Moons and Seasons: A Trip Through the Solar Year

A key path to reducing your negative impact on the future — and to live and feel better into the bargain — is grounding yourself in the seasonal year. Eating what is fresh in your locality. Exploring your corner of the world. Experiencing the changes from one season to the next. Humans used to live in season and that’s how we’ll all be living again, but we moderns aren’t very good at it. A survey of books and blogs on the subject seem to focus on what to fix for dinner, which is a good start — if the meal planning was a bit more practical and a lot more local — but there is little attempt to define either “seasonal” or “local” because books need to be generalized to make printing them worthwhile.

So if you decide to try the seasonal loca-vore life, you’re going to need to answer some questions for yourself. What is your locality? Where do you draw your boundaries and what is excluded? How do the seasons work in your locality? What is the weather like? What cultural events and holidays happen in each season? What crafts and activities are traditional? What foods are available? What is possible? (As in, there are quite a number of songs about snow at Midwinter, but have you ever had a white Christmas?)

You will need to observe the weather. Spend some time recording it and learning what happens at different parts of the solar year. Know when to expect changes in the seasons and know what weather to expect in those seasons. You will need to note what foods are available locally, what foods are sourced in your regional food-shed at different parts of the seasonal year. You’ll want to learn where you can buy regionally produced stuff like soap and cleaners and clothing. You’ll need to learn your local culture and annual traditions and how your own culture and traditions fit into your home region. You’ll want to get to know your local more-than-human world. What lives and grows where you live? Is this changing? (HINT: yes…)

To give you a working outline upon which to hang your data, I thought I would share the calendar I’ve created over the years. This calendar is a frame that can be adjusted to your region. It is mostly just a calendar; it is not localized except to a generalized North. (Sorry, I just have no experience of the tropics or the South.) Throughout this blog I will be filling in the details on local living where I live. You’re still going to have to get to know your region… unless you live in New England or New Mexico. And even then, you’ll have a different perspective than I do.

You probably already have a calendar that shows the annual year of twelve months and four seasons. You probably have given little thought to why we have those divisions. But once you start jotting down your loca-vore information you’re going to notice that the traditional calendar is a bit arbitrary, a bit too generalized for practical planning. I have created a different system. I have 13 moons (months) of 28 days in 11 mini-seasons of unequal duration. I begin the lunar year in pseudo-Celtic fashion after the holiday of Halloween which falls in the season of Samhain which, in turn, marks the end of the growing season and thus the end of the solar year.

The Celts began the year and their season of winter at Samhain, which means “end of summer”. They followed a complex lunar calendar, so the date wasn’t always equivalent to 1 November — but it was always Samhain. The thought is that, as they followed a lunar calendar, they tended to “begin in darkness”. The beginnings of days, seasons, and years were in the slack, dark time. Days began at sunset (those who follow the Jewish calendar will find this familiar). The seasons began in advance of the meteorological conditions that characterize them. The year began six weeks before the longest nights of the year — which is why in cultures influenced by the Celts the winter solstice is not the beginning of winter, but Midwinter.

My lunar New Year’s Eve is Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve. But Samhain, the season, begins before Halloween — usually around the first of October — and lasts through the first few days of November. This is when the Halloween colors and symbols are slathered all over the house, turning it into an orange and black inferno with lots of bones and witch hats. The season contains the holidays of Halloween (All Hallow’s Eve, 31 October), All Hallow’s Day (1 November) and All Soul’s Day (Dia de los Muertos, 2 November).

Samhain is the tail end of the harvest, the season of the ancestors. The oak trees still have leaves; most others are bare. There may be snow at high altitude and latitude, but there is more dry wind than precipitation. High pressure systems make Samhain skies crystalline. In the garden, there are still apples and pears, lots of cabbages and roots, probably still some peas if you did a second sowing in August, maybe even winter squash if the frost hasn’t been heavy. But you need to get all that in quickly because the Pooka spits on whatever’s left in the garden past Halloween.

My lunar year begins with the new moon that falls between 1 November and 29 November. The full moon in this first moon of the lunar year falls between 15 November and 13 December. I call this month the Winter Sleep Moon because to me that’s the best description of this time of hibernation and increasing cold and darkness. In the northern hemisphere, autumnal conditions are generally gone by this moon, though winter is not obvious. It is the time of brown and grey and increasing frosty white and silver, a time of rest, a time of increasing darkness and cold. It’s time to sleep.

The season of Samhain gives way to Early Winter after All Soul’s Day. Sometimes this happens in my house as soon as the 3rd, but more often it takes a few days. The season of Early Winter contains the holidays of Martinmas, the traditional day to cull your herds before the winter recast as Veteran’s Day, the day of remembrance for the end of World War 1 (not sure what that says), and Thanksgiving in the USA. Thanksgiving is a convoluted holiday that has very little substance when one really considers it. Ostensibly a harvest feast, it falls well outside the harvest season. For those who hold a Harvest Home celebration during harvest season, Thanksgiving becomes superfluous. My family eats turkey most years, but we’ve also been known to go on hikes or volunteer at local soup kitchens rather than stuff ourselves. (The rest of the Thanksgiving foundational mythos? Let’s not go there.)

The season of Early Winter is a between time. It is not autumnal, but the land is still more brown than white; and though it is cold, it’s not bitter. Yet. There is frost; there is ice on standing water; but snow doesn’t last. Not much happens outside the house except long walks in the grey mornings. This is the time to pick up those crafts and other indoor projects that got set aside during the harvest season. With the wood stove burning and the short days, Early Winter is ideal knitting time.

The second moon cycle in my lunar year is the Midwinter Moon. It is new between 30 November and 27 December; it’s full between 14 December and 10 January. The winter solstice will usually fall in this month, and this moon will be full during the longest nights of the year. It is, therefore, the longest full moon. It is also frequently the full moon that occurs when the moon is closest to earth. (And you thought you were just imagining those huge winter moonrises.) This month is the deep dark time. It is unfortunate that it is also a time of nearly continuous celebration and frenetic cultural activity. Sometimes it’s good to recognize our bodily needs and just sit out a party or two (or ten). Let your animal instincts send you to sleep when the sun sets in the early evening and don’t get up until it rises again.

In my home Early Winter shifts into Midwinter the day after Thanksgiving. While the rest of this country is madly fighting over “bargains” in big box stores, my family is digging out the Yule boxes. We have a custom of getting it all up before December 6th which is St. Nicholas’ Day and also my younger son’s birthday — thus a rather important date in this family.

The season of Midwinter contains the Midwinter holidays, traditionally beginning with St. Andrew’s Day (30 November) and a large haggis if you’ve the stomach for it. (Me, I don’t do parts and bits, so… no haggis.) December 5th is when you put out the stockings or wooden clogs, and oranges show up in them on the morning of the 6th. But mind you don’t tick off Krampas. Next is Saint Lucy’s Day (December 13) when the oldest girl-child gets to wear a crown of burning candles to deliver cardamom-spiced pastries to the household. (Fate did not see fit to give me daughters, so I’ve not lab tested this one. But there are internet pictures that may not be entirely Photoshopped.) Saturnalia begins on the 17th with the festival honoring Saturn’s wife, Ops, on the 19th. Saturnalia can last as long as there is stamina for it, but three days is probably sufficient. The solstice, Yule, falls somewhere between the 20th and the 23rd. Christmas Eve is also Mother’s Night and Midwinter; it is the holiest night in the holiday cycle. Christmas Day is followed by St. Stephen’s Day when it’s traditional to go caroling with a bird on a stick. (Because Celts…)

There is the matter of the Twelve Days of Christmas. If you start counting on Christmas Day, then the 12th day is January 5th, which is when most observations of Twelfth Night take place. This doesn’t work well anymore though. School is already back in session and most people are just done with holidays after New Year’s Day.

My family tends to follow this traditional schedule, but it frequently feels awkward, dragging out the holiday well past its expiration date. So I began to wonder what might happen if you started the count earlier. If you begin on the 20th — the earliest date for the solstice — then Twelfth Night is also New Year’s Eve; Epiphany is New Year’s Day; and the holidays can be over on the 2nd. But that messes with Plough Monday and Distaff Day, so I haven’t tried it out yet. Still, it’s an option.

In any event Twelfth Night is a party for kids with all that implies: games, silliness, gifts and laughter. And at some point in the twelve days there is a tradition of wassailing the orchard and byre. I think Twelfth Night is a good time: it’s the most traditional and if you don’t have young children it’s a great way to keep the party going. Or if you do still have youngsters and they’ve had all the holiday you and they can handle, you can put the critters to bed and go sing to cows and trees and stars while drinking — um, “pouring out libations of” — spiced hard cider.

The third moon in the lunar year is the Wolf Moon. It is new between 28 December and 25 January; it’s full between 11 January and 8 February. This is the coldest time of year in the North. It is also when stores of food are running low and hunger is stalking every home. Significantly, this is also the breeding season for wolves. They are calling to each other in the lovesick long nights of deep winter. 

Our ancestors heard wolves howling at the moon at this time of year not because those wolves were coming for them — though that made a good metaphor for the hunger that was stalking humanity at this time of year — but because those wolves were singing love songs to potential mates. I tend to think our ancestors, being much wiser in many ways than we are — certainly wiser than we tend to believe of them — probably knew about wolf breeding cycles. They were keen observers of their world. Many of them felt deep kinship with wolves. And besides, it’s just good policy to keep track of the animal that is most likely to kill your sheep.

The season of Midwinter gives way to the season of Imbolg on Plough Monday, the first Monday after Epiphany on 6 January. Plough Monday can fall anywhere between the 7th and the 13th, and this week of time often feels like a big shift in weather. The first week of January is almost always cold. The middle of January, however, frequently sees a thaw and can feel like a false spring at higher latitudes. Some traditions insist on taking down all the winter holiday greens and decorations on Epiphany. However, if you celebrate Twelfth Night on the 5th and are among those who give gifts on the 6th, then you probably don’t want to pack away the décor before that. So Plough Monday is a good target for the change, the full stop on Midwinter, the time when routine returns.

In our house we have two auxiliary holidays that straddle Midwinter and Imbolg: one commonly celebrated, the other not so much. January 8th is the birthday of Elvis Presley. I usually dance around the house and bake biscuits. January 15th is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. There is, of course, the national holiday on the Monday following the 15th, but I like to honor the actual day of his birth. I read from his speeches in which there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of excellent advice and pithy quotes that inspire meditation and action.

The season of Imbolg is a festival of lights in our house. The white holiday lights stay out and there are candles in abundance. I tend to shift the color palette to lighter and airier whites, blues, and pale washes of color. These colors feel both like winter and new beginnings to me. It’s like having a home space filled with hopeful whispers. It’s not spring yet, but it’s coming.

However, the world outside is cold and dark. The days are lengthening, but the cold is getting worse. There may be snow. There is often wind. It’s not pretty. There are birds on the feeder though. The cardinals are starting on summer planning, so the bright red males are ostentatiously parading around the garden, staking claims. Most of the furred beasties are asleep or hiding. But there are skunk tracks in the snow most mornings, and the raccoons are nightly visitors to the compost bin.

The Imbolg holidays are Saint Brigid’s Eve (31 January), Imbolg or the Feast of Saint Brigid (1 February) and Candlemas (the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, Groundhog Day, 2 February). My grandmother was born on January 31st, so I feel a special connection to this traditionally women’s rite. Imbolg is usually a day of quiet contemplation followed by a meal featuring the traditional dairy products my ancestors depended upon at this time of year. I particularly love potato-leek soup made with rich yogurt and warm bread slathered with fresh made farmer cheese. Candlemas is, I confess, usually an afterthought. I have no particular attachment to divination, being of an intentionally “what will come, will come” nature. I do note the weather, but I do that every day. We usually watch Bill Murray learn life lessons from a large rodent in the delightful movie “Groundhog Day”.

After the season of Imbolg comes the Early Spring celebrations of young love and innocent fertility — Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia on the following day. These are very likely the same celebration at their roots. Being a cranky old bat, I’m not much enamored of Valentine’s Day. The greeting card industry doesn’t need my money. But Lupercalia is strange enough to be interesting. While I don’t think I’m going to be lining up to participate (which involves being smacked with goat-skin thongs, really not my thing), this is a celebration of Faunus — sometimes known as Lupercus, known better as Pan —  and the Roman wolf cult — the cave in which Romulus and Remus were nursed by the wolf, Lupa, was known as the Lupercal. How can a nature lover not love this holiday?

The fourth moon in the lunar year is the Snow Moon, though I sometimes think it should be called the Hunger Moon. It is new between 26 January and 23 February; it’s full between 9 February and 9 March. There is not always snow, but there is hunger — in both belly and mind. In most of the northern world, it is time to tighten the belt. Take stock. If you’ve planned well, you still have half of the food you stored from the harvest. If not, well, you need to eat less. There is also hunger for the vigor of spring. This time of year many of us become restless, wanting to be more, do more. Luckily the Snow Moon and the season of Early Spring are traditional times to clean and cleanse. Get out those rubber gloves and give your home a good scrubbing. Start that exercise plan and get your health back. Donate and recycle all the stuff you haven’t used in the last year, excepting mementos of course. (I’m NOT a Kondo fan.)

Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday usually fall in this time period. I’m not partial to either one, but most people are. I’m never given to drinking myself silly draped in purple and green beads. But there are good reasons to take on some form of spring fasting, not in self-abnegation though, just as a matter of practicality. In a loca-vore’s life this is a season of dearth, but greens and yummy brassica roots are starting to come into season in the greenhouse and in the garden if you live down south. So it’s a good time to focus on healthy eating, mostly by “giving up” what is just not available and eating plenty of what is. Helps to shed some of those leftover holiday pounds at any rate. 

Early Spring slides into Mid-Spring usually by the beginning of March. Whereas Early Spring is still subdued, still white, still cold, the middle part of spring is when life starts to spring forth. The principle feature of Early Spring is the frost and melt cycle that turns all driveways to mud and then freezes everything solid. Repeatedly. Mid-Spring is when the mud comes to stay. But also the first buds start to open, early bulbs start to bloom, and birds are definitely nesting. Noisily. At dawn. Which is by this time of year rapidly shifting earlier and earlier each day as the sun nears the equator. Mid-Spring is the season of eggs and seeds, buds and running sap. And of course, maple syrup!

The fifth moon of the year is the Sap Moon. It is new between 24 February and 24 March, full between 10 March and 7 April. This is a period of rapid change. The Sap Moon rarely sees the same weather from year to year. When it’s early in the solar calendar, this month is dominated by mud and melt. When late, early flowers are blooming. Most years it is possible to plant out for the first time during the Sap Moon, but in late years there may already be peas and greens ready for harvesting in the garden. There is always maple syrup in the north, and the signs of running sap in the trees are everywhere — swelling buds, catkins, red squirrels on sugar highs. It’s a very exciting time.

St. Patrick’s Day and the Vernal Equinox usually fall in the Sap Moon. In my family, we have a tradition of doing something Out Of The House on St. Patrick’s Day — hiking, trips to the ocean (when in New England), or just digging in the garden (if there’s no snow on the beds). Then there is a good appetite for the soda bread, cabbage stew, and dark beer at dinner. St. Patrick’s Day is the actual equi-nox in New England, the day when day and night are equal at twelve hours long.

The Equinox holiday is celebrating the day when the sun is over the ecliptic. It rises directly due east and sets due west. This is usually my first big planting day, especially for all the cool season herbs like dill, cilantro and calendula. It’s also a good day to clean out the chicken coop since soon they will be laying again, now that there are twelve hours of daylight. And you’ll need the space decluttered and repaired as, undoubtedly, you will soon be duped into buying yet another round of adorable pullets at the farm supply stand.

After the Equinox, it is rabbit season. Time for blossoms and chocolate and baby animals. And of course the moony bunny. I call this season Easter even though I don’t celebrate the Christian holiday. The name doesn’t have anything to do with Christianity, and I do wonder that they’ve kept it this long. (Then again, in the Romance languages it’s still called some variety of Passover… go figure… ) Easter may be derived from some Germanic word for “dawn” or “spring” or simply “east”. It is not, however, the name of a moon goddess who has a rabbit fetish.

Easter in our house is a celebration of youth. It’s colorful and fanciful. There is probably too much chocolate (if that’s a thing). The Afro-Celtic Sound System is on continual repeat in the stereo system. Life is active again — less sleeping and reading, more doing and making. Lots of gardening. Everything is shooting out of the ground. Food yes, but also those annual weeds. My rule is to suppress them as much as possible with mulch, but when they (inevitably) find ways around that, kill them young.

The sixth moon of the year is the Greenleaf Moon. This is the time of the Green Man, when all the trees finally put out their finest spring greens. The new moon falls between 25 March (Lady Day) and 22 April; it is full between 8 April and 6 May. This is a month of frenzied garden activity and very few holidays. Arbor Day falls in this period, but that’s just another day spent in the garden. For those who like wild-crafting, this is mushroom season and field herbs are abundant. Usually, this month is the end of the heating season, so it’s a good time to clean out the wood stoves and schedule chimney cleaning and maintenance. And one of the best parts of this time of year is that first day you can hang the laundry to dry outside in the warm breeze. 

The season of Easter shifts to the season of Beltaine at about Arbor Day, at least before Floralia which begins on April 27th. If Easter is the time of children and chocolate, Beltaine is for young adults. (Though it’s probably still time for chocolate.) This is the celebration of sensual fertility, when all of nature is focused on creation and passion. May Day happens in this season. This is the beginning of summer in the ancient Celtic calendars. In fact, it is one of a very few established calendrical names that has come down to us. In the old calendars, Beltaine often marked the time when livestock were led to upland pastures for summer grazing. Often the whole family would relocate to a summer cabin, since cows need twice daily milking at this time. A focus of May Day festivals was on livestock protection. Cattle were led near the ubiquitous bonfires to be essentially smudged in the smoke. The idea is that this may have had a real beneficial effect by removing parasitic insects. I’m not sure that smoke in sufficient quantity to knock the lice and ticks dead (if that’s even possible, given the indestructibility of ticks) wouldn’t first make the cows and humans very ill. Maybe it’s a memory of a tradition of rubbing down the barn-bound dairy cows with ashes to get the bugs out before heading to the summer pastures.

You will note that holidays tend to thin out as the weather warms. This is not a coincidence. Our calendrical cycle is largely based on the agricultural year, and this is a very busy time for farming. There aren’t days off when the sun shines long and the growing season is going strong.

The seventh moon is the Flower Moon. It is new between 23 April and 21 May. It is full between 7 May and 4 June. This is the time of riotous blossom and rainbow color splashed everywhere. You can cut vases of fresh flowers every morning and still have plenty in the garden. Bees and butterflies are busy all over the garden. The early baby birds are fledging. And it finally feels warm in the north. (In the south, it’s verging toward too warm.) This is the month of Mother’s Day and graduations. School usually lets out at this time. In the United States, Memorial Day ushers in barbecue season. There is asparagus and rhubarb, peas and all manner of greens, cabbages and radishes and many of the roots. And usually sometime in this month, the ice cream stands will open their doors. This is the best time to clean out the freezer and pantry to prepare for the summer’s harvest.

The season of Beltaine gives way to Midsummer the last weekend in May. This is also the weekend that all the nightshades get planted out of doors. It is possible to do this earlier but why? There is plenty to eat in the spring garden. So you might as well hold off until frost is absolutely not going to happen before putting out those tomatoes, chiles, sweet peppers, eggplants and potato slips. There is no sleep at all while this is happening but sunrises are just glorious!

The season of Midsummer is a long one. It lasts from late May to late July. Food production is the main activity, but as planting time shifts to harvest there is more time for other pursuits. It’s a good time to tackle home repairs and painting since there is plenty of fresh air and the days are long. The  big holiday is the Summer Solstice, Midsummer. Midsummer proper can be just the day of the solstice itself, but it is more commonly another solar festival that is marked several days after the event. In this case, Midsummer is usually celebrated on 24 June, St. John’s Day. (Hence, St. John’s Wort, a common medicinal herb that opens its cheery yellow blooms to the midsummer sun.)

In our family, we like to get up to watch the sun rise on the solstice. It’s particularly dramatic from Volcano Park west of Albuquerque. The middle of the day is nap time in the garden shade. Then there is a feast that usually consists mostly of fruit and ice cream.

The eighth moon is the Strawberry Moon and yes, that is what is happening. It is new between 22 May and 19 June, full between 5 June and 3 July. While planting and harvesting both happen all year long to some extent, this is the month when there is a shift from predominantly planting activities to harvest. This is high summer when food is everywhere. Farmers’ markets are overflowing. The orchard has apricots, cherries, plums and early peaches. The first early tomatoes will be served with great ceremony one evening this month. And there are strawberries by the pound. In our home, there is a color shift to a warmer palette, golds and reds and rusty browns. I also have a fondness for ocean symbolism and this is the time it really shines. So deep blues, turquoise, and vibrant sea green colors are everywhere. Swirled purple mother of pearl, black beach pebbles, and bleached shells and driftwood fingers overflow on mantles and in seagrass baskets.

The ninth moon is the Midsummer Moon. It is new between 20 June and 18 July and full between 4 July and 1 August. Most years the holiday of Midsummer itself does not happen in this month, but this is still the middle of the summer weather, the peak of the warmth, the greatest production in the fields and garden. In fact, it could be called the Hay Moon because haymaking season falls at this time. But anyone who has ever baled hay has no romantic inclinations toward that grueling labor, and so it’s Midsummer, not Hay.

This month contains Independence Day in the US. Being a westerner, I’m not a big fan — not of the colonial and martial symbolism, definitely not of fireworks. In the desert southwest we have a much better light show beginning at this time of year — the monsoon season. With the daily afternoon showers come rainbows and lightning shows and spectacular sunsets unparalleled by the paltry works of man. This lasts from early July to late September, with most of the rain falling in August. (For comparison… in New England the Dog Days begin in early July with soul-crushing heat and humidity. This doesn’t relent until the middle of August when it shifts to dusty wind… and heat.)

The tenth moon is the Blueberry Moon. It is new between 19 July and 16 August, full between 2 August and 30 August. The holiday of Lammas (2 August) usually falls in this month, and there is another Marian festival — usually indicating an older goddess feast date — a couple weeks after Lammas (15 August in Roman Catholic traditions, 28 August in Eastern Orthodox).

The season of Midsummer shifts to Lughnasadh, fair season, gathering season, a time to bring the whole tribe together and show off. The Lughnasadh season begins the last Sunday in July, Bilberry Sunday or Crom Dubh Sunday. On this day, people climb to the heights for a day of picnics and berry picking and good-natured competitions. There are races and games.

Many market fairs take place throughout the season, with an especial focus on horse trading. Horses also feature in the games and races, with several races taking place on beach sand. In  New Mexico, fair season parallels the monsoon rains, with craft fairs starting in early July, the pageantry of the state fair in early September, and the amazing cap to the season, Balloon Fiesta, which just beggars language. You must see it to understand.

The potato harvest swings into full gear at this time. In the orchard there are still pit fruits ripening — peaches, in particular — and the earliest apples are ready for sauce-making. Berries of all kinds are ripe in fields and cultivated plots alike. And the garden is so productive there is hardly time to breathe between harvesting, cleaning, cooking, canning, freezing, and eating. You can actually get sick of tomatoes, still warm from the garden sun, sliced into thick wedges and slathered in fresh basil pesto. Who knew? And in the midst of all this harvest it is also time to sow. Fall and over-wintering crops are planted in the garden and the fields are being prepared for winter grains.

Lughnasadh shifts to Mid-Autumn by September 1st. This is when fall weather begins. There may have been some maples with color back at Lammas, but the wild color pageant is at its most wondrous in Mid-Autumn under the Nutting and Falling Leaves Moons. My home reflects the outdoors with a blazing palette and rich texture, layered fabrics and bright pumpkins. There is less to do in the garden in Mid-Autumn, but the orchard is demanding. Grapes and blackberries are coming into harvest. Apples, pears, quince and fig trees all need daily picking and processing. Most go into jams, chutneys, sauces, and butters that fill the pantry with glowing color to rival an autumn wood.

The eleventh moon is the Nutting Moon. It is new between 17 August and 14 September and full between 31 August and 28 September. This is when the all-important nut harvest really gets going. Mast is falling from oaks and beeches. The walnut family — pecans, hickories, butternuts — are ripening and staining the ground with their tannin-rich black skins, which are excellent for dyeing and ink-making. Hazelnuts and chestnuts are bursting out of their spiny shells. Humans are in fierce competition with the rodents for all this windfall.

The Autumnal Equinox, Harvest Home, comes in Mid-Autumn. This is the true thanksgiving feast when families and communities gather together to celebrate the bounty of the harvest. There are harvest fairs and festivals every weekend, and it’s become traditional to go pick your own apples and pumpkins at local farms. It’s also time for long walks in the midst of swirling leaves and that last trip to the sea-side to breathe in the salt breezes before it’s time to hunker down for the cold months. Mid-Autumn shifts back to the beginning of the seasonal round, Samhain, at Michaelmas (29 September), an old Harvest Home celebration that usually involves cooked goose. Incidentally, in New England the 12-hour day, the true equinox, is around the 25th, thus closer to Michaelmas than the date in which the sun passes the ecliptic.

The twelfth moon is the Falling Leaves Moon. It is new between 15 September and 13 October, full between 29 September and 27 October. This is the time of cool release and slowing tempo. The days are shortening; the stars are bright. The first frost will come in this month if it hasn’t already. There may even be snow at high altitude and latitude. (In 2020 New Hampshire had a snowfall that made for a “white Halloween”.)

The final moon, the thirteenth, is a special cycle. The lunar year does not fit the solar year precisely and this 13th moon has days taken from it to keep the two calendars synchronized. This is the Hunter’s Moon. It is new in a period lasting from October 14th to sundown on the 31st, only two weeks. It is full between 28 October and 14 November. This is the time of the hunting season, but it’s also the time of the Wild Hunt when the souls of the dead are gathered and granted release from this world. Autumn is ending. This is the moon of the Ancestors and the Witch.

One final note. You’ve probably noticed that there is no Harvest Moon in this calendar. This is because the Harvest Moon shifts. It is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. I still have a Harvest Moon every year; it replaces either the Nutting or Falling Leaves moons, depending on the timing. For astronomical reasons I have not yet plumbed, the closest full moon to the equinox happens more often after the equinox than before. So the Falling Leaves Moon is dropped more frequently than the Nutting Moon.

And that, my friends, is the end of my calendar. For the rest of the year — maybe for the rest of my blog life — I’ll be filling in the details on local living and seasonal celebration. And, should you choose to embrace this life, you will too.


© Elizabeth Anker 2021