In February, the full moon was so bright that when I got up in the middle of the night and looked outside, I thought my neighbors had installed new exterior lighting between their house and ours. I didn’t realize till the next day that it was only the moon illuminating our yards.

Centuries ago, Native American tribes gave names to the full moons; this helped them to keep track of the changing seasons. Although these names varied somewhat across the country, most tribes in the eastern part of the United States used the nomenclature that follows. Other cultures, such as those in Colonial America, China and New Guinea, and those of the Celts and the Neo Pagans, named the full moon as well. A sampling of these is also provided. While by and large, more standardized calendar systems are now in use, in some traditions these names for the full moon are still employed today.

January was known as the Wolf Moon, in honor of the hungry wolf packs that prowled Native American villages at night, searching for food amid the cold and snow of midwinter. Other names include the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule. The Celts call it the Moon of Ice. This year the Wolf Moon was January 25 (5:32 a.m.).

February was known as the Snow Moon, since the heaviest snows generally fell in this month. Another common name was the Hunger Moon, or the Bony Moon, because by February hunting was difficult and food had become scarce. This year the Snow Moon was February 23 (11:54 p.m.).

March was the Worm Moon, in tribute to the worm casts that appeared as the earth began to thaw. Other names included the Crow Moon, because of the return of cawing crows, the Crust Moon, describing the texture of the snow as it melted and refroze each day, and the Sap Moon, as it was time to tap maple trees for sugar. This year’s Worm Moon was on March 25 (3:58 p.m.). The Chinese call this the Sleepy Moon.

April was known as the Pink Moon, for wild ground phlox, a pink wildflower that tends to be among the earliest spring blooms to emerge. Other names for April’s full moon included the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon, as April is spawning time for migratory fish like shad and herring. This year the Pink Moon will be fullest on April 24 (5:06 a.m.) The Dakota Sioux called this the Moon When Geese Return in Scattered Formation.

May was known as the Flower Moon, due to the abundance of wild flowers. Other names often used included Corn Planting Moon and Milk Moon. This year’s Flower Moon is May 23 (3:18 p.m.).

June was the Strawberry Moon, the time to harvest wild strawberries. We’ll see the Strawberry Moon, which the Celtic call the Moon of Horses, on June 21 (11:14 p.m.).

July was the Buck Moon, as deer bucks sprouted new antlers at this time. As thunderstorms were typical in July, this was also the time for the Thunder Moon, as well as the Hay Moon. The Buck Moon this year is July 21 (6:00 a.m.). Neo Pagans and Colonial Americans called this the Rose Moon.

August was the Sturgeon Moon. Among the tribes of the Great Lakes, this large fish was most abundant in late summer. The full moon of August was also known as the Red Moon, the Fruit Moon, the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon. Colonial Americans called it the Dog Days Moon. This year’s Sturgeon Moon will be August 19 (12:53 p.m.).

September was known as the Harvest Moon, as most of the time it occurred closest to the autumn equinox. Harvest involved long working days, and this bright moon gave Native American farmers light to work by after the sun had set. Popular crops among Native American tribes included corn, pumpkins, squash, beans and wild rice, all of that were ready to be harvested at this time. Watch for the Harvest Moon, also known as the Nut Moon, or the Moon When The Calves Grow Hair, on September 17 (9:01 p.m.).

October was the Hunter’s Moon. Animal food sources such as deer had grown fat and prime for hunting. Also, with agricultural fields cleared, it was easier to track smaller game such as fox and turkey. We’ll see the Hunter’s Moon, which the Dakota Sioux call the Moon When Quilling and Beading is Done, on October 17 (7:14 a.m.).

November was known as the Beaver Moon, either because this was the time to set beaver traps and collect their valuable fur, or because beaver could be observed preparing for winter. Some tribes called this the Frosty Moon, the Sassafras Moon, or the Trading Moon. To the Chinese it is the White Moon, while the Celts call it the Dark Moon. White or dark, this year it’s on November 15 (7:58 p.m.).

December was the Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon. Winter had set in, so nights were long and cold. Other names included Christmas (Colonial American), Bitter (Chinese), and Rain & Wind Moon (New Guinea). This year it will fall on December 4 (7:32 p.m.).

Sources: Farmer’s Almanac

By Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, Correspondent
March 2006

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.