Full Moon Names: Rewilding your calendar

After posting my first full moon post for 2008, I realized that I should probably devote a post to the whole concept naming the full moons and take a look at the different methods you can use to do so.

The business of keeping track of the names for each full moon varies according to the source you go by. The names used by the Farmer’s Almanac (probably the most popular source on the matter) originated with the Algonquin tribes of the northeastern United States. However, the system that has come about for determining which moon gets which name has changed over the years.

Basically, two primary methods exist. The easiest one to wrap your brain around involves assigning a moon’s name based on what month it occurs in. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call this the monthly method. In this method, if you want to talk about the full moon in January, you would call it the Wolf Moon. For the full moon in June, you would call it the Strawberry Moon. If you happen to have two moons in the same month, you would call the second one a Blue Moon. The monthly method works in a really straightforward way, but it has its limitations in terms of rewilding, as we will see later.

The second method — we’ll call this one the seasonal method — divides the year up into seasons (like we already do, based on the equinoxes and solstices) and gives the names to the moons based on whether they come first, second or last in the season. In this method the Snow Moon, for instance, would apply to the second full moon in winter, regardless of whether it happened to fall in the month of February or January. The seasonal method also has its own way of dealing with Blue Moons. If you have four full moons in the same season, then you call the third one a Blue Moon — so that the order of first, second and last still apply to the other moons in the season.

It just so happens that in 2008, the two systems do not coincide for the first part of the year. The first full moon in January (the Wolf Moon, according to the monthly method) appears as the second full moon of winter (the Snow Moon, according to the seasonal method.) Later this year, after the Blue Moon (seasonal method) in May, the two methods will coincide again.

Why the differing methods? Why does it matter? What will this mean for you as a rewilding post-apocalyptic survivor?

As for the first question, I would wager that the seasonal method originated first. Whether you look at the moons names used by North American aboriginals or by pagan agrarians in Europe, they probably charted their years by the seasons before they ever even heard of calendars. But in our modern world, the seasonal markers fall as quasi-holidays in our understanding of the year, whereas the arbitrary divisions of months feel far more concrete in our minds.

As for why it matters: Well, imagine yourself eking out a hunter-gatherer lifestyle after the crash of civilization. Calendars will probably lose their meaning not too long after the last printed calendar becomes obsolete — or after the last digital watch battery dies. In a world without watches and computers and wall calendars and date books to tell us what to call each part of the year, how will we cope? We’ll have to do what people used to do: pay attention to the seasons. We’ll have to notice when the jonquils pop up, when the bucks shed their velvet, when the salmon flood the streams, when sounds of the cicada overwhelm the night.

Something that has held true for as long as humans have cared to notice: four days out of every year stand apart. One night in winter lasts longer than any other night of the year. One day in summer lasts longer than any other day of the year. And in between the two, you find two days where the daylight and the dark balance each other perfectly.

But without watches, how will we measure night and day? We won’t have to. We may not even need to. Our bodies may naturally attune themselves to the cycles. But other clues can tell us how to note the longest day and the longest night. Just as the amount of light and dark wax and wane with the seasons, the sun’s rising and setting points along the horizon march to and from the same spots every year. We may marvel at the celestial ingenuity of the architects that devised Stonehenge, but in truth, a couple posts in the ground can do the same trick. Stone lasts longer than wood, though, so you may want to upgrade your operating system at some point.

In short, for the rewilding survivor of the crash of civilization, I recommend the seasonal method. I personally don’t care as much about delineating June from July as much as I care about strawberries and buck deer.

Also, don’t forget that these systems I have laid out here originated in a specific bioregion (the land of “the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior”1), so they may not inform you much as to the yearly happenings in your own bioregion. Maybe you live closer to the equator where snow and wolves don’t come into the picture. Maybe you live in the southern hemisphere where the seasons look like the polar opposite of the ones the Algonquins experienced. In that case, I challenge you to figure out something that works for where you live. Check out this website to see how different Native American peoples referred to the full moons of the year, or take a look at this site to see full moon names from other sources. Finally, simply observe the world around you and how it changes throughout the annual cycle.

Now that we have covered the difference between the methods and why it matters, let’s look at the systems themselves, and see how they affect the moon names this year (2008).

The Seasonal Method

  • Winter (starting on the Winter Solstice)
    1. Wolf Moon
    2. Snow Moon
    3. Worm moon
  • Spring (starting on the Vernal Equinox)
    1. Pink Moon
    2. Flower Moon
    3. Strawberry Moon
  • Summer (starting on the Summer Solstice)
    1. Buck Moon
    2. Sturgeon Moon
    3. Harvest Moon
  • Autumn (starting on the Autumnal Equinox)
    1. Hunter’s Moon
    2. Beaver Moon
    3. Cold Moon

2008 Full Moon Names

(As indicated on AstroPlanet)

The Monthly Method

(According to the Farmer’s Almanac)

Since no Blue Moons occur according to the Monthly Method this year, the 2008 moons line up perfectly with the following standard.

  • January – Wolf Moon
  • February – Snow Moon
  • March – Worm Moon
  • April – Pink Moon
  • May – Flower Moon
  • June – Strawberry Moon
  • July – Buck Moon
  • August – Sturgeon Moon
  • September – Harvest Moon
  • October – Hunter’s Moon
  • November – Beaver Moon
  • December – Cold Moon

Resources:

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by jhereg on 02/01/2008 at 7:37 am

    very cool

    i used to be much more attuned to the phases of the moon. i think i need to start getting that back.

    i looked up the Shawnee names (they should be a good fit for my area) i like how many of them coincide with some sort of food (sap, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, pawpaw)

    thanks for getting me thinking about this!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Rix on 02/01/2008 at 4:46 pm

    i like those Shawnee food-related names too.

    i actually never thought about it until i read your comment, but i have already started rewilding my sense of calendar by trying to get a feel for fruiting phenology. in new york i found it easy to remember the ripening of the raspberries in June by the Gay Pride Parade (see The Morningsider 2/4: The Last Sunday in June). and this year i realized the coincidence of the male cattail flower ripening with the summer solstice (see Cat on the cob).

    as a fun idea, somebody could come up with a completely food-related moon calendar. you could call april’s moon the Fiddlehead Moon.

    I present the Shawnee Moon Name Calendar below with blanks for someone to fill in with food-related names for the rest of the months, if someone wants to take the bait. (Obviously, the ones already named with food names in the Shawnee calendar mark the easier ones to give food names too.)

    January – ?
    February – ?
    March – Sap Moon
    April – Fiddlehead Moon
    May – Strawberry Moon
    June – Raspberry Moon
    July – Blackberry Moon
    August – Plum Moon
    September – Papaw Moon
    October – ?
    November – ?
    December – ?

    Reply

  3. Posted by Rix on 02/05/2008 at 2:05 pm

    Check out the conversation on this topic over at the REWILD.info forum: Rewilding you calendar: Full Moon Names

    Reply

  4. […] (according to the seasonal method) or the Full Worm Moon (according to the monthly method — see Full Moon Names: Rewilding your calendar for an explanation of the different […]

    Reply

  5. […] (according to the seasonal method) or the Full Pink Moon (according to the monthly method — see Full Moon Names: Rewilding your calendar for an explanation of the different […]

    Reply

  6. […] or not.  some folks (like myself) still use this system today.  As I explained in Full Moon Names: Rewilding your calendar, you basically have two systems to choose from for determining how to name the full moons: the […]

    Reply

  7. Posted by Twisted Pixie on 07/07/2008 at 9:18 pm

    Hey, i was wondering what the neo pagan names for the full moons are for the southern hemisphere?

    Reply

  8. Posted by Rix on 07/07/2008 at 9:56 pm

    Twisted Pixie,

    Having never dipped below the equator, I couldn’t begin to guess. Although, at the very least, you could slide the northern hemisphere names over by 6 months and see how well they fare that way.

    Do you have snow in August? Call it the Snow Moon.
    Do you have strawberries in December? Call it the Strawberry Moon.

    But as moon naming varies from bio-region to bio-region, I encourage you to get to know the natural occurrences where you live and make up names appropriate to the happenings in your area.

    Reply

  9. […] you recall the question of moon names from previous posts, you might like this very good explanation of the two different systems for naming the full moon. That is, whatever actual name you choose to […]

    Reply

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