Moon When Limbs of Trees Are Broken By Snow

snow trees moon

The Full Moon today, January 10, is most often called the Wolf Moon,  a name adapted from names different northern American Indian names for this Full Moon. The name references the wolf packs that howled hungrily outside villages this month.

In 2018,  there was a Blue Moon (a second full moon in one calendar month) and a total lunar eclipse and it was the third in a series of three Full Moons that were supermoons. Some of the world saw a “ring of fire” eclipse of the Sun on December 26, and exactly two weeks later there will be a Wolf Moon Eclipse. Unfortunately, it will not be visible in North America. It will be visible from Europe, Africa, Asia and parts of Australia.

To the Zuni people, this Full Moon is Dayamcho yachunne, the Moon When Limbs of Trees Are Broken By Snow. Since the Zuni (Zuni: A:shiwi; formerly spelled Zuñi) are Native American Pueblo peoples native to the Zuni River valley in New Mexico. I think of that area, the interior Mountain West, as a semi-arid climate with hot summers. But the high altitude means cool nights as late as July there have been freezing temperatures. According to Wikpedia, that climate has winter nights cold enough that snow is common and sometimes heavy:

The current day Zuni are a Federally recognized tribe and most live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River in western New Mexico. The Zuni tribe lived in multi-level adobe houses.

According to a Zuni legend, it was Coyote’s fault that we have winter because he stole the sun and moon.

This Cold Moon (called Unolvtani in Cherokee celebrations) marked the start of the season for personal and ritual observance, fasting and personal purification. It was a time for families to prepare for the coming of the next season which will start with the Windy Moon in March. The tools for planting are repaired, and new ones are made. The ancestors are honored with the telling of stories about them to young ones.

The Trading Full Moon


Tonight is the November Full Moon and for the Cherokee Indians this moon (called Nvdadequa) was traditionally a time of trading and barter among different towns and tribes for produce and goods from hunting. The people traded with other nearby tribes as well as distant tribes, including those in Canada, Middle America and South America.

It was also a customary time of the “Friendship Festival” called Adohuna and meaning “new friends made.” That day itself was a day of atonement for the Cherokee and ritual fasting was observed. A day for transgressions were forgiven. (The exception being murder which traditionally was taken care of according to the law of blood by a clans person of a murdered person.) The festival recalls a time before “world selfishness and greed” and so it was also a time when the needy among the towns were given whatever they needed to help them through the winter.

All that does not seem so far off from Thanksgiving and other ceremonies and observations of this Full Moon that for many of us is the last one of autumn and one that weather-wise can feel like autumn or winter.

Many names for the moons come from observations of nature. This moon has been called the Frost Moon, Fog Moon, Snow Moon and Sassafras Moon (Choctaw).

Other names come from observing activities of insects and animals. The name “Beaver Moon” comes from both human activity – Native Americans and Colonists setting beaver traps during this month – and from the animal activity of beavers building their winter dams. The name “Moon When Horns Are Broken Off” given by the Dakotah Sioux is another example.

Other names for the Full Moons at this time are more symbolic: Initiate Moon, Dark Moon, Mourning Moon, Blotmonath (Sacrifice Month), Mad Moon, Kindly Moon (China), Sleeping Moon (Celtic) and Mourning Moon (Druid).

The Japanese festival honoring the goddess of the kitchen is at this time. It honors the women who prepare the daily meals.  The goddess Kami was important because she used the harvested food to protect and provide for the family.

In Tibet, they celebrated the Feast of Lanterns, a winter festival of the shortest days of the Sun.

Among the Incas it was a time of the Ayamarca, or Festival of the Dead.

Windy Moon

The Moon was quite bright in Paradelle last night, but the Full Moon arrives on March 27 at 4:27 am around here and I’m sure it will wake me up.

I think many of us would agree with a Cherokee name for the March Full Moon – the Windy Moon, Anvyi, the first Moon of the new season. It is the traditional start of the new cycle of planting and a time when new council fires are made.

“Kanati & Selu – Cherokee”        painting:

The figure used to portray this moon is Kanati, one of the many beings created by the “Apportioner,” Unethlana.

Kanati is “The Lucky Hunter” and is sometimes called First Man. He lives with his wife Selu (“Corn”) in the east where the sun rises, and their sons, the Twin Thunder Boys, live in the west.

These “helpers” were variously charged with the control of the life elements of the earth: air/earth/fire/water. Their domains are the sky, earth, stars and the Seven Levels of the universe.

Kanati has a magic cave forever stocked with game animals and Selu has a magic bowl that always contained corn.  When their spying children undid their magic, Kanati and Selu were doomed to be mortals.

Some of the other seasonal names for this Moon are the Full Sap Moon, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon and Maple Moon.

The warming temperature and ground means that earthworm casts appear, and so the Worm Moon is another name. And those worms mean the appearance for some of us of the returning winged symbols of spring,  robins.

Other Native Americans called this Crow Moon for the cawing of crows that signaled the end of winter, or the  Crust Moon for the crusted snow cover from thawing and freezing cycles of this fickle month.

To earlier English speakers, this was sometimes known as the Lenten Moon. I only learned recently that in the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the vernacular instead of Latin, the English word lent was adopted. This word initially simply meant spring and lent was the name for the season. (Compare as in the German language lenz and Dutch lente) from the Germanic root for “long” because in the spring the days visibly became longer.

As a child, my father taught me in the garden that certain seeds and plants were safe to put in the ground when the oak tree had leaves that looked like a mouse’s ear. I would have accepted the name Oak Moon for that reason. But it actually goes back to the Celtic oak tree god or king. Oak was considered to be the wood from which people were first created.

Pooh & PigletThinking of this as a Windy Moon actually turns me back to reading as a child and then again to my own children about Pooh bear and his blustery day.

Some March days are  kite-flying weather. Some days are for the garden. Sometimes a coat, sometimes a sweater, sometimes only a shirt.

March is an uncertain month that can have crocuses and early flowering bulbs covered with snow.

We say if the month comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. We had a lion entry in Paradelle, so I hope the lamb arrives for Easter.

Depending on the weather (and ignoring the “officialness” of the equinox), you can think of this as the last Full Moon of winter or the first of spring. I’ll opt for the first of spring and on this windy day, I plan to go to my own thoughtful spot and be somewhat thoughtful.


The Fruit Moon of August

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)