Month after month we gaze up at the full moon in appreciation. It’s a captivating sight and made even more special by it’s relatively rare occurrence (only 12 or 13 each year). Personally full moons inspire me to write poems (that aren’t very good) and create cosmic artwork. I also like to plan goals around the moon cycle, like mini new moon resolutions instead of one big New Year’s resolution. Each month I stare at that pale disk and fall madly in love. I feel inspired and giddy with feeling. We are so small, the galaxy is so big, I love you moon! Imagine how amazing it would be if we lived on Jupiter? Sixty moons, yes please! Although maybe if we had sixty moons we wouldn’t appreciate our one full beauty as much. Sixty moons would also make this post really, really, really long, so thank the solar system for our position while I describe the reasons for our full moon names.
Were you aware that each moon has a different name? I’ve heard of a few, like the harvest moon (the moon that occurs closets to the autumnal equinox) and the snow moon, but until a few months ago I had no idea each month’s moon was assigned a name. Full moons occur about every 29.5 days as the moon is directly opposite the sun from an earth perspective. The moon reflects the sun’s rays and appears as a perfectly round disk. For millennia humans have used the moon cycle to keep track of seasons and to set schedules for planting, hunting and harvesting. The same is true with the Algonquin Native American tribes that spanned from New England to west of Lake Superior. These are the names I’ll mainly be describing here and the ones that are most commonly referred to in the United States. If you’re reading this from the Southern Hemisphere (welcome!) the months and names are listed at the end of the post.
- January-Wolf Moon is named after angry howling wolves. During deep snows and cold winters, wolf packs would howl hungrily near the perimeters of Native American villages. It’s sometimes referred to as the Old Moon, the Ice Moon or the Moon after Yule.
- February- Snow Moon is named for, you guessed it, the ridiculous amount of snow that falls each February. Usually this month has the highest recorded snowfall so it’s no wonder why it was deemed the snow moon. February’s full moon is also known as the Hunger Moon since temperatures were so low, hunting was difficult and food was scarce.
- March-Worm Moon got its name because worm castings (poop) would appear as the ground thawed. This also signaled the return of the robins who love to chow down on worms. March is also referred to as the Crow Moon because of their incessant cawing. I love crow cawing (am I the only one?) so I tend to refer to this moon as the Crow Moon. It’s also known as the Crust Moon because the ground thaws during the day, but freezes again at night forming a crust. Lastly, it can also be referred to as the Sap Moon because trees are prime-tappin’-time during March.
- April-Pink Moon is named for a species of early blooming wildflower known as wild moss pink or ground phlox. Coastal tribes refer to April’s moon as the Fish Moon. Other names include Egg Moon and Grass Moon.
- May-Flower Moon is a given for the month of May. April showers bring May flowers, ya dig? Some tribes also referred to May’s moon as Corn Planting Moon and Milk Moon.
- June-Strawberry Moon is apparently the only name that is universal to all Algonquin tribes. It was deemed Strawberry Moon because strawberries are in their peak picking season during June each year. European settlers named it the Rose Moon, but I think Strawberry Moon sounds way cooler. *I’m obsessed with Strawberries*
- July-Buck Moon is named because male deer begin to grow new antlers each year during July. Bucks shed their antlers at some point during the year, which means if you scour the woods you may find some! Take a dog with you to increase your odds. July is also known as Thunder Moon because of the frequent storms during this month.
- August-Sturgeon Moon was named by Native American fishing tribes. Sturgeons were caught in abundance every August. It can also be called the Red Moon, the Grain Moon or the Green Corn Moon.
- September-Corn Moon signifies when corn and other crops are to be harvested. It’s often called the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox (2 out of 3 years it falls in September). At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night with the help of the light from the Corn Moon. Another fun fact, usually the full moon rises an average of fifty minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest moon it rises only 25-30 minutes later across the U.S. and only 10-20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. I always imagine the Harvest Moon to be the happiest of the year for the Native Americans.
- October-Hunter’s Moon signifies the perfect time to hunt deer and other animals. Deer are fattened up from summer and easily spotted in the bare forest. Fox, squirrels and smaller game are also more easily seen now that the fields are bare. October’s moon is also referred to as the Travel Moon and the Dying Grass Moon.
- November-Beaver Moon is named for beavers, but it’s not clear why. It’s either because beavers are highly active preparing winter dams or because it’s time to set beaver traps to stock up on warm winter furs. The animal lover in me hopes it’s because of the busy beavers. It’s also known as the Frost Moon.
- December-Cold Moon because it’s darn cold during December. It’s also known as the Long Night Moon, which I prefer because I dislike the cold so much that I’d rather it be left out of my vocabulary and because it describes December’s moon so well. In December, nights are the longest and the moon has a high (above the horizon) trajectory across the sky because it’s opposite a low sun so long nights, long moon.
- Blue Moon-Full Moons are roughly 29.5 days apart, which leaves 11 days before the Earth finishes its orbit around the sun (one year). Roughly every 2.5 years there’s an ‘extra’ full moon during a season (usually it’s three full moons per season), which is where the Blue Moon comes in. It was a common mistake that the Blue Moon referred to the second full moon of the year, but it is actually the name given to the third full moon during a season that has four full moons. Apparently the big mix-up came about way back in 1946 when Sky and Telescope magazine claimed the Blue Moon fell on the second full moon of the calendar month. This error caused widespread misunderstanding until it was corrected more than fifty years later in 1999.
Southern Hemisphere Full Moon Names:
- January-Buck Moon
- February-Sturgeon Moon
- March-Corn Moon also usually the Harvest Moon
- April-Hunter’s Moon
- May-Beaver Moon
- June-Cold Moon
- July-Wolf Moon
- August-Snow Moon
- September-Worm Moon
- October-Pink Moon
- November-Flower Moon
- December-Strawberry Moon
Did you learn a little something here? We’re all about educatin’ [insert your best hillbilly accent here] over here at Live Seasoned. Do these names still ring true for you or do you label your moons differently? Since I learned all the names, I’ve been trying to decide which I like best and also adopting some new names for fun. I love living my life by the lunar cycle. It’s a fun way to set goals mainly because you can’t do too much procrastinating in only 29 days. Do you find the moon shaping your life in any way? Tell us about it, we’re all ears.