I missed a Full Moon. It has been years that I have written here about the Full Moons, but I missed the January 17, 2022, Full Moon.
There was a snowstorm that swept through the country the night before. I like snowfall that appears, turns the world black and white, and then disappears like a page turned. I had this post written days before the Moon’s shift to fullness, but I failed to hit the “publish” button. So, here it is, on a night of a waning Moon with another snowstorm – a nor-easter, a bomb cyclone – coming for the weekend.
It is quite lovely to see a Full Moon on a clear winter night when the ground is covered with fresh, glistening snow.
From November through February the Moon is high at midnight. From May through July the Moon is very low in the sky. In March, April, August, September, and October the Moon is somewhere between. So, tonight’s Full Moon will be high in the sky at midnight.
Looking through a very long list of Moon names used by American Indian tribes, I found wide variety for this January Moon. The Algonquin tribes call it the Moon When the Sun Has Not the Strength to Thaw. That would be true in the North. The Chippewa and Ojibwe use the name Great Spirit Moon. The Apache, being in a warmer climate, call this the Time of Flying Ants. But colder January times figure into most names, such as Northern Arapaho’s When the Snow Blows Like Spirits in the Wind and the Cheyenne Moon of the Strong Cold. I like the Muscogee (Creek) name for this Full Moon – Winter’s Younger Brother.
For those who follow such things, this first Full Moon of 2022 falls in the intuitive, sensitive sign of Cancer, a sign that is supposed to remind us of feeling at home within ourselves. As with New Moons, this Moon of the new year could be a signal for a fresh start and letting go of what we don’t want to carry into the new year.
A friend who does follow astrology told me in an email that tonight I should “cleanse my aura.” I had to research that suggestion.
First of all, what is my aura? “Your aura is the energy field that surrounds your body. It acts as a magnetic field of energy that picks up on emotions, health, psychic debris, and circumstances around you. Your aura can experience stress as you exchange energies with those around you, which is exactly why you need to clean your auric field from time to time.”
It turns out there are many ways to do this and some of them are things I do regularly, such as getting into nature, soaking baths, or meditation. There are cleansing tools, such as crystals, herb sticks, bells, sage smudging. Using a New or Full Moon as a time for self-reflection is certainly not a bad twice-a–month reminder.
The media made a big deal yesterday about the coincidence of a Harvest Full Moon occurring on a Friday the 13th. But the Moon didn’t reach fullness in Paradelle until after midnight, so that wasn’t exactly true for me. And anyway, the 13 part is just a coincidence of calendars and nothing celestial.
The name of this month’s Full Moon as the Moon When Deer Paw the Ground comes to us from the Omaha people. The Omaha people are a federally recognized Midwestern Native American tribe who reside on the Omaha Reservation in northeastern Nebraska and western Iowa, United States. The Omaha people migrated to the upper Missouri area and the Plains by the late 17th century from earlier locations in the Ohio River Valley.
Why do deer paw the ground at this time? This is one of those nature signs that Native Americans (and today deer hunters) would notice. It concerns scrapes which is a sign that is important in tracking deer during the rut. Scrapes are made when bucks paw the ground at the foot of a tree, creating a bare patch of earth on the ground, and then urinating on it to leave a sign of their presence. In this way, a buck can attract does during the rut. The buck urinates down his rear legs and onto his tarsal glands, which create a stronger and more pungent odor.
The rut (from the Latin rugire, meaning “to roar”) is the mating season of certain mammals, including deer, sheep, goats, and bison. This is when males have an increase in testosterone, increased aggression and interest in females. In most species, males mark themselves or their habitat with mud, secretions from glands or their urine.
Some of the many names given to this September Full Moon include: Nut Moon, Mulberry Moon, Singing Moon, Barley Moon, Elk Call Moon, Fruit Moon, Corn Moon, Wine Moon, Gypsy Moon, Moon of Leaves Turning Color, Moon of Spiderwebs on the Ground, Big Feast Moon, Haligmonath (Holy Month), and Witumanoth (Wood Month).
September sometimes is the month of the Harvest Moon but in some years that is in October. That is because that name is given to the Full Moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox. The equinox is on September 23 this year and the October Full Moon is on the 13th, so today’s Full Moon is the Harvest Moon for 2019.
For any readers in the Southern Hemisphere, this September Full Moon might be called by our Northern spring names, such as Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Chaste Moon, or Sap Moon.
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.
December 28, 1890 – 128 years ago – was the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
It happened despite a treaty signed two decades before in which the United States government guaranteed local tribes rights to their sacred land around the Black Hills.
But in the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the treaty was broken.
I was assigned to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for a college history course and the book revealed to me my ignorance of American Indian history. And what a sad and terrible history it is.
Part of today’s Writers Almanac gives a short summary of why the event occurred after the tribes were forced off their sacred land and placed on reservations.
People from the Sioux tribe were forced onto a reservation, with a promise of more food and supplies, which never came. Then in 1889, a native prophet named Wovoka, from the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a vision of a ceremony that would renew the earth, return the buffalo, and cause the white men to leave and return the land that belonged to the Indians. This ceremony was called the Ghost Dance. People traveled across the plains to hear Wovoka speak, including emissaries from the Sioux tribe, and they brought back his teachings. The Ghost Dance, performed in special brightly colored shirts, spread through the villages on the Sioux reservation, and it scared the white Indian agents. They considered the ceremony a battle cry, dangerous and antagonistic. So one of them wired Washington to say that he was afraid and wanted to arrest the leaders, and he was given permission to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed in the attempt. The next on the wanted list was Sitting Bull’s half-brother, Chief Big Foot. Some members of Sitting Bull’s tribe made their way to Big Foot, and when he found out what had happened, he decided to lead them along with the rest of his people to Pine Ridge Reservation for protection. But it was winter, 40 degrees below zero, and he contracted pneumonia on the way.
Big Foot was sick, he was flying a white flag, and he was a peaceful man. He was one of the leaders who had actually renounced the Ghost Dance. But the Army didn’t make distinctions. They intercepted Big Foot’s band and ordered them into the camp on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek. Big Foot went peacefully.
The next morning federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing almost 300 men, women, and children, including Big Foot. Even though it wasn’t really a battle, the massacre at Wounded Knee is considered the end of the Indian Wars, a blanket term to refer to the fighting between the Native Americans and the federal government, which had lasted 350 years.
I wrote earlier about one of the people wounded but not killed during the massacre – the famous medicine man, Black Elk, and his book Black Elk Speaks. This was another book I read in college after finishing my assigned reading. Both books were revelatory both in the history and my own spirituality and in forming a philosophy for my own life’s path.
Black Elk said about the massacre:
“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”
I recently retraveled the back roads of William Least Heat-Moon’s 1978 travel account, Blue Highways. I read the book when it was released, but this time I listened to the audiobook which is how I prefer to experience books when I am on the road or walking my own backroads and woods.
Heat-Moon seems to have coined the term “blue highways” to refer to those out-of-the-way roads in mostly rural America which were shown in blue on the old Rand McNally road atlas. This is a book from a time when a GPS wouldn’t have even seemed possible.
But the author mentions an earlier version of his blue highways coming from his own American Indian ancestry. He references Black Elk’s “Two Roads,” one of which is sometimes called the Blue Road. On this recent reading of the book, I did some further research into that aspect of the roads.
I had read John Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks a few years before I read Blue Highways, but I don’t recall ever making the connection between the two.
Nicholas Black Elk was born in 1863 and died in 1950 and saw tremendous changes in the lives of his Oglala Lakota people. The book was published in 1932, but paperback editions of it were common in the 196s and 70s amongst college students. The “New Age” popularity was probably due to the visions of Black Elk that are recorded.
The book describes Lakota life and is a history of a Native nation, but it is often read as a spiritual tale.
Black Elk met Neihardt in 1930 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and asked him to record and share his story. (There has long been some controversy about this non-native writer telling the story.)
At the age of nine, Black Elk received a great vision which is the central reflector of the book. His celestial vision has been interpreted as the totality of earthly creation. It is a joyous sky-spanning vision of Earth and the heavens united.
For perspective, think about that the year after his vision, Black Elk was present at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He was a second cousin of the war chief Crazy Horse.
His childhood vision remained strong in Black Elk’s life until his death, though his own interpretation changed. He asks Wakan Tanka (God or The Great Spirit) throughout his lifetime if he properly interpreted or fulfilled the vision. In Black Elk Speaks, the conclusion seems sad and he feels he has not been able to save his people through his vision and works.
But Black Elk lived for almost twenty years after Neihardt finished his book, so the story there is incomplete. The newer book suggests that the answer that Black Elk finally received from Wakan Tanka was that he had fulfilled the vision.
Something that is missing from Neihardt’s book is that Black Elk was baptized on St. Nicholas Day in December 1904 and took the name Nicholas to preface Black Elk. He was a practicing and proselytizing Catholic until his death. He baptized hundreds of Indians, taught the Bible, held Masses, and preached sermons. That was a 46 year period of having a simple, righteous, useful Christian life.
This conversion changed his interpretation of the childhood vision. There is Roman Catholic teaching aide that he encountered commonly known as the Two Roads Map. It was a visual catechism that was poster-sized. Though it is a Christian “salvation history,” there are parallels between Black Elk’s vision and the Two Roads Map that Black Elk was probably pleased to see. Some of the similarities may seem coincidental or trivial – thunder beings, flying men, tree images, villages, a black road, a red road, an evil blue man engulfed in flames in a “Hellish” place where people moaned and mourned. He used the Two Roads Map in his teaching.
The map has a pre-Christian black road and a Christian red road. In Black Elk’s vision as well as in the Christian map, the Red Road was the good and authentic path. For Black Elk, it seems to have represented both the traditional Indian way with Lakota symbolism and Christian symbolism. The Red Road was the Christian right way to live.
It may be cultural or religious appropriation that the Red Road has more commonly become a name for the right path without regard to religion but perhaps some regard for spirituality.
So where does the Blue Road that Heat-Moon alludes to originate? For that, you need to read in The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. This book is also a transcribed version of Black Elk’s teachings on the sacred pipe that was written much later in his life. In this book, he speaks of the Red Road as the north-south cross of the Medicine Wheel. The east-west cross is the black or blue road, which is the way we should not travel.
For, Nicholas Black Elk, Christianity was the Red Road, a metaphor for living a spiritual way of life. Rather than being a road stretching forward to the horizon, he saw the people on the red road as one interconnected circle of travelers making a “sacred hoop.”
William Least Heat-Moon lightly references the blue roads as being a way to travel that is kind of a waste of your time, but his blue highways were chosen to help him reconnect to people, the country and himself. His motorized journey is a spiritual one, though not one Black Elk may have recognized or endorsed.
In the descriptions of Black Elk’s central childhood vision that I have read, there is almost always a disclaimer that, of course, words cannot really capture what he saw. He saw multiple manifestations of a single Great Spirit. This monotheistic image probably made the transition to Catholicism more logical.
Tonight’s July Full Moon is usually called the Buck Moon. I saw on the calendar that there is a Night Hike under the Full Buck Moon at the Sandy Hook National Recreation Area near me in New Jersey. That is a beautiful natural beach area and if all the rain of his week clears out for the evening there, it should be a great setting to observe the ecosystem below that Full Moon.
That Buck Moon name comes at a time of year when a buck’s antlers are in full growth mode. This is known as when the antlers are in velvet. They will do their bloody scraping of those antler and prepare for rutting season closer to autumn.
Both American Indians and colonists used the Buck Moon name, but there are many other American Indian tribal names that use notable nature signs from their geographic region. For example, the Cree noted this as the Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt.
The Lakota called this the Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black and other tribes noted this as the time for huckleberries. Several tribes referenced the corn which was an important crop that they planted and relied upon. This gives us names such as the Corn Moon, Young Corn Moon or Ripe Corn Moon (Cherokee). For the Choctaw this was the Little Harvest Moon or Crane Moon. depending on your location. The Algonquin called this the Squash Are Ripe Moon.
I used this year the more general Mohawk name of the Time of Much Ripening because wherever you are in the Northern Hemisphere some things are ripening.
And yes, today is also the “century’s longest lunar eclipse” is also today BUT this lunar eclipse is primarily visible from the world’s Eastern Hemisphere (Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand). In South America, you can watch the final stages of the eclipse just after sunset July 27, whereas New Zealand will catch the beginning stages of the eclipse before sunrise July 28. For those of us in North America, most of the Arctic and much of the Pacific Ocean, we will miss out entirely.