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From the Wolf Moon to the Blood Moon: Cultural Meanings of the Moon

Worshipped with reverence by many, the moon and its origins, legends, traditions and powers attract an abundance of attention far and wide. Given its place in history as well its strong presence in culture today, in today’s post we explored the different cultural meanings surrounding this luminous orb.

Origins, Legends, and Traditions of the Wolf Moon

The phrase wolf moon is another name for a full moon, assigned to moons that glow roundly in the dead of winter, specifically in January, referring to the first full moon of a new calendar year. This year, 2018 started with a wolf moon gracing the sky. This moon is commonly known otherwise as Old Moon, Moon After Yule, or the Full Snow Moon.

The origin of this moon name dates back to the presence of Native American tribes, specifically related to the Pawnee Native American Tribe. This tribe is known to be one of the most honored in North America, named after the word pa’ni, translated to mean wolf. The traditions and customs of this tribe align with the so-called wolf spirit.

Legend has it that Tirawa, the Great Spirit, placed the wolf spirit in the sky in order to watch out for the evening star. This came along with the wolf’s animal brothers: Black Bear, Mountain Lion, and Wild-Cat. These entities were said to possess power in the sky, soon known as black star, yellow star, white star and red star. These beasts supposedly sent animals like themselves to live on earth and were responsible for many of the planet’s creations. Similarly, they were believed to be responsible for sending clouds, thunder, lightning, and wind.

The wolf spirit, said to be the guardian of and possessing ancient ties to the moon, was also believed to stand as a devoted servant of the sun. Even now, it’s widely regarded that a lone wolf sings his song to the moon, hence the name of the first moon of the year, occurring in the dead of winter.

Although the origin and legend of the wolf moon may be ancient, there still stands strong symbolism today surrounding this specific moon. The animal of a wolf is said to be strategic and communicative, possessing a specific rank in their packs. Because of these characteristics, a wolf moon is said to symbolize a time to look to community for creative solutions, inspiring individuals to communicate with those around them to overcome challenges.

Another distinct characteristic of wolves is their resourcefulness. During January, one of the most brutal of months in many regions, wolves often thrive. The symbol of the wolf reminds individuals to reconsider the vast number of options around them, even in a time that seems bleak. Take this time as an invitation for opportunity to be resourceful and to think outside the box.

Origins, Legends, and Traditions of the Harvest Moon

A harvest moon is the full moon that occurs nearest the start of fall or the autumnal equinox. Most typically, this moon occurs in September, but it can also take place in October. This moon tends to be larger and more colorful than other full moons throughout the year. This can be attributed to the tilt of the earth and reflections from the atmosphere at this particular time of year.

The moon is referred to as the “harvest” because of the timing in which the moon becomes visible. Moonrise occurs at this time just after sunset, providing an abundance of bright moonlight early in the evening. Traditionally, this provided aid to farmers and crews working to harvest their summer-grown crops.

This moon is also commonly called the wine moon as it’s historically occurred at the time where grapes are plump enough for collecting. It’s also been called the singing moon as there have been festivals held to mark it, involving singing. The Celts used the harvest moon to mark the time before Samhain and considered it a blessing, using it as a time to collect crops and throw large parties filled with singing, dancing, and drinking.

Some astrologers believe that this full moon refers to the theme of history repeating itself. This is because of the claim that the moon is influenced by the second of seven ominous and revolutionary confrontational squares between Uranus and Pluto. On a less technical note, history repeats itself each year at the time of the harvest moon as farmers pick their crops in preparation for the change in season.

A tradition associated with a harvest moon is to recognize its symbolism of a new beginning, coming after hard work and dedication. With that being said, the celebration of the harvest moon is said to be a good time to refresh and reflect on what the fruits of your labor have brought you and to be grateful.

Origins, Legends, and Traditions of the Blood Moon

A blood moon occurs when Earth’s moon is in full eclipse, causing the usually white-colored moon to become red or ruddy-brown. At this time, the moon is fully in Earth’s shadow while a bit of light from Earth’s sunrises and sunsets falls on the surface of the moon. The way that the light waves stretch out make them appear red. The exact shade of the moon depends on pollution, cloud cover or debris, and other factors surrounding the atmosphere.

A blood moon holds a range of spiritual and cultural meanings. For instance, this specially hued moon has historically played a part in prophecies, pointing to the origins of this celebrated phenomenon. In the Book of Joel, it served as an omen, written as, “The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes”.

A blood moon also appears in the Book of Revelation, stating, And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.

This specific moon symbolizes other themes besides religious ones, too. Sine it’s a full moon, a blood moon represents a tide of change and cleansing. And although the moon may look angry in a shade of burnt red, it actually symbolizes a positive change to be carried out further in the time to come. Furthermore, since this moon represents a lunar eclipse, it symbolizes a time to reset emotions, letting go of emotional baggage and moving on.

This moon further represents a theme of healing. A myth suggests that the sun and moon are fighting during an eclipse, despite the people urging them to stop. A total lunar eclipse, which spurs a blood moon, is thus seen as a time to resolve feuds and come together.

While these are only a few of the different full moons that occur throughout the year, they’re all unique in their own way. The legends, origins, meanings, and traditions associated with each prove to make the moon an even more intriguing wonder than it already is, inspiring awe, speculation, and even excitement.


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