The Native American Full Moon names date back to when Native Americans lived in what is now the northern and eastern United States.
The Algonquin Full Moon names, and variations used by many other Native American tribes, are poetically descriptive of the seasons and of nature’s gifts. The indigenous people kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring Full Moon.
The names they had for the Full Moons are related to nature and the seasons, hunting, fishing, and farming. They also reflect the harsh climate of the Northern parts of the continent, and the traditions and lifestyle of its first people.
January – The Wolf Moon
The Wolf Moon is the first Full Moon of the year, when we are taking the first step into the year guided by the spirit of the Wolf. January was called the Wolf Moon by the Algonquians because the wolves are out in the deep snows and under the bright light of the Full Moon this time of year, searching for pray to slake their hunger.
Arapaho of the Great Plains called the January Full Moon “When Snow Blows Like Spirits In The Wind”, Passamaquoddy “Whirling Wind Moon”, the Haida of Alaska called it “Bear Hunting Moon” and the Zuni of the Southwest, “When Limbs Of Trees Are Broken By Snow”.
Even nowadays the wolves’ howling is associated with the moon. Just like the wolf who is designed to handle the brutality of the cold very well, so can we use the resourcefulness of the wolf to go for what we want, with all force and without fear. January is that time of the year to start again and tune into the cycles of nature.
February – The Snow Moon
The Snow Moon marks the time of the year when in the northeastern regions the heaviest of snows fall. Because the tribes had now more time to spend inside their homes, the Snow Moon was a time for rituals, fasting and personal purification. Ancestors are now honored by passing on their stories to the younger generations.
Hunting becomes very difficult, that’s why some other Native American tribes called the February Full Moon the Hunger Moon. Other references to the weather were made by the Arapaho who called it “Frost Sparkling In The Sun”. To the Lakota, February was the “Moon When The Trees Crack Because Of The Cold;” and to the Wishram of Washington and Oregon, “Shoulder To Shoulder Around The Fire Moon.”
February is a great time to spend time in family or in the community and share stories and pass on the traditions. And although snow is still abundant this time of the year, February brings with it the hope that Spring is not far.
March – The Worm Moon
March was called the Worm Moon because earthworms start to surface at this time of the year, signaling the end of winter and the start of spring. The ground begins to soften and with the reappearance of earthworms, the birds return to their homes.
Other names reflected the springtime activity of the birds and animals – for the Arapaho, March was “Buffalo Dropping Their Calves,” for the Omaha it was “Moon When Geese Come Home,” and for the Haida it was the “Noisy Goose Moon.”
March brings the Spring Equinox and the official start of the year. Now is the time to celebrate nature’s rebirth and to free oneself from anything that hinders progress.
April – The Pink Moon
The Pink Moon symbolizes the sprouting of seed and the explosion of pink flowers – the moss pink, or the wild ground phlox was one of the first flowers to bloom with the arrival of the spring.
For the Abenaki, the April Full Moon was the “Sugar Maker Moon” to the Arapaho, “Ice Breaking In The River” the Cheyenne called it “Moon When The Geese Lay Eggs” and the Cree of the Northern Plains and Canada, “Gray Goose Moon”.
Now that spring is fully here, it is time to spend time in the nature and listen to the wisdom the plants and animals have to impart.
May – The Flower Moon
In May the fields are covered with flowers and the whole world explodes in color, showing the beauty of the Great Spirit. The legends says that flowers dance in the meadows under the light of the Full Moon at this time of the year.
The Apache called May “Season When The Leaves Are Green” the Cheyenne, “Moon When The Horses Get Fat” the Choctaw, “Mulberry Moon”.
May is a good time to focus on relationships and commitments, both in spirit and love. When preparing for commitment, asking the Creator and the ancestors to provide blessings and guidance can be especially helpful right now.
June – The Strawberry Moon
June is the time to pick strawberries, now at their ripest and fullest flavor and juice. It is said that picking them by moonlight will insure bigger bounty next season.
In the summer months families used to camp near a lake or river. References to the bounty of nature were made by the Choctaw who called the Full Moon of June “Blackberry Moon” and by Lakota “Moon When The Berries Are Good.” Animal activity was also mentioned by Potawatomi who called June “Moon Of The Turtle” and the Omaha, who called it “When The Buffalo Bulls Hunt The Cows”.
June is mid-year, so it’s a great time to review what we have already done, and to plan for what’s left to do.
July – The Buck Moon
July was called the Buck Moon because the bucks grow new antlers at this time of year. By July, the bucks start rubbing their fully-grown antlers against trees to rub off the dead velvet material which covered them while growing (in winter and spring).
This full Moon was also known as the Thunder Moon, because thunderstorms are frequent during this month. The Sioux of the Great Plains called the July Full Moon “Red Blooming Lilies Moon” the Winnebago of the Great Lakes, “Corn-Popping Moon;” the Wishram, “Salmon Go Up Rivers In A Group Moon” and the Zuni, “When Limbs Of Trees Are Broken By Fruit”.
July is the month when our physical strength reaches its peak, therefore it is a good time to build or repair something around the house. It is not only our body that is stronger than ever. July is also a good time to opt to go for a vision quest or strengthen our spirit by fasting or participating to a sweat lodge ceremony.
August – The Sturgeon Moon
The Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes was most easily caught during this Full Moon, hence they called the Full Moon in August the “Sturgeon Moon”..
The Assiniboine of the Northern Plains called the August Full Moon “Black Cherries Moon” the Ponca, “Corn Is In The Silk Moon;” and the Shawnee, “Plum Moon”
Just like rivers are filled with schools of fish, providing nourishment for the body, our Spirit is ready now to receive the abundance that it deserves.
September – The Corn Moon
September marked the time of the year when corn was approaching harvest. The Native Americans used the luminosity of the moon – now bright than ever – to harvest their bounty. The Corn Moon was the best time to finish all the harvest chores.
The Cherokee who called it “Nut Moon” in reference to the harvest, while the month’s natural changes were mentioned by the Assiniboine who called September “Yellow Leaf Moon”, the Cheyenne called it “Crying Grass Moon” while the Omaha “Moon When The Deer Paw The Earth”.
The harvesting of the crop is a good metaphor for harvesting one’s sprit. September’s Full Moon is a good time to clean and clear up any issues in one’s life. Rituals to invite forgiveness and healing of old wounds are especially beneficial now.
October – The Hunters Moon
October represents the onset of prime hunting season. Now that the deer are fattened, it is time to hunt and store provisions for the long winter ahead. After the fields have been reaped, hunters can see more easily the animals, which have come out to glean the fields.
Other Native American names for October reflect cooler temperatures and leaf shedding: for the Abenaki, October Full Moon was “Leaf Falling Moon” for the Cheyenne, “Water Begins To Freeze On Edge Of Streams Moon” for the Cree, “Moon The Birds Fly South”.
The Hunters Moon is a reminder to take care of our body and spirit and prepare it for the cold winter ahead. This is a good time to align ourselves with the nature and conduct rituals to find your personal animal guide or totem.
November – The Beaver Moon
For both the colonists and the Algonquin tribes, this was the time of the year to set beaver traps, to ensure a supply of warm furs for the winter.
Most other Native American names make reference to the increasingly cold temperatures: the Choctaw called the November Full Moon “Frost Moon” the Comanche, “Heading To Winter Moon” the Abenaki, “Freezing River Maker Moon” the Creek of the Southeast, “Moon When The Water Is black with Leaves” and the Wishram, “Snowy Mountains In The Morning Moon”.
November is a wonderful time to look for protection from whatever interferes with our spiritual evolution. The meditative atmosphere of the month and the clarity the Full Moon brings, favor a better understanding of our subconscious thoughts and dreams, and invite us to believe in them as if they were real. The Beaver Full Moon also gives us the diligence to stick to our goals.
December – The Cold Moon
Coming full circle, we find ourselves again in the realm of winter. This is the month of some of the coldest, longest and darkest nights.
The December Full Moon is also known as “Big Winter Moon” by Choctaw, or “Sun Has Traveled Home To Rest Moon” by the Zuni. The Cheyenne called December “Moon When The Wolves Run Together” and the Winnebago, “Big Bear’s Moon”.
In the cold temperatures in December the fires are blazing day and night. Surrounded by the warmth of family and of our community, we are reminded once again that we are not alone as the year comes to a close.