Happy Full Moon!
Just don't call it the The Harvest Moon, or The Hunter’s Moon. Or at least don't if you just saw that online and decided it sounded cool. Back in the good old Lunar calendar days of...well, most of human history, Moons did in fact have names. But those names were unique to the place, people, bio-region and time that brought them about. A lot of the current "moon names" that float around on the internet (in English) and in new age guides, are a mix of Anglo-Saxon/ Celtic/ British isle and (often misappropriated) indigenous Turtle Island traditions.
Does it matter that we wish each other “Happy Harvest Moon!” on insta if the only harvest many of us bring in these days is Pumpkin Spice Lattes and candy corn? Maybe not, but sometimes I think the one vestige of Old Ways regularly popping up in the modern world is in “seasonal living” of foods, decorations and endless social media odes to crips fall leaves. Any old tradition that survives contains something important. Being in tune to shifting seasons, and performing seasonal rituals seems to have stuck with us through the invention all the modern conveniences that erase time: lights, exotic fruit throughout the year, air-conditioning, central heating, accuracy of atomic clocks, and working set hours no matter the season.
I wrote I bit about how each place on Earth had it’s own seasonal Moons and Moon traditions in my piece for Sarah Gottessdiener's Many Moons 2019. For instance, “Harvest Moon” in the British Isles traditions can be either in September or October depending on the year, and in Scandinavian traditions it is in August, because that’s when we bring in the harvest in our climate.
In some languages, like Finnish, months are actually still directly tied to Moons. This month, for instance is called Lokakuu- it has the poetic ancient meaning of “the dirty-slush moon”, because let’s face it: things get pretty wet and grime-y in that part of the world this time of year. If we look at the etymology of the names of the months in English, “October” comes from ”Octo”, meaning 8th month, because it was the 8th month in the Roman Calendar, which began in March. That word came to English likely through colonization influence. It replaced the old English: Winterfylleð meaning…”winter full moon”!
This aligns with the old Finnish cycle of the year, where October 13th-15th we’re The Nights of Winter, marking a turn of the eight traditional seasons.
Living seasonally, tied to the Moon, the frost, the winds, it makes sense that the seasons turned gradually. In this time we turned from Fall-Winter to Winter proper. Folks began to stay closer to the hearth, work in the barnyard, in the house, but also look for the signs of the beginning of the hunting season. Incidentally, one way to know if the hunting season had started was to keep an eye on the changing of the squirrels pelts. The old folk would not hunt them ‘till they had their silvery winter coats.
Where I live now, there is no “dirty-slush” in October. I’m sure the many different Coast Salish people who’s land this is had and have very accurate, descriptive and relational names for this Moon cycle. Not having good knowledge of those (yet! because I can always learn, unlearn and relearn) I have for years kept my own little Moon calendar, as well as a nature journal. That calendar is shifting now, because even though we’ve only moved a half a mile, some signs are different in a Pine and Willow forest, than a Cedar and Fir forest. Still, this month of “October”, to me is the Month of Hawthorn and Rose hips, the Month of Madrone Berries, the Month of Midnight Owl Calls, the Month of Mushrooms, and the Month of Spiders Moving Into Houses. Some years, it’s the Month of The Second Newt Migration.
The cyclical nature of these events is not tied to dates, or astrology, though they encompass both months and skies, and in these changing times they may not even be tied to a particular Moon. My observation of them, is tied to a relationship. One between me and what surrounds me. My little knowing of the weathers, the fruits, the other beings. It is the unlearning of calendars, and peeling back the layers of language. It is the knowledge that what is revealed is both new and ancient. Just like The Moon.
What Moon is this for you and yours?
Tell me all about your observations, practices and weathers where you live, or where you come from.
Notes: Finnfolks Taivaannaula.org was a source for this post, and has lots of awesome traditional seasonal info. I’ve read through their archives over the years and they have some stuff in English, particularly about old calendars <3