China recently landed on the moon with its robot, called Yutu, Chinese for the Jade Rabbit who, according to Chinese legend, lives on the moon making the magic elixir of life with his pestle and mortar.
The robot is on the far side on the moon, the side we don’t see, not because the moon doesn’t spin, but because it rotates around the earth at the exact angular speed as it rotates on its axis.
super blood wolf moon
A few weeks ago, we also saw (or slept through) the eclipse of the Super Blood Wolf Moon, a fine and long name, but for good reason. Super means it was at its closest point to the Earth’s orbit; Wolf derives from the Native American name for January’s full moon; and Blood comes from the way the sun’s light bends and refracts off the Earth’s atmosphere during an eclipse.
And that’s just a small fraction of names for the moon. For millennia, cultures used lunar calendars, which makes a lot of sense because everyone sees that a full moon happens at regular intervals, and there are twelve full moons every year…except when there’s a blue moon, i.e. thirteen. A moon cycle is 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes and 11.6 seconds between full moons, and that’s where things start to get tricky. In fact, the Roman calendar based on moon phases required an entire team to decide when days should be added or removed to keep up with the astronomical seasons of equinoxes and solstices.
To address this, Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar with 365 days and 12 months, and a leap year every four years. It was later replaced by the Gregorian calendar, but the long history of setting the rhythms of the year by the moon has given us a rich list of meaningful names derived from Native Americans, Anglo-Saxon and Old High German languages among others.
months and names
January’s full moon, as we learned this week, is the Wolf Moon. It makes sense, because wolves are more prone to howl in their mating season, January, and to optimize acoustics they howl upwards, which happens to be where the moon is. But January’s full moon is also known as Old Moon, Ice Moon, and Snow Moon, for reasons not hard to imagine.
February’s moon was also Snow Moon in some areas of the world, but also Hunger, Storm, or Chaste Moon.
March is, as you might have guessed, the Worm Moon. Clearly March is when earthworms emerge. It’s also the Lenten Moon, which gave its name to the Christian period of Lent before Easter, Crust Moon, because of the crust that forms on melting snow when it refreezes, Crow Moon, for the returning crows; Sap or Sugar Moon, time for maple syrup harvesting.
April is the Pink Moon, for the abundance of pink spring flowers, or Sprouting Grass, Fish, Paschal, Egg, or Hare Moon. It was originally Hare Moon because it’s the time of year when hares breed, this ancient wisdom might have given rise to the Easter bunny.
May is the Flower Moon, or Corn Planting Moon, or Mother’s Milk Moon, the month when cows were milked three times a day.
June is the Strawberry Moon, time to pick the ripening wild strawberries; or Rose, Hot or Mead Moon.
July is the Buck Moon, after the male deer who shed their antlers. Thunder Moon, Hay, or Wort Moon, because who doesn’t gather worts in July to use as spices and remedies?
August is Sturgeon Moon, the best time of year for freshwater fish. It’s also Grain, Green Corn, or Fruit Moon.
The Harvest Moon is the one closest to the equinox, but as the astronomical seasons do not match up with the lunar month, the Harvest Moon sometimes falls in October. September is also the Full Corn and Barley Moon, though the Barley Moon can also occur in August.
October is the Hunter’s Moon, time to fatten the game, hunt, slaughter and preserve meats for the coming winter months. It’s also the Travel Moon and Dying Grass Moon, and the Blood or Sanguine Moon, referring to the hunting season, not to be confused with the red of a total Lunar Eclipse.
November is the Beaver Moon, when beavers made dams of wood and mud. It’s also the Frost, Trading, or Snow Moon.
December, fittingly, is the Cold Moon, or Long Night Moon.
Though I’ll not be swapping out my electronic Gregorian calendar or my diary any time soon, there’s something sumptuously earthy about how the full moons align with nature. I might have to start celebrating the moon. Perhaps not right away. None of February’s moon names fill me with warm fuzzies, so I think I might just wait for the worms of March.
The moon was creatively suggested by Denise Weaver. Leave a comment if you have a topic you’d like to see at #storyeverywhere.Share this: