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.

Leaf Falling Full Moon of October

moon autumn tree

The Moon just reached its full phase here in Paradelle at 5:10 PM ET.  The Full Moon immediately following the Harvest Moon is often called the Hunter’s Moon. The Hunter’s Moon (like the Harvest Moon) rises along your eastern horizon for the next several days, from either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, and you’ll see the moon rising farther north on the horizon each day.

September in some years is the month of the Harvest Moon but other years it is in October because that name is given to the Full Moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.  That was last month’s September 23rd Harvest Full Moon for 2019.

Going back to before artificial lighting (and light pollution), the moonlight was important for anything done after sunset – from traveling, to working, to hunting. At this time of year, a Full Moon rising in the east around sunset and being highest in the sky around midnight, and setting in the west around sunrise could provide. In the northern latitudes, people noticed the differing rising times of September and October full moons. The Moon rising near sunset for several evenings could mean that farmers might continue working in the fields and bringing in the crops. That partially led to the Harvest Moon name.

The American Indian names are always more interesting, longer and sometimes quite literal, such as the Cheyenne’s Moon When the Water Begins to Freeze on the Edge of Streams or the Cree’s Moon When the Birds Fly South (although lately, some birds are not flying south from Paradelle anymore).

This month I selected the Leaf Falling Moon name used by the Abenaki. Leaves falling is certainly a sign of October in my part of the country.

For those in the Southern Hemisphere, you can call this Spring Full Moon the Egg Moon, Fish Moon, Seed Moon, Pink Moon, or Waking Moon.

August Moon When All Things Ripen

rosy moon of summerThis morning (August 15 8:31 A.M.  here), the Moon went full. It was so close to being full earlier in the week that it made it more difficult to see any of the Perseid meteor showers.

The most common name for this August Full Moon is the Sturgeon Moon. But I suspect that for the vast majority of Americans the sturgeon or even fishing is not a big part of their life this month. The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month.

Because I pay attention to threatened and endangered species, I want to note that all five U.S. Atlantic sturgeon distinct population segments are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. These populations are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, habitat degradation, and habitat impediments such as dams and other barriers and vessel strikes.

Sturgeon – photo

In many cultures, the Full Moon names were actually applied to the entire month that followed. The Farmer’s Almanac has a list of Full Moon names with brief descriptions.

In Colonial America, the Europeans may have called this the Dog’s Day Moon.

Among the American Indian tribes, there were many variations in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were used among the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior. In the book This Day in North American Indian History the author looks at events, including Full Moon names, going back to the construction of Mayan temples in A.D. 715 to modern political activism and governmental legislation. It has 50+ native peoples.

I chose the Dakotah Sioux name Moon When All Things Ripen. The Cherokee called this the Fruit Moon.

The Klamath people are a Native American tribe of the Plateau culture area in Southern Oregon and Northern California, centered around the area around the Upper Klamath Lake and the Klamath, Williamson, and Sprague rivers. They subsisted primarily on fish and gathered roots, berries, and seeds.

Different tribes started the year at different times. For example, the Juaneno people started the year with the winter solstice.  The Klamath people started the year with today’s Full Moon. They marked the months/moons on their fingers, so this moon was marked on the thumb and was called the Moon When Berries Dried.

This is the Celtic Dispute Moon, and it is the Neo-Pagan Lightning Moon.

If you’re feeling the heat and humidity where you are today, here’s a cooling thought: In the Southern Hemisphere, the August Full Moon is often called the Snow Moon. That’s a name we use in the North in January or February.

A Salmon Moon

Haida salmon art
      Haida salmon art

One name for the July Full Moon, which officially arrives for me at 5:39 pm today, is the Salmon Moon. There are no salmon in the water near me and I doubt that the name was used much around here for this Full Moon. But to some native people, such as the Haida people native of the Northwest, the Coast Salish people of the Canadian Pacific coast, and native people of Alaska, salmon was (and for some, still is) a staple food source.

salmon run jumpingThe times when salmon “run” or are plentiful in numbers would be a time for much fishing, preserving, and celebration.  A salmon run is a time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. After spawning, all Pacific salmon and most Atlantic salmon die, and the salmon life cycle starts over again.

An annual run is a major event for grizzly bears, bald eagles, and native and sport fishermen. But most salmon species migrate September through November, so why would this month be a “salmon moon?”

Fishing tribes in North America also used this name and called the August Full Moon the Sturgeon Moon because this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water were most readily caught during this month.

The Druid’s Salmon Moon is in August.

Alaska’s Kenai River offers silvers, pinks, reds and king salmon from May through October. Salmon weighing up to 98 pounds have been captured. Early runs through June average around 16,000 fish. I will be further south but the late runs began July 1 and peak at 41,000 fish in the middle of the month.

Despite the variations, salmon has served as a source of wealth and trade and is part of the cultures of First Nations people of Canada. The practice of traditional fishing is strongly associated with Coast Salish culture. Salmon was seen as respected gift-bearing relatives. Their beliefs are that all living things were once people and salmon are viewed as beings similar to people but spiritually superior.

I will be taking a floatplane from Ketchikan, Alaska (“Salmon Capital of the World”) to Prince of Wales Island.

We will not be employing the traditional or artisanal fishing methods that are low-tech, such as net-fishing, stone-fishing and weir fishing.

The five species of Pacific salmon found in the Northeastern waters (rivers and ocean) are Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Coho, and Chinook.

salmon types
Types of salmon – U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service

Other July Full Moon names include the more common Buck Moon, Thunder Moon (for the month’s many summer storms) and Hay Moon (for the July hay harvest). The Celtic name was Moon of Claiming – for which I find no explanation.


Moon of Horses

Celtic Moon with Horse
A coin from Armorica, Gaul showing stylized head and a horse (Jersey moon head style, circa 100-50BC) via Wikimedia

Before the sun rises tomorrow morning, the Moon will become full (4:31 AM EDT). You probably won’t notice it until tomorrow night, and you might consider the Moon to look full tonight.

The June Full Moon is commonly known as the Strawberry Moon, because this is the peak of the short picking season for that berry. Well, maybe it is the peak where you live. It is not a Strawberry Moon everywhere. That was the name used by just about every Algonquin tribe. Europeans called this the Rose Moon, and roses are more likely to be blooming in Paradelle than I am to be picking strawberries.

Another old European name for this full Moon is the Mead Moon or the Honey Moon. Mead is a drink created by fermenting honey mixed with water, sometimes with fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The tradition of calling the first month of marriage the “honeymoon” dates back to at least the 1500’s. It may be connected to this Full Moon, either because of the custom of marrying in June or because the “Honey Moon” is the “sweetest” Moon of the year.

As spring ends and summer begins, the daily periods of sunlight lengthen to their longest on the solstice, then begin to shorten again.

Among the Cherokee people, this was known as the Green Corn Moon. It is early for even green corn in my area. There are three federally recognized Cherokee tribes today: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) in Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation (CN) in Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation has more than 300,000 tribal members, making it the largest of the 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States.

The Dakotah Sioux were safely more generic with the name Moon When June Berries Are Ripe.

This was also known as the Dyan Moon (today as the Dyad Moon) in medieval England. Dyad is an archaic word meaning pair. It was thought that at this time of the year, the effects of the Sun and Moon are equal.

horsesThere are many cultural legends that connect the Sun and Moon as husband and wife, maid and suitor, brother and sister.

This is the Moon of Horses to ancient and latter-day Celts and Druids.  The Celts called this Equos, “horse-time, which is from the middle of June to the middle of July.

The calendar known as the “Coligny calendar” is one that was made in Roman Gaul in the 2nd century. It also has a Equos. It has an interesting five-year cycle of a lunisolar calendar with intercalary months. Intercalary means that a leap day, week, or month is inserted into some calendar years to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases. It reminds me more of the Maya calendar than the ones that are most widely used today.

Are the Celts also the Gauls?  Caesar wrote that the Gauls called themselves Celtae. Gaul was a geographic area (modern France and northern Italy) and “Gauls” were the people who lived there according to the Romans. Linguistically, the people who lived in Gaul were Celts, and this was the main distinction made by the early historians.

I could not find an explanation of why the Celts and Druids called this horse-time or what meaning the Moon of Horses had to them. But this Full Moon of very early summer definitely ushers in the season which officially begins later this week.

Grass Moon of May

moon grass

What can I say about this month’s Full Moon that has not been said before? It occurs tonight, May 18th, at 5:11 P.M. in Paradelle. But you might have looked up last night and said, “Oh, it’s a Full Moon tonight,” because it certainly looked pretty full then.

This May Full Moon is often called the Flower Moon, for obvious reasons. Things are probably blooming in your Northern Hemisphere neighborhood. In Paradelle, we are past all the early spring bulbs like crocuses, daffodils and tulips. We have moved on to azaleas, rhododendrons and irises. Mother’s Day was often the time for my mom’s iris bed to be filed with blooms, but this year we are behind by almost two weeks because of a very wet and cool spring. But we will catch up eventually.

Flies are buzzing and ants are trying to eat up my home’s framework. I’m sure the mosquitoes are very happy about all the vernal pools, unintentional puddles and water filled objects around for their breeding.

Does this feel like Flower Moon or the Planting Moon, or the Medieval Hare Moon?  I have written about it being the Buddha Full MoonCorn Planting Moon, Hare Moon, Moon When Frogs Return, and Milk Moon.

In 2016, it was a Blue and Day for Night Moon.

In my neighborhood, it feels like the Grass Moon this year. The American Indian name of  Moon When the Grass is Green mixes well with the Milk Moon because of the grass and cows connection. The Dakotah Sioux called this the Moon When the Leaves Are Green.  With all the grass peaking in its chlorophyll green, historically this is the time of the hay harvest.  It is a planting time for vegetables, so rather than celebrate harvests, this is seen as a time of hope and promise.

No cows in Paradelle, but lots of rain has made lots of grass in my front and back lawns. It is at its peak green. I could use a few cows or goats to graze there, because my lawn mower refuses to start. So, for this Full Moon, I will be pulling apart the carburetor and cleaning the float and checking the gas line and pulling the starter a bunch of times. The rabbits are enjoying the grass for now, waiting for me to plant my vegetables.

The grass needs cutting.