The Moon is the largest and brightest object in our night sky, and Earth’s only natural satellite has enchanted and inspired mankind since time immemorial. Every 29.5 days we are treated to the view of a full moon (weather permitting!) this is when the Moon is completely illuminated by the Sun’s rays. It occurs when Earth is directly between the Sun and the Moon.
Why do full moons have names?
Early Native Americans tribes didn’t record time using months of the calendar year. But instead, to keep track of the seasons and lunar months; they gave each full moon a nickname.
Many of the names relate to events in the natural world or farming that took place at the time. Although names could differ from tribe to tribe. Colonial Americans adopted some of the moon names and applied them to their own calendar system, and they are still often mentioned in relation to farming.
January: Wolf Moon
January was a time of hunger for wild animals such as wolves, as food was scarce and nights were long. Tribes would often hear wolf packs howling in hunger around this time of the year.
Alternative names: Old Moon.
February: Snow Moon
February is the snowiest month in America, hence the name for Snow moon.
Alternative names: Hunger Moon (hunting is hard in snowy weather, so both man and wolf were going hungry in the early months of the year).
March: Worm Moon
Temperatures begin to warm in March, and birds are more active as they are beginning to find food (mostly earthworms).
Alternative names: Sap Moon, Crow Moon and Lenten Moon.
April: Pink Moon
It’s not actually pink sadly, but is named after pink wildflowers, which appear in the US and Canada in early spring.
Alternative names: also known as Egg Moon, due to spring egg-laying season.
This moon is also important because it used to fix our date for Easter, which is always the first Sunday after the Pink Moon appears.
May: Flower Moon
May heralds the beginning of Spring, and flowers and colourful blooms dot the landscape.
Alternative names: Bright Moon, this full moon is known to be one of the brightest.
June: Strawberry Moon
June is the beginning of the strawberry picking season, so the fruit lends its name to one of the prettiest nicknames!
Alternative names: Rose Moon or Hay Moon.
July: Thunder Moon
In honour of summer thunder storms.
August: Sturgeon Moon
August was the best month for Tribes in North America to fish. Especially for Sturgeon.
Alternative names: Grain Moon (grain and corn were gathered in August)
September: Harvest Moon
It’s time for crops to be harvested. This moon also gave light to farmers working through the night.
Alternative names: Barley Moon.
October: Hunter’s Moon
Hunting prey was particlarly important ahead of the lean winter months. The light of this bright moon made visibility a little easier for hunters.
Alternative names: Blood Moon.
November: Frost Moon
The first of the winter frosts begin to arrive.
December: Cold Moon
For those long and dark nights of Winter.
Alternative names: Moon before Yule, Long Nights Moon.
Why is this relevant to yoga?
The moon cycles pop up a lot in Yoga philosophy. And although its up for debate how the moon actually effects us - it is certainly a powerful force, powerful enough to change the ocean tides....
- Both full and new moon days are observed as yoga holidays in the Ashtanga Yoga tradition. Ashtangis suggest that as the moon affects tidal rhythms, and with humans being made up of 70% water, the moon has a similar effect on our internal tides, thus affecting our energy levels, joints, the likelihood of injuries and our emotional life. Also to recognise and honor the rhythms of nature to live in greater harmony with it.
- The Upanishads (early yoga texts) suggest that our main source of Prana/Energy is within our head. During the full moon we tend to be more headstrong.
- In India, the Full Moon is referred to as the ‘Guru Purnima’, the Guru Moon, and is believed to be a profound source of wisdom.
- In Buddhist culture there is great significance lent to the Full Moon. The Buddha is said to have been born, renounced his householder status, gained Enlightenment and died all on a Full Moon, and thus the Full Moon has long been felt to be an auspicious time for meditative practices.
- The word ‘Hatha’ in Sanskrit — the name for all physical forms of yoga is made up of ‘ha’ meaning sun, ‘tha’ meaning moon- suggesting the practice of Hatha Yoga is innately linked to both.