How did the American Indians name the Full Moons?

A photo of the SNow Moon, Credit Indian Country Media Network

There are several lists of these to be found across the WWW. The Old Farmers Almanac has one such list based upon the Algonquin indian names. 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.

Month               ALGONQUIN               OJIBWA
1. January               WOLF MOON          GREAT SPIRIT MOON
2. February              SNOW MOON          SUCKER SPAWNING MOON
3. March                  SAP MOON          MOON OF THE CRUST ON THE SNOW
4. April                 SEED MOON          SAP RUNNING MOON
5. May                 FLOWER MOON          BUDDING MOON
6. June            STRAWBERRY MOON          STRAWBERRY MOON
7. July                  BUCK MOON          MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER MOON
8. August            STURGEON MOON          RICE-MAKING MOON
9. September             CORN MOON          LEAVES TURNING MOON
10. October             RAVEN MOON          FALLING LEAVES MOON
11. November           HUNTER MOON          ICE FLOWING MOON
12. December             COLD MOON          LITTLE SPIRIT MOON


Colonial Americans adopted some of the Native American full Moon names and applied them to their own calendar system (primarily Julian, and later, Gregorian). For example, the Harvest Moon is associated by the colonists with the full moon nearest the Autumnal Equinox on September 21.

It is also worth pointing out that New Moons also have their own names, though limited in number and refer to the second new moon in a given month. These are called the Secret Moon, Finder's Moon, Spinner Moon and Black Moon.

Contrary to Creedence Clearwater Revival, there is no such thing as a 'Bad Moon'.

Here are the dates and times for the next series of named moons for 2017:

Month               ALGONQUIN               
1. January               WOLF MOON       January 12,      6:34 am EDT   
2. February              SNOW MOON       February 10,     7:33 pm EDT  
3. March                  SAP MOON       March 12,       10:54 am EDT  
4. April                 SEED MOON       April 11,        2:08 am EDT 
5. May                 FLOWER MOON       May 10,          5:42 pm EST  
6. June            STRAWBERRY MOON       June 9,          9:10 am EST 
7. July                  BUCK MOON       July 9,         12:07 am EST 
8. August            STURGEON MOON       August 7,        2:11 pm EST   
9. September             CORN MOON       September 6,     3:03 am EST   
10. October             RAVEN MOON       October 5,       2:40 pm EDT 
11. November           HUNTER MOON       November 4,      1:23 am EDT  
12. December             COLD MOON       December 3,     10:47 am eDT        

There is also the famous Blue Moon, which is the second full moon in a given month. The last Blue Moon occurred on May 21, 2016, and the next one will be on January 31, 2018. In four or five years per century, there are two Blue Moons. The first Blue Moon always occurs in January. The second occurs predominantly in March. In the 10,000 years starting with 1600, this is true in 343 out of 400 cases, or 86 per cent of the time. In 37 cases (or 9 per cent), the second Blue Moon is in April. In the remaining 20 cases (5 per cent) it is in May.

In January 1999 we had a Blue Moon in January and one in March. The next event will happen in 2018 also in January and March. Then you will have to wait until 2037 for the Blue Moons in January and March.

Because the events of Halloween Eve are heightened by having a Full Moon in the sky, this Raven Moon on October 31 will next occur in the year 2020.

Return to Dr. Odenwald's FAQ page at the Astronomy Cafe Blog.