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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 The ancient Romans believed this was a time to put aside the old, outdated parts of your life.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.
People were driving crazily Friday night when I was on the highway headed home, and that big moon was right there. It looked full, but it didn’t reach Full Moon status around my neighborhood until today. But people have believed for a couple of thousand years that the Moon has all kinds of effects on us, including craziness.
In Moon Lore, our beloved satellite – especially the full version – affects fertility, crime rates, dog attacks, road kills, increases blood loss during surgery, powers werewolves, births, heart attacks, deaths, suicides, violence, psychiatric hospital admissions, epileptic seizures and crazy drivers.
There are lunar tidal forces but even though we are mostly water, the Moon doesn’t pull at us. Many studies have shown that lunar phases have little or no connection to what we and the animal do here on Earth.
We might be able to explain some of our beliefs as confirmation bias. That is the idea that people favor information that supports their preconceived notions. I kind of expect people to act crazy near the Full Moon, so I pay extra attention to every strange behavior I see during a Full Moon and that reinforces that belief.
As long as we are talking lore, pay attention today because a Full Moon in October without any frost is supposed to mean a warmer month ahead.
The most common name for this month’s Full Moon is the Hunters Moon but I suspect there are more non-hunters reading this blog than hunters. Hunters Moon was also one of the American Indian names (at least as interpreted by the colonists) for this time when bare trees offer a clearer view of fattening deer. It also was the time for them to begin storing meat for the winter ahead. The Cherokee people called this a harvest moon (Dunin[i]di) because it was the time of the harvest festival called Nowatequa.
This year I’m using the Dakotah Sioux name (Anglicized) of “Moon When Quilling and Beading is Done,” a name that reminds us that we all shift our activities and energies with the seasons. The harvest is over, we are “winterizing” and many of us up north are moving our activities more are shifting inside for more solitary and sedentary work.
Maybe it is time for you to do some beading and quilling.
If that doesn’t work for your situation, try Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon or, if you’re feeling more Druid, Wiccan or other American Indian, have a nice full Travel Moon, Moon When the Water Freezes, Moon of the Changing Seasons, Leaf Fall Moon, Basket Moon, Big Wind Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Ten Colds Moon, Moon of the Changing Season, Blackberry Moon or Moon of Falling Leaves.
This month’s Full Moon occurs today, August 18. In Paradelle, it appeared early this morning, but when we look at it tonight it may look like the Full Red Moon that it is sometimes named. That is because, especially as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry summer haze.
Sultry is an interesting word that means, in referring to the air or weather, hot and humid, stifling, oppressive, muggy, sticky, or sweltering. But we also use it to refer to a person, especially a woman, and it means attractive in a way that suggests a passionate nature and sensual, sexy, voluptuous, erotic, or seductive. It’s likely to feel sultry outside for many Americans today. I’m not sure how sexy it will feel. What is the connection between the two definitions? Feel free to comment.
Indian tribes that fished, especially near the Great Lakes, often called it the Full Sturgeon Moon. That large fish was more readily caught during this late summer.
It was more likely to be known to the New World settlers, who measured the year and season based on the crops and flowers, by names such as the Grain Moon or Corn Moon. Corn Moon is a name given to several monthly Full Moons, especially by Indian tribes, and it varied based on geography. A green corn ceremony was celebrated by some tribes, while others were harvesting ripe corn now.
I saw someone posted that in the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the full moon of the eighth month. That seemed odd to me, so I did some checking and that would be around mid or late September or early October in our Gregorian calendar version of the Chinese calendar..