The May Moon When Frogs Return

frog moon

May 4th is the Full Moon for this month. It occurs at 3:43 UTC, but in Paradelle (and the eastern U.S. coast) it slips into fullness tonight (May 3) just before midnight at 11:42 pm EDT.

The Full Moons get all the attention, but it is nice to be aware of the other phases too. On the 1th, make note of the Last Quarter (seeing the left half of the Moon) and the New Moon (or “no Moon”) on the 18th. You can look wise on the 25th by pointing out the First Quarter (the right half showing brightly) to people.


As the years pass, I will run out of names for the Full Moons. This year I chose the name Moon When Frogs Return which is said to be an American Indian name (though I can’t find a tribe it is attached to). Frogs, which probably don’t seem very noble or heroic compared to others who have Full Moons named for them, like the Wolf Moon, have a place in Native American mythology. The frog was the guardian of all the fresh water in the springs and wetlands. Water is more essential than even food and the “singing” of frogs like spring peepers is a surer sign of the spring season than those groundhogs.

Most species of frogs interpret signs in nature, such as slight rises in temperature, to know when to travel to vernal (spring) pools and ponds and begin breeding. At the breeding sites, frogs sing to attract mates and the sound can be quite loud song to the new season.

As I have written several times before, many of the Full Moon names are geographically based. What is happening in nature in Maine is not happening that month in Arizona. One species of frog, spring peepers, emerge from their winter hibernation in early January to early April depending on where you live. You can hear them singing in ponds, marshes, swamps and temporary pools throughout the eastern half of the United States.

You can also call this the Hare Moon, Merry or Dyad Moon, Fright Moon, Bright Moon, Mothers Moon (for Mothers Day), Flower Moon, Frogs Return Moon, Thrimilcmonath (Thrice-Milk Month), Sproutkale, Winnemonoth (Joy Month), Seed Moon or the Planting Moon.

The American Colonists sometimes called this the Milk Moon. It’s not a name the American Indians would have used because they did not domesticate cows. Colonists thought of May as the time when their cows, goats and sheep could enjoy the abundantly-sprouting new grasses, weeds and herbs in the pastures and produce lots of rich milk.

Buddhists can view this as the Buddha Moon since it was said that Buddha was born, died and received enlightenment on the Full Moon in Scorpio. This Full Moon is considered by some as a very spiritual day.

I may have invented the name of the Moon of the Horseshoe Crabs that I used in the past on this site. Their spawning activity (which I know and have seen in the waters between New Jersey and Delaware) peaks for a few days before and after the May and June new and full moons. Huge numbers of horseshoe crabs will appear on the beaches along Delaware Bay to mate and to lay eggs under the sand. The numbers peak on the night of Full Moon and at the time of high tide. They feel the pull.

It is a Romantic idea that the lunar pull controls the crabs. Well, it does control the tides.  I love those horseshoe crabs. They are “living fossils” that have remained essentially the same for 300 million years.

The tens of thousands of eggs which the females deposit in the sand for the males to fertilize coincides with the spring migration of many species of shorebirds. Those birds rely on those eggs for the food they need to continue their migration. It is a great example of the web that connects the natural world.

The Old Moon After the Winter Solstice


Tonight, the moon will be full in Paradelle just before midnight (11:53 p.m. EST).  It is a bit odd that we give times for the full moon such as UTC, EST etc. because, despite our human efforts to control time, the moon turns full at the same instant worldwide. But, yes, it will be at 8:53 p.m. PST.

If we want to be astronomically correct, the moon is only “full” at that moment when it is most opposite the sun in its orbit.

You can also note this as a time of the arrival of the Morning Star in the east. The Morning Star isn’t a star at all, but the name given to the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise. The Greek referred to “Phosphorus” (meaning “Light-Bringer”) or Heōsphoros [AKA Eosphorus in English] meaning the “Dawn-Bringer” for Venus in its morning appearance.

Popularized names for this January full moon are the Wolf Moon, Old Moon or Moon After Yule.  Some of the American Indian names include Cold Moon, Cooking Moon, Moon of the Terrible, Moon of the Raccoon, Full Snow Moon (also used by some tribes to the February moon).

The most popular name on this blog has been Wolf Moon. It comes from the deepening snows of midwinter in some area (like the Dakotas) and the howling of hungry wolves heard in the long nights outside villages. Wolves often hunt at night and many people associate their howling with the moon. However, it is lore rather than biology that wolves howl at the moon.

This Cold Moon (Unolvtani in Cherokee) marked the start of the season for personal and ritual observance, fasting and personal purification. The tools for planting are repaired, new ones made, and ancestors are honored by passing on their stories to young ones. Our seasons don’t align with American Indian seasons which were lunar-based rather than sun-based. This time was for families to prepare for the next season which starts  with the full moon in March.

Some tribes marked this time with the Cold Moon Dance and community hearth fires being put out and new ones being made. The renewal of fires was often the duty of holy men of certain clans. The new fires tradition was also a part of celebrations by ancients in Europe to mark the end and beginning of the seasonal cycles.

Moon ceremonies often involve fire, whether that be a bonfire or the lighting of candles.

One Moon prayer I found online used by some Pagan groups is “We gather tonight to rejoice by the light of the moon. We celebrate the season of darkness, knowing that the next turn of the Wheel will bring light. We use this time of darkness for thought, introspection, and growth. As the moon above, so the earth below.”

If you want to make that celebration a bit more English or American Colonist, throw in some wassail or cakes and ale.

Almost every name for the Full Moons is location-based. A Wolf Moon would have no meaning to many people.  A Snow Moon would apply to people in northern climes but not to people in warmer areas. Tribes of the southwest and the northeast did not share the same climate, plants or animals and the names of the moons show that. A name like Moon When Trees Pop would not apply to a tribe living in the Arizona desert.

In the distant past, the names usually applied to a period of time that included the month between the Full Moons and not just the day. Weeks, months and years were not the same concepts of time for them, and there were no leap years, time zones or daylight savings time to negotiate.

I chose Old Moon for this post’s title because I’m feeling old today and although the year is new, in some ways it seems like a continuation of the December winter and year. As a lifelong teacher and student, September feels more a the New Year than January.  If I had to pick a time for the calendar to begin, I would choose spring and let the year end with winter rather than start in the middle of it. How very Northern Hemisphere of me.

I like the Druid Poet’s Moon name for this month. Our January is their Llianth, the fourth month of their year, and this is seen as a time for peace, creativity, and inspiration.


The Morning of the Long Night Moon

cloud animated moon
Tonight, December 6th, is the Full Moon for this month. But the Moon became “full” just now at 7:27 am ET even though very few people think about the Moon in the morning and will only observe it as “full” tonight. Well, actually a lot of people looked at the Moon last night or will see it tomorrow and say it looks full.

The December full moon is generally referred to as Cold Moon, Moon Before Yule and Long Night Moon or Moon of Long Nights, Oak Moon (Medieval English), Snow Moon, Moon of the Popping Trees, Her Winter Houses Moon, Big Freezing Moon, Frost Moon, Twelfth Moon (Dakota Sioux), Christmas Moon (Colonial America), Wintermonat (Winter Month), Bitter Moon (China), Heilagmonoth (Holy Month), Dreaming Moon and Big Winter Moon.

The American Indian names for the Full Moons are the most interesting. The Hopi call this kyaamuya, Moon of Respect   I like the name used by the Wishram Indians of the Columbia River area of Washington and Oregon for this moon: Her Winter Houses Moon. I don’t know what it means, but I like it. The Zuni of New Mexico call this ik’ohbu yachunne which translates as Sun Has Traveled Home to Rest.

I realized recently that my interest in the Full Moons probably started by reading copies of The Old Farmer’s Almanac that my mom would buy.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2015 is available for sale and I don’t know if it is considered so old-fashioned that no one reads it anymore.

My mom always bought a copy and I would devour its odd facts and weather lore and Full Moon stories and predictions. I’m sure it was one of the bigger influences on me as a kid that has stayed with me into old age.

What kid (or adult?) could resist America’s oldest continuously published periodical which is now in its 223rd year? They still claim to have 80 percent-accurate weather forecasts, but also stories about creatures from hell, readers’ wacky coincidences, how to make sausages at home, how wildfires’ affect our weather, love potions (yes, I mixed a few of those in my day), stats on things like what are the odds of almost everything, plus the sky and nature things I love to write about here like Moon phases, celestial sightings, tides, and gardening tables.  It was something my mom used as one of my stocking-stuffers and it still works in that way..

This Moon of Long Nights is a marker of that time when winter cold had a pretty solid hold on much of our country, although this year the moon comes early. The nights are literally longer. That’s something that people have observed for thousands of years before they understood the reason it occurred.  The long, dark night increases as we move towards the solstice because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time it has a high trajectory across the sky opposite a low Sun.

I enjoyed reading my sons books about the Moon and about science told simply. We liked When The Moon Is Full which had a cover very appropriate to this month’s Long Night Moon. It tells with colored woodcuts and poems about all twelve full moons of the year with the traditional Native American names, from the Wolf Moon to the Long Night Moon. It has a question-and-answer section with information about the moon’s surface, lunar eclipses and the true meaning of a blue moon.

The Moon, stars and planets fascinate young children, but unfortunately many of them lose that sense of wonder when gazing up at the night sky when they get older.

Of course, the same thing happens with nature and animals and the science of dinosaurs and simple chemistry and even that early fascination with numbers. These are all things to nurture in children, and the Full Moons are great opportunities to connect to that awe and wonder.

In December 2010, the Winter Solstice was also the Full Moon. That is an interesting astronomical calendar coincidence (though not unique). In 2009, the full moon arrived on December 31 to end the year, and it was also the second full moon of the month which some people erroneously but popularly call a “Blue Moon.”

This year’s full moon seems too early to be called the Moon Before Yule. Although “Yule” is equated with Christmas now, Yuletide was a pre-Christian winter solstice festival that lasted for 12 days. (Yule +‎ -tide, “period around a holiday” from the Old English tīd, “time”).  In Scandinavia, winter solstice fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor. A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log.

In England, Germany, France and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and or as medicine.

moon surface
from the book  Full Moon’

Should Columbus Day Be Native American Day?

Today is labeled on my calendar as Columbus Day and it is a federal holiday in America. But 22 states don’t celebrate Columbus Day. And protesters turn up at many Columbus Day parades and events.

What is going on with this man and this holiday?

Groups have suggested renaming it Italian Heritage Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day, or moving it on the calendar and reclaiming the second Monday in October as “Native American Day.” (South Dakota already calls it that.)

Even schools are shying away from Columbus lately. Some of the lesson plans I experienced as a child on that day have evolved to a more balanced perspective of what happened after Columbus reached the Caribbean and the suffering of indigenous populations.

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. There are no known authentic portraits of Columbus.

Still, Columbus’ life and discoveries should be studied and taught – though perhaps a bit differently. He risked his life to explore an unknown world and created new connections between Europe and the Americas.

Of course, he also took slaves back to Spain. He launched a trend that conquistadors would follow and they would kill many of the Native Americans.

We were taught that he discovered America, but the land he accidentally came upon was already occupied by people who had discovered it much earlier.  Columbus landed on islands in the Caribbean. He never set foot in any part of the land now referred to as the United States.

But, are we judging a 16th century man by 21st century standards?

Some things that my own elementary Columbus Day lessons never included…

Columbus fulfilled his contractual agreement to the King and Queen of Spain by bring back from his from his first voyages with a few spices, some gold he taken native peoples’ ear lobes. He also had 350 newly enslaved men and women. He would have had another 250, but they died on the voyage to Spain.

The King and Queen were satisfied, so they backed a second expedition in 1493. Remember that from school? Probably not. That second voyage had 17 ships with 1200 men. He had a full cavalry troop. he had 6 priests.

They raided and plundered the Caribbean islands. He returned with large expeditions in 1498 and 1502 that actually did the greatest damage to the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.

Hispaniola was his home base. It had a population of eight million in 1492. After his raids, executions, enslavements (both on the islands and with those taken to Europe) and because of the European diseases the crews introduced, in 4 years the population is estimated to have dropped by half to 4 million.

His legacy continued after his last voyage. By 1508 the number was 100,000 and by 1535, the native population was for all purposes extinct.

Many historians say that the genocides of the twentieth century against Armenians, Jews, Gypsies, Ibos, Bengalis, Timorese, Ugandans and more,  still don’t come close to the number of people or as large a percentage of a population destroyed as Columbus’ voyages and occupations.

On 20 May 1506, at about age 55, Columbus died in Spain. He was comfortably wealthy from the gold taken from Hispaniola. Did you know that at his death he was still convinced that his journeys had been along the east coast of Asia?

There is an online petition that says:

To: The President of The United States, The U.S. Congress, The U.S. Senate

We, the undersigned, petition the President of the United States, The U.S. Congress, and The U.S. Senate to hereby change “Columbus Day” to “Native American Day”.

Christopher Columbus did not discover America, he discovered Native Americans living peacefully in their homeland. And, as history has taught us, Mr. Columbus was not even the first to visit America from Europe.

So, then why do we continue to disgrace Native Americans by throwing this “National Holiday” up in their faces? It’s about time we realize that as Americans we are continuing the hate cycle by allowing this to continue. We should be thanking Native Americans for taking us in and sharing with us their ancient wisdom.

We have never had a Native American holiday in the U.S. and that is truly a shame. We deem anything we want as a “Federal Holiday” if only for the benefit of government employees having yet another 3-day weekend.

Let us give credit where credit is due. We urge you to change “Columbus Day” to “Native American Day”.

What do you think?