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Native Americans bent trees to create trail markers, but while thousands of the trees remain today, it can be difficult to find one.
When making a trail marker, a Native American would look for a sapling with a trunk about three-fourths of an inch in diameter. The sapling would be bent in the direction that should be followed and then secured in that position by one of several methods.
Sometimes the saplings would be tied down with rawhide, bark or vines, but other times the tiny trees would be weighted down by a rock or a pile of dirt. Once secured, the sapling would be left in this bent shape for a year to lock it in position, at which point, even after it was released, it would continue to grow pointing in the intended direction.
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.”
Tonight, the moon will be full in Paradelle just before midnight (11:53 p.m. EST). It is a bit odd that we give times for the full moon such as UTC, EST etc. because, despite our human efforts to control time, the moon turns full at the same instant worldwide. But, yes, it will be at 8:53 p.m. PST.
If we want to be astronomically correct, the moon is only “full” at that moment when it is most opposite the sun in its orbit.
You can also note this as a time of the arrival of the Morning Star in the east. The Morning Star isn’t a star at all, but the name given to the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise. The Greek referred to “Phosphorus” (meaning “Light-Bringer”) or Heōsphoros [AKA Eosphorus in English] meaning the “Dawn-Bringer” for Venus in its morning appearance.
Popularized names for this January full moon are the Wolf Moon, Old Moon or Moon After Yule. Some of the American Indian names include Cold Moon, Cooking Moon, Moon of the Terrible, Moon of the Raccoon, Full Snow Moon (also used by some tribes to the February moon).
The most popular name on this blog has been Wolf Moon. It comes from the deepening snows of midwinter in some area (like the Dakotas) and the howling of hungry wolves heard in the long nights outside villages. Wolves often hunt at night and many people associate their howling with the moon. However, it is lore rather than biology that wolves howl at the moon.
This Cold Moon (Unolvtani in Cherokee) marked the start of the season for personal and ritual observance, fasting and personal purification. The tools for planting are repaired, new ones made, and ancestors are honored by passing on their stories to young ones. Our seasons don’t align with American Indian seasons which were lunar-based rather than sun-based. This time was for families to prepare for the next season which starts with the full moon in March.
Some tribes marked this time with the Cold Moon Dance and community hearth fires being put out and new ones being made. The renewal of fires was often the duty of holy men of certain clans. The new fires tradition was also a part of celebrations by ancients in Europe to mark the end and beginning of the seasonal cycles.
Moon ceremonies often involve fire, whether that be a bonfire or the lighting of candles.
One Moon prayer I found online used by some Pagan groups is “We gather tonight to rejoice by the light of the moon. We celebrate the season of darkness, knowing that the next turn of the Wheel will bring light. We use this time of darkness for thought, introspection, and growth. As the moon above, so the earth below.”
Almost every name for the Full Moons is location-based. A Wolf Moon would have no meaning to many people. A Snow Moon would apply to people in northern climes but not to people in warmer areas. Tribes of the southwest and the northeast did not share the same climate, plants or animals and the names of the moons show that. A name like Moon When Trees Pop would not apply to a tribe living in the Arizona desert.
In the distant past, the names usually applied to a period of time that included the month between the Full Moons and not just the day. Weeks, months and years were not the same concepts of time for them, and there were no leap years, time zones or daylight savings time to negotiate.
I chose Old Moon for this post’s title because I’m feeling old today and although the year is new, in some ways it seems like a continuation of the December winter and year. As a lifelong teacher and student, September feels more a the New Year than January. If I had to pick a time for the calendar to begin, I would choose spring and let the year end with winter rather than start in the middle of it. How very Northern Hemisphere of me.
I like the Druid Poet’s Moon name for this month. Our January is their Llianth, the fourth month of their year, and this is seen as a time for peace, creativity, and inspiration.
Tonight, December 6th, is the Full Moon for this month. But the Moon became “full” just now at 7:27 am ET even though very few people think about the Moon in the morning and will only observe it as “full” tonight. Well, actually a lot of people looked at the Moon last night or will see it tomorrow and say it looks full.
The December full moon is generally referred to as Cold Moon, Moon Before Yule and Long Night Moon or 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.
The American Indian names for the Full Moons are the most interesting. The Hopi call this kyaamuya, Moon of Respect I like the name used by the Wishram Indians of the Columbia River area of Washington and Oregon for this moon: Her Winter Houses Moon. I don’t know what it means, but I like it. The Zuni of New Mexico call this ik’ohbu yachunne which translates as Sun Has Traveled Home to Rest.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2015 is available for sale and I don’t know if it is considered so old-fashioned that no one reads it anymore.
My mom always bought a copy and I would devour its odd facts and weather lore and Full Moon stories and predictions. I’m sure it was one of the bigger influences on me as a kid that has stayed with me into old age.
What kid (or adult?) could resist America’s oldest continuously published periodical which is now in its 223rd year? They still claim to have 80 percent-accurate weather forecasts, but also stories about creatures from hell, readers’ wacky coincidences, how to make sausages at home, how wildfires’ affect our weather, love potions (yes, I mixed a few of those in my day), stats on things like what are the odds of almost everything, plus the sky and nature things I love to write about here like Moon phases, celestial sightings, tides, and gardening tables. It was something my mom used as one of my stocking-stuffers and it still works in that way..
This Moon of Long Nights is a marker of that time when winter cold had a pretty solid hold on much of our country, although this year the moon comes early. The nights are literally longer. That’s something that people have observed for thousands of years before they understood the reason it occurred. The long, dark night increases as we move towards the solstice because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time it has a high trajectory across the sky opposite a low Sun.
I enjoyed reading my sons books about the Moon and about science told simply. We liked When The Moon Is Full which had a cover very appropriate to this month’s Long Night Moon. It tells with colored woodcuts and poems about all twelve full moons of the year with the traditional Native American names, from the Wolf Moon to the Long Night Moon. It has a question-and-answer section with information about the moon’s surface, lunar eclipses and the true meaning of a blue moon.
The Moon, stars and planets fascinate young children, but unfortunately many of them lose that sense of wonder when gazing up at the night sky when they get older.
Of course, the same thing happens with nature and animals and the science of dinosaurs and simple chemistry and even that early fascination with numbers. These are all things to nurture in children, and the Full Moons are great opportunities to connect to that awe and wonder.
In December 2010, the Winter Solstice was also the Full Moon. That is an interesting astronomical calendar coincidence (though not unique). In 2009, the full moon arrived on December 31 to end the year, and it was also the second full moon of the month which some people erroneously but popularly call a “Blue Moon.”
This year’s full moon seems too early to be called the Moon Before Yule. Although “Yule” is equated with Christmas now, Yuletide was a pre-Christian winter solstice festival that lasted for 12 days. (Yule + -tide, “period around a holiday” from the Old English tīd, “time”). 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 in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor. A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log.
In England, Germany, France and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and or as medicine.
A skeleton, known as the Hoyo Negro (Black Hole) skeleton, is the most complete Paleoamerican remains known. It was found in 2007 by three divers exploring a Mexican cave.
It helps researchers get closer to understanding who the early “Americans” were and where they came from.
When I took archaeology and anthropology in college many years ago, I learned that the first people here in what is modern America had Siberian features, and that these “Native Americans” (Paleoamericans) migrated over the now-submerged land bridge between present-day Siberia and Alaska. That occurred 18,000-26,000 years ago.
There seemed to be a gap though. The facial features of the oldest Paleo-Indian skeletons don’t look much like those of modern Native Americans. But the near-complete Hoyo Negro skull of a teenaged girl that is from a later transitional period (12,000-13,000 years old, has a narrow face, prominent forehead and wide-set eyes similar to that of other skulls considered to be Paleoamerican. She also shares a genetic signature with modern Native Americans.
The skeleton has been named “Naia,” after the Greek word for “water nymph.” Her cavern home, in her time, was about five miles inland from the Caribbean and not submerged.
At the end of the last Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago), glacier melt and sea level changes flooded the cavern and after a few thousand years it was completely underwater.
At the cave site, remains of extinct animals, including sabertooth cats were also found.
Another early American, the infant boy Anzick-1, was discovered in Montana and is about 12,600 years old. But they did not find the skull and jaw, so researchers had been unable to determine whether his features were typically Paleoamerican or more similar to that of modern Native Americans.
More at discovermagazine.com
Back in the 1930s, the Maine Farmers’ Almanac began to publish “Indian” full moon names. The practice continues in the Farmers’ Almanac (not the same publication). They say that the earliest print list of Indian month names was published in 1918 by Daniel Carter Beard in his book, The American boys’ book of signs, signals and symbols, which was printed for use by the Boy Scouts. (Interestingly, you can read it today on your Kindle.)
Although Beard’s list is hardly definitive and may not even be accurate, these month names have become part of pop culture. That original list read as follows:
January: Moon of Difficulty, Black Smoke; February: Raccoon, Bare Spots on the Ground; March: Wind, Little Grass, Sore-Eye; April: Ducks, Goose-Eggs; May: Green Grass, Root-Food; June: Corn-Planting, Strawberry; July: Buffalo (Bull), Hot Sun; August: Harvest, Cow Buffalo; September: Wild Rice, Red Plum; October: Leaf-Falling, Nuts; November: Deer-Mating, Fur-Pelts, December: Wolves, Big Moon.
It seems that some of the moon names used by Colonial Americans were adopted from the eastern Algonquian Indian languages, but others were clearly based in European traditions. Beaver Moon is similar to the November Moon name of the Algonquin, but names like May’s Milk Moon are clearly European-based.
January: “Wolf Moon” (this is the name of December in Beard 1918) also “Old Moon”
February: “Snow Moon”, also “Hunger Moon”
March: “Worm Moon”, “Crow Moon”, “Sap Moon”, “Lenten Moon”
April: “Seed Moon”, “Pink Moon”, “Sprouting Grass Moon”, “Egg Moon” “Fish Moon”
May: “Milk Moon”, “Flower Moon”, “Corn Planting Moon”
June: “Mead Moon”, “Strawberry Moon,” “Rose Moon”, “Thunder Moon”
July: “Hay Moon”, “Buck Moon”, “Thunder Moon”
August: “Corn Moon”, “Sturgeon Moon”, “Red Moon”, “Green Corn Moon”, “Grain Moon”
September: “Harvest Moon”, “Full Corn Moon”,
October: “Hunter’s Moon”, “Blood Moon”/”Sanguine Moon”
November: “Beaver Moon”, “Frosty Moon”
December: “Oak Moon”, “Cold Moon”, “Long Nights Moon”