September’s Barley Full Moon

A “moon” of barley seeds

After sunset tonight, you will start to see a full Moon but its peak illumination is actually at 1:23 A.M. ET on Tuesday, September 2. Close enough tonight.

The most common name for this month is the Corn Moon. The September Full Moon can be a Harvest Moon but this year that will occur in October. The Full Moon that happens nearest to the autumnal equinox (September 22 this year) is called the Harvest Moon. Tonight’s Full Moon is very early in the month so the October one will be closer.

My birthday month of October will be interestingly lunar this year. There will be two full Moons. First,  the Harvest Moon on October 1 and then another just squeaking in on the 31st which will make it a Blue Moon.

Historically, some Native Americans gave a name to each month’s full Moon, naming it in relation to a natural event or sign of the season. This aided them in tracking the progression of the year. Different peoples had different names, reflecting the areas where they lived.

One such name for the September Full Moon is the Corn Moon because it traditionally corresponded with the time of harvesting corn in what is now the northeastern United States.

It was also called the Barley Moon, as this is the time to harvest and thresh ripened barley. Barley is commonly used in breads, soups, stews, and health products. Though now it is primarily grown as animal fodder and as a source of malt for alcoholic beverages, especially beer, barley water can be used as a healthy (and high calorie) drink.

In Black Elk Speaks, he says that what we call “September” is known by the Sioux as the “Moon When the Calves Grow Hair” or “Moon of the Black Calf” or the  “Moon When the Plums Are Scarlet (Lakota).

NASA says that this Full Moon can be called the Corn, Fruit, Barley, and Hungry Ghost Moon; the end of Onam; the start of Pitri Paksha; Modhu Purnima; Binara Pura Pasalosvaka Poya; and the GRAIL, LADEE, and OSIRIS-REx Moon.

That Corn Moon name should not be dismissed. I have written about it before but you should keep in mind that corn was at the center of Mesoamerica life and key to many Native Americans and was important to the Colonists and corn is still a major U.S. crop as people food, animal feed, fuel and as a sweetener.

The May Flower Moon

Much artwork connects the Moon and flowers, especially Japanese paintings.  (Image from Pixabay)

The Full Moon in May is often called the Flower Moon. It will look full on both May 6 and 7, 2020, but it will officially be full on May 7 at 10:45 UTC.

This is the third supermoon in a row and the final full supermoon of the year. It is also the third-closest, third-biggest and third-brightest full moon of 2020.  As I have written before, there is a difference in size and brightness, but they are not differences most of us will notice. Your local weather conditions, the time that you look up at the Moon and where you are located have a far greater effect on how the Full Moon will appear.

Flowers are blooming almost everywhere right now and in the Northern Hemisphere they are possibly your first full blooms of spring. I look at websites like The Farmer’s Almanac planting guide, but I have kept my own garden journal for many years. I track when plants bud and bloom in my area and like to see the variations year to year and use that as a guide to my planting.

My journal tells me to expect blooms this month from my tulips, azaleas, lilies of the valley, alliums, violets and some of my favorite irises, but that I probably won’t see my peonies bloom until June.

van Gogh irises
One of Vincent van Gogh’s iris paintings

Planting and blooms are a moveable feast. The peonies have bloomed in late May. I could generalize that I see spring coming earlier and that might be a climate change. Still, though my garden is always frost free in early May, I ran out to cover some warm weather plants (tomatoes, pumpkins, etc.) yesterday evening when I saw that the nighttime temperature was going to go down to 40 degrees. Not a freeze but not comfortable for some young plants.

The Moon is more constant, despite what poets and singers may say about its always changing appearance. We can predict its phases and movements years in advance with great accuracy.

In 2016, I wrote about this May Full Moon when we had a Blue Moon and Day for Night. There are many names from many sources. In years past, I wrote about this as the Buddha Full Moon, the Corn Planting MoonHare Moon, Moon When Frogs Return, Milk Moon, and several Native American variations on the Grass Moon. And yet, the May Full Moon will look very much the same tonight as it did to all my ancestors – something I find very reassuring.

A Moveable Feast

robin eggs
Spring robin eggs

As with many holy days, “Easter” comes from pagan traditions. Anglo Saxons worshipped Eostre, the goddess of springtime and the return of the sun after the long winter. Eostre, in legend, once saved a bird whose wings had frozen during the winter by turning it into a rabbit. Because the rabbit had once been a bird, it could still lay eggs, and that rabbit evolved into the Easter rabbit/bunny.

Eggs had long been a symbol of fertility. In winter they were scarce, so their return in spring were part of the seasonal celebrations. People exchanged decorated eggs at this time as far back as the 11th century.

Easter Sunday, the Christian celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead three days after his crucifixion, is a moveable feast. The date is based on the cycles of the moon. The New Testament says that Jesus was resurrected on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon of spring which places it as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th.

The almanac also reminds me that today is the day in 1633 that Galileo Galilei was put on trial by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. He supported the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun and not that Earth was the center of the universe. Galileo took a plea bargain and plead guilty to avoid imprisonment or execution. He was sentenced to an unlimited period of house arrest in his home in Florence. It only took 359 years (1992) for the Catholic Church to formally admit that Galileo’s views on the solar system are correct.

The Pink Spring Supermoon

pinkish moon

You’ll be hearing that this month’s Full Moon is a supermoon. Some people call the April Full Moon a Pink Moon. How super and how pink will it be?

I suppose it depends on how you imagine a supermoon to be but because the Full Moon tonight (April 7) coincides with the moon’s perigee (closest point in the Moon’s monthly orbit to Earth), it’s “super.” Lunar perigee occurs Tuesday at 2:08 p.m. EST, and the peak of the Moon’s fullness is at 10:35 p.m. EST. ’s

Supermoons (that’s not an astronomy term) appear about 7 percent bigger and 15 percent brighter than regular full moons. That might not even be observable to you, but any clear view of the Full Moon is pretty cool.

Will it really look pink? Not really. Light does play tricks on our eyes and sometimes the Moon does look more red/pink or orange, but you’re likely to see the spectacular but regular slightly golden-white glow.

The Pink Moon name comes not from something happening in space but something happening on Earth. For some people in some places, this time of spring is when the eastern and central North American wildflower (Phlox subulata) blooms.

pink phlox

The plant is native to the USA and is widely cultivated. This evergreen perennial makes mats or cushions of hairy, linear leaves with small, five-petaled flowers.  The plant’s common names are mountain or creeping phlox, moss pink or just “pinks” and my mom always called it “mountain pinks.’ I still have plants I took from my childhood home’s rock garden that bloom here in Paradelle.

Though we call them and the Full Moon “pink,” the flowers can be rose, mauve, blue, white, or pink and might bloom anytime from early spring through early summer. It is cultivated as a spreading groundcover and can create a spectacular display when t covers a wide area like a flower carpet.

This Full Moon is also known as the Paschal Moon. “Paschal” means “of or relating to Easter” The timing of its fullness helps the Catholic Church set the date for Easter.

In 325 CE, the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.  This year, the vernal equinox was a bit early (March 19) and Easter is strongly associated with early spring “rebirth” in nature.

This is the closest to Earth Full Moon of the year. It is also sandwiched between two other supermoons in March and May, so be sure to look up and notice these three supermoons of spring.

Follow the advice of Stephen Hawking, “Look up at the stars, not down at your feet.”

Crow Moon

crow moon

The Crow Moon will reach peak fullness at 1:48 p.m. EST today, March 9. This Full Moon name was used by northern Native American tribes for the cawing of crows signaling the end of winter.

We also call this the Worm Moon for the emerging worms from the thawing ground and the return of robins who feast on those emerging worms. The Crust Moon name comes from the top layers of snow that melt and refreeze as this fickled month’s temperatures move up and down in the North.

This Full Moon is the second of four supermoons for 2020 (one was last month and April 8 and May 7 follow).

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.