The Klamath tribes of what is now known as the Pacific Northwest called September's full moon the Dancing Moon, in honor of a dance and festival that extended for ten days after September's full moon. Men would dance in regalia from dawn to dusk for the ten days and would be joined by women at the very end, achieving wholeness and balance for the world and driving off evil.
The Passamaquoddy tribes of what is now northern Maine called June's full moon the Summer Moon in honor of the new season, as did many other tribes across the continent.
The idea of "once in a blue moon" is well-known in our culture as a phrase that represents a rare event. Its historical provenance is more complex and the blue moon was once considered an impossibility, an absurdity, and now an infrequent event. Over the last few decades, blue moons have become associated with a scientific event -- either the fourth full moon in a season, or more commonly in recent years, the second full moon in a particular month. With all of these definitions bouncing around, something called a Blue Moon happens about every two years or so.
The Algonquin people sometimes called July's full moon the Thunder Moon, a name originating from the frequent thunderstorms that time of year in their area of what is now New England.
This Harvest Moon was the first full moon I photographed, and named before I had begun researching historical antecedents for the names of each full moon. Instead, this photograph was named in an homage to Ansel Adams' Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.
The Harvest Moon is the most well-known of all the full moon names in contemporary culture, and most cultures called the full moon closest to the autumn equinox the Harvest Moon. Usually the Harvest Moon falls in September but it sometimes falls in October as well. The Harvest Moon refers to the time of year when crops were gathered, and its early and consistent rise helped farmers continue harvesting into the night.
The Long Grass Moon (also known as the Dying Grass Moon) is an October full moon and refers to grasses reaching the end of their growth cycle in fall.
In Medieval English tradition, March's full moon was called the Chaste Moon. With winter releasing its grip in March, the earth was considered almost virginal with everything preparing to blossom into the greens and flowering of spring, preceding the ripening of summer.
The Cold Moon is a common name for December's full moon amongst Northeast tribes such as the Algonquin, as winter arrives and temperatures plummet.
The Algonquin tribes called February's full moon the Hunger Moon, as February was the time of year when food supplies had dwindled to their lowest from the winter and new food was not yet available. The harsh winters made hunting in February very difficult and what game they found had also lost its summer and fall plumpness.
October's full moon was often called the Wine Moon in medieval England, a name that appears to originate in the preservation of the season's harvest in the form of wine during that time of year.
December's full moon was often called the Long Nights Moon, as nights are at their longest and darkest nearest the winter equinox. The midwinter full moon is also visible in the sky for a long time, as the full moon rises high in a trajectory opposite the low December sun.
The Anishnaabe tribes of what is now known as the Great Lakes region called January's full moon the Great Spirit Moon. The Great Spirit Moon occurred during the dead of winter when food was scarce, and the Anishnaabe dedicated this full moon to the Great Spirit, their principal deity. The Anishnaabe also referred to this moon as "When the snow blows like spirits in the wind".
Colonial Americans often called May's full moon the Milk Moon, as grazing animals found green pastures this time of year (and produced plenty of milk for babies born in early spring). In northern climes, milk could be a major part of the diet this time of year as crops were not yet ready this early in the season.
The Dark Moon was the traditional name for November's Full Moon for the Celtic peoples of the British Isles. The name originates from being the first full moon after Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter and the "darker half" of the year. Samhain traditionally extended from sunset on October 31st until sunset on November 1st, and was the time when livestock were brought back from summer pastures and selected for winter slaughter.