The Chrysanthemum Moon of September

Most of the time, what we see as a Full Moon isn’t perfectly full. We always see the same side of the moon, but part of it is in shadow, due to the Moon’s rotation. Only when the Moon, Earth and the sun are perfectly aligned is the moon 100% full. That rarer alignment produces a lunar eclipse.

The September 10, 2022 Full Moon is often called the Harvest Moon (an Anglo-Saxon name) and it is fullest at 5:59 a.m. EDT. Technically, the Full Moon known as the Harvest Moon is the one closest to the September equinox around September 22. The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name determined by the equinox rather than by a calendar month. In most years, it is in September, but around every three years, it falls in October.

Actual crop harvests, such as corn, have nothing to do with Full Moon names though. The name Corn Moon is the version of harvest that a number of Native American tribes called this month’s Moon. The Celtic and Old English names include two harvest names – Wine Moon and Barley Moon – and also Song Moon.

The September Full Moon is sometimes called the Chinese Chrysanthemum Moon and it coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival – also known as the Moon Festival. As with the British Midsummer Eve, September 10 is not mid-autumn in America as the autumn equinox won’t even arrive until the 22nd. But in my part of the U.S., this is when you start to see chrysanthemums blooming both in the ground and appearing at stores. They are often in autumn colors and used as decorations. Florist mums are not hardy in Paradelle, so even if you plant them, they will not make it through the winter, so we most commonly see them in pots or transplanted for the season around homes. I have associated mums with autumn since my childhood as our garden had a row of them in orange, bronze, red, purple, white, and yellow.

Mums at the garden center

Moon of Mabon

Moon tree

We have two celestial events to mark this week. First, the Moon goes full today, September 20, 2021. Then we shift gears to autumn on Wednesday, the 22nd.

The common name for this September Full Moon is the Corn Moon but this is pretty late in the corn season in my part of the country. You can also call this the Harvest Moon which is the name attached to the Full Moon closest to the September equinox. (Most years it is in September, but around every three years, it is in October.)

The Celtic autumn festival is on the equinox marking when the sun is almost directly over the equator and so there is an equal amount of day and night. This Celtic traditional holiday is called in modern times as Mabon, after the name of the God of Welsh mythology and is still celebrated by New Agers and Wiccans.

This is the second Celtic harvest festival. The first begins the harvest and is called Lughnasadh, and the third, Samhain, ends the harvest season.

Many cultures – the Greeks, Bavarians, Native Americans, and Chinese – have a similar celebration on or near the equinox which could be determined by those who observe and measure the movements of the Sun.
The symbol of Mabon is the cornucopia which is still used to represent a bountiful harvest. The original cornucopia was a goat’s horn overflowing with flowers, fruit, and corn. Although the word “corn” is part of cornucopia, the word’s origin is actually from Latin cornu + copiae meaning horn + plenty. In mythology, this horn was able to provide whatever is desired.  You often see the image used around the American Thanksgiving holiday.


September’s Barley Full Moon

A “moon” of barley seeds

After sunset tonight, you will start to see a full Moon but its peak illumination is actually at 1:23 A.M. ET on Tuesday, September 2. Close enough tonight.

The most common name for this month is the Corn Moon. The September Full Moon can be a Harvest Moon but this year that will occur in October. The Full Moon that happens nearest to the autumnal equinox (September 22 this year) is called the Harvest Moon. Tonight’s Full Moon is very early in the month so the October one will be closer.

My birthday month of October will be interestingly lunar this year. There will be two full Moons. First,  the Harvest Moon on October 1 and then another just squeaking in on the 31st which will make it a Blue Moon.

Historically, some Native Americans gave a name to each month’s full Moon, naming it in relation to a natural event or sign of the season. This aided them in tracking the progression of the year. Different peoples had different names, reflecting the areas where they lived.

One such name for the September Full Moon is the Corn Moon because it traditionally corresponded with the time of harvesting corn in what is now the northeastern United States.

It was also called the Barley Moon, as this is the time to harvest and thresh ripened barley. Barley is commonly used in breads, soups, stews, and health products. Though now it is primarily grown as animal fodder and as a source of malt for alcoholic beverages, especially beer, barley water can be used as a healthy (and high calorie) drink.

In Black Elk Speaks, he says that what we call “September” is known by the Sioux as the “Moon When the Calves Grow Hair” or “Moon of the Black Calf” or the  “Moon When the Plums Are Scarlet (Lakota).

NASA says that this Full Moon can be called the Corn, Fruit, Barley, and Hungry Ghost Moon; the end of Onam; the start of Pitri Paksha; Modhu Purnima; Binara Pura Pasalosvaka Poya; and the GRAIL, LADEE, and OSIRIS-REx Moon.

That Corn Moon name should not be dismissed. I have written about it before but you should keep in mind that corn was at the center of Mesoamerica life and key to many Native Americans and was important to the Colonists and corn is still a major U.S. crop as people food, animal feed, fuel and as a sweetener.

Moon When Deer Paw the Ground

white-tailed deer – USDA photo by Scott Bauer

The media made a big deal yesterday about the coincidence of a Harvest Full Moon occurring on a Friday the 13th. But the Moon didn’t reach fullness in Paradelle until after midnight, so that wasn’t exactly true for me. And anyway, the 13 part is just a coincidence of calendars and nothing celestial.

The name of this month’s Full Moon as the Moon When Deer Paw the Ground comes to us from the Omaha people.  The Omaha people are a federally recognized Midwestern Native American tribe who reside on the Omaha Reservation in northeastern Nebraska and western Iowa, United States. The Omaha people migrated to the upper Missouri area and the Plains by the late 17th century from earlier locations in the Ohio River Valley.

Why do deer paw the ground at this time? This is one of those nature signs that Native Americans (and today deer hunters) would notice. It concerns scrapes which is a sign that is important in tracking deer during the rut. Scrapes are made when bucks paw the ground at the foot of a tree, creating a bare patch of earth on the ground, and then urinating on it to leave a sign of their presence. In this way, a buck can attract does during the rut. The buck urinates down his rear legs and onto his tarsal glands, which create a stronger and more pungent odor.

The rut (from the Latin rugire, meaning “to roar”) is the mating season of certain mammals, including deer, sheep, goats, and bison. This is when males have an increase in testosterone, increased aggression and interest in females. In most species, males mark themselves or their habitat with mud, secretions from glands or their urine.

Some of the many names given to this September Full Moon include: Nut Moon, Mulberry Moon, Singing Moon, Barley Moon, Elk Call Moon, Fruit Moon, Corn Moon, Wine Moon, Gypsy Moon, Moon of Leaves Turning Color, Moon of Spiderwebs on the Ground, Big Feast Moon, Haligmonath (Holy Month), and  Witumanoth (Wood Month).

September sometimes is the month of the Harvest Moon but in some years that is in October. That is because that name is given to the Full Moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.  The equinox is on September 23 this year and the October Full Moon is on the 13th, so today’s Full Moon is the Harvest Moon for 2019.

For any readers in the Southern Hemisphere, this September Full Moon might be called by our Northern spring names, such as Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sugar Moon, Chaste Moon, or Sap Moon.

The Elk Call Moon


Traditionally, today’s Full Moon is the Harvest Moon, but I like to look at other names given to this month’s Full Moon.

I say today’s Full Moon rather than tonight’s Full Moon because depending on the month and where you are reading this, the Moon might have reached its fullness while you were sleeping, eating breakfast, lunch or dinner in the sunshine. Where I am typing this post, the Moon will be full at 03:05 pm (EDT), but in Perth, Hong Kong and Beijing it won’t happen until the calendar and clock say September 17 03:05 am (WST).

The Full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox is traditionally called the Harvest Moon. It is usually in September but sometimes occurs in October. The autumn equinox this year for Paradelle is September 22, 2016 at 10:21 AM EDT.

I do like that the Harvest Moon seems to be one of the rare names that both the English and many Indian tribes of eastern and northern North America agreed on. Other Native American names included the also harvest-themed Corn Moon and Barley Moon.

You will often see the Harvest Moon and Hunter Moon portrayed in photos and artwork as being very red or orange, which gives it an autumnal look. But any red effect is more of the seasonal tilt of the earth and the atmospheric conditions of nightfall. That reddish color of the moon as it rises low in the sky is from viewing it through a greater amount of atmospheric particles, including pollution and smoke. It looks whiter when it is higher overhead. All those particles scatter the blue part of the light spectrum, allowing the red end of the spectrum a straighter path to your eyes and the chance to dominate. Itis why the sunrise and sunset look so much more red.  That’s less Romantic than thinking the Moon changed colors along with the tree leaves.

This month’s Full Moon is also called the Elk Call Moon. Although this is partially a reference to hunting, the Hunter’s Moon is a more modern name for the Full Moon that follows the Harvest Moon. That would be our October Full Moon.

Still today, most elk hunting begins around early September in a time known as pre-rut. During the summer, elk bulls grow their antlers grow and that ends late August when testosterone levels rise and they begin the process of gathering as many cows as possible in harems jealously guarded by the herd bull for the duration of the rut. This is also when their vocalization increases and peaks in the last two weeks of September.

Keep in mind that our friends in the southern hemisphere view the Full Moons of September, October and November as the Full Moons of spring.


An Eclipsing Blood Moon

The partial phase of the April 14-15, 2014 total lunar eclipse – photo by Fred Espenak

As I wrote last weekend, there is a total eclipse of the moon tonight (September 27-28, 2015).  Being that it is also the closest of this year’s supermoons, there is more drama to the event. For those of us north of the equator, it is a Harvest Full Moon (the one nearest the autumn equinox). It is many named lunar events!

You might also hear the term “Blood Moon” used because this is the fourth and final eclipse in four straight total eclipses of the moon, spaced at six lunar months (full moons) apart. That is known as a lunar tetrad.

The total lunar eclipse is visible from most of North America and all of South America after sunset tonight.