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snow-moon-pixa

We can refer to tonight’s February Full Moon as the Snow Moon, Ice Moon, Hunger Moon, Old, Storm or Grandfather Moon. Most names for the month refer to very wintery weather. Of course, if you’re in a warmer climate, they may seem inappropriate.

Tonight’s Full Moon also coincides with a penumbral lunar eclipse. They are not as spectacular or as noticeable as a total lunar eclipse. When the Moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow (which is known as the penumbra), the shadow blocks part of the sun’s rays. Therefore, the Moon will only appear slightly darker than usual.

To Colonial Americans, this was the Trapper’s Moon or simply the Winter Moon.

Tonight’s Full Moon will fall on a snow-covered Paradelle, so the moonlight should be quite bright, even with that Earth shadow.

moon snow pixabay

Our Moon will move from Waxing Gibbous to full today at 1:20 p.m. in Paradelle.  During the Waxing Gibbous phase, the Moon will rise in the east in mid-afternoon and will be high in the eastern sky at sunset. The moon is then visible through most of the night sky, setting a few hours before sunrise. The word “gibbous” first appeared in the 14th century and has it’s roots in the Latin word “gibbosus” meaning humpbacked.

This month’s Full Moon is often called the Snow Moon and February can certainly be a snowy and rough winter month. This past week it has been very mild in my area of the east coast. We have had one blizzard and one smaller storm this winter, but otherwise it has not been that bad. There was a week of days hovering around zero degrees, but that was followed with a jump of 40 degree up right after.

I note that many visitors to this site come through searching for things about weather lore.  When I wrote last October about the winter ahead, I put more faith in predictions about El Niño than signs in nature, predictions about winter based on the previous summer, looking at the wooly bear caterpillar) and other critters or just looking at the month of October as a predictor of things to come. But all of those less-scientific methods are certainly more fun.

Meteorologists were saying last autumn day that it would be warmer this winter in Paradelle and across much of  the U.S.,  but noted that a warmer winter doesn’t necessarily mean less snow.

This month’s Full Moon is also called the Storm Moon and I read that among the Micmac people of eastern Canada, the driving winds that often accompany February snows led  to the name Snow-Blinding Moon.

A Cherokee name for this moon was the Bone Moon in the “month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens.”  Another common name used is the Hunger Moon. Both of these probably reflect the bare bones and hunger that probably occurred in winters past. The Dakotah Sioux called this the Moon of the Raccoon or the Moon When Trees Pop.

 

February 3rd is the Full Moon for 2015.  For the Cherokee, it is the Bone Moon or “month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens” – even though we know that they are not fixed. On this site, I have called it by some of its other names: the Snow, Storm, Ice Moon, and the Hunger Moon.

It is a tough month of winter for most of the United States. This month’s Full Moon names were most associated with the harsh weather or depleting stores of food. It makes sense for a Hunger Moon, maybe even a Bone Moon, as the food and meat is gone and only the bones remain. When I am hiking in the woods, I sometimes come across the bones of animals that did not make it through the winter. White bones, picked clean by hungry animals, white on the snow and even more so in the light of the Full Moon.

Our Colonial ancestors called this simply the Winter Moon or the Trapper’s Moon, a name that came from eastern Algonquin Indian traditions. Though the tradition is (thankfully) not as common today, this would be the time when it was optimal for trapping beaver, fox, and mink as their fur would be at the fullest.

This is a good time to witness the phenomena of “Moon pillars.” I have never seen Moon pillars which are an optical phenomena that is most likely to occur when the moon is low to the horizon, the air is cold, and ice crystals are angled in a position in the atmosphere where there is direct light in a straight column directly above or below the moon.

A light pillar is created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with near horizontal parallel planar surfaces. The light can come from the Sun (usually at or low to the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also appear to come from the Moon or even from terrestrial sources such as streetlights.

There are billions of micro-sized ice crystals in clouds (even in warmer weather) or in minute snow crystals, and as these column-shaped ice crystals drift earthward, they tip and tilt. There are “upper pillars” that are formed when light is reflected downward toward our eyes and “lower pillars” when light is reflected upward from the topmost crystal faces.

I have read that the best time to see them is at sunset when a storm front is approaching (there might be a veil of cirrus clouds in the west). If those crystals happen to be nearly perfectly horizontal, a narrow column is the result. If they are tilted at various angles to the horizontal, then a the pillar of light spreads into what might look more like broad feathers to the Moon’s sides.

light pillars

“Light pillars over Laramie Wyoming in winter night” by Christoph Geisler / Wikimedia Commons

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.

Tonight is the full moon that Native Americans called the hunger moon or snow moon. Typically, it is the month of the heaviest snow and that snow also causes hunting to be difficult for men and for animals.

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