Q: You hear the term “harvest moon” and “hunter’s moon.” What exactly do they mean?
A: Naming full moons goes back to early American days when the Indians — mainly the Algonquin tribes of New England — tried to describe the full moons of their day, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. “Many of these names were either weather related or tied in with seasonal conditions of the time,” he explains. “For example, a ‘harvest moon’ is the full moon that usually occurs in September, when the moon is so bright that that farmers could work late into the night. A ‘hunter’s moon’ was usually in October, when the deer were at their fattest, leaves were turning color and the temperatures were getting quite chilly.”
Q: What were the names of other moons?
A: When the snows were deep in January, wolf packs would often howl near Indian villages, prompting the “full wolf moon,” the first full moon in January, McRoberts adds. “Also, February is usually the heaviest snowfall month, and the first full moon then was called the ‘full snow moon,’ he says.” And Indians loved strawberries, so the first full moon in June was known as the ‘full strawberry moon.’ May was when flowers were in full bloom, so the first full moon was known as the ‘full flower moon. ‘July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer would form with velvety fur, so July was called the ‘full buck moon’ and sometimes the ‘full thunder moon’ because of the frequent thunderstorms that occur then. In all, there were almost 30 names for full moons in early American days.”
Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.