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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.




This month’s Full Moon occurs today, August 18. In Paradelle, it appeared early this morning, but when we look at it tonight it may look like the Full Red Moon that it is sometimes named. That is because, especially as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry summer haze.

Sultry is an interesting word that means, in referring to the air or weather, hot and humid, stifling, oppressive, muggy, sticky, or sweltering. But we also use it to refer to a person, especially a woman, and it means attractive in a way that suggests a passionate nature and sensual, sexy, voluptuous, erotic, or seductive. It’s likely to feel sultry outside for many Americans today. I’m not sure how sexy it will feel. What is the connection between the two definitions? Feel free to comment.

Indian tribes that fished, especially near the Great Lakes, often called it the Full Sturgeon Moon. That large fish was more readily caught during this late summer.

It was more likely to be known to the New World settlers, who measured the year and season based on the crops and flowers, by names such as the Grain Moon or Corn Moon. Corn Moon is a name given to several monthly Full Moons, especially by Indian tribes, and it varied based on geography. A green corn ceremony was celebrated by some tribes, while others were harvesting ripe corn now.

As a kid, I had seen the movie The Teahouse Of The August Moon (with Marlon Brando!) and that fictional place in Japan seemed quite romantic to me as a name for this Full Moon.

I saw someone posted that in the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the full moon of the eighth month. That seemed odd to me, so I did some checking and that would be around mid or late September or early October in our Gregorian calendar version of the Chinese calendar..

double moon hoax

The idea that it will look like there is a double Full Moon this week on the August 27 because Mars is passing so close to Earth that it appears the same size as the Moon in the night sky, is complete lunacy.

This is a story – usually accompanied by a photo like the one here that I really hesitated to spread around again – that has had a very healthy life on social media and even earlier via email since the turn of the century.

It really gained power in 2003 when Mars did pass within 35 million miles of Earth on Aug. 27 of that year. Yes, that was its closest approach to our planet in nearly 60,000 years. But even though Mars appeared six times bigger and 85 times brighter in the night sky than it normally does, it was nowhere near the size of the Moon. It still looked like the reddish star.

If you have time to waste and search “double moon,” you’ll get lots of results. Facebook, the main vector of misinformation these days, has over a million shares on the hoax.  There may be a nice Full Moon to see in your night sky this week, but nothing more captivating about it than the monthly wonder of seeing it up there.

fishing by the full moon

Looking over the possible names for this month’s Full Moon (occurring Sunday, August 10th in 2014), this year I chose the Full Sturgeon Moon. It is not the most Romantic of Full Moon names, but is one that was used by some Native American tribes, particularly the Algonquin, who noted that this fish in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this Full Moon.

Here in Paradelle, the sturgeon is an endangered species. It is not a fish you will find on menus. The sturgeon family is among the most primitive of the bony fishes.

The shortnose sturgeon has a body that contains five rows of bony plates or “scutes.” Sturgeon are typically large, long-lived fish. Atlantic sturgeon have been aged to 60 years. They inhabit fast-moving freshwater rivers, lakes and, for some species, into the offshore marine environment of the continental shelf.  Atlantic sturgeon are similar in appearance to shortnose sturgeon but are larger in size with a smaller mouth and different snout shape.

In their estuarine and freshwater habitats, Atlantic sturgeon face threats from habitat degradation and loss from various human activities such as dredging, dams, water withdrawals and even ship strikes.

Atlantic Sturgeon

You may know that the delicacy caviar is salted sturgeon eggs which has been long associated with Russia and as a “treat of the tsars.” I have written elsewhere about the surprising history of New Jersey caviar.

In short, the Delaware Bay and Delaware River was one of the most productive sturgeon fisheries in the country in the late 1800s and the United States was the world’s top caviar exporter. A small town in New Jersey was named Caviar (or Caviar Point) because of its processing plant and railroad spur for sending the caviar north through the Pine Barrens to New York City.

In 1895, they were shipping 15 train cars of caviar and smoked sturgeon every day out of NJ. The fish were plentiful, but taking the females for their eggs, increasing demand and the species being one that is slow-maturing meant that this overfishing crashed the population and the business in the early 20th century.

Atlantic sturgeon were placed on the federal endangered species list. But Atlantic sturgeon were not eliminated from the Delaware River. The estimated 300 to 500 adult females that spawn there now is a very “endangered” population when compared to the estimated 180,000 breeding sturgeon believed to be in the bay prior to 1890, New Jersey monitors migration patterns and the slow comeback of the species.

American Indian names for the Full Moons, which was their calendar, always took note of the natural world.  August’s Full Moon was called the Green Corn Moon (being still early for some corn harvests in the north), Grain Moon, the Wheat Cut Moon (San Ildefonso, and San Juan Indians), Moon When All Things Ripen (Dakotah Sioux), the Moon When Cherries Turn Black or the Blueberry Moon (Ojibway).

Europeans and American Colonists took on much of the native information about the seasons but still tended to use names like Red Moon (for the reddish hue it often takes on in the summer haze), Mating Moon, Dog’s Day Moon (constellation), Woodcutter’s Moon, Chokeberry Moon, Summertime Moon, Corn Moon, and the Barley Moon.

Continuing with our Sturgeon Moon theme this month, we might wonder if fishing and fish activity changes when there is a Full Moon. That’s debatable and probably more about Moon Lore than about science. There are entire blogs devoted to Full Moons that I follow and there are plenty of theories.

The moonlight attracts or repels fish, depending on your beliefs and experiences. Of course, the actual fullest moment of the Moon isn’t always at night. It could occur during the day, so any influence would be felt then. This month, the Moon reaches its “full” moment in Paradelle in the afternoon at 02:09:24 pm (EDT) and on the Pacific coast it will be at 11:09:24 am. In Moscow, they can eat caviar, drink vodka and watch the Moon become full at 10:09:24 pm (MSK).

And, while we are thinking about the relativity of lunar events, this very Northern Hemisphere-centric blogger takes note that on the bottom half of this planet it is now time for the Snow Moon, Storm Moon, Hunger Moon, or Wolf Moon.

Last year, there were two full Moons in August, so the second was a “Blue Moon.” That’s not true this year.

There are many names for this month’s Moon and usually I like to choose a different one each year. It could be the Grain Moon, Green Corn Moon, Red Moon (for the reddish hue it often takes on in the summer haze), Mating Moon, Woodcutter’s Moon, Chokeberry Moon, Summertime Moon, Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Dispute Moon, or the Moon When Cherries Turn Black.

I decided to go with the Dog Day’s Moon which refers to the phrase “dog days” a fairly common name for the sultry days of later summer. In the Northern Hemisphere, the dog days of summer are in July and August. In the Southern Hemisphere, they typically occur in January and February, in the midst of the austral summer.

Canis Major constellation map

Canis Major constellation map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This name goes back to the ancient Romans who tagged the diēs caniculārēs (dog days) as those hot days that occur along with the star Sirius. Sirius was known as the “Dog Star” because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. The term “Dog Days” was used even earlier by the Greeks.

The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise (heliacal rising), which is no longer true, owing to precession of the equinoxes. In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days ran from July 23/24 through August 23/24.

The Romans sacrificed a red dog in April to appease Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the sultry weather. Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria (1813).

The ancient Greeks observed that the appearance of Sirius heralded the hot and dry summer, and feared that it caused plants to wilt, men to weaken, and women to become aroused.Due to its brightness, Sirius would have been noted to twinkle more in the unsettled weather conditions of early summer. To Greek observers, this signified certain emanations which caused its malignant influence. Anyone suffering its effects was said to be astroboletos or “star-struck.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional period of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3rd and ending August 11th, coinciding with the ancient heliacal (at sunrise) rising of Sirius.


Ceremonies played an important part in the life of Native American tribes and the Full Moons were important to many of those ceremonies. For example, the Cherokee celebrated a series of seasonal ceremonies and festivities that corresponded to the food cycle of the tribe.

The Cherokee moon ceremonies were the seasonal round of ceremonies practiced during ancient times by the Ah-ni-yv-wi-ya or Principle People. Although a modern calendar year comprises 12 months, there are actually 13 cycles or phases of the moon each year. Their ceremonies are based on 13 moons. They were considered to be both spiritual and social gatherings among the Cherokee Clans and Cherokee Society in the ancient culture.

The Ah-ni-yv-wi-ya believed the number 13 was significant. Not only did this number correspond to the lunar cycles of the year, but by a startling coincidence, all species of turtles living in the ancient homeland (in fact, all species turtles in the world) always had 13 scales on the back of their shells. As a result, Cherokee culture associated the spaces on the back of the turtle with the 13 yearly phases of the moon.

These phases have shifted over time and do not fall within the 12 month year calendar year precisely every year. The  Ripe Corn Ceremonies (now called the Green Corn Dances or the Green Corn Ceremony) fall in early September but probably occurred at the July or August Moons at one time.

A good book on this is Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back: A Native American Year of Moons by Joseph Bruchac.

For the Cherokee people, March was the first of the thirteen moons and it was the feast of the deer. April’s celebration focused on strawberries, and then subsequent harvests were “little” corn, watermelon, peaches, mulberries, and the “great” corn.

For 2011, the August Full Moon is on the 13th.  For the Cherokee, this was the  Fruit Moon (Ga’loni) and the foods of the trees and bushes were gathered at this time.

The various “Paint Clans” begin to gather many of the herbs and medicines for which they were historically known.

The “Wild Potato” Clans begin harvesting various foods growing along the streams, marshes, lakes and ponds.

Shifting geographically, the North American fishing tribes called August’s full moon the Sturgeon Moon since that species was abundant during this month.

There are many other names including: the Grain Moon, Green Corn Moon, Red Moon (for the reddish hue it often takes on in the summer haze), Mating Moon, Dog’s Day Moon, Woodcutter’s Moon, Chokeberry Moon, Summertime Moon,  Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Dispute Moon, and the Moon When Cherries Turn Black.

Augustus Caesar

The month of August was originally called Sextilis by the Romans, but was later named Augustus in honor of Augustus Caesar. It was also for the Romans a time of gathering harvests. A popular belief was that the month has 31 days because Augustus wanted as many days as Julius Caesar’s July. Actually, Sextilis had been 31 days since the time of Julius Caesar and the Julian calendar.

The Senatorial decree renaming Sextilis to Augustus reads in part:

“Whereas the Emperor Augustus Caesar, in the month of Sextilis, was first admitted to the consulate, and thrice entered the city in triumph, and in the same month the legions, from the Janiculum, placed themselves under his auspices, and in the same month Egypt was brought under the authority of the Roman people, and in the same month an end was put to the civil wars; and whereas for these reasons the said month is, and has been, most fortunate to this empire, it is hereby decreed by the senate that the said month shall be called Augustus.” (A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities by William Smith)

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