Full Moon

11 November 2011



sun behind clouds

Return to Ideas unlimited

Once in a Blue Moon


What is a Blue Moon?

The most popular definition today for a blue moon is used to describe the second full moon in a month, for example August 2012 has its first full moon at 1.30 pm on Thursday 2nd, which gives time to squeeze in a second full moon in August on the 31st at 11.59 pm (yes, you read that time right, this full moon made it to official blue moon status by just one minute!).

For a blue moon to occur by this calendar method of reckoning the first of the full moons must appear at or near the beginning of the month so that the second will fall within the same month, because the average span between two moons is 29.5 days. Every century there is an average of 41 months that contain two full moons which makes an average of two-and-a-half years between Blue Moons – which is why the phrase once in a blue moon is used to denote something occurs not very often.

But did you know that the blue moon used to be seasonal, rather than a monthly, calculation and there is a whole, older, list of full and blue moons?

Instead of the calendar year running from January 1st through December 31st, farmers used to count the year from one winter solstice or Yule to the next. Most years will include only 12 full moons — three each in each season of winter, spring, summer, and autumn — and each full moon is named for an activity appropriate to the time of year. DJ Conway listed a modern version of these moons in her book Moon Magick as:

  • January: Wolf
  • February: Ice
  • March: Storm
  • April: Growing
  • May: Hare
  • June: Mead
  • July: Hay
  • August: Corn
  • September: Harvest
  • October: Blood
  • November: Snow
  • December: Cold


Another, older, way to name the full moons is by season:

After the December solstice:

  • Old Moon, or Moon After Yule
  • Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, or Wolf Moon
  • Sap Moon, Crow Moon or Lenten Moon


After the March equinox:

  • Grass Moon, or Egg Moon
  • Planting Moon, or Milk Moon
  • Rose Moon, Flower Moon, or Strawberry Moon


After the June solstice:

  • Thunder Moon, or Hay Moon
  • Green Corn Moon, or Grain Moon
  • Fruit Moon, or Harvest Moon


After the September equinox:

  • Harvest Moon, or Hunter’s Moon
  • Hunter’s Moon, Frosty Moon, or Beaver Moon
  • Moon Before Yule, or Long Night Moon


This divides the seasonal year up quite nicely because there are usually three full moons in between an equinox and a solstice and vice versa. However seven times in every nineteen years, four full moons will fall in a single season and mess up the system. To keep things neat especially for the Christian ecclesiastical celebrations the third of the season’s four moons is called a blue moon. This type of blue moon will only ever occur in February, May, August and November, one month before the next equinox or solstice. By this definition, the next blue moon will not occur until August 21, 2013 being the third of four full moons between the June solstice and the September equinox.

Interestingly, although the older blue moon can occur in February before the next equinox in March, the newer blue moon will never occur in this shortest month of the year. About once every 19 years, February as the shortest month can have no full moon at all. More trivia about blue moons: over the next 20 years there will be about 15 blue moons, with an almost equal number of both types of blue moons occurring. No blue moon of any kind will occur in the years 2014 and 2017.

Although purists label the modern blue moon definition trendy and a mistake, the fact that there is an older, pre-existing and convoluted meaning does not necessarily make it the more noteworthy or significant method. Charting the third full moon in four full moons season isn't everyone's idea of time well spent, but it is an interesting variation on our modern blue moon celebrations – and with twenty years of popular usage behind it, the second-full-moon-in-a-month (mis)interpretation is like a genie that can't be forced back into its bottle. Rather than waste time arguing on which blue moon is best, why not celebrate twice? If we celebrate both the second full moon in a calendar month and the third full moon in a season of four full moons, then we have thirty blue moons to celebrate and fifteen more reasons to feast with friends over the next twenty years or so.

Bright blessings



Foods to share with friends: Celebration Rice

Precook rice and drain well. Melt ghee or a mix of olive oil and butter in a wok, add your selection of nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds are good in this dish and all are under the planetary influence of either the Sun or Jupiter so are excellent for attracting money), stir until toasted but not burnt! Add raisins and sultanas, which will swell. Add pre-cooked rice, stir through, add salt and seasonings. Serve as is with a curry, or add cinnamon and sliced hard boiled eggs if serving as a main course.