I was going to call this full moon ‘summer moon’, but I realised I called the last one ‘summer solstice moon’, which would be a bit confusing. I like the idea of summer moon because it’s really the start of the summer here. Just in time for the end of the school holidays and people are back at work, and the weather finally settles into the hotter days of February. December and January are traditionally unpredictable – sometimes summery, sometimes rainy, sometimes, like this year, four seasons in one month.
This year the full moon (30th January) fell close to the cross quarter date – the mid point between the solstice (December 21) and the autumn equinox (March 21). Known in Celtic calendars as Lugnasad, or First fruits, it falls in NZ on the 2nd of February (2nd of August in the Northern Hemisphere). There was a bit of a conversation at Letters from Wetville about how to celebrate this in New Zealand and I like the idea of a transition between the business of the ‘summer’ holidays and the return to regular life.
Juliet Batten writes in Celebrating the Southern Seasons that Lugnasad was traditionally a time of tribal gathering for fairs and games. Nasad is a tribal gathering and Lug is the god of grain, so this was a harvest festival, a celebration of plenty. However she also writes that for Maori, this time of year was lean and not yet a harvest abundance. She suggests that a contemporary marking be the Festival of the Half Harvest, acknowledging where the resources are, where they are needed and how we all benefit by sharing. With the proximity to Waitangi Day (February 6th) and our current national pondering on how best to mark this day, a Sharing Festival seems fitting.
Back to the moon. I settled on Fruiting Moon because it seems fruit are the main seasonal food now. They’re perfect for the heat of summer, and here at least the stone fruit are in full swing – peaches, apricots, plums. I’m also getting plenty of wild strawberries from the garden, and the commercial berries seem to still be going strong. The wild plums are peaking, and the apples are just about starting. I suspect next year I’ll change the name to Swimming Moon, as that seems the most regular given at this time of year, and I don’t know the wild fruit season well enough yet. But this is the point of naming the moons – to learn what actually happens in nature over a long period of time.
If you’ve been watching the full moon this past week you’ll have noticed it seems large and at the time of full was sitting low in the sky. This is because it was perigee on Saturday (the 30th, the day of the full fullness). Perigee is when the moon is closest to the earth (apogee is when it’s furthest away). Perigee and apogee moons are associated with big tidal swings because of the intensity of the gravitational pull at this time.
I’ve been very aware of how little I know about what the moon does and why. Watching it rising golden each perfect, still evening in a week of our first really calm weather in months, it seems so inherent that anyone seeing this and paying attention would mark what was happening. Each night at the moment the moon rises a bit further to the south. At some point it must stop doing that but I have no idea when or why or what happens next and I can’t help but feel like I should, that these things are important in ways that we have forgotten. Not just for marking the passage of time, or knowing when it’s still going to be light, but for ways in which really paying attention to the moon focusses our intuition and appreciation of the subtle. The moon is mesmerisingly attractive – all those esoteric interpretations of the moon as representing the unconscious and intuition seem entirely practical to me now. Engagement with the moon literally changes our consciousness (not to mention our bodies. Hopefully there’ll be a post one day about the effects of the moon on our physicality).