This week witches and muggles alike will be celebrating the second Full Moon of the month – what has come to be known as a “Blue Moon.”
But is August’s second full moon truly a “Blue Moon?”
Well…that depends on which definition you choose to go by.
Modern-day folklore defines a Blue Moon as being the second full moon which occurs in the same month – thus under such a definition, this Friday’s full moon would indeed fit the description.
However, if we go by the original Farmer’s Almanac definition, which definitely has Pagan undertones to it…then we have to reconsider.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, a Blue Moon is the third full moon in a season of four full moons. The seasons of course being Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. How are those seasons marked? From equinox to solstice, solstice to equinox. So the Spring season would be the time from the vernal equinox on March 21st to June 20th; the Summer season would be from the summer solstice on June 21st to September 20th; the Fall season would be from autumnal equinox on September 21st to December 20th; and the Winter season would be from the winter solstice on December 21st to March 20th. (These dates can be approximate since the equinoxes and solstices vary a bit from year to year, but this is the general rule of thumb.)
Each of the seasons encompasses three months. During those three months, one generally has three full moons, one occurring each month. The first full moon of the season is the first one that occurs after the start of that season (equinox or solstice), and is known as the early moon. The second full moon is called the mid moon, and then the final third moon is known as the late moon.
Now if a fourth full moon occurs within the same season, then that fourth full moon is called the late moon. So what happens to the third full moon of the season?
That’s the moon that gets called a Blue Moon.
To explain this better…the first full moon that occurs on or after June 21st would be called the early summer moon. This moon would likely occur in late June or early July, although occasionally it can occur in the later half of July, depending on when June’s full moon took place. Then the second full moon would be the midsummer moon, which generally takes place the end of July or beginning of August, although again it could occur in mid-August. The third and final full moon would occur before September 21st – either in late August or in the first half of September. This moon would be known as late summer moon.
If there was a fourth full moon which occurred before September 21st, that moon would be known as the late summer moon, and thus the third full moon would then be called the Blue Moon of the Summer season.
Now, using the above definition, let’s see if it applies to this year’s season:
The first Full Moon of the Summer season occurred on July 3rd. This was the early summer moon. The second Full Moon of the Summer season occurred on August 1st/ 2nd (depending on your time zone). This was the midsummer moon. Then we have another full moon in August occurring on the 31st. So is this a blue moon…or the late summer moon of the Summer season?
Well, if we take a look at the next full moon occurring after this Friday…it doesn’t happen until September 29th/30th (again depending on your time zone). This is after the autumnal equinox, when we have moved into the next season – the Fall season.
Note that this calendar is in fact using the modern folklore definition and does refer to the August 31st full moon as a “Blue Moon.” However, if we follow the Farmer’s Almanac definition, this would actually be incorrect, since it’s not a seasonal third full moon.
Thus, we do NOT have four full moons in the same season, and therefore we do NOT have a blue moon.
Yes, we have 13 moons. Yes, we have two moons happening in the same month. No, we don’t have a Blue Moon.
Under this definition, the next actual Blue Moon will occur in 2013, when we have four Full Moons during the Summer season: June 23rd, July 22nd, August 20th, and September 19th. Note that we do NOT have two full moons occurring in the same month; but because we do have the four full moons happening, the August 20, 2013 full moon would be the Blue Moon, so that the September 19, 2013 full moon would be the late summer moon.
Now to throw yet another wrench into the wheel, there’s a whole new issue that comes into play here… which has created some conflicting thoughts for me and perhaps others as well:
Exactly ***when*** do you consider the seasons to start and end?
Some Pagans (including myself) subscribe to the belief that the seasons actually begin and end at the Greater Sabbats – the cross-quarter days, as opposed to the solstices and equinoxes.
In another words, Spring actually begins at Imbolc on February 2nd, Summer starts at Beltaine on May 1st, Lughnasadh on August 1st marks the beginning of Fall, and then on November 1st with Samhain we welcome the season of Winter. The equinoxes and solstices thus mark the middle of the season, not the beginning of it (i.e. June 21st becomes Midsummer, as in Shakespeare’s famous play of the night’s dream).
So if you follow such a belief system, then how does the Blue Moon theory fit into such?
I can’t help wondering if this in fact has something to do with the modern folklore switch to calling the second Full Moon of the month a Blue Moon – it is certainly a lot easier to simply think of Blue Moons in such a manner than to get into a prolonged discussion of seasonal beginnings and endings.
If in fact I was to follow my cross-quarter days rule of the beginning of the seasons occurring at the Greater Sabbats, then the early summer moon would have been May 5th, the midsummer moon would have been June 4th, and then the late summer moon would have been July 3rd. Then the next Full Moon was on August 1st/2nd, which marks Lughnasadh and the beginning of Fall.
Then for the Fall season, you have the early fall moon on August 1/2, the midautumn moon of August 31, then you have a full moon on September 29 and another full moon which occurs shortly before Samhain on October 29th. Thus the October 29th full moon would be the late fall moon, and the September full moon would in fact be considered a Blue Moon.
Have I gotten you into a tizzy yet???
But regardless of what definition you wish to utilize, or what seasonal directives you follow… this Friday’s full moon is sure to be a special one. So use it as a time to celebrate. Pour yourself a glass of mead…or if you prefer, pop open a bottle of Blue Moon beer. Light a few candles, call forth the Goddess, and see this as a time for working some powerful mojo.
Just be sure to enjoy it.