Native American and other traditional names for full Moons
Native American and other traditional names for full Moons
March 10, 2019
Colleen Quinnell, The Old Farmer's Almanac
Historically, Native American and other traditional names for full Moons were used to track the seasons. Think of them as “nicknames” for the Moon! See Full Moon names for each month of the year and their meanings.
The Full Moon Names we use in The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from Native American tribes, Colonial Americans, or other traditional North American names passed down through generations. (Note that each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred.)
Click on the linked names below for our monthly Full Moon Guides and see our Full Moon Calendar to find out the date of the next full Moon!
|January||Full Wolf Moon||Wolves tended to howl more often at this time. This Moon has also been called the Cold Moon and the Spirit Moon.|
|February||Full Snow Moon||This heaviest snows fall in February. This Moon has also been called the Hunger Moon.|
|March||Full Worm Moon||The ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This has also been called the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.|
|April||Full Pink Moon||This full Moon heralded the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox—one of the first spring flowers. It has also been called the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon.|
|May||Full Flower Moon||Flowers spring forth in abundance this month. This has also been called the Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.|
|June||Full Strawberry Moon||In the Colonial areas, this was a time to gather ripening strawberries. It has also been called the Rose Moon and the Hot Moon.|
|July||Full Buck Moon||At this time, a buck’s antlers are in full growth mode. This full Moon has also been called the Thunder Moon, because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month.|
|August||Full Sturgeon Moon||The sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this full Moon. This has also been called the Green Corn Moon.|
|September||Full Corn Moon||This full Moon corresponds with the time of harvesting corn. It has also called the Barley Moon, because it is the time to harvest and thresh the ripened barley. (See note below regarding the “Harvest Moon” timing.)|
|October||Full Hunter’s Moon||This is the month when the leaves are falling and the game is fattened. Now is the time for hunting and laying in a store of provisions for the long winter ahead. October’s Moon has also called the Travel Moon and the Dying Moon.|
|November||Full Beaver Moon||For both the colonists and local tribes, this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. This full Moon has also called the Frost Moon.|
|December||Full Cold Moon||This is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. This full Moon has also been called the Long Nights Moon.|
Why Native Americans Named the Moons
The early Native Americans did not record time by using the months of the Julian or Gregorian calendar. Many tribes kept track of time by observing the seasons and lunar months, although there was much variability. For some tribes, the year contained 4 seasons and started at a certain season, such as spring or fall. Others counted 5 seasons to a year. Some tribes defined a year as 12 Moons, while others assigned it 13. Certain tribes that used the lunar calendar added an extra Moon every few years, to keep it in sync with the seasons.
Each tribe that did name the full Moons (and/or lunar months) had its own naming preferences. Some would use 12 names for the year while others might use 5, 6, or 7; also, certain names might change the next year. A full Moon name used by one tribe might differ from one used by another tribe for the same time period, or be the same name but represent a different time period. The name itself was often a description relating to a particular activity/event that usually occurred during that time in their location.
Colonial Americans adopted some of the Native American full Moon names and applied them to their own calendar system (primarily Julian, and later, Gregorian). Since the Gregorian calendar is the system that many in North America use today, that is how we have presented the list of Moon names, as a frame of reference.
Other Full Moon Names
- Harvest Moon: The Harvest Moon is an astronomical name and refers to the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox. It can occur in either September or October. Near the autumnal equinox, the Moon rises only about 30 minutes later each night, instead of about 50 minutes, providing a few evenings of extra light after sunset for farmers to continue harvesting. At this time of year, crops such as corn, pumpkins, squash, and wild rice are ready for gathering.
- Blue Moon: Occasionally, two full Moons occur within the same calendar month. The first full Moon goes by the name normally assigned to that month’s full Moon, but the second full Moon is commonly called a Blue Moon. Blue Moons occur about every 2½ years.
- Black Moon: In contrast to the Blue Moon, Black Moon has been used to refer to a month in which there is no full Moon; this can only occur in February, because the calendar month has fewer days (28 or 29 days) than the lunar month (about 29.5 days). The term may also refer to a second new Moon occurring within a calendar month; by this definition, a Black Moon can never occur in February.
- Supermoon: A full Moon is said to be a “Supermoon” when it is at the point in its orbit closest to the Earth. In astronomy, the terms “perigee syzygy” or “perigee full Moon” are typically used instead of “Supermoon.” Learn more about Supermoons.