Different cultures have different names for the full moons of the year, and January’s is called anything from Wolf Moon to Snow Moon to Winter Moon to Moon of the Terrible.
But the moon that rose over Lake Geneva last night, caught here as we drove across Mont Blanc Bridge, was nothing so fearsome as to warrant its usual names.
This was a soft Gumdrop Moon, one day before it waxes full, shining above in pastel skies and reflected in the lake below.
Moonrise over Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
Today dawned a thin pale sky against a white landscape, the kind of winter day which is hard to tell from any other, and where the hours from dawn to dusk look much the same. I was thinking that if I didn’t have a clock and a calendar, I wouldn’t have any idea where I was between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, except that it’s still winter. If I didn’t have a clock, I wouldn’t be able to mark how short the days are. If I didn’t have a calendar, instead of being panicked at how quickly February is passing in relation to how slowly my work is done, I might be curled in a limbo of quiet hope that spring will come again, preferably soon.
And that got me thinking about calendars and time-keeping in oral cultures and other places. And that’s how I came across one kind of calendar that crossed many cultures, each with different names. The lunar calendar, of course. Now, it’s a few days past the most recent new moon, but then, I’m chronically late, so that’s just about right. So today I am dedicating a post to the moon and the names we use for it when it is fat, full and bright in February. This particular year, the February moon will shine at its fattest on February 25, at 21:26 Greenwich Mean Time.
It’s been said that writing was invented to make lists, and to me the names of this month’s moons says quite a bit about what other cultures think (or thought) about February. Here is my (incomplete and non-academic) list of February moon names across various cultures:
Trapper’s Moon – Colonial America
Bony Moon – Cherokee
Little Hunger Moon – Choctaw
Snow Moon – Algonquin tribes
Moon of the Raccoon / Moon When Trees Pop – Dakotah Sioux
Moon of Ice – Gaelic
Storm Moon – English Medieval
Budding Moon – Chinese
Magh Purnima – Hindu (an auspicious day for a sacred and purifying bath, if I understand correctly)
I would certainly welcome the addition of any Full Moon names from other languages/times/cultures, especially those from the Southern Hemisphere.