Raccoon Moon

moon rotating

Tonight the Moon will be full but here in Paradelle is reached fullness at 11:57 a.m. EST. Names for the February Full Moon include Ice MoonHunger Moon, Grandfather Moon, and Storm Moon.

The Hunger and Bone Moon names come from a time when animals and humans in the north might and a soup made from only bones might have been all that was available. The Cherokee people called it the Bone Moon because animal bones as a soup or eating the marrow was the only source of nutrition in the dead of winter.

The full February moon is called Raccoon Moon by some Lakota cultures because as sap freezes, cracks branches, and perhaps begins to rise, so does the blood and urges rise in raccoons. Some people say they can hear them crooning their love at this time. Breeding peaks in February and copulation lasts up to an hour. Raccoons usually den in a hollow tree, culvert, or burrow, (or perhaps your chimney). They will leave those dens in April and do their night foraging for fruit, garden crops, fish, snakes, eggs, and small mammals.


Names for the Full Moons vary from place to place. This month is sometimes called the Snow Moon, but that name is also applied to the November Moon and December Moon. It depends on when snow hits your part of the country.

We must note that the calendars and Moon names used by ancient and native peoples were not as exact as our calendars. The Shawnee people used the Full Moons to create two seasons – summer and winter. Like our own modern calendars earliest versions, the months needed to be adjusted. One way to adjust the moon with the seasons was to add an extra month every second or third year. Their March Full Moon was when the sap would begin to flow. If the Moon was full but the sap was not flowing it was a signal that the moons were out of sync with the season. This month would have been their Crow Moon and the Sap Moon would be next month.

The ancient Druids called this the Storm Moon. In their calendar, this would be the fifth month of the year. The Full Moon is the start and it ends with the next Full Moon which is the Moon of Ice.

Feeling cold where you are? If you were in the Southern Hemisphere, this is mid-summer and this could be the Grain Moon, Red Moon, or Corn Moon. Location, location, location.

This calendar of the Moon’s phases this month is a nice illustration of how the Moon will look full on the 16, 17, and 18th – though it becomes full on the 16th.

A Little Famine Moon in Virgo

wolf moon

Tomorrow, February 27, is this month’s Full Moon. This Full Moon is usually called the  Snow Moon and this year in Paradelle has been a very snowy month.  We had more snow in one big storm in December than we had all of last winter, and the storms keep on coming.

Snow Moon is one of the names that is attached to several different months depending on the group and geographic area naming the event. That is also true for some of the other names given to the February Full Moon.

Other names that I have written about in past years include the Ice Moon, Hunger Moon, Snow Moon, Old MoonGrandfather Moon, Storm Moon, Bone Moon and the Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Full Moon. The names certainly describe what was certainly a tough month, especially in the distant past. Even in places where there might not be ice and snow, there might be hunger and food in short supply.

The Choctaw Indians called this the Little Famine Moon. The Choctaw people originally occupied what is now the Southeastern United States in what is modern-day Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. In the present day, they are organized as the federally recognized Choctaw Nation.

Like the names Hunger and Bone Moons (and sometimes the Wolf Moon), this difficult month for people living in the northern lands was once a time when a meal might be bone soup and eating the marrow from bones. The sound of wolves at the edges of villages looking for food was also something that might have been connected to this time of year.

Spiritually, the Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides of the zodiac during a Full Moon and that can create an intense aspect of energy. The lunar and solar energies are thought to be in balanced cosmic harmony. It is a good time to recognize the beauty of life and express creativity. Some people feel heightened sensuality.

In astrology, full moons are about endings as they shine their light on the past month. It is a time to take stock, spot problems, and tie up loose ends. This Midwinter Full Moon is in Virgo. The February Full Moon in your horoscope at 19 degrees Virgo, is especially significant if you have any planets in mutable signs –  Gemini, Virgo, or Pisces –  and its energy is mutable., soft-natured, and feminine.



The Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Full Moon

snow moon

February is the snowiest month of the year in many parts of North America. February 9 is the Full Moon date for 2020. The Snow Moon is the most common name for the second Full Moon of winter.

The Moon enters its full phase early on Sunday morning (2:34 a.m. EST) but last night it would look full and tonight it will be 99% percent illuminated on the East Coast.

This is also considered to be a “supermoon” which is an unofficial name used to describe a larger appearing New Moon or a Full Moon. The appearance of a larger than usual Moon is when either phase occurs at roughly the same time the Moon is nearest Earth in its monthly orbit. That nearest occurrence is properly called perigee.

The Wishram people are Northwest Coast Indians who lived along the north bank of the Columbia River. They named this the Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon, and I can easily imagine February as a time to huddle around the fire.

The Cherokee people called it the Bone Moon because animal bones were sometimes their only source of nutrition in the dead of winter.

Some other names for this month’s Full Moon that I have written about include Ice Moon, Hunger Moon, Old Moon,(which can also be in January), Grandfather Moon, and Storm Moon.

The Bone Moon of February

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.

Month Colonial America Cherokee Choctaw Celtic Medieval England Neo-Pagan Wiccan Algonquian English
February Trapper’s Moon Bony/Bone Moon Little Famine Moon Moon of Ice Storm Moon Snow Moon Storm Moon Snow Moon Wolf Moon

There is snow and ice in Paradelle at this time, but thankfully there is no famine or gnawing at bones or wolves waiting for me outside.

A Grandfather Full Moon

This month’s full moon, often called the Full Snow Moon, arrives Monday, February 25, 2013. In my part of the country, it will appear to the east at 5:51 p.m., just 13 minutes after the sunset at 5:38 p.m. off to the southwest.

The heavy snows of this month figured into many Native American tribes marking of this moon. The heavy snow, the lack of game and difficultly of hunting gave it names like Hunger Moon and Bone Moon. Animals and humans might be hungry enough to gnaw bones and eat the marrow or make soup from it.

“Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon” (Wishram Native Americans) and “No Snow in the Trails Moon” (Zuni Native Americans) reflect how geography and weather-influenced moon naming.

In my part of the Northeast, the woodlands Algonquin language tribes were most common and the Lenni Lenape were the most common natives in my New Jersey. The Lenape were the “grandfathers,” a term of great respect because it was believed that they were the original tribe of all Algonquin-speaking people.

The Lenape called their lands Lenapehoking (Land of the Lenape). Their first contact with white Europeans occurred in 1524, when Verrazano was exploring the New Jersey coast. Verrazano was taken with them and wrote that they “are most beautiful and have the most civil of customs… women are shapely and beautiful… well-built men.”

Because of their place in NJ’s history, I know a bit more about them than other Native Americans. They were quite accurate in computing time and had some astronomical knowledge. It was expected that one would could give names to many of the stars.

Their year began with the first moon after this February moon. They would calculate a time for planting by calculating the rising of the constellation we call Taurus in a certain quarter. They also gave this constellation a name of a mythical great horned beast.

Although the “calendar” for most native people does not follow our modern European calendar, it was noted early on that the Lenape had a word meaning a “year” or full cycle of twelve full moons. They used it to mark their age and events. They recorded years by adding a black bead of wampum for each year in a belt kept for that purpose.

They used picture writing scratched on stones or cut or painted on bark or wood. They recorded events and the history of the nation. One drawing given to William Penn was said to be the “Great Man” drawn within concentric circles which represented their idea of God.

At a full moon, a medicine wheels probably played a part in ceremony. Medicine wheels are placed on areas where the energy of the earth is strongly felt. Many tribes celebrated both the Full Moon and New Moon and a mid-winter renewal with the wheel.

The Lenape were also called the Delaware Indians. They did not give their name to the river and state. Europeans named the river for Sir Thomas West who was Lord de la Warr and governor of Virginia. They called the natives by the name (rather than the proper Lenape) because they lived on both sides of the river in modern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

These Native Americans were not migratory and it appears that occupied their homeland for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. The Lenni Lenape’s first contact with the white man was when the Swedish first landed in their territory. The Dutch and then English Quakers came and negotiated the first treaties in the New World, through William Penn. Although the treaties created a peaceful colonization and coexistence, after Penn’s death, his son Thomas tricked the Delaware Indians out of 1,200 square miles of land in the “Walking Purchase.” It would encompass lands as far as a man could walk in three days, but Thomas hired several runners to mark the boundaries.

Native American nations and tribes had a complicated organization. The Delaware contained three nations: Minsi (People of the Stone Country), Unami (People Who Live Down-river) and the Unalachtigo (People Who Live by the Ocean). Nations were subdivided by families (not matching our sense of the word) and each of the 12 clans within the families had their own chief. A clan chief represented the clan at tribal councils. It was matrilineal system, so a chief (sakima) inherited his position through his mother.

Names varied amongst tribes, but the importance of the Moon’s phases was common across people. The Cherokee called this the Bony Moon, and it was traditional time for families to mark those who had departed this world with a family meal with place(s) set for the departed. Connected to this moon is the “Medicine Dance”.

In colder climes, Snow, Storm, and Ice Moon were names used.

Colonial Americans called this the Trapper’s Moon or the Winter Moon.

In China, this a Holiday Moon connected with the New Year. The country of Tibet celebrates the conception of Buddha and the Feast of Flowers during this time of year.

February: Month of the Pearl

frozen raindrops

Whether or not any groundhogs get pessimistic or optimistic about the weather today, we will have six more weeks of winter. It will be cold here in the North for all of February and at least for the first few weeks of March.

February, if ye be fair,
The sheep will mend,
and nothing mair;
February, if ye be foul,
The sheep will die in every pool.
As the day lengthens,
the cold strengthens.

Because it has only 28 days in non-leap years, February was known in Welsh as “y mis bach” or the little month.

The Anglo-Saxon terms Solmonath (mud month) and Kale-monath (as in cabbage) were used for this month.

I particularly  like the Finnish term for the month – helmikuu, meaning “month of the pearl.”  It comes from the snow melting on tree branches and forming droplets which freeze again like pearls of ice.

The word February derives from the Latin februum which means cleansing or purification. That reflects on the rituals undertaken by the Romans before spring. Yes, we still have a bit of that ritual in our spring cleaning, though it may be a bit early to get started on cleansing your altar, ceremonial tools, sacred space, and self.