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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.



reddish moon

This month’s Full Moon slipped past without a post, but I viewed it from a beach on July 19. A friend called to say, “Look outside at how red the Moon is tonight!”

There are several Full Moons that allude to the reddish color of the Moon. It is a characteristic of autumn full moons because they appear nearly full and rise soon after sunset for several evenings in a row. If you see them when they are low in the sky, shortly after they’ve risen, there is more atmosphere between you and the Moon than when the Moon is overhead and that extra air makes the moon look reddish. You’ll notice that a red moon will fade to  white as it rises higher in the night sky.

This month, we often call it the Buck Moon because bucks begin to show antlers.  A farmer might know this as the Hay Moon, and Thunder Moon has also been used due to the frequency of hot days with lightning and thunder.

The Celtic name is the Moon of Claiming, which is intriguing, but I have never found a good explanation for that name.

A Medieval name for the July moon was the Mead Moon because the hives were rich with honey and the time was right to make that honey wine.


Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants and berries. (It is the state fruit of Idaho.) We use the name for several edible berries that appear in mid-summer. The name ‘huckleberry’ is a North American variation of the English dialectal name variously called ‘hurtleberry’ or ‘whortleberry’ for the bilberry, which is almost identical in appearance to our blueberries. What people call huckleberries can be small berries with colors that may be red, blue or black.

Huckleberries were traditionally collected by Native American and First Nations people along the Pacific coast, interior British Columbia, and Montana for use as food or traditional medicine.

But the word “huckleberry” has a number of non-berry usages. Most people have heard of the novel by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThat was a good summer read of my youth, and I thought that drifting down a river all summer sounded pretty good. I was pretty naïve in my reading of this pre-Civil War South. White runaway kid Huck Finn  joins fugitive adult slave Jim and they both “escape” down river. Nowadays, the novel is one of the most challenged and banned books for its “racist” language. You can view Twain’s novel as an indictment of the unenlightened thinking of his time, or as a classic coming-of-age novel. It definitely is one of the of the most influential books in American literature.

Ernest Hemingway was a fan. He said (in Green Hills of Africa) that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

On a much lighter side, you may know the cartoon character Huckleberry Hound. According to Wikipedia, as a slang term, the small size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, in a more affectionate way. The word shows up in the popular song “Moon River” and “I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job.

There are many American Indian names for the Full Moons because different tribes in different places focused on different signs in nature for their area and way of life. If you are an observer of nature, many of the Indian names will make sense:
Abenaki –Grass Cutter Moon
Algonquin –Squash Are Ripe Moon
Cherokee – Corn or Huckleberry Moon
Choctaw –Little Harvest Moon, Crane Moon
Comanche –Hot Moon
Cree –Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt
Dakota Sioux –Moon of the Middle Summer
Haida –Salmon Moon
Hopi –Moon of the Homedance
Kalapuya –Camas Ripe (the bulb of the camas lily was a staple food to the Kalapuya)
Lakota –Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black
Mohawk –Time of Much Ripening
Ponca –Middle of Summer Moon
Potawatomi –Moon of the Young Corn
Shoshone –Summer Moon

This Full Moon was for many Americans a Corn Moon. Roasting ears of corn was part of the “Green Corn Dance” or festival for Indians in the southwest. The Colonists called it the Corn Tassel Moon, so we can see the stage that corn was in for Northeastern settlers versus Southwestern Cherokee.

Let us not forget that for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere July is the Wolf Moon, Old Moon, or Ice Moon of winter. That is a cooling image to keep in mind as my ice cubes melt in my glass of iced tea and I type this during a 100 degree heat wave here in Paradelle. I suppose that I really should make a huckleberry moonshine cocktail though.

Native Americans bent trees to create trail markers, but while thousands of the trees remain today, it can be difficult to find one.

When making a trail marker, a Native American would look for a sapling with a trunk about three-fourths of an inch in diameter. The sapling would be bent in the direction that should be followed and then secured in that position by one of several methods.

Sometimes the saplings would be tied down with rawhide, bark or vines, but other times the tiny trees would be weighted down by a rock or a pile of dirt. Once secured, the sapling would be left in this bent shape for a year to lock it in position, at which point, even after it was released, it would continue to grow pointing in the intended direction.

Source: Trail trees are a living Native American legacy | MNN – Mother Nature Network

duck moon
As I have written here before, since Full Moons occur every 29.5 days, it is possible to have two Full Moons in a month and that second one is popularly called a “Blue Moon.”

We had a Full Moon to launch this month on July 1 (in the U.S.) and now the month will close out with another Full Moon tonight (the 31st).

Why blue? One might think that it goes back to some early person recording a second Full Moon in a month and that particular Moon appeared blue. Particles of dust of a particular size or smoke from large fire or volcanic eruption can cause a moon to look blue in color, but it is certainly not something that is predictable by date and this next Full Moon will probably appear no more blue than the one earlier this month. Moonlight does have more of a blue color (more so for a camera than our eyes) than the reddish light of sunrise and sunset. You often see that in films as a way to indicate night or even film “day for night.”

Actually, the use of the Blue Moon name seems to be quite modern. The March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine ran an article that defined the term as a second one in a month.

It is an unusual but not very rare occurrence and we can have two Blue Moons in a single calendar year. That happened in 1999 with two Full Moons in January and March and no full moon in February. We will have the next year of double Blue Moons in 2018.

We get a Blue Moon in the month of July every 19 years. This is the Metonic cycle and so in 2034 we’ll again have two full moons in July 2034 and another Blue Moon on July 31, 2034. Mark your electronic calendar.

Why is this? There are 235 full moons yet only 228 calendar months in the 19-year Metonic cycle. Because the number of full moons outnumber the number of calendar months, it means at least 7 of these 228 months will have two full moons. The math is simple enough for even me to understand: 235 – 228 = 7 extra full moons.

To add some complexity to our desire to wrap up our attempts to control the universe and time by making clocks and calendars, take this situation: If a February within this 19-year period has no full moon at all – as is the case in February 2018 – that means this extra full moon must fall within the boundaries of another month, too. In 2018 we will have two Blue Moons.

Anyway, enjoy this July 31st “blue” Full Moon.

farm full moonFor farmers, this was often called the Hay Moon. For Druids and some southern American Indian tribes, this late July Full Moon was a time when the harvest is celebrated.

I used a Cree tribe name for this late July Full Moon – the Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt. The Cree are one of the largest groups of Native Canadians/Native Americans in North America. There are over 200,000 members in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta the Northwest Territories and Quebec. In the United States, this Algonquian-speaking people historically lived from Lake Superior westward, but today, they live mostly in Montana, where they share a reservation with the Ojibwe (Chippewa).

Like most birds, ducks shed, or molt,their feathers. They do this twice each year, with the first molt in early summer. New feathers grow in and push out the old ones. Ducks molt very quickly and in a few weeks, they lose all their feathers and grow a whole new plumage. During molting, they need to find a safe place to stay, because this is a dangerous time because they can’t fly. Molting ducks spend most of their time hiding in tall grass or floating out in deeper waters.

Ducks lose all their feathers during the first molt of the year and then have their summer feathers for a few months. Around September, they molt again, but only the body feathers fall out.

moon beach

This July of 2015 we will see two Full Moons.  The first is on July 1st and another is just able to squeeze into the month on July 31st. That second one means that it will be referred to as a “Blue Moon.”

We have a Full Moon every 29.5 days, but since every month but February has at least 30 days in it, there is the potential for two full moons in a month. Though not a scientific term, that second full moon in a given month is popularly known as a Blue Moon. The expression “once in a blue moon” comes from the rarity, but not the impossibility, of the occurrence of a second Full Moon in the same calendar month. Color has nothing to do with it.

I have written about the July Full Moon as the Buck Moon and the Moon When Bucks Are in Velvet and as the Corn Moon. Since we have two Full Moons to cover this month, I think I will turn to the many American Indian names for the Moons of this month. Amongst the names I have found are:

Abenaki –Grass Cutter Moon
Algonquin –Squash Are Ripe Moon
Cherokee –Ripe Corn Moon
Choctaw –Little Harvest Moon, Crane Moon
Comanche –Hot Moon
Cree –Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt
Haida –Salmon Moon
Hopi –Moon of the Homedance
Kalapuya –Camas Ripe (the bulb of the camas lily was a staple food to the Kalapuya)
Lakota –Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black
Shoshone –Summer Moon

I opted to use this year the Dakota Sioux name, Moon of the Middle Summer, and the Ponca’s similar Middle of Summer Moon for this first July Full Moon. If you are thinking that it is not the middle but the beginning of summer, you need to read about the original idea of midsummer.

For people who once totally relied on plants and crops to survive, this Corn Moon was a time when some tribes in the southwest (like the Cherokee) were ready for “roasting ears of corn” and for others a time of the “green corn” dance and festival.  Colonists in the northeast called it the Corn Tassel Moon and the Mohawk called this a Time of Much Ripening and the Potawatomi named this the Moon of the Young Corn. For all of those northern groups, this Moon was a calendar sign that the corn was approaching harvest. A common expression was that corn should be “knee high by the fourth of July.”


strawberriesToday’s Full Moon slipped into place at 12:21 pm behind rain and clouds here in Paradelle.  It beneath the horizon and under my feet but, like tonight, it’s still out there, hidden like a New Moon.

If you looking up at it tonight (or tomorrow), look for it grouped with the planet Saturn and star Antares in the eastern sky at dusk and nightfall.

As Earth turns, Saturn and Antares will move westward across the nighttime sky and the threesome will climb highest tonight around midnight.

If the clouds clear, I will see them low in the west at dawn.

A Rose MoonIn North America, we commonly call the June full moon the Strawberry Moon.

Though the Full Moon might appear today, or any month, to be reddish like a rose or strawberry, or amber like honey and mead, those names are related more to nature.

We have used the term “honeymoon” to connect to weddings going back to  1552. June once was the most popular month for marriages. Apparently, that has changed to August and September.  There was a Romantic notion that the first month of marriage was the sweetest, and that a marriage is like the changes phases of the Moon. The Full Moon was viewed as analogous to the wedding.

The Strawberry Moon was so named for that first crop of that ripening fruit. In Europe, where strawberries are not a native fruit, this moon was often called the Rose Moon since they also had first blooms at this time.

ChaucerMead_braggot_Some American Indian tribes knew this as the Green Corn Moon because it was the time of the first signs of the “corn in tassel.” It meant the start of preparations for the upcoming festivals in the growing season.

American colonists ancestors in Britain may have known it as the Mead or Honey Full Moon echoing back to medieval times. Those names are also associated with Druids and pagans. Beehives would be full of honey from the heavy pollen of spring and that led to the mead (honey wine) believed to have been discovered by Irish monks during medieval times.

Mead has a reputation for enhancing virility and fertility and acting as an aphrodisiac. Some etymologists say the term “honeymoon” came from the Irish tradition of newlyweds drinking honey wine every day for one lunar month after their weddings and so it found its way into Irish wedding ceremonies.

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