A Moonflower for August

The Moon becomes full tomorrow, August 22, 2021, at 8:02 AM ET. The most common name seems to be the Sturgeon Moon, though most people don’t fish for sturgeon or even know anything about this fish.  The fishing tribes went after this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water when they were most readily caught during this month.

A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. Other names include the Fruit Moon, Grain Moon, and the Green Corn Moon.

moonflower

I saw some moonflowers the other night on an evening walk. They were growing on a fence and in the almost-full moonlight, they glowed like moons themselves.

The plan, Ipomoea alba, is sometimes called the tropical white morning-glory or moonflower or moon vine. It is a species of night-blooming morning glory.

Night-blooming flowers have always intrigued me. When I was a boy, my mother had a section of the garden with Evening Primrose that opened in the evening. It seemed so odd that they bloomed when the Sun was gone that, as a child, I thought they must somehow be connected to the Moon. Evening primrose is yellow and doesn’t look at all like the Moon. Nowadays, you can buy evening primrose oil which has naturally-occurring Omega-6 Fatty Acid GLA (Gamma-Linolenic Acid).

I have grown the moonflower morning glory variety. It is a morning glory if you think of those early hours after midnight as the morning, though most people think of it as night. You can buy the seeds and plant them as an annual where I live but they are native to tropical and subtropical regions of North and South America (Argentina to northern Mexico) and in Florida and the West Indies.

moon flower
Children would love the big white flowers in the night and the idea that they are somehow connected to the Full Moon.

I don’t know that the flowers have any medicinal or magical properties, but the big flowers opening at night certainly seem magical to kids – and adults who still have a sense of wonder in them.

For the soundtrack here, I choose Moonflower, a double album of live and studio tracks released in 1977 by Santana. The title track is “Flor d’Luna (Moonflower),” one of the studio tracks.

 

The Scorpion Full Moon

constellation
Scorpius has over ten stars with planets in its constellation, as well as four Messier objects. The most famous star within the constellation is called Antares.

The constellation Scorpius the Scorpion has had the Moon moving through it earlier this week, The Moon was closest to Antares, the Heart of the Scorpion, on July 19. Antares and the Scorpion’s Tail are relatively low in the sky from latitudes like those in the northern U.S. or Canada.

Antares is a red supergiant and really twinkles and that may even be more evident after the Moon goes full. It is the 16th brightest star in the sky. Antares is about 10,000 times more luminous than our Sun and it is 12 million years old.

bucks

This month is generally called the Buck Moon. On my walk today, I passed two bucks munching away at greens in the park. This Full Moon marks a time when the antlers of male deer (bucks) are in full growth mode. They shed and regrow their antlers each year and so they have larger and more impressive antlers as they age.

I also saw some evidence from the waterfowl at the park that confirms this being the Feather Moulting Moon (Cree tribe). The Salmon Moon was a name the Tlingit people used and my son is in Alaska this week salmon fishing because this is when they return to northwestern fishing waters.

Depending on your location, the Moon was full at 10:37 a.m. today but it isn’t full until 2:37 a.m. on July 24 in other locations. Not that you’ll notice the difference.

I don’t want to ignore the Southern Hemisphere where it is the Wolf Moon, Old Moon or Ice Moon – none of which make my sense to northern me unless it’s because I wolfed down my dinner with a well-iced drink and I’m feeling kind of old.

The Moon in June

moon
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

The Moon will be full tonight (June 24, 2021). It actually went into fullness appearing opposite the Sun in Earth-based longitude at 2:40 p.m. EDT. While it is full for much of the Earth today, from India Standard Time eastward to Line Islands Time, and the International Dateline, this will happen on Friday morning.

The June Full Moon is most often known as the Strawberry Moon which was a name that several tribes, including the Chippewa and Ojibwe. This Full Moon won’t look reddish like a strawberry. The name comes from this Moon coinciding with the ripening wild and domesticated strawberries in fields.

The Dakotah Sioux called this the Moon When June Berries Are Ripe. The Cherokee called it the Green Corn Moon. Several tribes called this a Planting Moon time because it was just warm enough for certain crops. Different things ripen at different times in different places. But the Moon will still be full.

Tonight will be the last supermoon for this year, so it will be a bit closer and a bit bigger to the eye. Not enough to make you gasp when you look up, but on a clear night, it will look fine.

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.