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.

A Faint Eclipse on the Mourning Moon

Mourning Moon

The Full Moon for November is late, arriving tomorrow (the 30th) at 09:30 UTC, because the last Full Moon was on the last day of October. Here in Paradelle, the Moon will be full at 4:30 AM EST appearing opposite the Sun.

But the Moon always appears full for about three days around this time, so from Saturday night through Tuesday morning, it seems to most people that there is a Full Moon.

There will also be a very faint penumbral lunar eclipse. It will be nearly imperceptible, so you probably won’t see anything when you look up at that Full Moon even while it is happening.  I suppose a really careful observer, maybe with a telescope in a dark place, might see a subtle shading on the Moon

This celestial event made me think of the poem by Billy Collins, “As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse” from his collection, Nine Horses.

I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin…

That poem reminds me of  a solar system model that was in a number of my school classrooms where you could move the planets around the Sun which made me, like Collins, feel like “a benevolent god presiding / over a miniature creation myth.”
What you will be able to see in the night sky near the Moon during the eclipse is a reddish star called Aldebaran. That star is the Eye of the Bull in Taurus. The tiny dipper-shaped Pleiades star cluster (which is used in the Subaru emblem) will be nearby.

The November Full Moon has many names. In the past, we have used many of these names, especially those that apply to Paradelle nature signs, such as the Beaver Moon, Fog Moon, Moon of the Falling Leaves, Frost Moon, and Snow Moon.

In some pagan traditions, this is the Mourning Moon. Though many of us reflect on the year and make personal changes in our lives with the new year, this Full Moon can be seen as a time to let go of the past. If there is a bad habit, fears or emotions that are weighing you down, you are supposed to send them off as the moon rises Monday morning. A morning Mourning Moon for 2020 – a year many of us are quite willing to let go.

Hunting the Halloween Blue Moon

We had our Harvest Moon at the start of October, and tomorrow we will have our second Full Moon of the month. This Full Moon is often called the Hunter Moon because it occurs during hunting seasons in many places and because a Full Moon offered better light for hunters.

But this particular Full Moon has some other oddities.

Back on the 16th, we had the year’s closest and largest New Moon. This Full Moon will be the year’s farthest and smallest one. It’s also a Blue Moon and appears near red Mars which makes for a nice Halloween Blue Full Moon.

Halloween was traditionally called All Hallows’ Eve because it occurs on the evening before the Christian holy day of All Hallows’ Day or All Saints Day (November 1). That’s why Halloween is celebrated on October 31.

This pandemic year has changed Halloween trick-or-treat traditions as going door to door is probably not a good idea. In my town, they will have an event at the community park where kids can come with parents by car and drive around the big parking lot, stopping at candy and treat stations. That doesn’t sound very appealing for kids.

There has been a movement to change Halloween to the last Saturday of October in the past so as not to conflict with school and work. Of course, this year a lot for kinds are schooling at home as parents are working from home or not working at all. This year Halloween coincidentally does fall on the last Saturday. By the way, that movement for a Saturday Halloween was started, unsurprisingly,  by the Halloween and Costume Association.

The next time we’ll see an October 31st Halloween Full Moon is in 2039, so you should plan to get your werewolf costume this year.

Werewolf, Full Moon, and Blue Moon all together send my thoughts immediately to the film, American Werewolf in London. I love this scary and also funny film by John Landis about two American college students on a walking tour of Britain who are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will even admit exists.

Be careful out there tomorrow night.

Harvesting a Moon of Dreams

full moon orange cloudsMy birthday month of October will be interesting in a lunar way this year. There will be two full Moons.

The first is the Harvest Moon tonight (October 1).  The Harvest Moon is either in September or October depending on which one occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox (It was September 22 this year).

The second Full Moon of the month just makes it in on the 31st. A second Full Moon in a month makes it a Blue Moon, but I suspect it will be more orange due to it falling on Halloween.

Perhaps, you would like to try an old English Harvest Moon ritual this year. It was thought of as something for women to do, but if you’re a man and you’re not old and English, I say go for it. It is supposed to show you your future.

You need to gather a key, a ring, a flower, a sprig of willow, a small piece of cake, a crust of bread, the 10 of clubs, 9 of hearts, ace of spades, and ace of diamonds. Wrap these in a handkerchief and place it under your pillow.

As you get into bed for the night, say:

Luna, every woman/man’s friend,
to me thy goodness descend.
Let me this night in visions see,
emblems of my destiny.

If you dream of storms, it means coming trouble; if the storms end, a calm fate after strife.
If you dream of a ring or the ace of diamonds, marriage.
Bread means a good job.
Cake means prosperity.
Flowers bring joy.
A willow indicates treachery in love.
Those spades foretell death. (Don’t dream about spades. Maybe don’t even put that card under your pillow!)
The clubs card means living in a foreign land.
Diamonds (by the way, it doesn’t have to be a card in your dream) means money.
Keys foretell great power.
Birds mean many children and geese means more than one marriage.

The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name I can think of that was used by both the English settlers and by many American Indian tribes of eastern and northern North America. Many staples like corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice were typically ready for harvest by this Full Moon.



September’s Barley Full Moon

A “moon” of barley seeds

After sunset tonight, you will start to see a full Moon but its peak illumination is actually at 1:23 A.M. ET on Tuesday, September 2. Close enough tonight.

The most common name for this month is the Corn Moon. The September Full Moon can be a Harvest Moon but this year that will occur in October. The Full Moon that happens nearest to the autumnal equinox (September 22 this year) is called the Harvest Moon. Tonight’s Full Moon is very early in the month so the October one will be closer.

My birthday month of October will be interestingly lunar this year. There will be two full Moons. First,  the Harvest Moon on October 1 and then another just squeaking in on the 31st which will make it a Blue Moon.

Historically, some Native Americans gave a name to each month’s full Moon, naming it in relation to a natural event or sign of the season. This aided them in tracking the progression of the year. Different peoples had different names, reflecting the areas where they lived.

One such name for the September Full Moon is the Corn Moon because it traditionally corresponded with the time of harvesting corn in what is now the northeastern United States.

It was also called the Barley Moon, as this is the time to harvest and thresh ripened barley. Barley is commonly used in breads, soups, stews, and health products. Though now it is primarily grown as animal fodder and as a source of malt for alcoholic beverages, especially beer, barley water can be used as a healthy (and high calorie) drink.

In Black Elk Speaks, he says that what we call “September” is known by the Sioux as the “Moon When the Calves Grow Hair” or “Moon of the Black Calf” or the  “Moon When the Plums Are Scarlet (Lakota).

NASA says that this Full Moon can be called the Corn, Fruit, Barley, and Hungry Ghost Moon; the end of Onam; the start of Pitri Paksha; Modhu Purnima; Binara Pura Pasalosvaka Poya; and the GRAIL, LADEE, and OSIRIS-REx Moon.

That Corn Moon name should not be dismissed. I have written about it before but you should keep in mind that corn was at the center of Mesoamerica life and key to many Native Americans and was important to the Colonists and corn is still a major U.S. crop as people food, animal feed, fuel and as a sweetener.

The Wort Full Moon of August

full moon and clouds

The Full Moon is early this month. It’s tonight, August 3, 2020. In this pandemic summer when days and weeks seem to blur together, the Moon and planets continue their movements unabated.

According to, as darkness falls in early August 2020,  Jupiter and the ringed planet Saturn will be the brightest objects near the Moon. Both Jupiter and Saturn reached opposition (when Earth flew between these worlds and the Sun) and so are at their brightest for the year right now. Though the full or near full Moon at this time will wash out many stars from our view, Jupiter and Saturn are easily bright enough to withstand the Moon’s glare.

Be careful during the Full Moon – it is said that clothes washed for the first time in the full Moon will not last long.  But babies born a day after the full Moon enjoy success and endurance. Happy birthday to all you new babies born on August 4, 2020.

The New Moon for this month arrives on August 18 and according to folklore about the Moon phases, if you glimpse the new Moon over your right shoulder, you will have good luck. Starting a new project during the new Moon will help it prosper.

The most common Full Moon name for August is the Sturgeon Moon which is a name that comes from the Algonquin tribes who lived from New England to Lake Superior. Colonial Americans tended to adapt their names as they had interactions with the tribes (in both positive and negative ways).  Native Americans went after these big fish which were found from the Delaware Bay to the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. This was the best time to catch them.

If there are no sturgeon near your home (which I’m assuming is true for most of you) then maybe another natural world observation might better apply. How about this being the Green, Corn Moon, Wheat Cut Moon, Moon When All Things Ripen, Red Moon, Barley Moon, Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon, Herb Moon, Dog Days Moon or Blueberry Moon?

Bloodwort or Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Another less-common name for this month’s Moon is the Wyrt or Wort Moon. The words wyrt and wort are not in common usage these days. “Wyrt” is an old Gaelic term for herbs used to flavor foods. The time of the August Full Moon is an optimal time to collect many herbs. I know that in Wiccan groups this is a time to work with herbs in a magickal or healing capacity. This is also the beginning of many harvesting events, including Lammas.

The Old English word wyrt has Proto-Indo-European origins that connect it to root. and the wort version has been attached to many herbs and plants that had medicinal uses. There is a long list of wort plants. but you would have to really be into plants to know most of them.

Bloodwort (AKA bloodroot ) has a juice that can be poisonous but it was used historically by Native Americans for curative properties as an emetic and respiratory aid.

Brotherwort (Thymus serpyllum) is now better known as wild thyme. It is a fragrant flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae.

Brotherwort (AKA wild thyme)

Is it really hot where you are now and you need a break? Imagine you are in the Southern Hemisphere where this Full Moon can be called the Snow Moon.