This year (2018) is particularly unique in that January and March both contain two full moons while February has no full moon. This means that there are two Blue Moons. What is a Blue Moon?
IN MODERN times, the term “blue moon” is defined as the second full moon occurring within a single month. By a somewhat older definition, it’s the third full moon in a season that has four — instead of the normal three — full moons. Either way, it’s an out-of-the-ordinary phenomenon occurring only once every few years. Hence the phrase, “once in a blue moon.”
This is an especially magickal time, think of it as a lunar bonus round, a chance to ask for special “once in a blue moon” favors, or to work with “once in a lifetime” spells.
Why does this happen?
A full lunar cycle is a little over 28 days long. However, a calendar year is more than that, which means that during some years, you may end up with thirteen full moons instead of twelve, depending on where in the month the lunar cycle falls. This is because during each calendar year, you end up with twelve full 28-day cycles, and a leftover accumulation of eleven or twelve days. Those days accumulate, and so about once every 28 calendar months, you end up with an extra full moon during the month.
Historically, “blue moon” was understood in a more literal way. Once upon a time it denoted a phenomenon even rarer than an extra full moon, one that has occurred perhaps only once or twice in recorded history: the face of moon literally appearing to turn blue in color.
The Blue Moon will likely look no different than any other full Moon. But the Moon can change color in certain conditions.
After forest fires or volcanic eruptions, the Moon can appear to take on a bluish or even lavender hue. Soot and ash particles, deposited high in the Earth’s atmosphere can sometimes make the Moon appear bluish. Smoke from widespread forest fire activity in western Canada created a blue Moon across eastern North America in late September 1950. In the aftermath of the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991 there were reports of blue moons (and even blue Suns) worldwide.
In certain areas of England there was an expression that if a dark moon came on Christmas, a fine harvest year would follow. Other areas declared that a waxing or new moon on Christmas portended a good year, but a waning moon a hard year.
From: Moon Magick
By the time writing first appeared (around 3100 B.C.E.) ancient Egyptian life centered around no less than three calendars. The lunar calendar, the civil calendar, and the Sothic calendar. These calendars were based on the celestial patterns of the moon, the sun, and the star Sirius, respectively.
The Lunar Calendar
The moon with its regular cycle became the oldest time keeper. Coinciding with a woman’s menstrual cycles, it was the perfect instrument to keep track of her and the animal’s fertile times and to record the patterns of life. No wonder the goddesses Isis and Hathor were associated with the moon.
The Solar Calendar
The civil calendars were solar based and used the movement of the sun across the sky to signal the approaching seasons. When roaming the countryside, chasing game, and gathering food gave way to the practice of agriculture, it became more important for our ancestors to master the signs of the growing seasons than to follow animal migration patterns.
Early agriculturists began to look up at the sky in an effort to learn when to prepare the ground, when to plant, and when to reap. Unlike lunar calendars, solar calendars marked the solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year), as well as the equinoxes (when the days and nights were of equal length).
In addition, seasonal changes that affected the growing season were predicted by observing the rise of certain constellations, particularly those constellations that followed the ecliptic (the apparent path of the sun through the heavens). Thus, the appearance of the twelve zodiacal constellations formed an important part of the civil and solar calendar.
Correcting The Inconsistencies
Because the moon cycles didn’t exactly match the sun cycles, five intercalary days, called Epagomenal Days, were eventually added to the calendar year. In Egypt those five days honored the births of the great neters (Supreme Deities) Osiris, Horus, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys. Even after the Epagomenal Days were added to the solar calendar, it was still inexact because the true year is actually a few hours longer than 365 days.
To determine exactly when the seasons would change and when to sow or harvest, the Egyptians began to track and observe all the heavenly bodies, including the moon, the sun, the constellations, and the brightest, most visible stars. By watching the sky over the years, people began to notice that just before dawn near the summer solstice, the rising of the Dog Star Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens.
The rising of this star was a better, more reliable predictor of the coming of the flood season than the solar calendar alone. When the star appeared, the flood waters flowing from the southern mountains and highlands appeared soon after. By observing Sirius, preparations for planting and sowing could be made well in advance. In addition, the regularity of the rise of Sirius most closely resembled the true length of the year.
The Sothic Calendar
The brilliant star Sirius, appearing in the constellation we know as Canis Major, was ancient Egypt’s most important star. The Egyptians called the star Sopdet and equated it with Isis, the powerful goddess of regeneration.
The Greeks called the star Sothis, later developing a so-called Sothic calendar that kept even more regular track of the years and the seasons, being most nearly 365.25 days. Even then the calendar still wasn’t perfect.Incremental changes were occurring due to the rotation of the earth, the tilt of the earth, and the procession of the equinoxes.
The Civil Calendar
By divine decree laid down in the mists of prehistory, the Egyptian priest-king swore never to alter the civil calendar, even though its solar-basted calculations were not keeping up with the changing seasons. The reason for this seemingly irrational adherence lay in the fact that the year had been divinely established by the god of wisdom and time, Thoth.
Thoth’s laws were the laws of the gods, and divine laws were considered unalterable. The real reason may have been that astrologer priests were tracking an even larger arc of time – a procession not of the sun and moon, but of the equinoxes – that resulted in a kind of calendar of the ages.
When the Greeks arrived in Egypt, however, they saw little value in maintaining such a cosmic calendar when the civil calendar was so woefully out of alignment. Once they established themselves as kings, the Ptolemaic Greeks believed that the time had come to alter Thoth’s divine law. They coerced the priests into adding an extra day every four years to even out the true calendar. The result created the leap year, which we use even to this day.
How The Egyptian Calendar Works
At first Egypt’s calendar seems hard to understand because we are conditioned to our own notions of month and season derived from the Romans. Really, the ancient Egyptian calendar is fairly simple. The year has twelve months, the months have three weeks, and each week has ten days. This represented the basic system of the lunar year.
Tacked on to the end of these 360 days were the five Epagomenal Days, added to create the 365 days of the solar year. The Epagomenal Days signaled the end of the year and were followed by the new year’s celebration, just as New Year’s Day follows New Year’s Eve in our calendar. But, whereas we begin counting in the winter month of January, the ancient Egyptians began counting at the rise of the Dog Star Sirius, which occurs in the middle of our summer.
This system makes perfect sense because the new year signaled the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. When the Dog Star rose, the Nile flooded, and the parched earth was refertilized The sacred actions of the Nile River – its flooding, its retreat into its banks leaving fertile soil, and its eventual low flow creating drought conditions – determined not only the major festivals of the pharaoh and his people,but the three seasons of the year.
The Three Seasons
The ancient Egyptians did not celebrate four seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter as we do. Rather, their three seasons were uniquely timed to the particular agricultural requirements in their geographic region. The three seasons were:
- Ahket – Innundation
Also called the Red Season, it extended from mid July to mid November, when most of the river valley and Delta were underwater.
- Pert – Sowing
Also called the Black Season, it extended from mid November to mid March, the equivalent to our spring, which the Egyptians called the Coming Forth.
- Shemu – Harvest
Also called the White Season, it extended from mid March to mid July when crops were harvested. By season’s end, everything was dry and the fields were scorched.
From: Feasts of Light
The great and supreme powers of ancient Egypt were the Gods and Goddesses of nature. The coming of the annual flood, the blossoming of the lotus, the rising of the brightest star in the sky, the disappearance of the moon, the eclipsing of the sun, the cutting of the wheat – all were occasions in which the Divine manifested on earth.
The religious life of the ancient Egyptians was marked by the celebration of the following kinds of sacred events:
- Festivals dedicated to a particular god or goddess which honored them through the public remembrance of their mythic lives.
- Festivals which honored the dead, bringing together a sense of the tribal community and the ancestral history and marking the cycles of time.
- Festivals which initiated the agrarian work cycles of preparing, sowing, and harvesting, as well as lying fallow.
In all probablity these seasonal festivals were determined by astronomical markers, such as the equinoxes, the solstices, and the rise of particular stars and constellations.
These were sacred events to which the Great Gods and Goddesses provided their blessings, for they were the manifestations of the cosmic cycle of nature. The will of the Gods was made known through the great pattern laid out in the sky by celestial phenomena.
There earliest festivals were those celebrating the mysteries of the Goddess in her appearance as the day and night sky, as both sun and moon. Most of the original ancient Egyptian feast days were celebrated at the new or the full moon. The ancient hieroglyph for “month” was the image of the moon itself. Apparently, the original festival calendar was lunar.
Of course, many Egyptian feast days are moveable feasts; that is, they are lunar festivals timed to phases of the moon. Thus, their occurrence might slip around from one year to the next. Other Egyptian festival dates were set by the motion of the stars, the planets, and the actions of the sun.
In any true sense it would be impossible for us to know the actual recurring dates of many of the festivals. We can, however approximate the ancient dates, which is what most Egyptologists do.
During the season of Inundation more major public festival occurred than at any other time of the year, most of them related to fertility rites and abundance rituals. The feasts tended to occupy the general public during this time because the land was so flooded that little real work could be done.
By comparison, the Sowing season had fewer festivals. Once the waters receded and work in the fields began, the Sowing season was the busiest time of year. The growing season was quickly followed by the Harvest season. But during the final months of the year, when the harvest had ended and the land was dry, the festivals began again, mostly in anticipation of the coming Inundation.
The festival calendar, as it appears to us now, spans three thousand years of Egyptian history and probably was being recorded, observed, and manipulated many thousands of years before that. In those three millennia a great many political and religious changes affected the designated feast days. Some feasts fell out of favor, others were renamed, a few were entirely forgotten.
From: Feasts of Light
The Mourning Moon is upon us. As the days grow shorter and the sun’s life-giving fires are banked, sometimes it seems so dark we feel the light will never return. This moon, however, is a reminder that death is just a part of the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
It’s also known as the Fog Moon or Snow Moon, depending on where you live. Some Native American tribes referred to it simply as The Moon When Deer Shed Antlers (although in most regions it’s more accurate to say they’re shedding their velvet – a buck doesn’t usually lose antlers until later in the winter, unless you’re very far north).
- Colors: Gray, blues
- Gemstones: Lapis lazuli, turquoise, topaz
- Trees: Cypress, alder, hazel
- Gods: Bastet, Isis, Kali, Hecate, Astarte
- Herbs: Thistle, betony, verbena, fennel
- Element: Water
In the early Celtic society, November was the beginning of the new year, and so it makes sense to use the magic of this moon phase to celebrate new beginnings.
This is a time of washing away the baggage of the past and letting it go. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to focus on the joys of the future. During the Mourning Moon phase, say goodbye to bad habits and toxic relationships, and get a fresh start for the new year. Work on developing and strengthening your connection with Spirit.
The new moon is sacred to the goddess Hekate, and these cakes are ideal for use in rituals honoring her, as well as for Hekate Suppers, or an offering to leave at a crossroads. Many of the ingredients are sacred to the Dark Goddess, additionally there are 3 x 3 ingredients, using the number three which is also sacred to Hekate.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup of soft butter
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp black poppy seeds
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp anise seeds
(If possible use organic ingredients and free-range fertile eggs.) Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together. Cream the butter, honey and egg. Blend the two mixtures together and add the remaining ingredients. Shape into small thin crescent shapes. Place with space between the shapes to allow for spreading during baking on a cool, oiled baking tray.
Bake at 350 F for about 12 minutes or until lightly golden.
~Sue Bowman, Keys to the Crossroads
The Dark of the Moon, those few days where the moon is not visible, just prior to the rebirth of the New Moon, are controversial. Some traditions will not cast spells during this period. Others. particularly those devoted to Dark Moon spirits like Hekate or Lilith, consider this a period of profound magickal power which may be exploited as needed.
In Arabic folk custom, it’s recommended that you keep an eye on moon phases. Whatever you find yourself doing at the moment when you first catch a glimpse of the brand new moon is the right thing for you to do.
More New Moon Lore:
- Almost every culture believed that if the New Moon came on Monday (Moon-day) it was a sign of good weather and good luck.
- Two new moons in one month were said to predict a month’s bad weather.
- Any new moon on a Saturday or Sunday was said to predict rain and general bad luck.
- Good luck will come your way if you first see the New Moon outside and over your right shoulder. You can also make a wish that will be granted. The best luck came from looking at the Moon straight on.
- In some parts of Ireland, upon seeing the New Moon, people bowed or knelt, saying: O Moon, leave us as well as you found us.
- Upon seeing the New Moon, bow to her and turn over the silver or coins in your pocket. This will bring you luck in all your affairs.
- If the New Moon is seen for the first time straight ahead, it predicts good fortune until the next New Moon.
- To encourage luxuriant growth, cut your hair on the New Moon.
- Wood cut at the New Moon is hard to split.
- The English had a saying that if a member of the family died at the time of the New Moon, three deaths would follow.
- Although the Koran expressly forbids worshiping the Sun or Moon, many Muslims still clasp their hands at the sight of a New Moon and offer a prayer.
From: Moon Magick and other sources
Traditionally, the each of the first ten days after the New Moon has it’s own attributes and qualities. Here’s the folklore on each of those days:
First Day: A good day for new beginnings. To fall ill on this day means the illness might last a long while. A child born at this time will be happy, prosperous, and live long.
Second Day: A good day for buying and selling and for starting a sea voyage. Also a good time for hoeing and sowing.
Third Day: Crimes committed on this day are certain to be found out.
Fourth Day: A good day for building, construction, and home renovations. Also a good day to be born on if you want to enter politics.
Fifth Day: The weather on this day gives an indication of what to expect for the rest of the month. It’s a good day for a woman to conceive.
Sixth Day: The best day for hunting and/or fishing.
Seventh Day: A good day for meeting and falling in love.
Eighth Day: A sickness begun on this day was thought to be likely to cause death.
Ninth Day: If the Moon shines in your face on this day, you may have twisted features or go mad.
Tenth: People born on this day are likely to be travelers or have a restless spirit.
Other Days: A New Moon on a Saturday or Sunday indicates rain, as does seeing the outline of the whole Moon at the same time as a New Moon. Furthermore, should the horns of a New Moon point upwards then the weather will be fair for the next lunar cycle, but if they point down, you can expect rain.
Here is a traditional recipe for the Mid-Autumn Moon Cake
- 1 can (17-1/2 ounces) lotus seed paste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2-cup non-fat dried milk powder
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup solid shortening, melted and cooled
- 1 egg yolk , lightly beaten
- Mix lotus seed paste and walnuts together in a bowl; set aside.
Sift flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl. In large bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until light and lemon colored. Add sugar; beat for 10 minutes or until mixture falls in a thick ribbon. Add melted shortening; mix lightly. With a spatula, fold in flour mixture. Turn dough out on a lightly floured board; knead for 1 minute or until smooth and satiny. Divide dough in half; roll each half into a log. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces.
To shape each moon cake, roll a piece of dough into a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured board to make a 4-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Place 1 tablespoon of lotus seed paste mixture in center of dough circle.
Fold in sides of dough to completely enclose filling; press edges to seal. Lightly flour inside of moon cake press with 2-1/2 inch diameter cups. Place moon cake, seam side up, in mold; flatten dough to conform to shape of mold. Bang one end of mold lightly on work surface to dislodge moon cake. Place cake on ungreased baking sheet. Repeat to shape remaining cakes. Brush tops with egg yolk.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool. Makes 2 dozen
Copyright Yan Can Cook, Inc. 1991.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup salted butter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup strawberry (or your favorite) jam
(traditionally red bean paste is used so if you want a more authentic version, you can use a can of red bean paste instead of the jam)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine the butter, sugar and 1 egg yolk and stir.
- Mix in the flour.
- Form the dough into one large ball and wrap it in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate dough for half an hour.
- Unwrap the chilled dough and form small balls in the palms of your hand.
- Make a hole with your thumb in the center of each mooncake and fill with about half a teaspoon of jam.
- Brush each cake with the other beaten egg yolk and place on a cookie sheet.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or just until the outside edges are slightly brown