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Last updated: December 31, 1969

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Find the meanings of abnormal words or acronyms in our glossary!
Moon Facts

moon phases

Names for the Full Moon


Name Derivation


Wolf or Hunger moon

During this month the wolves once roamed the countryside, thus suggesting the name wolf moon. In cold and temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere, it was difficult to find food during January, thus the name hunger moon.


Snow Moon

In certain parts of the world, snow is usually the deepest in this month, thus the name snow moon.


Sap or Worm Moon

Because sap rises in March, this full moon is called the sap moon. The ground softens during this month, and worms begin to burrow out of the ground, thus the name worm moon.


Pink Moon

Many flowers turn pink and bloom in April, thus the name pink moon.


Flower Moon

Because many flowers bloom in May, after the April downpours, May's moon is called the flower moon.


Strawberry or Rose Moon

Because strawberries bloom in June, this month's moon is the strawberry moon. Also, the French call this moon la lune rose, which translates into English as "the rose moon."

July Buck Moon Male deer, or bucks, grow their first antlers during this month, thus the name buck moon.
August Sturgeon Moon Because it is sturgeon season in certain parts of the world in August, its moon is called the sturgeon moon
September Harvest or Corn Moon Native Americans began to harvest their crops during this month every year. (If this full moon occurs late in August it is called the harvest moon.). If the full moon occurs earlier in September, it is called the corn moon because the corn crop is ready for picking at that time.
October Hunter's Moon The hunting season begins in October, thus the name hunter's moon.
November Beaver Moon Beaver traps were once set in this month to catch enough beaver to make warm clothing for the upcoming winter.
December Cold Moon The approach of cold weather in the Northern Hemisphere gives this month's full moon its name.

More Moon Facts

  • The Moon moves about Earth at an average distance of 384,403 km (238,857 mi), and at an average speed of 3,700 km/h (2,300 mph). It completes one revolution in an elliptical orbit about Earth in 27 days 7 hours 43 minutes 11.5 seconds with reference to the stars (see Time). For the Moon to go from one phase to the next similar phase, or one lunar month, requires 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes 2.8 seconds. The Moon rotates once on its axis in about the same period of time that elapses for its sidereal period of revolution, accounting for the fact that virtually the same portion of the Moon is always turned toward the Earth. Although the Moon appears bright to the eye, it reflects into space only 7 percent of the light that falls on it. The reflectivity, or albedo, of 0.07 is similar to that of coal dust.

The Moon As Seen From Earth

  • At any one time, an observer can see only 50 percent of the Moon's entire surface. However, an additional 9 percent can be seen from time to time around the apparent edge because of the relative motion called libration. This is because of the slightly different angles of view from Earth, due to different relative positions of the Moon along its inclined elliptical orbit.

    The Moon shows progressively different phases as it moves along its orbit around Earth. Half the Moon is always in sunlight, just as half Earth has day while the other half has night. The phases of the Moon depend on how much of the sunlit half can be seen at any one time. In the phase called the new moon, the face is completely in shadow. About a week later, the Moon is in first quarter, resembling a luminous half-circle; another week later, the full moon shows its fully lighted surface; a week afterward, in its last quarter, the Moon appears as a half-circle again. The entire cycle is repeated each lunar month. The Moon is full when it is farther away from the Sun than Earth; it is new when it is closer. When it is more than half illuminated, it is said to be in gibbous phase. The Moon is said to be waning when it progresses from full to new, and to be waxing as it proceeds again to full. Temperatures on its surface are extreme, ranging from a maximum of 127¡C (261¡F) at lunar noon to a minimum of -173¡C (-279¡F) just before lunar dawn.

The Lunar Eclipse

  • In astronomy, the obscuring of one celestial body by another, particularly that of the sun or a planetary satellite. Two kinds of eclipses involve the earth: those of the moon, or lunar eclipses; and those of the sun, or solar eclipses . A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is between the sun and the moon and its shadow darkens the moon. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is between the sun and the earth and its shadow moves across the face of the earth. Transits and occultations are similar astronomical phenomena but are not as spectacular as eclipses because of the small size of these bodies as seen from earth (see Transit).

    The earth, lit by the sun, casts a long, conical shadow in space. At any point within that cone the light of the sun is wholly obscured. Surrounding the shadow cone, also called the umbra, is an area of partial shadow called the penumbra. The approximate mean length of the umbra is 1,379,200 km (857,000 mi); at a distance of 384,600 km (239,000 mi), the mean distance of the moon from the earth, it has a diameter of about 9170 km (about 5700 mi).

    A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes completely into the umbra. If it moves directly through the center, it is obscured for about 2 hours. If it does not pass through the center, the period of totality is less and may last for only an instant if the moon travels through the very edge of the umbra.

    A partial lunar eclipse occurs when only a part of the moon enters the umbra and is obscured. The extent of a partial eclipse can range from near totality, when most of the moon is obscured, to a slight or minor eclipse, when only a small portion of the earth's shadow is seen on the passing moon. Historically, the view of the earth's circular shadow advancing across the face of the moon was the first indication of the shape of the earth.

    Before the moon enters the umbra in either total or partial eclipse, it is within the penumbra and the surface becomes visibly darker. The portion that enters the umbra seems almost black, but during a total eclipse, the lunar disk is not completely dark; it is faintly illuminated with a red light refracted by the earth's atmosphere, which filters out the blue rays. Occasionally a lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is covered with a heavy layer of clouds that prevent light refraction; the surface of the moon is invisible during totality.
Even More Moon Magick

new moon
The new moon lies between the earth and the sun. Because the sunlit side is away from the earth, the new moon is invisible to us. The first whole day the moon is visible in it's waxing mode towards fullness. A time of renewal and new beginnings. Spells cast during the new moon are often intended to grow to fruition by the full moon.

waxing moon
As moon moves along its orbit, it appears as a crescent on the right side. As the visible part of the moon grows, it is said to be "waxing".This occurs during the 14 day period from New Moon to Full Moon when the moon is more visible in the sky each night. During the Waxing Moon, cast spells for growth, initiation, and to draw positive things into your life.

waxing gibbous

When more than half of the sunlit side is visible, the moon is "gibbous."

full moon
The moon reaches the second quarter of its orbit. The entire daylight side is visible and appears to us as a circle. The Full Moon is the time when waxing lunar energy is at it's zenith. Spells appropriate for the Waxing Moon are cast, so long as this is done before the exact time of the Full Moon. Any working that needs extra power, such as help in finding love or healings for serious conditions. Also, love, knowledge, legal undertakings, money and dreams.

waning gibbous
As the sunlit side of the moon turns away from us, the moon begins to "wane". Waning Moon energy is used to neutralize or banish negativity, lessen or remove obstacles or illness, and in binding.

waning crescent
The visible portion of the moon dwindles to a crescent and we get ready to start all over again.

dark moon

The Dark, or Black, Moon refers to the brief time when the Moon is totally invisible in the night sky. Some say the Dark Moon is the best time for banishing spells; others avoid magick altogether.

World-Wide Moon-Myths

  • Whether you're a hunter, fisherman, trapper, farmer, gardener, or just a nature lover, you can be affected by the moon. And the affect can be a bit different depending on if the moon is new, crescent, harvest, hunter's, waning, waxing, or a sparkling bright full moon.

  • Fishermen sometimes cast their lines according to the phases of the moon; hunters find certain moon times good, others bad; and it's always more fun to camp out under a clear, full moon.

  • Although the moon plays a big part of outdoor life, few know just how much it affects our earth and our outdoor activities. Throughout history the moon has inspired man's wonder and challenged his curiosity. Why else would we have sent a man to walk on its surface.

  • Perhaps more than anything else, the moon has come into play with farmers and gardeners when it is time to plant, cultivate, and harvest plants and crops. Even today many people believe growth patterns are better when planting tasks are performed in the moon's proper position -- while others follow planting times according to The Farmer's Almanac, which also details phases of the moon.

  • Early Native Americans believed the position of the moon during the first half of February indicated whether the growing season would be wet or dry. If the horns of the quarter moon pointed downward, the moon was Òemptying its water,Ó and it would be a wet spring and summer. If the horns pointed upward, it indicated just the opposite, and there would be little rain.

  • Still today many farmers believe the moon controls crop growth. If you want a good above-ground harvest, plant during a full moon. On the other hand, root crops are to be planted during the dark of the moon.

  • Many farmers maintain that early July is the best time to plant the last crop of corn, because corn planted then will produce ears that reach upward from the stalk in an attempt to reach the full moon. Whereas, if planted during the last half of the month (when the moon is larger), the ears will snug closer to the stalk because they fear late July's larger moon.

  • Some old-time gardeners contend that root vegetables taste better if they are harvested in the afternoon. Silly? Well, modern research has shown that the vital life forces of all plants return to the roots during the course of the late afternoon and evening. At daybreak they rise up again to the portion of the plant that is above ground. So, it would seem that picking is best in the afternoon when the life forces are back in the root system.

  • The moon is also a predictor for cutting wood. During a full moon for example, it has been considered a bad time to cut wood. Instead, to get the more durable wood from deciduous trees (leaf shedding), they should be cut in the winter -- preferably in December -- under the third quarter of the moon.

  • Throughout history the moon figured prominently in folktales, mythology, and religious rituals. Many early cultures chose to deify the bright light in the night sky. The early Greeks and Romans worshiped Diana or Artemis as the swift and beautiful Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt.

  • For the Chinese a woman's moon face predicated her desirability, while her feet were bound to shape them into moon crescents.

  • Later the word lunatic came to describe someone who was moon mad as a result of sleeping under the moonlight, or being overexposed to it. Nefarious deeds took place during the dark moon, yet it seems that was the best time to capture a lucky rabbit's foot -- even better if you were cross-eyed, caught the critter in a graveyard, and whacked off the left hind foot.

  • If you chose to look at the moon over your shoulder, or peer up at its halo, you were in for a spat of ill fortune, as you would be if you pointed up at a new moon.

  • Full moon followers have believed that taking medicines and tonics during this phase was most effective, while others have urged wishing upon seeing a new moon to bring good fortune.

  • Books have been written about the moon's affects on man. Even today psychiatrists and law enforcement officials say that crime increases and the mentally ill become more agitated on nights of the full moon.

  • So, whatever you do, there is probably some myth, lore, or legend that brings into play the causes and effects of the man in the moon.

  • The moon is the earth's only satellite companion in their annual circuit around the sun. The moon revolves around the earth in an elliptical orbit, making the circuit in 27 days, seven hours, 43 minutes, 11.5 seconds (for those who want to be precise). This is the sidereal month -- the period of revolution around the earth in relation to the stars.

  • Now to be really confused, if you consider the synodic month -- the period of revolution around the earth in relation to the sun -- then it takes 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes.

  • During this regular cycle there are four basic phases of the moon (the apparent changes), with any number of variations. The phases are caused by the angles at which the moon's lighted surface is seen from the earth, and it gives us a new moon, full moon, and different crescent moons.

  • A new moon is when it is on line between the sun and the earth, presenting us its dark side and therefore hardly visible. It then passes through its waxing (getting bigger) crescent phase into the first quarter, when it is a right-hand moon. It continues on through its waxing gibbous phase, reaching full moon when it is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun, and fully illuminated. The moon marches on through its waning (getting smaller) gibbous into its last quarter -- when it is a left-handed moon -- and then continues through the waning crescent phase until it is again a new moon.

  • Itself a dark globe, the varying amounts of light that illuminate the moon's surface as its revolutions bring it into different positions with relation to the sun and earth give us changing perceptions.

  • The phases between the new moon and the first and last quarters are crescent, and the phases between the full moon and the first and last quarters are gibbous. The whole cycle takes place every 28 and a fraction days (the average each month) with all kinds of things happening along the way.

  • A full moon is looked upon as a climactic period of the month, and is believed to have power over the human body and mind, over the fertility of animals and crops, and, above all, over weather conditions and the tides.

  • Tide is the alternate rise and fall of the ocean's surface. Twice a day it rises (flows) and falls (ebbs), caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun (but the sun having only a third of the moon's effect).

  • When the line of pull of the two is the same (at the time of the new moon and the full moon), the tide rises highest (strongest) and is called a spring tide. The greatest tide in the world is at the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia -- 53 feet. When the two pull in different directions (as in the first and third quarters), the crest of the tide is lowest (weakest), and is known as a neap tide.

  • At a given time there are two high tides on the earth, on on the side facing the moon, and the other on the opposite side, the latter being caused by the greater pull of the moon upon the earth itself than upon the oceans which are still farther away from the moon.

  • With the lunar day being about 24 hours and 50 minutes, the interval between high tides is about 12 hours and 25 minutes. High tide does not always occur on a given shore when the moon is directly overhead because there is a lag caused by a variety of irregularities and other factors. Tides rise higher where the water enters a narrow estuary, or when the water volume is added to by other natural occurrences (winds, etc.) The ebb and flow of the tide causes an almost continual motion near shores, termed the tidal current or tidal stream.

  • The moon also is credited (or blamed) for storms, with the heaviest storms in the calendar month in the northern hemisphere being related to lunar phases. Such storms are more likely to occur from one to three days after a new moon, and from three to five days after a full moon. The beginning of hurricanes in the Caribbean have been similarly related to lunar positions.

  • The mean (average) distance between the center of the earth and that of the moon is calculated at 238,857 miles -- once a staggering number, but no longer now that man has walked on the moon's surface. The moon's diameter is 2,160 miles, somewhat more than one-fourth that of the earth. The moon's gravity is one-sixth that of the earth, thus making a 180 pound man weigh only 30 pounds when on the surface of the moon.

  • In a month's time about 59 percent of the moon's surface comes into view, with temperatures ranging from +243 degrees F in full sunlight at noon, to -279 degrees F with no sunlight at midnight (although calculations vary). The moon shines only by reflected light from the sun, or from earthshine -- when the unlit portion of the moon facing the earth appears to glow.

  • An eclipse of the moon occurs when the earth obscures the sun's rays from it, passing into such a position that the earth's shadow lies upon it, shutting off all light from the sun. A solar eclipse occurs when the new moon takes a position between the sun and the earth, and the moon's shadow lies on some part of the earth's surface, obscuring the sun's light in that region.

  • So it is any wonder man has been fascinated with the moon. It is mysterious; seemingly with many different powers; and controls not only tides, crop growth, and behavioral cycles, but is that thing in outer space we have romanticized in both poetry and song.

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