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The name Strawberry Moon was used by all the Algonquin tribes for the June Full Moon that arrived today. The most popular name in Europe was the Rose Moon. (Strawberries are not native to Europe.) Both names reference the fairly short seasons for harvesting the berries and the blooms this month.  American Indians tended to use the more practical names of foods rather than the more decorative blooms.

This is the month when summer arrives in the North, the days are longer and the sunsets are later.  If you look up to the Full Moon tonight, it will be near the planet Saturn and the star Antares in the eastern sky at dusk and nightfall. As our planet turns, the three of them will move westward and climb highest around midnight, and be low in the west at dawn.

It would be Romantic to think that a rose or strawberry moon would be reddish in color, but when the Moon appears colored it is about atmospheric conditions and not the Moon itself and can occur throughout the year.

My youngest son was married this month and June has been traditionally a popular month to wed. The belief that the first month of marriage is the sweetest, gave us a “honeymoon.” Some compared marriage to the phases of the Moon – changing from the Full Moon of the marriage day and changing constantly, sometimes fuller, sometimes less.

The Brits who came to the New World may have known this as the Mead or Honey Full Moon which was a name more commonly used in Europe in medieval times. The heavy pollen of spring did make hives full of honey, and that led to the honey wine (mead) that was discovered by Irish monks during medieval times.

The mead acquired a reputation for enhancing virility and fertility and acting as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps, this is the true etymology of the “honeymoon.” I read that there had been an Irish tradition for newlyweds to drink honey wine every day for that first month of marriage.

The combination of strawberries, roses and honey are not a bad threesome for a romantic night, even if you are far from any true honeymoon.

NOTE: I am reminded by  earthsky.org that the bright reddish “star” near the Moon these nights is Mars, now very bright at the midpoint between your local sunset and midnight every night, and that by the month’s end, Mars will exceed the brilliance of Saturn by some 15 times.

 

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Tonight is Midsummer Night’s Eve, even though for those of us in the Northern hemisphere summer has only just started.

The origin of the naming of this as midsummer comes from Old English and we need to acknowledge that the old Anglo-Saxon calendar had only two seasons, summer and winter.

Dividing the year in half for a “Midsummer’s Day” would have put the day near the middle of summer in June.  It probably wasn’t an exact day marked universally. Summer started in mid-April in the old Icelandic calendar and on the Anglo-Saxon calendar, it was marked as whenever the full moon appeared.

The marking of midsummer may have varied but the celebration of Saint John’s Eve on this day was set by the church.  Saint John is the patron saint of beekeepers.

This is a time when after many spring flowers and clover have bloomed, the hives are full of honey. One name given to this month’s full moon was the Mead Moon because much of that honey was fermented to make the honey wine called mead.

This is also one of the origin stories for the word “honeymoon” and so it became known as a time for lovers.

That is why Shakespeare set his play A Midsummer Night’s Dream on this night.The night also gained a reputation as a time of magic when the fairy kingdom would play pranks on people.

The tale is of two young couples who wander into a magical forest outside Athens full of fairies who play with the lovers’ emotions. “The course of true love never did run smooth,” wrote Shakespeare, but being a comedy, things do eventually work out for the lovers.

An old Swedish proverb says, “Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking.

Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage made from honey. The June or July full moon was sometimes called the Honey or Mead Moon because it was the time when hives were heavy with honey, and so a time to make mead.

A honey wine, called mead, is one of the world’s oldest fermented beverages—maybe the oldest. It dates back thousands of years, archeological findings suggest.  Mead is known from many sources of ancient history throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia, although its origins are lost in prehistory.  Claude Lévi-Strauss makes a case that the invention of mead was the marker of the passage “from nature to culture.”

Though honey is 84 to 86 percent sugar by volume (compared to 14 to 18 percent for grapes), not all mead is dessert wine. Depending on how much water is mixed with the honey before yeast is added, triggering fermentation, mead can be sweet, semi-sweet or dry. (The more water, the drier the mead.) It can vary in color from pale gold to dark ruby, in alcohol from 8 to 18 percent by volume, and in flavor from delicate to robust.

In Norse mythology, the Mead of Poetry  is a mythical beverage that whoever “drinks becomes a skald or scholar” able to recite any information and solve any question. The drink is a metaphor for poetic inspiration, often associated with Odin the god of ‘possession’ via berserker rage or poetic inspiration. Mead was discovered by Irish monks during medieval times and it figures in both Gaelic poetry and Irish folklore.

In the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, the fearsome giant called Grendel, attacks the Danish king where he’s vulnerable, in his mead hall. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the miller tells his lusty tale drunk on mead.

Mead was believed to enhance virility and fertility, while also contributing supposed aphrodisiac qualities. As a result, mead quickly found its way into Irish wedding ceremonies. Some historians and etymologists say the term “honeymoon” came from the Irish tradition of newlyweds drinking honey wine every day for one full moon (a month) after their weddings. Today, some Irish weddings still include a traditional Mead toast to the newlyweds.

ChaucerMead_braggot_

Hopper-Boy-Moon

“Boy and Moon” by Edward Hopper

According to earthsky.org, this month’s full moon, which rises on June 23 (Sunday), will be the closest and largest Full Moon of the year – a supermoon. A supermoon is a new moon or full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (within 90% of) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.  They are not very rare. There are 4-6 supermoons a year with 3 in a row this year (May 25, June 23, July 22) but this June full moon is the most “super”.

I wonder how the early Native Americans explained the supermoons. They often called this full moon the Green Corn Moon because it was the time of the first signs of the “corn in tassel.” It meant the start of preparations for the upcoming festivals in the growing season.

American colonists were more likely to refer to it as a Strawberry Moon or Rose Moon.  Their ancestors in Britain may have known it as the Mead or Honey Full Moon. Those names go back to medieval times and are also associated with Druids and pagans. Beehives would be full of honey from the heavy pollen of spring. That brought them mead (honey wine) that is believed to have been discovered by Irish monks during medieval times.  Mead has a reputation for enhancing virility and fertility and acting as an aphrodisiac and so found its way into Irish wedding ceremonies. Some etymologists say the term “honeymoon” came from the Irish tradition of newlyweds drinking honey wine every day for one lunar month after their weddings.

In North America, late June is usually the first crop of strawberries and the first rose blooms.

Many cultures have celebrated the full moon with ceremonies. Though not very common today, neo-pagans, Wiccans and other  groups still mark the event.

img-candlesYou don’t have to be a member of any of those groups to have your own Full Moon release ritual which is said to center you and allow you to release something you hold inside that is doing you harm.

You use a “sacred space” of your choosing outdoors. People might use sage smudging to purify the space. They would bring some personal power totems – objects of special significance to them. You sit under the Full Moon on the ground and try to allow yourself to feel a connection to it. You can think of it as a centering ritual or meditation.

After all, the Moon is the mover of the living waters of the Earth and within our own bodies. Feel the earth under your feet and allow it to absorb any tension in your body. Feel the pull toward the Moon.

You don’t need to be alone, but talking is discouraged. Place before you a large water-filled bowl.  You want to have a small votive type of candle that you can float on the water. Each person “writes” what they want to release on a candle. The writing is more symbolic than literal. It doesn’t matter if the thing written can be seen, as long as it is actually written by the person.

Light the candle and try to feel the transfer of what you’re releasing into the candle and into the water.

Does that sound too New Age for you? Again, just think of the exercise of this quiet concentration and becoming aware of where you are and acknowledging the Moon in all its beauty far above you. You might be surprised to feel relieved after the ritual.

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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