The Names of the Moons


For no particular reason, I've been interested in the names of the moons. When I first organized this chart (as a letterpress broadsheet) I had found only two complete sets, plus a few other names for some specific months, but I'd never found or looked for any lists with citations which explained the origins or history of the any of the names. When the web site went on line, I decided to just post what I knew, in case anyone else was out there, searching for lists.

Here's the original chart, now augmented by what I like best of the names and sets that have been sent to me so far. I've also posted some additional notes, and some links to still other pages and other lists.


               
Month Set #1 Set #2 Cherokee¹ Ottewell² Wiccan³ Souix, from Black Elk Speaks
by John G. Neihardt4
Others
January Old Wolf Cold Moon After Yule Wolf Moon of Frost in the Frost in the Tepee Ice
February Snow Snow Bony   Storm Moon of the Dark Red Calves Hunger
March Sap Worm Windy Lenten Chaste Moon of the Snowblind Crow Crust Death
April Grass Pink Flower Egg Seed Moon of the Red Grass Appearing† Awakening
May Milk Flower Planting   Hare Moon When the Ponies Shed  
June Rose Strawberry Green Corn Flower Dyad Moon of Making Fat Honey‡ Planting
Milk
July Thunder Buck Ripe Corn Hay Mead Moon Where the Cherries are Ripe Moon of the Red Cherries* Rose

August Green Corn Corn Fruit Grain Wyrt Moon When the Cherries Turn Black Sturgeon Lightning

September Fruit Harvest Nut   Barley Moon When the Calves Grow Hair Moon of the Black Calf
or
Moon When the Plums are Scarlet*
October Harvest Hunter's Harvest Hunter's Blood Moon of the Changing Season  
November Frost Beaver Trading Hunter's Snow Moon of the Falling Leaves  
December Long Night Cold Snow Moon Before Yule Oak Moon of the Popping Trees  

A recent note from a reader pointed me to http://parleferetparleverbe.free.fr/Monde/Terre/terre_calendrier.htm which is, as you might expect, in French and has a slightly eccentric view of the calendar.


¹ According to the Chreokee Cultural Society of Houston.

² A kind note from Gary Graham (gegraham@deq.state.va.us) provided the reference for this set: Guy Ottwell's Astronomical Calendar 1993. He also referred to radio segments called Stardate produced by Sandy Wood and Brad Armosky. I had encountered neither source before Gary's note, so I gratefully include them here.

³ From To Ride A Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft by Silver Raven Wolf with my thanks to Akili for letting me know about it. About half of these names used to be in my 'other' column.

4 This set was pointed out to me in a kind note from Jon Schoonmaker, and I thank him for it.


† Origianlly cited on this page as from the 1999 Old Farmer's Almanac Every Day Calendar. This list also repeats 'Pink' and 'Egg' as April moon names, and a variation of this name: "The Sprouting Grass Moon," which is much less poetic. They also list 'Fish Moon,' which seems a little too general. "Fish," they say, refers to the season when the shad come upstream to spawn. So why not "Shad Moon?" Another fisherman correspondent lists 'Crappie', 'Bass' and (my favorite fish moon name) 'Catfish.'

‡ The name 'Honey Moon' for June was submitted by Nancy C. Eisele, who heard the reference on Jack Horkheimer's STAR HUSTLER TV program. My thanks to Nancy and, of course, to Jack!

* These are aternative Lakota names from the list in Black Elk Speaks.

I'm not sure how long this link will last, but Scientific American has weighed in on the subject of Blue Moons. Visit http://www.sciam.com for a brief discussion by George Spagna, chair of the physics department at Randolph-Macon College.


It is also said that Blue Moon is the name used for the second full moon in any month; the extra moon that is relatively rare... as in "once in a blue moon." New information, however, indicates that this bit of 'old folklore' may go back to an editing mistake.

Richard Matthews sent me information about a Sky & Telescope article that reviewed the recent history of the expression. Richard's original link doesn't work any more, but recently Amelia B sent me a new link to the original article (Thanks, Ameila!)

Whether you believe (or care about) the interesting publication history recorded in this article, Richard's e-mail to me summarized the "rue" definintion given as follows:

Essentially it says to take the 1st, 2nd, and LAST (not 3rd) full moon in each season and give them the names in the table. If there are 4 full moons in the season, the 3rd is the "blue moon".

The table he's talking about would start with the 'first Winter moon', rather than 'January.' But then, which moon really marks the 'first Winter moon?' Would that always match up with some else's 'January' moon? The answer to these questions could lie in the definition of the first spring moon, sometimes called the Easter or Paschal Full Moon. This moon has been defined as the first 14-day-old moon on or after March 21. As poiinted out to me by a recent correspondent called Ian (email address omitted,) the Paschal moon is not always in April, as I had originally stated. It is true, I believe, that this moon is not necessarily an astronomical full moon. In any case, Western Easter is set on the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.

Most of my original (and wrong about April) explanation came from the Old Farmer's Almanac Every Day Calendar page for February 17, 1999.  See this site for a better and more complete explanation of Easter dating and related lunacy.

The Sky and Telescope article has like to other related articles that include discussions of another more detailed explanation of the moons' relation to the changing seasons, the role of the Blue moon, and a nice astronomical chart. Finally, Matthews e-mail to me also offered this example of a 'seasonal' list of moon names:

winter 1st - Moon after Yule
winter 2nd -Wolf Moon
winter last - Lenten Moon

spring 1st - Egg, Easter, or Paschal Moon
spring 2nd - Milk Moon
spring last - Flower Moon

summer 1st - Hay Moon
summer 2nd - Grain Moon
summer last - Fruit Moon

autumn 1st - Harvest Moon
autumn 2nd - Hunter's Moon
autumn last - Moon before Yule

[Insert Blue moons in any season as required, after the 2d moon and before the last.]

The problem I have with reorganizing my comparative chart this way is that most other lists I've seen are in fact sequenced by month, not by season, and the aforementioned questions still hold. Will the Moon After Yule always be in January? Or would that make it Blue? And what about October?

The great irony, of course, is that moon folklore and most moon names undoubtedly predate Christianity itself and the Christianized feasts, festivals or lunations of Easter and Christmas. Pope Gregory's calendric reformations and declarations aside, sequencing moon names according to the date of the eccleastical 'Paschal' moon is just as arbitrary as using Roman months, or Stonehenge, or Mayan artifacts, or the Old Farmer's Almanac.

So I don't know, I just collect lists of the names. Any further list submissions would be amazing. Further contributions to the discussion of which moon is which: Blue, Yule or whatever, will also be received with interest. Thank you.


Other Links:

http://americanindian.net/moons.html... One of the best sites and one that turns up near the top of Google searches, this sells the author's and other books, but it has a lot of other lists on it as well. Very nice.

The US.Naval observatory's FAQ on how the date of Easter is calculated. You may also be interested in their page showing the calculated dates of Easter or in some of the other items (including software) available from their home page. Many thanks to Stan Young for his note, which included lots of interesting information and contained a reference to the US Naval Observatory's web site.


http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970314a.html... while it lasts (and it loads very slowly, so it's buried deep in some archive), this one contains still more links, including the first one I ever found that points back to here!


http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-01-04.html#s09 was sent to me recently by another of my many far-flung correspondents

http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/native/sign/moons-months.htm is a nice page which also gets into the corresponding signs and pictographs for the moons.


Dead links (R.I.P.)

You can find some of these using the Web Wayback Machine which, if you don't already know about it, is a wonderful resource. Thanks to Christina Gibbs for pointing this out to me back in 2005.

"http://www.7almanac.com/eye/fullmoons.html"... was another page by a TV weatherman (Todd Gross) sent to me by yet another (T.J. Del Santo; Meteorologist, WPRI-TV, Providence, RI), and this page contained a great link... well no matter.

http://www.gb.nrao.edu/~dgordon/wx/fullmoon.htm" ...This was a list by a former Boston TV weatherman. It was sent to me by Richard Mathews, who also provided valuable links to Sky & Telescope and other useful information about the lunar year.

"http://www.noble.mass.edu/ref/fullmoon.htm", sent my way by Jim Cook, but no longer functional as of 11/8/99. This link contained some other interesting moon names, and an actual bibliographical citation. Ah well.

"http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/9637/moonscal.htm" Silent Wolfs Indian Moons Calendar used to include a list of Lakota Sioux names (see the Black Elk Speaks for a largely similar list above.) This was a nice page which also included an automatic calendar, and several useful links, including a link back to here. (Ah, what a tangled world-wide web we weave!)


Richard Minutillo
contact rgminutillo at fabandpp.org


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