The Harvest/Hunter’s Moon

The October full moon is known as the Harvest Moon, but my Witch’s Datebook says it’s the Blood Moon. I wonder where that name came from.

Usually, the September full moon is called the Harvest Moon. But this year it’s in October, due to the closeness to the equinox. Every few years, the autumn equinox falls closer to the tenth month than the ninth.

The October full moon has also been called the Dying Moon and Hunter’s Moon, for the time of year for hunting and preserving meats for winter. Perhaps the name Blood Moon arises from hunting and slaughtering.

Under the bright light of the Harvest Moon, farmers can harvest such crops as corn, pumpkins, squash, wild rice and beans. Scientists explain that most months, the moon rises about an hour later each night.

But the Harvest Moon seems to rise at almost the same time for several nights around the full moon.

Harvest your crops, or just harvest that extra long moonlight to enjoy!

The Corn Barley Nut Rice Crow Ice Moon

Mr. Moonlight, come again please
Here I am on my knees
Begging if you please
And the night you don’t come my way
I’ll pray and pray more each day
Cos we love you, Mr. Moonlight

— “Mr. Moonlight” — the Beatles

Here I am waiting for Mr. Moon to rise, so I can photograph him for this blog piece! From the recesses of my brain this song surfaced. It’s a simple but beguiling song. Surely the Beatles were inspired by the very same magic of the full moon.

Wildfire smoke colors the moon

It seems that the August and September full moons vie for the name Corn Moon. August’s is also known as the Sturgeon Moon, so we’ll go with Corn Moon for September. But the ninth month moon is also called the Barley Moon.

South of the equator, it is also called the Worm Moon, Crow Moon, Sap Moon, Lenten Moon, and Chaste Moon.

There are nights when wolves are silent and only the moon howls. — George Carlin

Phil Konstantin has compiled an extensive list of Native American names for moons on his website, www.AmericanIndian.net. Among the names he lists for September’s moon are Corn Maker Moon (Abenaki), Rice Moon (Chippewa, Ojibwe), Yellow Leaf Moon (Assiniboine), Nut Moon (Cherokee), Drying Grass (Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho), Little Chestnut Moon (Creek), and Ice Moon (Haida).

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night. — Hal Borland*

Scientists tell us that the moon is never 100 percent full when we think it is. Only during a lunar eclipse, when the earth, moon and sun are completely aligned, is the moon truly “full.”

The Corn Moon arrives September 6, 3:03 a.m. Eastern time.

*Hal Borland was one of my favorite journalists. He wrote a weekly editorial in the Sunday New York Times for 35 years, always observations of nature and the seasons. He died in 1978. I have a collection of his writings, published in a book, Borland Country, which are paired with photographs by renowned photographer Walter Chandoha. Chandoha is particularly known for his photographs of cats, which are forever singed in my memory from a National Geographic magazine from the 1960s that I kept for a very long time. He is still alive and working, and still resides on a farm in New Jersey. You might check out the work of both of these craftsmen.

The Corn Moon

How fitting that our August full moon is a lovely golden yellow (from Canadian fire smoke), for it is known as the Corn Moon. A time of harvesting, this full moon is also called the Green Corn Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Grain Moon, and Barley Moon.

According to the Farmers Almanac, Native American tribes called it the Sturgeon Moon because sturgeon in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were usually abundant during this time.

Some tribes, the Almanac adds, had yet other names for this late summer moon: “Wheat Cut Moon” (San Ildefonso, and San Juan), “Moon When All Things Ripen” (Dakotah Sioux), and “Blueberry Moon” (Ojibwe).

August is a time when the earth is providing an abundance of foods. Fish are running; corn, blueberries and other crops are ripening. No doubt it’s a welcome time for feasting and preparing foods for winter stores.

This moon tells us it’s the perfect time to reflect on what we have, what we can sacrifice, and what we can put away for leaner times.

Rabbit Run

rabbit running

I just finished reading Watership Down (I know, a few decades late.) I will likely never think of rabbits in the same way again! When this year began, little did I know what a Year of the Rabbit it was shaping up to be for me. For the Chinese, it might be the Year of the Goat or Sheep, but for me, decidedly the year of the rabbit.

Sometime early in the year, I put an old calendar photo of a jack rabbit on my frig. It’s a beguiling creature, with its spectacular ears and piercing eye. I’ve always wanted to see a jack rabbit in the wild. I felt the photo was a good omen for the year. Aren’t rabbits considered good luck? At least their feet have been held as lucky pieces (alas, not for the rabbits).

Rabbits have been bestowed with magical powers in various cultures, art and literature. We westerners may see the Man in the Moon, but in Asian, Mexican and Native American cultures, they see the Rabbit in the Moon. It’s pretty obvious, too, that they are right! The rabbit is there plain as day, although what I see is a running rabbit, while Asians see a rabbit hunched over a mortar. For Chinese, the rabbit is the companion of the moon goddess Chang’e, and is preparing her elixir of life. For Japanese and Koreans, the rabbit is pounding ingredients for rice cake.

Rabbit in the Moon
Rabbit in the Moon

It’s been a subtle chain of occurrences, but I now realize that for a few years, rabbits have been coming into my life. I acquired a lovely ceramic planter with such a sweet rabbit face that I had to have it. Then, I bought a silver-colored planter type bowl, ringed with rabbits. After I moved to Seattle, I attended the Northwest Folklife Festival, where I met a potter among whose wares were some small dishes decorated with charming rabbits. I couldn’t resist and bought one for myself and another for a friend.

Scouring a thrift store on a road trip, I found a flat black metal figure of a rabbit. It would be perfect for my garden, I thought! Obviously I was feeling some affinity for with rabbits. Then, I received a gift of another rabbit-themed piece of pottery, a very small dish perhaps to hold sushi. It was a nice companion to the rabbit spoon rest from the festival. Another gift from a friend was a hand-painted rabbit-shaped box from India. What inspired her to give me a rabbit?

It was about then that I did realize I was starting something of a rabbit collection. When I went to Scotland, I picked up a small watercolor of a rabbit on the Isle of May.

Recently, at a neighbor’s yard sale, there were scads of garden rabbit figurines! Most were too cutesy, but one caught my eye. It was a rustic white-painted metal rabbit, sitting tall and looking more natural. This one would do. He told me his name was Benjamin, and he now watches over my garden.

Benjamin
Benjamin

Somehow the word got out and I noticed rabbits in my yard a couple times. One morning I opened my front blinds to find a cottontail happily munching grass. I quickly scanned my veggie garden to see whether anything was missing, but everything seemed fine. The bunny was eating grass and weeds. Had it not discovered my spinach, beet greens or the mass of leaf lettuce? Or were those not appetizing?

A visitor to my yard
A visitor to my yard

I had seen these small brown cottontails hopping about for a few months. I’m sure they were born in the big park next door. They come and go under the park fences. Lately they had become bolder and were wandering farther from the park. I had seen them outside my front fence a few times, and now, here was one, in my yard. Maybe when I made a home for Benjamin Bunny in my garden, I unwittingly placed a welcome sign out for other bunnies. Much like the custom of hobos leaving symbols for others [a cat meant “kind lady lives here,”] my inorganic rabbits signaled to their flesh-and-blood kin that this is a safe house.

rabbit yard2I watched the one cottontail in my yard for as long as it was in view. It darted around nervously, briefly interacting with a squirrel. Did they talk to each other, like in Watership Down? Did the rabbit ask the squirrel, “Are there men here?” or “Is the food good?” The rabbit hopped out of the yard, and returned a short time later. I saw its buddy outside the fence. They both shot off toward the park.

Rabbit (at top) and squirrel
Rabbit (at top) and squirrel
Did the squirrel talk to the rabbit?
Did the squirrel talk to the rabbit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since reading Watership Down, I wonder about the social structure of rabbit warrens. How many local rabbits are there? How big are their burrows? In the book, the intelligent rabbits were able to communicate with other critters, and had exceptional senses of smell. Their sense of smell serves to alert them of potential dangers. They stamping of feet as an alarm is also noteworthy. They obviously have their own communication system, similar to birds’ raucous alarm calls.

I don’t expect that our rabbits actually “talk” to other creatures, but surely they are tuned into all the sounds around them, and do respond to bird alarm calls as well. Even I respond! Recently there was such a ruckus among the Stellers Jays, and I saw several crows fixed on something too. So I went out to investigate, and sure enough, there was something — a cat in the yard. Any rabbits would have made a beeline for their holes long before.

I haven’t noticed any of our rabbits in a while, but then again, I haven’t been looking very often. I trust they are fine and hopping about, munching away on the free buffet, and occasionally talking to the squirrels, mice and birds.