For a long time I’ve been wanting to learn/observe enough about the world I live in to be able to name the full moon each month according to what happens in nature at that time every year. This is a traditional practice in land based cultures – we know it in popular culture from Native American tribes. It’s a practical way of focussing on important natural events as well as keeping track of time (especially important in oral cultures). It also seems to be linked deeply to celebration.

Full moon naming is always going to be regional. This full moon (exact in two days) seems so obviously about the hawthorn blossoming, but maybe that isn’t true where you live. Perhaps hawthorns aren’t prolific where you live, or there is something else going on that is more pertinent. I’m also considering calling this moon Rabbit Moon because in the last few weeks the rabbits have all come out. However that seems like it could be something that varies much more according to how the season is going – the rabbits might peak much earlier or later depending on the weather, food sources etc. Hawthorn seems much more likely to be always (or mostly) blooming at this time. I could of course be wrong about that, I’ll have to wait for next year and the year after and the year after, and so on, to find out.

In the UK, the Hawthorn is called the May tree, because it flowers in time for the first of May (which is roughly the seasonal equivalent of the first of November). A traditional name so closely tied to a specific time suggests some reliability to hawthorn flowering.

Full moon naming should ideally be cultural too i.e. it should arise naturally from human observation and interaction with nature over a very long period of time. Because this is not currently important in NZ I have no idea what to call each moon, and it will be years before I can know if I am right about the names I choose, and even then the naming will have happened in isolation rather than arising out of our collective practice. But we have to start somewhere. It strikes me as one practical way of reconnecting ourselves with the land and re-establishing right relationship with where we live. One of the curses of the modern age is our lack of long time frames to understand the consequences of our actions. Learning how to name the moon again will help us hold a longer view in our hearts and minds. It grounds us not just in where we are today (or this year) but also in where we have come from and where we are heading.

What happens in nature to coincide with full moons is also dependent on the sun. The moon influences tides and hormones and all that watery stuff. The sun changes the world through light and heat. Both have an effect as they move closer and futher away. The sun over the year, the moon varying hugely from month to month. This month, the full moon is very close to the earth (perigee is on the 8th), which will bring big high and low tides.

This full moon is also closely linked to the cross quarter date of 31st October. It’s the point between the spring equinox (September 23, when the sun is half way between summer and winter) and the summer solstice (December 23, when the sun is at its height). But the moon dates move in relationship to the sun, so sometimes the full moon will be closer or further away from the solar marker dates. I have read somewhere that European pagan societies marked the year by the nearest full moon (or dark moon) to a certain solar time. So rather than the spring solstice exact, the celebration was at the nearest full moon to the spring solstice. We do this still with Easter, which falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere (our autumn). Maori do this also with Matariki (the Maori/Polynesian new year), which for some iwi is the first new moon following the rise of Matariki/Plieades in June (a stellar marker rather than a solar one).

Back to hawthorn. In the UK it seems to have a long tradition as a magic or spiritually potent plant. This makes so much sense to me – hawthorn in bloom seems the epitome of how the Brits have envisioned the fairy realms: