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Tonight is a Full Moon. With a Full Moon and also with a New Moon our only permanent natural satellite is on a line with the Earth and sun. When new, the moon is in the middle position along the line, and when full, Earth is in the middle. A Full Moon always comes about two weeks after the new phase.
I wonder if this alignment of the sun, Earth and moon is part of the appeal of a Full Moon. A lunar eclipse always happens at Full Moon as only then the Earth’s shadow, extending opposite the sun, can fall on the Moon’s face.
A Celtic name for the April Full Moon is the Growing Moon, referring to this time of plants returning to their growing seasons and humans turning to planting again.
No matter what the mixed weather of march may have brought to your area last month, at least some days of April will feel like true spring has arrived.
This month’s moon is sometimes called the Pink Moon, not for its color, but for the color of the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Of course, I am also seeing plenty of yellow forsythia, daffodils and crocuses in neighborhood gardens.
Names like the Full Sprouting Grass Moon and Seed Moon are also growing reminders.
The Egg Moon name reminds us of new life from the eggs of birds and fowl and echoes the egg themes of Easter and Eostre.
The name Fish Moon references this time when shad move upstream to spawn.
This Sunday starts the annual Lyrid meteor shower which I think of as an April spring event. It is active each year from about April 16 to 25. In 2017, the peak of this shower is expected to occur the morning of April 22.
As is often the case, the Moon looked full last night although it just became an official Full Moon as I hit the publish button on this post at 10:54 am ET. It will certainly look very full tonight.
This winter-into-spring moon is often called the Worm Moon, and last year I chose the name the name Earth Cracks Moon. The latter sounds rather ominous, but like the Worm Moon it refers to the heaving soil as we transition into spring with cold nights and warm days. That thawing ground will be marked in many areas with the earthworm casts that appear as they emerge. They are very attractive to another symbol of spring – worm-loving robins. The Full Crust Moon is another name that was used by some Indian tribes.
Although the wind in March is often quite blustery in some parts of the U.S., I optimistically chose the gentler Hopi name for this lunar occurrence of the Whispering Wind Moon. The Hopi tribe now primarily live on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. Their name for this Full Moon is fitting for the tribe because Hopi is a shortened form of their autonym, Hopituh Shi-nu-mu which means “The Peaceful People” or “Peaceful Little Ones.”
New World settlers called this last Full Moon of winter the Lenten Moon and also the Sap Moon. The latter name marks the time of tapping maple trees. The Lenten Moon marks the religious observance in the liturgical calendar that occurs during this lunar month. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday.
As Lent is seen as the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial, it fit well with the non-religious view of starting the year anew for farmers, ranchers and those looking to do “spring cleaning” and get a fresh start.
There are more Indian names for the Full Moons than the Colonists used because there were many tribes in many locations and their names for the Moon phases were based on their local observations of nature. Some northern tribes knew this as the Full Crow Moon, because the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter. Other names used by Native American Tribes: Rain (Diegueno). Bud Moon (Kiowa). Eagle Moon,Rain Moon (Cree). Green Moon (Pima). Deer Moon (Natchez). Moon of Winds (Celtic). Lizard Moon (San Juan). Death Moon (Neo-Pagan). Wind Strong Moon (Taos). Amaolikkervik Moon(Inuit). Little Frog Moon (Omaha). Little Spring Moon (Creek). Crane Moon (Potawatomi). Long Days moon (Wishram). Big Famine Moon (Choctaw). Moose Hunter Moon (Abenali). Whispering Wind Moon (Hopi). Little Spring Moon (Muscokee). Fish Moon (Colonial American). Snow Sore Eyes Moon(Dakota). Catching Fish Moon (Agonquin). Snow Crust Moon (Anishnaabe). Spring Moon (Passamaquoddy). Much Lateness Moon (Mohawk). Chaste Moon (Medieval English). Buffalo Calf moon (Arapaho, Sioux). Seed (Dark Janic), Plow Moon (Full Janic). Strawberry, Windy Moon, Lenten Moon (Cherokee). Worm Moon, Sugar Moon, Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sap Moon. (Algonquin).
Not all calendars, including our traditional Western calendar, follow the phases of the Moon. In the solar Hebrew calendar, the months change with the new Moon, so the full Moons fall in the middle of the month. A solar year is about 11 days longer than twelve lunar months, so to keep holidays tied to their seasons, the Hebrew calendar occasionally repeats the month of Adar.
In the Islāmic calendar, the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon, a few days after the New Moon. Unlike the Hebrew calendar, the Islāmic calendar has no leap days or leap months to stay in sync with the seasons, and Islāmic holidays occur approximately 11 days earlier each solar year.
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.
Tomorrow, January 12, the Moon will be full for this new month in the new year of 2017. This Wolf Moon is full at 6:34 ET for me.
The Scottish Gaelic word for January, Faoilleach, means “wolf month” and I believe this is the origin for the name, but Native Americans often used that name without any knowledge of it being used in other parts of the world. Many American full moon names follow names that tribes gave to the Full Moons hundreds of years ago when they kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon.
“January” is a word that comes from the Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces and ruled over beginnings and endings and the past and the future. The ancient Romans believed this was a time to put aside the old, outdated parts of your life. It is a time to plans for new and better conditions, and that seems to have continued in our tradition of having new year’s resolutions.
American Indians named this moon for the wolf packs that howled hungrily outside their villages in the heart of winter. Remember that for these northern and eastern tribes the Full Moon marked the beginning of a period (what we call a month), not a day. The period from this January moon until the next February moon is usually the toughest part of winter weather in those areas.
My own Wolf Moon posts over the life of this blog are always popular posts and I think it is the wolf that draws in readers.
When Americans think of a “wolf,” we are seeing the gray wolf (Canis lupus). This species is also known as the timber wolf or western wolf. It is native to the wilderness and remote areas of Eurasia and North America.
It is still a controversial species. It is threatened and endangered in some areas and hated and hunted in other areas because it preys on livestock. The gray wolf is one of the world’s best known and well researched animals.
Though it was hunted because of its attacks on livestock, in native societies it was revered.
It rarely attacks humans and most reported cases have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. Wolves try to live away from people, and generally have developed a fear of humans.
Part of our fascination with wolves probably is tied to our love for dogs. The domestic dog is now the most widely abundant large carnivore and is a descendant from one of the now-extinct wolf populations.
The gray wolf is a social animal. Their social unit is a mated pair, accompanied by the pair’s adult offspring. The average wolf pack consists of a family of 5–11 animals (1–2 adults, 3–6 juveniles and 1–3 yearlings) Sometimes two or three such families live together and exceptionally large packs consisting of 42 wolves have been studied.
They are also highly territorial animals. They generally establish territories far larger than they require to survive in order to assure a steady supply of prey. Native Americans respected that wolves guarded their territory.
The gray wolf is generally monogamous, with mated pairs usually remaining together for life. Upon the death of one mated wolf, pairs are quickly re-established. Since males often predominate in any given wolf population, unpaired females are a rarity.
I have heard the howling of wolves and coyotes in the wild and those sounds are very moving. Depending on the setting and your situation, it can trigger fear or admiration. It seems to me to connect with something ancient and primal inside of us.
The Moon becomes full on December 13 for 2016. This early Full Cold Moon is also the Moon Before Yule and the Full Moon Before the Solstice.
That big Moon in the night sky can be a very cold Moon. Daytime on one side of the moon lasts about 13 and a half days, followed by 13 and a half nights of darkness. The “dark side of the moon” can have temperatures dipping to minus 243 F (minus 153 C). But when sunlight hits the moon’s surface, the temperature can reach 253 degrees F (123 C).
The December full moon has been called Long Night Moon, Moon of Long Nights, Oak Moon (Medieval English), Snow Moon, Moon of the Popping Trees, Her Winter Houses Moon, Big Freezing Moon, Frost Moon, Twelfth Moon (Dakota Sioux), Christmas Moon (Colonial America), Wintermonat (Winter Month), Bitter Moon (China), Heilagmonoth (Holy Month), Dreaming Moon and Big Winter Moon.
As we approach the longest night of the year and the weather gets colder for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we should also remember that the days will soon be getting longer and the nights shorter. But it will still get colder.
For the Druids, the Full Moon in Hunlidh [hün’ lee] occurs in the third month of their year. It is called the Dreaming Moon and this is a good time for resting. The first day of Hunlidh is the day of the Full Moon and that was also when the Celts celebrated Yule.
Yule or Yuletide was a pre-Christian winter solstice festival that lasted for 12 days. In Scandinavia, winter solstice fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth, and a piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log.
In Tibet, the Feast of Lanterns is a winter festival marking the shortest days of the Sun with the lighting of many lanterns. On the old Tibetan calendar, December 1 was the beginning of a new year, so this was the first Full Moon of the year.
And if the cold weather is getting you down, consider that in the Southern Hemisphere the December full moons are the much warmer sounding Strawberry Moon, Honey Moon, or Rose Moon.
Besides being a big “supermoon,” the November 14th Full Moon this year can be called a Beaver Moon. That was the name used by some American Indian tribes as November was the time to set beaver traps. This was done before the swamps froze and while beavers were active. The furs were prized for warmth in winter. Beavers seldom begin to repair the lodges until the frost sets in. They usually finish the outer mud coating when the weather freezes to harden the outside shell.
Beavers are industrious but very much schedule their work based on the seasons. When building a new lodge, they fell small and medium-sized trees in summer but seldom begin any building until the end of August.
During the Full Beaver Moon, they are now actively preparing for winter.
Beavers create ponds with their dams and lodges. They build them from severed branches and mud. In autumn, they add fresh mud which will freeze when frosts arrive and they will become almost as hard as stone. Water and predators, like wolves and wolverines, will be unable to get inside.
The lodge has underwater entrances, which also makes entry by predators nearly impossible. It is pretty ingenious that they are usually made with two dens within the lodge, one “lobby” for drying off after coming out of the water, and another, drier one, to live in.
When the ice breaks up in spring, beavers usually leave their lodges and roam until just before autumn.
Some other names for the November Full Moon:
- Autumn Time Moon
- All Gathered Moon
- Initiate Moon
- Moon of the Falling Leaves
- Dark Moon
- Fog Moon
- Mourning Moon
- Blotmonath (Sacrifice Month)
- Herbistmonoth (Harvest Month)
- Mad Moon
- Moon of Storms
- Moon When Deer Shed Antlers
- Moon When Horns Are Broken Off (Dakotah Sioux)
- Dark Moon (Celtic)
- Frosty Moon
- Snow Moon
- Sassafras Moon (Choctaw)
- Nvdadequa, Nvdadeqwa or Trading Moon (Cherokee)
If some of these names are a reminder to you of the cold weather to come and that depresses you, remember that in the Southern Hemisphere the November Full Moon is the Corn Moon, Milk Moon, Flower Moon, or Hare Moon.