Sep 19, 2013

Blame It On The Moon

Recently, I posted an article here discussing the significance of lunar folklore.  I closed that article by referencing a well-known phrase involving the Moon - "once in a blue moon."

Now, as we enter the autumn months, communities across the U.S. - particularly in agricultural areas - are gearing up to celebrate a time associated with yet another type of Moon - the "harvest moon."

Then, as we approach Halloween, paper representations on doors and in windows pay homage to still another type of Moon - the "witches moon."

Like it or not, we have crafted more phrases, idioms, lyrics and song titles referencing the Moon than any other celestial body.  Why is the Moon so important, so enigmatic, to warrant such attention?  And, what are all these different moons we have named?

Blue Moon

In Tuesday's Tales:  Lunar Folklore, I posed the question, "Have you ever seen a 'blue moon'?"  If you have ever witnessed a month that has two full moons, then the answer is yes.

When a calendar month has two full moons, the second full moon is what we refer to as a "Blue Moon."  Compared to many other celestial phenomena, Blue Moons are hardly as rare as their phrase-sake implies. They occur once every two to three years.  In celestial terms, this is a relatively common occurrence.

Furthermore, despite its name, a Blue Moon is not typically blue, although it can be under certain conditions (e.g., volcanic activity)

Blue Moon was popularized by the 1934 Rodgers and Hart ballad of the same name.  A clip of "Blue Moon" being played on the saxophone can be heard here courtesy of Wikipedia.

Harvest Moon

Like the "Blue Moon," the "Harvest Moon" also occurs at specific times of the year. Although a similar moon sometimes occurs in October, the true "Harvest Moon" occurs only in September.  It is the full moon occurring nearest to the Autumnal Equinox, which means Sept 19 for most U.S. residents.

The "Harvest Moon" is so named because its bright light during the harvest season allowed farmers to continue their work long into the night. "Harvest Moons" often have an orange or ruddy appearance, as shown here.

Not surprisingly, the "Harvest Moon" has also been popularized in song.  

In the early 1900s, vaudeville composers Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth wrote, "Shine On, Harvest Moon."

You can listen to a clip of the song here, courtesy of YouTube.

Witch's Moon

Perhaps less well-known than either of the previous two, the "Witch's Moon" has, nonetheless, earned a place in our Moon lexicography, especially around Halloween.  

But, what exactly is a Witch's Moon?  When does it occur?  What does it look like?

Don't let all these questions "phase" you...You have a 50/50 shot of correctly identifying a Witch's Moon.

Is it ... (A) 

Or, is it (B)

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