The Full Moon Moves Through a Shadow

eclipse

I watched some of today’s Full Moon plus lunar eclipse, but I watched it online.  The event received the usual media blitz and it was being called a Super Flower Blood Full Moon with a total lunar eclipse. That’s a lot of adjectives for one Moon day.

I read about it last month and made a draft post to remind me to write something about it but that fancy name sort of turned me off.

The May Full Moon is often called the Flower Moon for obvious blooming reasons. “Blood Moon” is a non-astronomical term for when lunar eclipses make the Moon appear a reddish color. “Super” Moons, as I have written before, is when this natural satellite approaches Earth at its closest possible distance. That happened in April too.

The eclipse is a real astronomical event and was visible for those living in western North America, western South America, eastern Asia, and Oceania.

It may have looked reddish. There may be flowers blooming where you live. It probably won’t look any bigger tonight to you. But there was an eclipse.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow which occurs only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are exactly or very closely aligned (in syzygy) with our planet between the other two, and only on the night of a full moon.

According to Wikipedia, there are several cultures that have or had myths related to lunar eclipses. It may be seen as a good or bad omen. The Egyptian, Chinese, and Mayan traditions once viewed the Moon as being swallowed by some creature. The Ancient Greeks correctly believed the Earth was round and so saw the shadow from the lunar eclipse as evidence of that. Some Hindus believe in the importance of bathing in the Ganges River following an eclipse because it will help to achieve salvation.

Eclipse or not, this Flower Moon is called by the Cree people the Budding Moon or Leaf Budding Moon, and for the Dakota and Lakota people, this is the Planting Moon.

A Full Moon By Any Other Name

The Full Moon for April appears tomorrow night and is frequently called the Pink Moon. But it won’t look pink at all.  This will also be our first of two “supermoons” for the year. But it won’t look supersized.

The supermoon term has rather recently been used to describe the astronomical phenomenon when the distance between the Moon and Earth is at its closest. In general terms, supermoons are 15% brighter and 7% bigger than regular full moons, but with the naked eye it won’t really look any bigger or brighter than it did last month if you saw it on a clear, dark night at the right time.

And not to be a lunar downer but the Pink Moon name came not frm the Moon’s color but what was blooming on Earth when this particular month showed a Full Moon.  If it has any color, it’s probably from lighting in the atmosphere from clouds or pollution.

The name had been used by some American Indian tribes for a very long time and it became popularized in the 1930s when the Old Farmer’s Almanac decided to include those  Native American names of the lunar months. It was literally the Full Moon When Pink Wildflowers Bloom, especially Phlox subulata. It is a common wildflower also known as moss pink and it is an early spring flower that grows across the eastern and central parts of North America.

phlox field
A field of pink, white and blue phlox    Photo: PxHere

Now, the plant is cultivated and you find it in many gardens as a ground cover. I see it called creeping phlox, moss phlox, moss pink, mountain phlox and my mother always called it mountain pinks. It covered our front rock garden when I was a child in pink, purple/blue and white and some of those plants traveled with me to my own home garden. As of today, mine are not blooming with this Full Moon, but I see them blooming in our area.

The Full Moon will be visible after the sunset but will be at peak illumination in the late evening. As always, it will look to the eye as “full” tonight and still on Tuesday.

It may not be quite a blooming spring in your backyard. The Algonquin people called this the Breaking Ice Moon. The Dakota referred to it as the Moon When the Streams Are Again Navigable. Obviously, those tribes were north of blooming moss pinks.

The Oglala call it the Moon of the Red Grass Appearing while for the Tlingit people, it’s the Budding Moon of Plants and Shrubs.

Many peoples called the May Full Moon the Flower Moon.

As I keep track of bloom dates in my own area year to year, I know that the dates change. Today, my garden and those of neighbors are full of fading daffodils and lots of tulips and magnolias and other flowering trees are blooming and dropping blossoms all around. Next year’s April Full Moon might not be exactly the same in the garden, but it will be close.

If you are more tuned in to wildlife than plants, you might prefer the names used by other tribes. How about the Frog Moon of the Cree or the Moon When the Ducks Come Back from the Lakota tradition? Do they fit in your microclimate?

One name that I had to research is from the Anishinaabe people. The Anishinabe Indian tribes of Canada were well-known for their birchbark canoes. Their April Full moon is known as the Sucker Moon. That name comes from a legend that during this time of the year, the suckerfish returns to lakes and rivers from the spirit world to purify water and aquatic animals.

The thing that attracts me to write about the Full Moon every month is that the names mean that people see a connection with nature. and with the Earth, heavens, and their own part of the planet.

This Spring Full Moon

canoe in moonlight

Tonight is the March Full Moon. It is frequently called the Worm Moon because spring rain and warmth sometimes bring earthworms out of the ground around this time. Like all Full Moon names, it is accurate only for some places.

The Algonquian peoples are one of the most populous and widespread North American native language groups. Historically, the peoples were prominent along the Atlantic Coast and into the interior along the Saint Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. This grouping consists of the peoples who speak Algonquian languages and my New Jersey is included in this large group.  I have found that the Algonquian peoples called this Full Moon the Worm Moon but tribes in other parts of that wide range used the names Sugar Moon, Crow Moon, Snow Crust Moon or Sap Moon.

A 16th-century sketch of the Algonquian village of Pomeiock. North Carolina.  Link

The language associated with the Moon is quite rich worldwide. Here are some examples:

  • The natives of Madagascar call their isle the Island of the Moon.
  • To aim at the Moon means to be very ambitious, to set your sights extremely high.
  • The name Mount St. Helens means “Moon Mountain.” Mt. Sinai was probably named after the Chaldean god of the Moon, Sinn, which would make it another Moon mountain.
  • When people speak of the Mountains of the Moon, it generally means white mountains.
  • Arabs called white horses “Moon-colored.”
  • Originally, the term Moon-struck or Moon-touched meant chosen by the goddess.
  • When anyone spoke of Mountains of the Moon, it simply meant white mountains.
  • The Druids believed that when the circle of the Moon was complete, good fortune was given to those who knew how to ask the gods for it.
  • The word “moonshine” in the U.S. means “illegally distilled liquor” (AKA “white lightning”) but an older meaning was “total nonsense.”
  • In English, French, Italian, Latin, and Greek, the Moon is feminine. Most of the Teutonic languages (Frisian, Dutch, Flemish, German, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic and the Norwegian dialects) mark the Moon as masculine.
  • The Druids believed that when the circle of the Moon was complete, good fortune was given to those who knew how to ask the gods for it.

A Little Famine Moon in Virgo

wolf moon

Tomorrow, February 27, is this month’s Full Moon. This Full Moon is usually called the  Snow Moon and this year in Paradelle has been a very snowy month.  We had more snow in one big storm in December than we had all of last winter, and the storms keep on coming.

Snow Moon is one of the names that is attached to several different months depending on the group and geographic area naming the event. That is also true for some of the other names given to the February Full Moon.

Other names that I have written about in past years include the Ice Moon, Hunger Moon, Snow Moon, Old MoonGrandfather Moon, Storm Moon, Bone Moon and the Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Full Moon. The names certainly describe what was certainly a tough month, especially in the distant past. Even in places where there might not be ice and snow, there might be hunger and food in short supply.

The Choctaw Indians called this the Little Famine Moon. The Choctaw people originally occupied what is now the Southeastern United States in what is modern-day Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. In the present day, they are organized as the federally recognized Choctaw Nation.

Like the names Hunger and Bone Moons (and sometimes the Wolf Moon), this difficult month for people living in the northern lands was once a time when a meal might be bone soup and eating the marrow from bones. The sound of wolves at the edges of villages looking for food was also something that might have been connected to this time of year.

Spiritually, the Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides of the zodiac during a Full Moon and that can create an intense aspect of energy. The lunar and solar energies are thought to be in balanced cosmic harmony. It is a good time to recognize the beauty of life and express creativity. Some people feel heightened sensuality.

In astrology, full moons are about endings as they shine their light on the past month. It is a time to take stock, spot problems, and tie up loose ends. This Midwinter Full Moon is in Virgo. The February Full Moon in your horoscope at 19 degrees Virgo, is especially significant if you have any planets in mutable signs –  Gemini, Virgo, or Pisces –  and its energy is mutable., soft-natured, and feminine.

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The Goddess Chang’e Returns for the Full Moon

Chang'e
Chang’e, with an attendant, greets a scholar against the backdrop of the moon. Inside the lunar palace, a white rabbit prepares the elixir of immortality. (THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART / PUBLIC DOMAIN)

This month’s Full Moon arrives today, January 28, This second full moon of the winter season is most commonly called the Wolf Moon or Hunger Moon. It is also called the Snow Moon, though that name is attached to different months by different groups.

I read some space news last month that made me think of using a mythological figure this month. Chang’e (or Chang-o for simpler pronunciation) is the Chinese goddess of the Moon. She is the subject of several legends in Chinese mythology, She is not associated with any particular Full Moon but her story of Chang’e plays a central role in the annual Mid-Autumn Festival.

In modern times, Chang’e appropriately has been the namesake of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program.

Chang-e-5 Orbiter Ascender seperation
Chang’e-5 Orbiter Ascender separation – Wikimedia

China launched its first lunar probe in 2007. It was a robotic spacecraft named Chang’e 1. A third Chang’e spacecraft landed on the Moon on December  14, 2013 and delivered the robotic rover Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”) to the lunar surface. In January 2019, Chang’e 4 touched down on the far side of the Moon and deployed the Yutu-2 rover. The Chang’e-5 ascent vehicle which carried samples into lunar orbit was then commanded to crash into the moon after completing its role in the mission. China currently has three operational landers on the moon but it is unclear if they can carry out science related to the impact.

Chang’e and her story is the main theme of the 2020 American-Chinese animated feature film Over the Moon produced by Netflix which I saw when it was first shown at the Montclair Film Festival in October 2020.

An Elder Moon Ends the Year

Celtic trees
Celtic Tree cards

In the Northern Hemisphere, tonight’s December Full Moon is often called the Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon. Certainly, this month is cold in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, and the long nights that accompany the winter solstice also make sense for a name.

Early Pagans saw this as a time of cleansing and ending bad habits to make one stronger to survive the cold winter ahead.

The Algonquin Indians used the Cold Moon name but I have also seen that some cultures connect this Full Moon with warmth. I had not heard of the Deborean Clan. A combination of Celtic traditional magical beliefs and Native American Cherokee spirituality make up their beliefs. Like the Wishram tribe who named this the Winter Houses Moon, this time is associated with being home and warm before a fire. The Zuni tribe called this the Moon Where the Sun Comes Home to Rest and maybe we should all try, if possible, to rest and recharge from this very difficult 2020.

The Sioux call this the Moon When Deer Shed Their Antlers which suggests the new start aspect that pagans celebrate at this time of year.

Celtic Tree

The Celts, on the other hand, call this the Elder Moon.  The first time I saw that name I thought it meant elder as in those of a greater age than us. I know that “elders” serve a large role in Native American traditions and culture. But in the Celtic Tree Calendar, this is the Elder Moon. I have since done some reading on Celtic Tree symbolism.

Elder trees are fragile and easily damaged but they recover quickly. In North America, Acer negundo, the box elder, is a native species of maple.  It grows quickly, often looks like a large bush and is a short-lived tree compared to oaks and other hardwoods.

The flowers and berries of the elder can be used to make wine. Elderflower wine was drunk at the Beltane celebrations. Elderberries were made into a wine at Samhain which was consumed to promote divination and hallucinations. My mother always bought elderberry wine at the end of the year, though divination and hallucinations were never part of our drinking of it. CAUTION The seeds, bark, leaves and flowers of the elder can be poisonous as is the unripe fruit so I would advise against preparing such beverages on your own.

With the winter solstice past, the Celts saw the Elder Moon as a time of endings. But endings also signal beginnings. This Full Moon is called Ruish by the Celts (roo-esh) who viewed this as an opportune time of creativity and renewal and planning for the new year.

Elder wood was said to protect against demons and other negative entities and it has magical connections to faeries and other nature spirits. In Ireland, the elder was considered a sacred tree and, like the hawthorn, it was forbidden to cut one down. The elder tree was prized for its many uses culinary, medicinal and mystical.

It is interesting that the early Christian church in trying to eliminate pagan beliefs gave the elder a bad reputation. It was said that the tree that Judas hanged himself from was an elder. It was sometimes said that Christ’s crucifixion cross was made of elder wood. The elder became associated with witches and tales of “elder-witches” associated with the devil were known in Ireland and Britain. Burning elder wood in your fireplace would bring the devil into your house.

More on Celtic tree divination in a future post. Right now, I have to get some elderberry wine.