A Lenten Egg Moon and a Dance to End Winter

egg moon

The March Full Moon (march 5, this year) goes by many names including Windy Moon, Sap Moon, Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon, Maple Moon and Fish Moon. As with the other months, most names are derived from observations of nature and animals in the area.

One name comes from religion: the Lenten Moon. Early American Christian settlers, often used this name for it. In some Christian denominations, Lent is the forty-day-long liturgical season of fasting and prayer before Easter. The forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, where according to the Bible he endured temptation by Satan.

The religious intention of Lent is preparation not only for the events linked to the Passion of Christ and Easter. many Christians associate the season with fasting or giving up something we desire. That practice had a practical purpose in times when the end of winter was a time of sparse supplies anyway.

Many of the Christian holidays were timed to coincide and co-opt pagan holidays. For example, the Resurrection of Jesus is connected to pagan spring seasonal celebrations.

The computation of when Easter falls is based on the old lunar calendar. In 725, Bede wrote, “The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” But that rule does not reflect the actual ecclesiastical rules precisely. For example, the astronomical equinox is a natural astronomical phenomenon, which can fall on 19, 20 or 21 March, while the ecclesiastical date is fixed by convention on 21 March.

The full moon before Easter is often known as the Egg Moon which has a seasonal connection in the laying of eggs by birds and also is carried over to Easter celebrations in the secular sense.

The Lenten Moon is considered to be the last moon of the winter season. Of course, this is all confused by the fact that Easter changes year to year – sometimes in March, sometimes in April. For 2015, Easter is later, falling on April 5.

Spring arrives this year on March 20.

The March Full Moon also comes early this year – also on the fifth day – and so it is unlikely to feel like the end of winter for most people in northern climes.

De eierdans Rijksmuseum SK-A-3.jpeg
The Egg Dance by Pieter_Aertsen, Public Domain, Link

That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate anyway. An egg dance is a traditional Easter game in which eggs are laid on the ground and the goal is to dance among them without damaging them. As a pagan symbol of the rebirth of the Earth in spring, it was adopted by early Christians. The version of egg dancing depicted in the painting by Pieter Aertsen has participants rolling an egg out of a bowl while keeping within a circle drawn by chalk and then flipping the bowl to cover the egg. This had to be done with the feet without touching the other objects placed on the floor.

March’s Lenten Moon of Spring

The March Full Moon occurs tonight for 2014, and this year I am writing about the Lenten Moon, which obviously comes from a particular religious connection to this time in the calendar.

Lent  is a religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations. It begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Day.

Its traditional purpose is not so very different from other traditions and cultures which also view this very early spring moon as a time for penance, repentance, giving alms, atonement and self-denial.

For Christians, it leads into Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In the New Testament, this begins on Friday of Sorrows, followed by Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, and culminates with the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection.

I love word origins and the etymology of “lent” is an interesting one. In Latin the term quadragesima was used for this time from the original Greek Tessarakostē, meaning the “fortieth” day before Easter. That is seen in many languages such as the Spanish cuaresma, Portuguese quaresma, French carême, Italian quaresima, etc.

My father’s parents called this fasting time postní doba (Czech for “great fast”).

But in the late Middle Ages, the priests’ sermons began to transition away from being given in Latin (not the Mass itself though). The English word lent was adopted. It meant spring (as in the German language Lenz and Dutch lente) and comes from a Germanic root for “long” because in the spring the days are getting longer.

So, the Lenten Moon is the “Spring Moon”

The warming ground means that earthworm casts appear. That brings robins back to some places. Some Native Americans called it both the Full Crow Moon for the cawing of crows that signaled the end of winter, or the Full Crust Moon for the noisy, crusted snow cover from the daily thawing and freezing.

It can also be seen as the Last Moon of Winter – which is how it feels this year for me in Paradelle.

In medieval England it was called the Chaste Moon. It was the Oak Moon in Celtic tradition for the tree god or king. Oak was considered to be the wood from which people were first created.

It has been called the Full Sap Moon and sometimes the Maple Moon for the maple syrup made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees.

Poet Emily Dickinson said that March is the month of anticipation and plenty of us are eagerly antcipating spring.

The name Windy Moon is also connected to this month’s full moon being that the changing temperatures often make it a blustery and unpredictable weather month. Crocuses and early flowering bulbs are just as likely to be covered with snow as with sunshine.

For much of the United States, this month certainly came in like a lion, and the hope is that it will go out like a lamb. Back in 2012 when I wrote about this full moon I said that it had been a very mild winter in Paradelle and much of the U.S. and that bulbs were blooming in my yard in mid-February.

Windy Moon

The Moon was quite bright in Paradelle last night, but the Full Moon arrives on March 27 at 4:27 am around here and I’m sure it will wake me up.

I think many of us would agree with a Cherokee name for the March Full Moon – the Windy Moon, Anvyi, the first Moon of the new season. It is the traditional start of the new cycle of planting and a time when new council fires are made.

“Kanati & Selu – Cherokee”        painting: artbykathybloemtuttle.info

The figure used to portray this moon is Kanati, one of the many beings created by the “Apportioner,” Unethlana.

Kanati is “The Lucky Hunter” and is sometimes called First Man. He lives with his wife Selu (“Corn”) in the east where the sun rises, and their sons, the Twin Thunder Boys, live in the west.

These “helpers” were variously charged with the control of the life elements of the earth: air/earth/fire/water. Their domains are the sky, earth, stars and the Seven Levels of the universe.

Kanati has a magic cave forever stocked with game animals and Selu has a magic bowl that always contained corn.  When their spying children undid their magic, Kanati and Selu were doomed to be mortals.

Some of the other seasonal names for this Moon are the Full Sap Moon, Oak Moon, Storm Moon, Seed Moon and Maple Moon.

The warming temperature and ground means that earthworm casts appear, and so the Worm Moon is another name. And those worms mean the appearance for some of us of the returning winged symbols of spring,  robins.

Other Native Americans called this Crow Moon for the cawing of crows that signaled the end of winter, or the  Crust Moon for the crusted snow cover from thawing and freezing cycles of this fickle month.

To earlier English speakers, this was sometimes known as the Lenten Moon. I only learned recently that in the late Middle Ages, as sermons began to be given in the vernacular instead of Latin, the English word lent was adopted. This word initially simply meant spring and lent was the name for the season. (Compare as in the German language lenz and Dutch lente) from the Germanic root for “long” because in the spring the days visibly became longer.

As a child, my father taught me in the garden that certain seeds and plants were safe to put in the ground when the oak tree had leaves that looked like a mouse’s ear. I would have accepted the name Oak Moon for that reason. But it actually goes back to the Celtic oak tree god or king. Oak was considered to be the wood from which people were first created.

Pooh & PigletThinking of this as a Windy Moon actually turns me back to reading as a child and then again to my own children about Pooh bear and his blustery day.

Some March days are  kite-flying weather. Some days are for the garden. Sometimes a coat, sometimes a sweater, sometimes only a shirt.

March is an uncertain month that can have crocuses and early flowering bulbs covered with snow.

We say if the month comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. We had a lion entry in Paradelle, so I hope the lamb arrives for Easter.

Depending on the weather (and ignoring the “officialness” of the equinox), you can think of this as the last Full Moon of winter or the first of spring. I’ll opt for the first of spring and on this windy day, I plan to go to my own thoughtful spot and be somewhat thoughtful.