was converted into Proto-Germanic Þonares dagaz (“Thor’s day”), from which stems modern English “Thursday.”

The July moon that is also called the Buck Moon or Deer Moon because deer begin to show antlers which are in their “velvet” stage. That is a name that both American Indians and colonists might have used. Some farmers refer to it as the Hay Moon as they take in their first cutting of hay.

Some Indian tribes, based on location, treated this as an early harvest moon. The Choctaw called it the Little Harvest Moon. While the Cherokee of the Southwest called this the Ripe Corn Moon, the Potawatomi (people of the Great Plains, upper Mississippi River and Western Great Lakes region) called this the Moon of the Young Corn.

The European Mead Moon name didn’t hold over in the colonies although this would be a time when increased honey harvest would lead to mead making.

The Moon turns precisely full on June 9, 2017 at 13:10 Universal Time. This the farthest full moon  and so the smallest full moon of the year. I see it described by some unofficial terms such as micro-moon or mini-moon.

This June full moon occurs less than one day after reaching lunar apogee, the moon’s farthest point in its monthly orbit. The near alignment of full moon and lunar apogee team up to give us the farthest and smallest full moon of the year.

What do we mean by a “Moon shadow?”  I think a moon shadow is technically an Earth shadow. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth lines up directly between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the Moon. As the Moon moves deeper and deeper into the Earth’s shadow, the Moon changes color before your very eyes, turning from gray to an orange or deep shade of red.

I’m not sure I really gave any thought to the term until I heard Cat Stevens’ song “Moonshadow”  back in 1971. When he sings “I’m bein’ followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow. Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow,” I assume it is a shadow cast by a person or object from moonlight.

Ipomoea alba

Ipomoea alba

A plant classified as Ipomoea alba, is also called the tropical white morning-glory, moon flower or moon vine. It is interesting because it is a night-blooming plant. It is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the New World, from northern Argentina north to Mexico and Florida. This is the flower that is shown in the Japanese screen with this post. It certainly would be of interest to cats and humans as it hangs down like a small moon itself in the night.

There is also another plant that is a moon flower. The night-blooming cereus is the common name referring to a large number of flowering cacti that bloom at night. The flowers are short-lived, and some of these species, such as Selenicereus grandiflorus, intriguingly bloom only once a year, for a single night. I would love to see one of these bloom on the night of a Full Moon!

Night-blooming cereus

Night-blooming cereus

Other names for the June Full Moon include the Mead Moon (Medieval), Rose Moon (more common in Europe) and Thunder Moon. The most common name I see used for the June Full Moon is Strawberry Moon. As far as I can find, that name was used by every Algonquin tribe. The relatively short season for harvesting strawberries in June was a good nature sign for this Full Moon.

The Moon becomes full at the same instant worldwide, but we are more locked into clock times.  In Paradelle, it occurs at 9:10 a.m. EDT, but in North America (except for a bit of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands) we won’t be able to see the moon then because it will still be below the horizon.

I will see the Moon at its fullest just before moonset (around sunrise) today. As always, it looked pretty full to the eye last night and again tomorrow.

That bright “star” near tonight’s moon isn’t a star. It is Saturn.

 

cow grazing under the full moon

The Moon will be full today in Paradelle at 5:42 pm. It is probably best known as the Corn Moon, Planting Moon, and the Hare’s Moon. The Arapaho Indians referred to this Full Moon as “when the ponies shed their shaggy hair.” It is the Flower Moon in Algonquian.

I chose one of its lesser known names, the Milk Moon. During May cows, goats, and sheep (at least they did and may still if they are free to do so) get to enjoy the newly-sprouting weeds, grasses, and herbs in the pastures and so produce very rich milk.

The exact moment at which the moon is fullest — when the sun, Earth and moon align — won’t be visible to observers in North America, because the moon will be below the horizon. On the U.S. East Coast observers will see the moon rise a few minutes before 8 p.m., 2 hours after the full moon’s peak. (Find out what time the moon will be visible at your location with this moonrise and moonset calculator.)

According to folklore, it is lucky to hold a moonstone, a gemstone that looks like a milky moon, in your mouth at the full moon. It is said that it will reveal the future.

Folklore also says that a the eyes of a cat will be open wider during a full moon than at any other time.

Though the term “moon struck” usually means mentally deranged, crazed or dreamily romantic or bemused, it originally meant a person was chosen by the Goddess and the person was said to be blessed.

Vesak Day is one of the biggest days of the year in the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world on the day of the full moon in May. Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”, it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (Buddhahood), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.

 

 

 

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