For centuries, the Moon has been revered by many different cultures. Our nearest satellite in space, only 238,000 miles away from Earth, the Moon can significantly influence our mood, enchanting us with its changeable shape and pearly light.
This beautiful, iridescent light does not come from the Moon, but from other objects as the Moon produces no visible light of its own. Its main source of light is the Sun, followed by light from the reflection of Earth and distant stars.
When the side of the Moon we can see from Earth is fully illuminated by the Sun, the Moon appears in full and is referred to as a ‘Full Moon’. When the far side of the Moon — the side we don’t see from Earth — is receiving sunlight instead, the side facing Earth is totally unlit, giving the impression that there is no moon.
This is known as the ‘New Moon’.
The Moon travels around Earth in a circle called an orbit. It takes approximately 27 days to go all the way around the Earth and return to its starting position. The Moon orbit around the Earth is in the shape of a slightly squashed circle known as an ellipse.
From a New Moon to the next one, the Moon changes shape depending on how much of its surface is being lit by the Sun and can be seen from Earth. The Moon takes eight different shapes, which are called phases, based on whether the Moon is growing (waxing) or shrinking (waning).
The Moon takes 29.5 days to go through all its phases and complete a whole cycle. This cycle is called a lunar month.
The eight phases of a moon cycle are:
The Moon phases have a strong influence on the sea tides and rainfall, a source of an abundance of life. In ancient civilisations the Moon was as a goddess, symbolising fertility and femininity. They saw a connection between the Moon and the female menstrual cycle. The Moon grows large as in pregnancy when it is Full and shrinks again to maidenly slenderness at the New Moon – linking to both human and animal pregnancy and birth.
In astrology and some forms of art, the Moon represents the Mother figure, our feminine self and emotional side.
Over history, there have been associations between the Moon phases and having an unbalanced state of mind that can lead to temporary signs of unusual behaviour. The word ‘lunacy’ derives from the Latin word ‘luna’ for Moon. ‘Lunatic’ therefore means to be ‘Moonstruck’ and is frequently related to the phase of the Full Moon.
The Full Moon phase is, without doubt, the most captivating one. Ancient cultures used the Moon cycle as a method to keep track of the passing year and determine the best times for hunting, planting and harvesting. They gave Full Moons names based on the behaviour of the plants, animals, or weather during that particular month. Although these names varied from culture to culture, these are the more popular ones:
The name of Worm Moon was mainly used by native American tribes to refer to the worm trails that would appear in the newly thawed ground. The March full Moon is also named Chaste Moon, Death Moon, Crust Moon (referring to snow that would become crusty as it thawed during the day and froze at night), and Sap Moon when the sap weeps from the maple trees.
The Northern Native American cultures associate the Pink Moon with rebirth and renewal as we come into the spring season and early blooming wildflower. In other cultures, this Moon is called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon.
May is the month when nature is in bloom, so many cultures used the name Flower Moon to refer to the magnificent abundance of blossoming flowers during this time of the year. The May Moon is also named the Hare Moon, the Corn planting Moon, and the milk Moon.
For Europeans, the June Moon is known as the Rose Moon as it coincides with the flowering of roses. Native North Americans, however, refer to it as the Strawberry Moon to mark the time for the harvesting of strawberries. Other cultures named it the Hot Moon for the beginning of the summer heat.
This is the first full moon of the summer. In Native American cultures, it relates to the time of the year when the male deer antlers begin to regrow. Other names include Thunder Moon, depicting summer storms, and Hay Moon, after the July hay harvest.
The Sturgeon was in abundance in North American waters and was very important to tribal survival. The August Full Moon brought a plentiful harvest, hence its name. Other cultures call it the Green Corn Moon, the Grain Moon, and the red Moon for the reddish hue it often takes on in the summer haze.
September’s Full Moon is best-known as its name derives from the gathering of crops, which takes place after the autumn equinox at the end of the summer season. The name also refers to the Moon's particularly bright appearance and early rise, which favours farmers as they can continue harvesting into the night. Other popular names include the Corn Moon and the Barley Moon.
While the September Moon brings the crops, the October Moon secures meat for the winter. October was the preferred month to hunt for summer well-fed deer and fox. Like the Harvest Moon, the Hunter Moon is also distinctively bright and long in the sky, allowing hunters to stalk prey at night. This moon is also known as the Travel Moon and the Dying Grass Moon.
As its name indicates, the November Moon was named Beaver because this is the time of the year when beavers build their winter dams. Others think that it refers to the setting of beaver traps. It has also been called Frost Moon.
As December marks the coming of winter, this Moon is known as the Cold Moon as the night get long and the temperatures drop. Other names include the Long Night Moon and the Oak Moon.
I wonder where the saying 'Once in a Blue Moon' came from!
Yes, rare and not very often do we get a Blue Moon.
A Blue Moon has nothing to do with its colour. The name is derived to name an extra full moon which is big and bright that occurs every two and a half years.
Because the phases of the Moon take 29.5 days to complete, each year the Moon completes its final cycle about 11 days before Earth finishes its orbit around the sun. These days add up, and every two and a half years or so, there are 13 full Moons in the year, with two falling in the same month.
Then approximately every 19 years, there is no full moon at all in February. This is one of several definitions of the term Black Moon. The other definitions refer to a new Moon which does not fit in with the equinoxes or solstices, similar to a Blue Moon.
For me, the Moon continues to be a source of fascination. With her multiple phases and mysterious energy that releases or suppresses emotions, the Moon plays a significant role in the rhythm of nature. A constant companion to the circle of life.