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On February 19, 2019 at 10:53 am ET, we will see the February Full Moon. Often called the Snow Moon, that name for this Full Moon might not make much sense if you are in a climate where snow is rare or non-existent.

I have written about most of the Full Moon names below (click links for earlier posts). The Wolf Moon may be one English name for this month, but in the U.S. the January Full Moon is the one sometimes called the Wolf Moon.

American Indian tribes have the most variety in naming the Full Moons which were a very important way of marking the passage of time.

Transposing the Cherokee names for our Julian calendar months, our February would be Kagaʔli or Gŭgăli, the Bone Moon or the “month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens.” I couldn’t find the exact reason for the “bone” symbolism. Maybe the bare bones of a difficult time of year when it came to food? There might be little food and you might even gnaw on bones and eat bone marrow soup. This was the traditional time for families to mark those who had departed this world with a family meal with places set for the departed. Maybe it is the bones of the departed?

Other tribes called this Full Moon the “Shoulder to Shoulder Around the Fire Moon” (Wishram Native Americans), the “No Snow in the Trails Moon” (Zuni Native Americans).

In colder climes, Snow, Storm, Winter and Ice Moon were names that were used by Colonists.

Month Colonial America Cherokee Choctaw Celtic Medieval England Neo-Pagan Wiccan Algonquian English
February Trapper’s Moon Bony/Bone Moon Little Famine Moon Moon of Ice Storm Moon Snow Moon Storm Moon Snow Moon Wolf Moon

There is snow and ice in Paradelle at this time, but thankfully there is no famine or gnawing at bones or wolves waiting for me outside.

December 28, 1890 – 128 years ago – was the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

It happened despite a treaty signed two decades before in which the United States government guaranteed local tribes rights to their sacred land around the Black Hills.

But in the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the treaty was broken.

I was assigned to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for a college history course and the book revealed to me my ignorance of American Indian history. And what a sad and terrible history it is.

Part of today’s Writers Almanac gives a short summary of why the event occurred after the tribes were forced off their sacred land and placed on reservations.

People from the Sioux tribe were forced onto a reservation, with a promise of more food and supplies, which never came. Then in 1889, a native prophet named Wovoka, from the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a vision of a ceremony that would renew the earth, return the buffalo, and cause the white men to leave and return the land that belonged to the Indians. This ceremony was called the Ghost Dance. People traveled across the plains to hear Wovoka speak, including emissaries from the Sioux tribe, and they brought back his teachings. The Ghost Dance, performed in special brightly colored shirts, spread through the villages on the Sioux reservation, and it scared the white Indian agents. They considered the ceremony a battle cry, dangerous and antagonistic. So one of them wired Washington to say that he was afraid and wanted to arrest the leaders, and he was given permission to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed in the attempt. The next on the wanted list was Sitting Bull’s half-brother, Chief Big Foot. Some members of Sitting Bull’s tribe made their way to Big Foot, and when he found out what had happened, he decided to lead them along with the rest of his people to Pine Ridge Reservation for protection. But it was winter, 40 degrees below zero, and he contracted pneumonia on the way.

Big Foot was sick, he was flying a white flag, and he was a peaceful man. He was one of the leaders who had actually renounced the Ghost Dance. But the Army didn’t make distinctions. They intercepted Big Foot’s band and ordered them into the camp on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek. Big Foot went peacefully.

The next morning federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing almost 300 men, women, and children, including Big Foot. Even though it wasn’t really a battle, the massacre at Wounded Knee is considered the end of the Indian Wars, a blanket term to refer to the fighting between the Native Americans and the federal government, which had lasted 350 years.

I wrote earlier about one of the people wounded but not killed during the massacre – the famous medicine man, Black Elk, and his book Black Elk Speaks. This was another book I read in college after finishing my assigned reading. Both books were revelatory both in the history and my own spirituality and in forming a philosophy for my own life’s path.

Black Elk said about the massacre:

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”

At one time, when we were people more connected to the natural world, many people felt particularly connected to certain animals. Nowadays, most of us spend a good portion of our days inside homes, building and cars and disconnected from the natural world and from the animals that live there.

You may feel a special connection to your pets, but that is not what “spirit animals” were all about at one time. Shamans and others in all cultures have found an importance of spirit animals. Sometimes these animals were seen as guides, or, as totems.

They are animal that are part of our souls or that can lead us to further spiritual growth.

I was told that wolves are probably one of the most misunderstood of all wild animals. Many believe and perceive them as cold-blooded killers, but they are described by scientists as friendly, intelligent and with many positive social traits, such as being gregarious. Wolves mate for life. Males are good fathers and quite playful.

I learned about them from a group of Native Americans many years ago. In a ceremony and series of weekend activities, participants attempted to find their spirit animal(s).  For me, that turned out to be the wolf and the rabbit. I had already felt a connection to rabbits, so that made sense. Though I had not felt any connection to wolves, they seemed like a pretty cool animal to have as a spirit guide. Of course, as I was told, those two together are predator and prey and that meant some conflict in myself.

All earth’s creatures from mammal to insect can be spirit animals. Some participants in that weekend were not thrilled to have a mouse or a bat be their spirit guide. One woman was very excited to have a dragonfly as her spirit guide. A buffalo seems like a manly totem animal, but one guy who got the butterfly was not thrilled.

The best way to find a spirit guide is to go outside and encounter your spirit animal, but that is not an experience that is available to most of us. You may feel some connection to a panda or penguin, but I suspect the chances of you meeting one outside of a zoo are pretty slim.

As some websites will tell you, perhaps as a city dweller, a rat or cockroach might be your guide. Neither sounds like a good animal guide, but consider the rat’s tenacity and cleverness. Consider how the cockroach is able to survive under almost any conditions and has adapted to living with people very well – even if people haven’t adapted as well.

Technically, finding your animal totem is not the same as recognizing a spirit guide. The totem animal is much more intuitive and personal. I was told the rabbit was my totem and the wolf was my guide.

Some suggestions for revealing these animals (besides a  spirit walk or journey into nature) involve using dreams and meditation.

It is 2017 and we are not only disconnected from nature, we are connected to technology. The two worlds seem at odds. But I will say that there are websites that claim to be able to help you find your spirit animals. (see below)  That is not the true path, but if it leads you to a better path or aids you in exploring your inner self, all the better.

As with the tarot, runes and other systems, I view all these as ways to examine yourself from another perspective. Nothing magical here. Closer to therapy than new age mysticism.

Some sites to explore:
https://www.trustedtarot.com/spirit-guides/spirit-animals/
http://www.spiritanimal.info
https://whatismyspiritanimal.com – explains my rabbit spirit in this way, and my totem wolf
A shamanistic view of the wolf appears at http://www.shamanicjourney.com/

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.

Source: Trail trees are a living Native American legacy | MNN – Mother Nature Network

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.”

 

MoonOverSnow

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.”

If you want to make that celebration a bit more English or American Colonist, throw in some wassail or cakes and ale.

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.

 

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