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I will look for the Full Moon low in the eastern sky around sunset tonight, July 8. It will be highest around midnight. In my neighborhood it technically was “full” at 12:07 am EDT, but most of us only count it as full when we see it at night no matter what time the scientists tell us.

July is typically the stormiest month of the year for the Northern Hemisphere. The hot weather makes thunderstorms fairly common, so the Thunder Moon is a good name for most of us this month.

Thunder is the sound caused by lightning. Depending on the distance and nature of the lightning, thunder can range from a sharp, loud crack to a long, low rumble. As we learned in science class, the sudden increase in pressure and temperature from lightning produces rapid expansion of the air surrounding and within a bolt of lightning which creates a sonic shock wave, similar to a sonic boom.

Thor

The name of the Germanic god Thor comes from the Old Norse word for thunder. Thor is the most well-known of the many thunder gods in world mythologies.

Thor is also the origin of the weekday name Thursday. During the Roman Empire period, the Germanic peoples adopted the Roman weekly calendar, and replaced the names of Roman gods with their own. Latin dies Iovis (‘day of Jupiter’) was converted into Proto-Germanic Þonares dagaz (“Thor’s day”), from which stems modern English “Thursday.”

The July moon that is also called the Buck Moon or Deer Moon because deer begin to show antlers which are in their “velvet” stage. That is a name that both American Indians and colonists might have used. Some farmers refer to it as the Hay Moon as they take in their first cutting of hay.

Some Indian tribes, based on location, treated this as an early harvest moon. The Choctaw called it the Little Harvest Moon. While the Cherokee of the Southwest called this the Ripe Corn Moon, the Potawatomi (people of the Great Plains, upper Mississippi River and Western Great Lakes region) called this the Moon of the Young Corn.

The European Mead Moon name didn’t hold over in the colonies although this would be a time when increased honey harvest would lead to mead making.

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reddish moon

This month’s Full Moon slipped past without a post, but I viewed it from a beach on July 19. A friend called to say, “Look outside at how red the Moon is tonight!”

There are several Full Moons that allude to the reddish color of the Moon. It is a characteristic of autumn full moons because they appear nearly full and rise soon after sunset for several evenings in a row. If you see them when they are low in the sky, shortly after they’ve risen, there is more atmosphere between you and the Moon than when the Moon is overhead and that extra air makes the moon look reddish. You’ll notice that a red moon will fade to  white as it rises higher in the night sky.

This month, we often call it the Buck Moon because bucks begin to show antlers.  A farmer might know this as the Hay Moon, and Thunder Moon has also been used due to the frequency of hot days with lightning and thunder.

The Celtic name is the Moon of Claiming, which is intriguing, but I have never found a good explanation for that name.

A Medieval name for the July moon was the Mead Moon because the hives were rich with honey and the time was right to make that honey wine.

Bog_huckleberry

Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants and berries. (It is the state fruit of Idaho.) We use the name for several edible berries that appear in mid-summer. The name ‘huckleberry’ is a North American variation of the English dialectal name variously called ‘hurtleberry’ or ‘whortleberry’ for the bilberry, which is almost identical in appearance to our blueberries. What people call huckleberries can be small berries with colors that may be red, blue or black.

Huckleberries were traditionally collected by Native American and First Nations people along the Pacific coast, interior British Columbia, and Montana for use as food or traditional medicine.

But the word “huckleberry” has a number of non-berry usages. Most people have heard of the novel by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnThat was a good summer read of my youth, and I thought that drifting down a river all summer sounded pretty good. I was pretty naïve in my reading of this pre-Civil War South. White runaway kid Huck Finn  joins fugitive adult slave Jim and they both “escape” down river. Nowadays, the novel is one of the most challenged and banned books for its “racist” language. You can view Twain’s novel as an indictment of the unenlightened thinking of his time, or as a classic coming-of-age novel. It definitely is one of the of the most influential books in American literature.

Ernest Hemingway was a fan. He said (in Green Hills of Africa) that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is just cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”

On a much lighter side, you may know the cartoon character Huckleberry Hound. According to Wikipedia, as a slang term, the small size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, in a more affectionate way. The word shows up in the popular song “Moon River” and “I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job.

There are many American Indian names for the Full Moons because different tribes in different places focused on different signs in nature for their area and way of life. If you are an observer of nature, many of the Indian names will make sense:
Abenaki –Grass Cutter Moon
Algonquin –Squash Are Ripe Moon
Cherokee – Corn or Huckleberry Moon
Choctaw –Little Harvest Moon, Crane Moon
Comanche –Hot Moon
Cree –Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt
Dakota Sioux –Moon of the Middle Summer
Haida –Salmon Moon
Hopi –Moon of the Homedance
Kalapuya –Camas Ripe (the bulb of the camas lily was a staple food to the Kalapuya)
Lakota –Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black
Mohawk –Time of Much Ripening
Ponca –Middle of Summer Moon
Potawatomi –Moon of the Young Corn
Shoshone –Summer Moon

This Full Moon was for many Americans a Corn Moon. Roasting ears of corn was part of the “Green Corn Dance” or festival for Indians in the southwest. The Colonists called it the Corn Tassel Moon, so we can see the stage that corn was in for Northeastern settlers versus Southwestern Cherokee.

Let us not forget that for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere July is the Wolf Moon, Old Moon, or Ice Moon of winter. That is a cooling image to keep in mind as my ice cubes melt in my glass of iced tea and I type this during a 100 degree heat wave here in Paradelle. I suppose that I really should make a huckleberry moonshine cocktail though.

duck moon
As I have written here before, since Full Moons occur every 29.5 days, it is possible to have two Full Moons in a month and that second one is popularly called a “Blue Moon.”

We had a Full Moon to launch this month on July 1 (in the U.S.) and now the month will close out with another Full Moon tonight (the 31st).

Why blue? One might think that it goes back to some early person recording a second Full Moon in a month and that particular Moon appeared blue. Particles of dust of a particular size or smoke from large fire or volcanic eruption can cause a moon to look blue in color, but it is certainly not something that is predictable by date and this next Full Moon will probably appear no more blue than the one earlier this month. Moonlight does have more of a blue color (more so for a camera than our eyes) than the reddish light of sunrise and sunset. You often see that in films as a way to indicate night or even film “day for night.”

Actually, the use of the Blue Moon name seems to be quite modern. The March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine ran an article that defined the term as a second one in a month.

It is an unusual but not very rare occurrence and we can have two Blue Moons in a single calendar year. That happened in 1999 with two Full Moons in January and March and no full moon in February. We will have the next year of double Blue Moons in 2018.

We get a Blue Moon in the month of July every 19 years. This is the Metonic cycle and so in 2034 we’ll again have two full moons in July 2034 and another Blue Moon on July 31, 2034. Mark your electronic calendar.

Why is this? There are 235 full moons yet only 228 calendar months in the 19-year Metonic cycle. Because the number of full moons outnumber the number of calendar months, it means at least 7 of these 228 months will have two full moons. The math is simple enough for even me to understand: 235 – 228 = 7 extra full moons.

To add some complexity to our desire to wrap up our attempts to control the universe and time by making clocks and calendars, take this situation: If a February within this 19-year period has no full moon at all – as is the case in February 2018 – that means this extra full moon must fall within the boundaries of another month, too. In 2018 we will have two Blue Moons.

Anyway, enjoy this July 31st “blue” Full Moon.

farm full moonFor farmers, this was often called the Hay Moon. For Druids and some southern American Indian tribes, this late July Full Moon was a time when the harvest is celebrated.

I used a Cree tribe name for this late July Full Moon – the Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt. The Cree are one of the largest groups of Native Canadians/Native Americans in North America. There are over 200,000 members in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta the Northwest Territories and Quebec. In the United States, this Algonquian-speaking people historically lived from Lake Superior westward, but today, they live mostly in Montana, where they share a reservation with the Ojibwe (Chippewa).

Like most birds, ducks shed, or molt,their feathers. They do this twice each year, with the first molt in early summer. New feathers grow in and push out the old ones. Ducks molt very quickly and in a few weeks, they lose all their feathers and grow a whole new plumage. During molting, they need to find a safe place to stay, because this is a dangerous time because they can’t fly. Molting ducks spend most of their time hiding in tall grass or floating out in deeper waters.

Ducks lose all their feathers during the first molt of the year and then have their summer feathers for a few months. Around September, they molt again, but only the body feathers fall out.

moon beach

This July of 2015 we will see two Full Moons.  The first is on July 1st and another is just able to squeeze into the month on July 31st. That second one means that it will be referred to as a “Blue Moon.”

We have a Full Moon every 29.5 days, but since every month but February has at least 30 days in it, there is the potential for two full moons in a month. Though not a scientific term, that second full moon in a given month is popularly known as a Blue Moon. The expression “once in a blue moon” comes from the rarity, but not the impossibility, of the occurrence of a second Full Moon in the same calendar month. Color has nothing to do with it.

I have written about the July Full Moon as the Buck Moon and the Moon When Bucks Are in Velvet and as the Corn Moon. Since we have two Full Moons to cover this month, I think I will turn to the many American Indian names for the Moons of this month. Amongst the names I have found are:

Abenaki –Grass Cutter Moon
Algonquin –Squash Are Ripe Moon
Cherokee –Ripe Corn Moon
Choctaw –Little Harvest Moon, Crane Moon
Comanche –Hot Moon
Cree –Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt
Haida –Salmon Moon
Hopi –Moon of the Homedance
Kalapuya –Camas Ripe (the bulb of the camas lily was a staple food to the Kalapuya)
Lakota –Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black
Shoshone –Summer Moon

I opted to use this year the Dakota Sioux name, Moon of the Middle Summer, and the Ponca’s similar Middle of Summer Moon for this first July Full Moon. If you are thinking that it is not the middle but the beginning of summer, you need to read about the original idea of midsummer.

For people who once totally relied on plants and crops to survive, this Corn Moon was a time when some tribes in the southwest (like the Cherokee) were ready for “roasting ears of corn” and for others a time of the “green corn” dance and festival.  Colonists in the northeast called it the Corn Tassel Moon and the Mohawk called this a Time of Much Ripening and the Potawatomi named this the Moon of the Young Corn. For all of those northern groups, this Moon was a calendar sign that the corn was approaching harvest. A common expression was that corn should be “knee high by the fourth of July.”

 

corn moon

The Moon reaches its fullness today, July 12, at 01:24:54 pm, but until darkness falls we don’t give the Moon much thought.

That wasn’t always true. Going back 200 years or more to the naming of Full Moons and you can see how their appearance was strongly attached to the nature – flora and fauna – that provided sustenance and life.

On our continent. the names of the moons indicate what each native tribe thought was important in the season in their area. Names might apply to the weather, crops and food they could gather and animal activities.

July for many tribes was the time of summer crops, mainly corn, which begins to ripen for the first harvest and was the staple crop for many American Indian tribes.

chokeberries

The name “chokeberry” comes from the astringency of the fruits, which create a sensation making your mouth pucker.

Look at these tribal Moon names:

Abenaki –Grass Cutter Moon
Algonquin –Squash Are Ripe Moon
Cherokee –Ripe Corn Moon
Choctaw –Little Harvest Moon, Crane Moon
Comanche –Hot Moon
Cree –Moon When Ducks Begin to Molt
Dakota Sioux –Moon of the Middle Summer
Haida –Salmon Moon
Kalapuya –Camas Ripe (the bulb of the camas lily was a staple food to the Kalapuya)
Lakota –Moon When The Chokecherries Are Black
Mohawk –Time of Much Ripening
Ponca –Middle of Summer Moon
Potawatomi –Moon of the Young Corn
Shoshone –Summer Moon

Roasting ears of corn are ready and this was once the traditional time of the “Green Corn Dance” or festival for some tribes. The New World colonists called it the Corn Tassel Moon (similar to the Potawatomi  of the upper Mississippi River and Western Great Lakes region), which indicates that corn was not as far along for Northeastern settlers as it was for tribes such as the Southwestern Cherokee. Some farming colonists referred to this as the Hay Moon.

It is early for a “Harvest Moon” here in Paradelle. In Britain, it is more common to say “autumn” while Americans generally say “fall” but the older word for the season after summer is harvest and this Full Moon signals the start of harvesting. I’ll be picking my first tomatoes in another week.

Here in Paradelle, it has been more of a Thunder Moon month with the hot, humid days producing lots of thunderstorms.

Last year, I wrote about this being the Moon When Bucks Are in Velvet, which seems to me to be a quite Romantic name based on male deer beginning to show antlers which covered in their “velvet” stage.

All Full Moon names are Romantic is some way. After all, paying attention to the stars, the planets, nature and the phases of the Moon has become a rarer and somewhat Romantic (in that capital R way) in itself.

The full moon of July (which occurs tonight for 2011) was most commonly known as the Buck Moon in many Native American traditions. July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also called the Thunder Moon because of the frequency of thunderstorms during this hot, dry month.

To the New World settlers, full moons were often related to their farming and the July Moon was known as the Full Hay Moon because the brightness of the moon allows one to harvest hay in the cool of the night rather than the heat of the day.

For this post, I chose a 16th Century Medieval English name for this lunar month which was the Mead Moon. (Sometimes also known as the Honey Moon, though that also has associations with June.)

Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage made from honey and since this is a month when hives are heavy with honey, it was a time to make mead. Mead, also called honey wine, is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water.

Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, although its origins are lost in prehistory.

The folks who make Honey Moon Mead & Cider, say on their site:

Mead has been around a long time. Lots of folks associate the drink with King Arthur’s round table or Beowulf’s mead-hall, but the history goes back even farther than that. Archaeologists in Northern China have found evidence of honey-based fermented beverages dating from about 9000 b.c. Some maintain that mead is as old as civilization itself. The great anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss suggested that the invention of mead marks a critical passage in human evolution, the transition “from nature to culture,” as he put it.

We know that Pharaohs drank mead. Its praises are sung in the Sanskrit hymns of the Rig-Veda. Aristotle extolled its virtues in Meterologica; the Aztecs and Incas both used it in their religious festivals. In the heavenly realm it was nectar and ambrosia — the very food and drink of the gods. Odin gained his power and wisdom from a draught of magic mead. Throughout the ages, across the globe, mead has been celebrated as a source of health and happiness, of strength and inspiration, the preferred drink of poets and scholars, warriors and kings.

The Mead of Poetry is a mead of Norse mythology crafted from the blood of the wise being Kvasir which turns the drinker into a poet or scholar. I don’t think anyone is brewing that one these days.

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