Full Moon Names

Last week I heard the full moon referred to as the Beaver moon.  In the past, I have heard the term Strawberry Moon, and I started to wonder at the origin and meaning of these names. The moon, its beauty, its soothing, eternal presence in the dark night sky, has fascinated almost every culture from time immemorial. But it has also served a purpose as the timekeeper of the world. Before there was a Gregorian or a Julian calendar, the moon with its recurring 28 day cycle helped people keep track of time.  While different cultures have given different names to the moon, many of the full moon names we hear nowadays have come from Native Americans who kept track of the time using the phases of the moon. The tribes named the full moons to coincide with the activity or events that occurred at that time in North America, and these names were later adopted by Colonial Americans.

Wolf Moon (image courtesy Old Farmer’s Almanac)

The January full moon is called the Wolf Moon for the wolf that howled from hunger because of the shortage of food during this midwinter month.  The full moon of the cold snowy month of February was called Snow Moon.  As the winter subsided in March, and the tribes saw trails of worms on the newly thawed earth, they called the full moon at this time the Worm Moon. As the harsh winter ended, a pink wildflower bloomed n the prairies and meadows across the continent giving the April full moon its name, the Pink Moon. May brought warmth and flowers in abundance and its full moon was called the Flower Moon. The strawberry harvest season gave the June full moon its beautiful name – Strawberry Moon. 

Buck Moon (image Old Farmer’s Almanac)

In July the male deer starts to regrow his antlers, and this gave the July full moon its name, the Buck Moon.  By August, the lakes were full of sturgeons and gave the full moon their name, Sturgeon Moon. September was harvest time and corn was the most abundant crop harvested, hence the name Corn Moon.  In October, the tribes prepared for winter and hunted deer and fox by the light of the bright and low October moon which they called the Hunter’s Moon.  In November, the intrepid beavers built dams on the rivers to get ready for winter, and the Native Americans who saw this annual activity called the full moon the Beaver Moon. Another explanation for this name is that it was the last few days for the tribes to trap beavers for their fur that would tide them through the upcoming winter.    And finally the December full moon is called the Cold Moon in response to the cold weather that gripped the region in December.

Full Moon Names (image Old Farmer’s Almanac)

How absolutely amazing is this? And what an incredible connection between nature and man. It speaks of the strong connection that Native Americans had with their land, with the animals they shared this land with, and with all of the nature that surrounded them. When we say the names of the moon – they are simply names because we don’t need them to mark the passage of time.  But for Native Americans in years past, the Worm Moon must have brought so much excitement – the cold winter was ending, the earth was warming up, soon there would be long sunny days, the meadows would be full of wildflowers, and trees would finally start to bear fruit.  The Hunter’s Moon would have given them time to prepare and hunt for the cold months ahead.  It seems incredible to be so in tune and in touch with nature.  With progress and change we lose things, and this has to be one the saddest things to lose – that oneness with nature, that awareness of the earth, its animals, and its bounty.