Soon, before we can blink, autumn - my most favourite of all the seasons - will be here and with it, so long as poor weather conditions don’t block it from our view, comes the glorious phenomenon that is the harvest moon (a topic that I delved into a couple years ago here in this post).
As someone who has always been powerfully drawn to the moon and its ageless beauty all year round, I adore that the harvest moon will soon grace our skies again. You can certainly bet that I will be out there in the crisp evening air, so long as its not raining (and thus usually not visible), to try and spot this glowing orb of gorgeousness in both September and October.
Technically though, working off of the traditional names for each month's full moon, it is only September's moon that is called such, though colloquially, and certainly in my family, we always use the term to referee to the fiery, golden moons of both months. That said however, there is an exception to that statement: Once in every three years, the harvest moon technically falls in October.
I was thinking again recently about the fact that each and every one of the twelve full moons of the year of the year its own name, a point that many of our ancestors, especially if they were farmers, likely knew, but which far fewer folks nowadays, especially outside of traditional earth based religions and belief systems, are apt to be as aware of.
With the harvest moon season upon us again this month, I thought it would be fun and informative to share with you a little about each of the twelve different moons of the year and how it is believed they came to be known by the names that they are.
January ~ Full Wolf Moon: As a new year emerges, if you're lucky and sky isn't salted heavily with snowflakes when the complete moon appears, you can can spot the Full Wolf Moon (sometimes also known as the Moon After Yule, the Moon After Yule, or the Full Snow Moon), so named because often in some parts of the world, the wolves were especially hungry during the icy time of the year and their prescience was frequently seen and sensed around many early communities.
February ~ Full Snow Moon: Also known as the Full Hunger Moon, which is a telling reference to just how hard and bleak a time the winter could be for our ancestors, as they battled it out in the centuries before tined food, grocery stores, and central heating, during the dark, snow covered days of February (which could make hunting a real challenge).
March ~ Full Worm Moon: Come March's full moon, the temperate is often starting to warm again and in some areas, the ground is slowly thawing, which means that earthworms - those vital garden helpers - are on the move again, much like the many birds and other critters that rely on worms as a source of food. Certain northern cultures also called March's full moon the Full Crow Moon, because it was believed that crows would caw to herald the end of winter. Yet another name for the third full moon of the year was the Sap Moon, because maple syrup is harvested in February and March.
April ~ Full Pink Moon: One of the prettiest of all the full moon names, April's radiant moon takes its name the (pink) wild ground phlox, one of the first wildflowers to appear again each spring. In various parts of the world, April's moon was also known as the Full Sprouting Moon, Egg Moon, and Fish Moon, as well, all names relating to what Mother Nature was up to this month (in the case of the name "Full Fish Moon", it related to shad swimming upstream to spawn).
May ~ Full Flower Moon: Known in some parts of the world also as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon, respectively, May's full moon is often the first of the spring that isn't blocked by rain and its name stems from the fact that in most areas, flowers are immerging in full force once more.
June ~ Full Strawberry Moon: Perhaps the loveliest of all the moon names, June's full moon takes its moniker from the fact that strawberries and many other fruits and vegetables are coming into season again. In parts of Europe, it was traditionally called the Rose Moon as well, for much the same reason (that roses often bloom in June).
July ~ Full Buck Moon: The seventh month of the year's moon is also referred to as the Full Thunder Moon, due to the abundance of thunder storms that occur during the early summer. When known as the Buck Moon, it is because buck deer are starting to grow new antlers in the warmth of the summertime sun. Another term of July's moon is the Full Hay Moon, as haying was often traditionally done during the long, hot days of this month.
August ~ Full Sturgeon Moon: For some cultures to whom fishing was an integral part of life, August’s moon was dubbed the Sturgeon Moon, because this large fish could sometimes be caught more easily during the later weeks of the summer. Other names around the world for August's full moon include the Red Moon, Green Corn Moon, and Grain Moon.
September ~ Full Harvest Moon: Often the brightest and most beautiful full moon of the year, September's moon is also known as the Full Corn Moon, as this vital crop is usually harvested during the ninth month of the year. Long seen as a powerful, magical moon, the harvest moon stands a symbol of this abundant season and the splendid crop it yields, which will help see us through the long winter ahead.
October ~ Full Hunter's Moon: Commonly known as well as the Sanguine or Blood Moon, due to the fact that it's not uncommon for October's moon to take on a mysterious red tinge or glow, the moon that accompanies the tenth month of the year is usually big, beautiful and majestic. All three names for it also relate to the fact that October was traditionally a month in which hunters and farmers butchered animals to preserve and then use as an integral food source for the coming icy season.
November ~ Full Beaver Moon: Various sources cite November's moon as being named the Full Beaver Moon either due falling during a time (of the year) when beavers were hunted and/or because these animals, like many in the wild kingdom, are starting to prepare in earnest for the lengthy, snow covered months that are to follow. That very weather lends itself to an alternative name for November's full lunar appearance, the Frosty Moon.
December ~ Full Cold Moon: Winter has returned in full force and with comes a moon that surely must be as chilly in the heavens as we are down here on earth. In addition, the final full moon of the year is also known as the Long Night Moon and the Moon before Yule, when it precedes this traditional December festival.
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But what, you may be wondering, of the term "blue moon", why isn't it the name of one of the monthly full moons? Great question! Whereas most seasons have three full moons apiece, in some cases, just depending on the lunar cycle of a given year, a fourth full moon occurs during the course of a season and when it does, this wonderful bonus full moon is refereed to as a blue moon.
The next time - be it this month with the sublimely beautiful harvest moon or at any other point in the year - that you turn your eyes upward and gaze upon a full moon, as billions of people have done since time immemorial, I hope that you'll delight, as I do, in knowing that each full moon comes with its own special name that harkens back to a time when most people's lives were far more intertwined with the natural cycle of the year and how it affected their ability to eat and even to survive, than it does today.
While we may not have to rely on the buck or beaver moons, for example, any longer, they are still as present and inspiring as ever and I for one adore the fact that each full moon of the year comes with its own special title. It just drives home how vital this celestial orb is to the ebb and flow of life down here on planet earth, no matter how high tech and modernized we may become.