I went swimming the other afternoon with a friend who told me that a few other keen all-year-round sea swimmers were going for a full moon swim the following evening, to celebrate the ‘Worm moon’.
I had never heard that term before, but it makes sense.
I am a keen gardener and this time of year, when digging or turning soil, you will find an unusual number of worms coming to the surface after their winter retreats deeper underground. I am often surprised by how many survive in my water drenched land, so badly you cannot stand on it without sinking down up to four inches in a wet period in winter. I think they must drown, but they do not. It is slowly draining away and drying out as the weather dries and warms up, and the worms are everywhere, thankfully.
For me, to meditate with or upon the moon is a very calming and soothing practice. I can fully understand why the moon has such symbolic spiritual or mystical relevance to so many cultures, as highlighted by its many names. In summer I often wait in the garden until the moon has risen, just to watch the transition from daytime activity to the night creatures, the moths, bats and sometimes the occasional owl. Through out the year there are those nights when the moon light is so bright it is almost daylight yet the colours are softer, more greys, and the shadows are deeper still. To lie on one’s back and watch stars is wonderful too and you can only see the milky way on a moonless night, but I always miss the moon.
March is the end of winter and the birth of spring, sometimes using the equinox and sometimes the beginning of the month to mark the passage of the seasons. It is also my birth month and one which I love in many ways, as a season of new life rising, and March as the first full expression of that with an abundance of cheerful, mostly yellow flowers appearing everywhere, wild primroses, daffodils, celandines, alongside the deep reds of camellias, and the range of colour of hellebores nowadays, including a pale buttery yellow.
Of course this is only true in the northern hemisphere. Friends and family down under are entering autumn, another beautiful season of transition between summer and winter, and another favourite. (OK I like all months, all seasons, for whatever they bring).
So I googled ‘worm moon’ and found that along with worm moon, every single full moon of the year is linked with a natural phenomenon at the same time. Every single own full moon has it’s names, and often multiple names.
As a natural intermittent insomniac, I am well acquainted with the moon and her phases and have written many poems to her (I call moon ‘her’ as I strongly relate to the goddess in her — but I do know she is a lump of space rock too). I love the ethereal quality of full moon light, the outstanding beauty of the moon in all her stages of wax and wane, hanging above us in the night sky. I consider her my friend on my lonely night vigils of awakeness.
I am fascinated now by all these names, multiples for each one. The history of names come from a combination of European, Anglo Saxon, Germanic and native aboriginal American labels attached to their own naming and marking of seasons.
There are thirteen moon cycles in any one year, also known as the lunar calendar, which used to be the dominant one until the solar calendar took precedence, so once a year there are two cycles occurring in the same month. This is called the blue moon, a more rare occurrence, hence once in a blue moon meaning not very often or rarely but not never. It can occur in any month depending on how the days add up against the solar calendar which is our accepted ‘normal’ one.
The march full moon is called the worm moon, as above, but also called Lenten moon, crow moon, crust moon, chaste moon, sugar moon, and sap moon.
Again I get some of these names, the sap/ tree sugar is rising fast, in northern hemisphere only of course, we are in Lent in the Christian calendar, and the crows and other corvids are out and about and building their nests.
We have a large rookery near to us and sometimes I see up to at least a hundred black birds circling above the trees just before dusk falls. Rooks are slightly smaller than crows and always in large groups whereas crows are usually solitary or in mating pairs. We have a crow that lands on our tallest tree every single morning, come rain or wind, and looks around for a while before flying off. We salute him/ her ‘hello morning crow’ every day as we sip our tea and look out of the window at the sky and the tops of the trees.
Crust moon refers to the re-freezing layer of melted water on top of snow, not much of that in the UK though, that is mostly a north American name. Chaste because spring is new and young and apparently chaste, although to my eye there is an awful lot of spring sex going on out there, birds and bees are busy at it everywhere, ensuring their species’ continuation for another year.
Lenten moon is more interesting, the moon cycles are used to predict the dates of Easter in any given year, and thus the full moon before easter is the lent moon, the period of days leading up to Easter. If the full moon cycles led to four moons before easter, the third was also called the blue moon to allow the Lenten moon to fall in the correct place, just before the easter celebration. Next Sunday it is easter Sunday, the first Sunday on spring after the full moon.
Roughly speaking it seems that the following names occur for each month of the year or each moon of the year.
January — wolf moon — do wolves howl at the moon or just sing together, I love listening to the wolves singing on the Wolf Conservation facebook page. They are nocturnal creatures so of course do their chatting and communicating with each other across vast distances by howling, sometimes in unison, which is amazing, a kind of wolf choir. Wolves are also preparing to rear their next litter of pups which they have been gestating for 3–4 months, so they are busy building dens and establishing territories, and letting their friends know where they are. Also called old moon, ice or snow moon, for obvious reasons
February — also snow moon, hunger moon, storm moon and sometimes black moon, when there is no full moon in February and both January and March have two full moons each. This occurs roughly every nineteen years taking leap years into consideration of course. A lunar cycle is roughly 28 days, hence 13 in any given year, but just occasionally they take 29 days, or 30 days and this leaves the last day of January and the first day or March with a full moon each. The last one was 2018 for many places but it’s not always the same everywhere. Black moon can also mean two new moons in a given month, as this is the darkest of her cycles. Hunger moon because this is when for so many subsistence people there is little to eat and the new growth has yet to start once the stored food has run out or gone rotten. It is easy to forget the seasonal hardships our not so long ago ancestors endured and to reognise what we have also lost in that way of life..
March worm etc as above.
April — Pink moon, to do with flowers, creeping phlox flowering at this time of year being pink, mainly. Also called hare moon, mad hares mating season though often called march hares too, depending on which climate zone you are in and how far spring has advanced. Egg moon, my chickens are certainly picking up laying now, and easter eggs too. Grass moon , yes that is growing away now too and fish moon — fish are spawning in April. All lovely seasonal reminders for us to be joyful.
May, corn moon, for sowing seeds, flower moon for the wonderful flush of late spring blossom and flowers everywhere and milk moon, again as the grass grows and the cow’s milk becomes richer, more plentiful, if they are grass grazed that is.
June — strawberry, rose, hot, and mead moons, names which all relate to the events in nature that occur in June. The first flush of strawberries is one of our gardening delights seasonally, and eating seasonally rather than imported or artificially grown is so much better for our environment and means every year it is a treat.
July — buck, thunder, hay, and wort moons. Antlers are emerging everywhere on all kinds of deer, in preparation for the rutting or mating season at the end of summer. Wort, time to gather herbs for healing and storing, drying. Thunder? — not so common in Europe until August or September but perhaps in northern Americas it is their thunder time of year, and certainly it is time for first hay grass cut of the year, though many other grass crops are harvested in august, bringing crops in.
August- north American sturgeon are linked with August, also fruit moon, barley moon, green corn moon and grain moon, following on from July with bringing in the years food harvest before winter sets in. Often the full moon in august is used to work by, to allow the huge task of harvest to be completed, so no food is wasted. In traditional methods of farming this was a very considerable undertaking, with all hands on, hence the long school holidays in august, children too. Everyone had a job or a role to play communally.
September — harvest moon — usually the harvest is completed or just being finished off and a feast is prepared — the harvest supper. Occasionally the harvest moon falls just into the beginning of October though.
October — every few years it is the harvest moon but also the hunters moon, when meat products are being collected and stored for winter too. Dying grass moon relates to the dying grass crops and prairies, or grasslands dying back. Not all species of grass die back in October, but usually you do not have to cut your lawns so often either. Also the travel moon, as the work of the year was over you could make journeys now, with a full moon to guide you on. Blood moon, is more unusual and usually refers to the number of total eclipses visible form any single place on each in a short number of months — up to two years, but can refer to the colour the moon seems to turn sometimes at this time of year.
November — frost moon, mourning moon, or beavers moon, when beavers are busy building or repairing their dams and stocking their larders for winter survival. First frosts are a strong marker of winters arrival and bring their own kind of excitement with them. I love the sight or frost in the morning sunlight glistening until it is melted. A thick hoar frost will not come until January if at all for us, living coastally off the south of UK, though I have visited Canada in winter and the frost and snow there is spectacular, as a visitor, so beautiful if you don’t have to live with it every year.
December, the last ‘month’ as humans view it. Called the cold moon or the long nights moon. We have the least amount of sunlight in December and the winter equinox falls towards the mid end of the month. Also it is our Christmas month, our Yule month, our winter solstice. So much celebration occurs in December, into the New Year, as a way of enjoying this dark month, and facing January which is usually the coldest hardest endurance of the winter season.
I am now even more fascinated by these revelations of moon names and shall reflect on them more deeply. But I wonder what the southern hemisphere moon names are? Ours in reverse perhaps? No they pretty much follow our northern ones, but the aboriginal cultures have their own wonderful rich folklore about the moon, who is mostly viewed as male and the sun female. And there are all the spiritual dimensions to moon too, those wonderful myths and legends which tell us who or what the moon represents to each people.
Another time though I think.