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van Gogh

Did you know that the Big Dipper appears in Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone? He painted it in September 1888 at Arles.

The Big Dipper is an asterism – not officially a constellation – but part of  Ursa Major, AKA the Great Bear.

It is difficult, maybe impossible, for you to see the Big Dipper on a November night.  For those of you in the southern U.S. or a similar latitude around the world or in the Southern Hemisphere, the Dipper is below the northern horizon in the evening now.

Here in Paradelle and most of the northern U.S. it can be seen low above the northern horizon if you have a clear view without mountains or trees.



The Big Dipper is seen as a Celestial Bear that comes to Earth in November by the Micmac Indians of  southeast Canada. The Celestial Bear’s arrival signals the start of hibernation season and it joins our planet’s bears in returning to their dens.

Tonight’s Full Moon is often called the Hunter’s Moon or Blood Moon or Sanguine Moon. There are lots of other names out there for the November Full Moon, including  the Travel Moon, Dying Grass Moon, Moon of Falling Leaves, Beaver Moon, Moon of the Changing Seasons, Leaf Fall Moon, Trading Moon,  Basket Moon, Big Wind Moon, Blood Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Ten Colds Moon,  and the Moon of the Changing Season.

Hunter’s moon is a very common name, but it only applies to November in some years. This is the name for the first full moon after the harvest moon, which is the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. This year the Harvest Moon was in October, so this month is a Hunter’s Moon.  The Hunter’s Moon was once a feast day in parts of western Europe, and some Native American tribes also celebrated the hunt at this Full Moon.

Many American Indian tribes named this moon for the time the rivers started to freeze and the first snows and frosts came. As a child, my father told me that a frost in the fall or spring is more likely to occur on clear nights. That has some science behind it because thick cloud cover will retain some of the Earth’s heat. He also said that the night of a Full Moon is a likely frost night, but that would only be true if you clearly saw the Moon because it was a clear, cloudless night. Data on first and last frosts compared to the phases of the moon don’t show any correlation. Science ruins a lot of folklore.

Around Paradelle, November is the month when we will likely see a killing frost and some puddles will freeze overnight.  But not on this early November night – even with a Full Moon and no clouds.





Besides being a big “supermoon,” the November 14th Full Moon this year can be called a Beaver Moon. That was the name used by some American Indian tribes as November was the time to set beaver traps. This was done before the swamps froze and while beavers were active. The furs were prized for warmth in winter. Beavers seldom begin to repair the lodges until the frost sets in. They usually finish the outer mud coating when the weather freezes to harden the outside shell.

Beavers are industrious but very much schedule their work based on the seasons. When building a new lodge, they fell small and medium-sized trees in summer but seldom begin any building until the end of August.

During the Full Beaver Moon, they are now actively preparing for winter.

Beavers create ponds with their dams and lodges. They build them from severed branches and mud. In autumn, they add fresh mud which will freeze when frosts arrive and they will become almost as hard as stone. Water and predators, like wolves and wolverines, will be unable to get inside.

The lodge has underwater entrances, which also makes entry by predators nearly impossible. It is pretty ingenious that they are usually made with two dens within the lodge, one “lobby” for drying off after coming out of the water, and another, drier one, to live in.

When the ice breaks up in spring, beavers usually leave their lodges and roam until just before autumn.

golden moon

Some other names for the November Full Moon:

  • Autumn Time Moon
  • All Gathered Moon
  • Initiate Moon
  • Moon of the Falling Leaves
  • Dark Moon
  • Fog Moon
  • Mourning Moon
  • Blotmonath (Sacrifice Month)
  • Herbistmonoth (Harvest Month)
  • Mad Moon
  • Moon of Storms
  • Moon When Deer Shed Antlers
  • Moon When Horns Are Broken Off (Dakotah Sioux)
  • Dark Moon (Celtic)
  • Frosty Moon
  • Snow Moon
  • Sassafras Moon (Choctaw)
  • Nvdadequa, Nvdadeqwa or Trading Moon (Cherokee)

If some of these names are a reminder to you of the cold weather to come and that depresses you, remember that in the Southern Hemisphere the November Full Moon is the Corn Moon, Milk Moon, Flower Moon, or Hare Moon.


This year we will have a Full Moon for Thanksgiving Eve, and we will have a Christmas Day Full Moon. In Paradelle, the Moon will be full tonight at 5:44 pm ET, so it really will be the eve(ning) Moon.

moon Japan

There are many names for this month’s Full Moon, but the idea that I start with here this year is that there are many festivals and celebration this month in Japan and China to honor the gods and goddesses of the kitchen. These celebrations honor those, usually women, who prepare the daily meals.

One such goddess is Okitsu-hime who is associated with fire, providence, kinship and health and is symbolically linked to fire sources used for cooking. She is the Shinto Goddess of kitchens in Japan and watches over all foods prepared and over family interactions to keep health and emotional warmth in the home.

With Thanksgiving, we also honor similar themes and, hopefully, those who provide and prepare our food.

Cleaning the stove, toaster, oven, and microwave is practical, but is also seen as symbolically removing sickness and negativity. Preparing the foods draws the kitchen goddess to your kitchen.

In many places around the world, the harvest is past and early winter is appearing. In Tibet, they celebrate the Feast of Lanterns which is  a winter festival connected to the shortening days. I prefer not to think of this time as the Incas did as Ayamarca, or Festival of the Dead.

I collect Full Moon names and this month offers All Gathered Moon, Initiate Moon, Fog Moon, Mourning Moon, Blotmonath (Sacrifice Month), Herbistmonoth (Harvest Month), Mad Moon, and Moon of Storms.

I have a fondness for the American Indian names which are always connected to nature and sound lyrical in our English translations, such as The Moon When Deer Shed Antlers or Moon When Horns Are Broken Off (Dakotah Sioux ).

In Celtic tradition, this the Dark Moon, and Frost Moon and Snow Moon were both used in Medieval Britain.

I like the Choctaw name of Sassafras Moon for this month. The leaves and pith of the sassafras tree (native to Eastern North America) is used dried and powdered as a thickener in soups. The roots often are dried and steeped for sassafras tea that I enjoy. I recall as a child, the taste of sassafras as a flavoring in root beer. The oil of sassafras (safrole) comes from the roots and the root bark and is very pleasant tasting and scented.


Beaver Moon is probably the most common nickname used in America. It probably came from American Indians and was carried over to the colonists as the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs.

If you’re not a fan of hunting and trapping, you can go with another origin story which is that the Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter.

Moon rising over a barn in rural central Texas by Mike Mezeul II

A “Blood Moon” rising over a barn in rural central Texas by Mike Mezeul II via tumblr

Thursday, the 6th will be the Full Moon for November 2014.

Each month I try to choose a different name for the Full Moon and a new story of its origin. If you want to choose from observations of nature there are the Frost Moon, Fog Moon, Snow Moon and Sassafras Moon (Choctaw) as possibilities. You can choose a name from the activities of insects and animals: Beaver Moon, Moon When Horns Are Broken Off (Dakotah Sioux). Full Moon names that are more symbolic include: Initiate Moon, Dark Moon, Kindly Moon (China), and Mourning Moon (Druid).

This year, I chose to mark Oveanh, the second month in the Celtic calendar, which marks this as the Sleeping Moon. This is a time for deeper thought and contemplation. Perhaps this was partially due to the weather being colder and people having to spend more time indoors and having more time (with field work ending) to read, talk and think.

As with some other cultures, including American Indians, the Celtic Full Moons are not a one day event but rather a day that begins a month-long period. Oveanh is actually from the November full moon to the December Dark Moon.

The Celtic calendar consists of thirteen months based on the lunar cycle and starts in our October. Samhain, the end of the year, falls on the last full moon of October. However, after Samhain there is a “no time” period of five days that are not a part of the calendar year to mark this transition between the states of chaos and change and the old and new year.  The month of Maghieden, the shortest of their months, began after the “no time” period and ends with the next full moon of our November.




Tonight is the November Full Moon and for the Cherokee Indians this moon (called Nvdadequa) was traditionally a time of trading and barter among different towns and tribes for produce and goods from hunting. The people traded with other nearby tribes as well as distant tribes, including those in Canada, Middle America and South America.

It was also a customary time of the “Friendship Festival” called Adohuna and meaning “new friends made.” That day itself was a day of atonement for the Cherokee and ritual fasting was observed. A day for transgressions were forgiven. (The exception being murder which traditionally was taken care of according to the law of blood by a clans person of a murdered person.) The festival recalls a time before “world selfishness and greed” and so it was also a time when the needy among the towns were given whatever they needed to help them through the winter.

All that does not seem so far off from Thanksgiving and other ceremonies and observations of this Full Moon that for many of us is the last one of autumn and one that weather-wise can feel like autumn or winter.

Many names for the moons come from observations of nature. This moon has been called the Frost Moon, Fog Moon, Snow Moon and Sassafras Moon (Choctaw).

Other names come from observing activities of insects and animals. The name “Beaver Moon” comes from both human activity – Native Americans and Colonists setting beaver traps during this month – and from the animal activity of beavers building their winter dams. The name “Moon When Horns Are Broken Off” given by the Dakotah Sioux is another example.

Other names for the Full Moons at this time are more symbolic: Initiate Moon, Dark Moon, Mourning Moon, Blotmonath (Sacrifice Month), Mad Moon, Kindly Moon (China), Sleeping Moon (Celtic) and Mourning Moon (Druid).

The Japanese festival honoring the goddess of the kitchen is at this time. It honors the women who prepare the daily meals.  The goddess Kami was important because she used the harvested food to protect and provide for the family.

In Tibet, they celebrated the Feast of Lanterns, a winter festival of the shortest days of the Sun.

Among the Incas it was a time of the Ayamarca, or Festival of the Dead.

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