Tuesday, November 3, 2009

HIE TO THE HUNTER'S MOON

Last night, a hour or so after darkness laid claim upon the land, I stood in the yard and watched a moon as shiny and round as a newly minted silver dollar come slipping up through the tangle of leafless maples to the east. The trees line the high ground uphill from the cottage—and for a while, the rising moon seemed to get slowed by the interlaced branches.
I wanted a picture, but I had to be patient for another half hour, until the bright moon finally rolled above the skeletal treetops…and then I had to hurry, because not far above that narrow band of clear night sky, a thick wadding of altocumulus clouds, like thousands of cotton balls laid upon a glass ceiling, waited to hide the light again.
Last night's full moon was known for centuries by Europeans as the Hunter's Moon. They brought the name—along with their traditional Feast of the Hunter's Moon—to these shores. Here, as it had in the old countries, hunters seeking to bag migrating birds found the bright moon, during waxing and waning, furnished sufficient shooting light for several nights in a row. Non-migratory game was also quite active under this natural nightlight, and could be chased with dogs. Such matters were of great importance—not because of sport, but survival.
Several tribes of American Indians also called this moon by a similar name in their own language—and for exactly the same reasons. The moon extended the hunting time with its bright, useful light. For all northern people, red or white, this big full moon came at an ideal time to stockpile and preserve a much-needed supply of meat to help see them through winter.
The Full Hunter's Moon receives its designation from the Full Harvest Moon, which is the first full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Just as the Full Harvest Moon might occur in either September or October, the Full Hunter's Moon can happen in October or November. Since lunar months average only 29 days in length, full moon dates shift from year to year. (Incidentally, when the Full Harvest Moon comes in October and the Full Hunter's Moon in November, that September moon is called the Full Corn Moon.)
Some Indians knew this full moon as the Beaver Moon. This moon marked the best time to set beaver traps in swamps and marsh areas in hopes of catching plenty of beaver before the onset of winter. Beaver have warm, water-shedding fur—now in its prime condition—and also a lot excellent meat which can be smoked and jerked. The tanned furs, fashioned into beaver-skin robes for outerwear and bedding, were often the crucial difference between living and dying in the northcountry.
I eventually got my photo. Afterwards, ambling back to the cottage, I took a few more minutes to watch the moon's reflected light scatter and sparkle in the river's murmuring riffle. The old moon names don't mean much to us anymore beyond a bit of quaint folklore. We have lost our connection to land and season. Many would be surprised to learn it is the earth, not civilization, that sustains us. How long can a species, so crippled by ego and ignorance, survive?
However long or short that time may be, the Full Hunter's Moon will keep rising in the east, setting in the west—shining it bright clear light on whatever remains.

22 comments:

KGMom said...

I too rushed out to get a moon shot last evening--I was hand holding the camera, so the results are somewhat less sterling than yours.
Thanks for answering the "which moon is this" question that I had. I had settled on Hunter's moon, but didn't know it could have been either in October or November.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: lovely moon here on Roundtop last night too. I like watching it rise through the trees. I think the moon and the leafless forest are almost bright enough to read by.

Carolyn h.

TheChicGeek said...

Magnificent post, Scribe :)
You got the perfect shot too. Last night as I was leaving my bible study we looked up and all said, "Ah, the Hunter's Moon." Our church is up on a hill overlooking a valley with the city lights below. It's really quite beautiful.

I stood outside gazing up at the moon, from where I stood, bright and silver over a cloudless sky. No city lights could compare to the magnificence of the Hunter's Moon. I wonder how many of us stopped last night all around the world and gazed up at the moon in contemplation of its magnificence...perhaps even at the very same time? Our Universe is such a wonder, and I believe, God so amazing for providing us with these wonders. I wish there were more of us that take the time to care for and appreciate our beautiful planet.

Thank you for this, Scribe :)
Have a Wonderful Day!
Kelly

Grace said...

I saw it last night too, but I was away from home and had unfortuntely forgotten my glasses. But even blurry, it was beautiful.

(I almost posted this reading: "had unfortuntely forgotten my eyes". Opps, glad I caught that typo.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I've heard the old full moon names all my life. The earliest European settlers brought some of them over from their homeland cultures; others were used by the various Algonquin tribes who populated lands from the East Coast through the Great Lakes. A lot are quite similar. Nowadays your read a lot of claptrap moon names; many, I suspect, are purely modern New Ager inventions. (A friend once jokingly suggested April's proper full moon name to be the Tax Moon.)

As a student of both folklore and phenology, I enjoy using moon names, as they are connected to both season and history.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

The full moons from September through, say, February, are really lovely because you can see them slipping through the trees. I bet they're really pretty in your woods.

And yes, I know you could read by the light of last night's moon. Before I made my photos, when it was full dark but the moon was still too hidden among the trees to make a good picture, I retrieved my mail from the box and could easily read addresses and such. (Fine print on a legal contract might have ben difficult, though.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

ChicGeek…

Last night's moon was beautiful here, too. And you're right—no manmade lights ever take my breath away like a moonrise. There's mystery, magic, and magnificence in that old Hunter's Moon…wonder, too; and for me, the certainty that I'm witnessing a blessing from God.

We do live in an achingly lovely world. Yet there are times when I think mankind doesn't deserve this earth, that even God in all His grace will eventually become sickened by the way we plunder and destroy, so careless and wasteful of our gift.

I get to feeling disgusted, angry…then overwhelmed and hopeless. What saves me from utter despair, renews my faith, revitalizes my strength, is seeing a full moon come rolling up through the trees, crisp, bright, piercing the dark and lifting my heart.

I'd like to think a lot of folks looked up at that moon last night and found something of faith and value and healing strength in its light.

Jenn Jilks said...

Yes, faith, value and strength! I simply adored it, no photos. I was busy herding cats back into the house. They are fascinated with the dang nocturnal flying squirrels. A bit frustrating, but priorities prevail!
Thanks for the info.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Grace…

Sharp, blurry…it the seeing that's important.

Hey, you wouldn't believe some of the typos I've made and caught at the last second…and I don't even want to think about those I didn't catch. After I began wearing contacts (when I was 16…which was back when American History books only had one chapter) my mother often asked if I "had my eyes in."

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

You are doubtless an amazing woman if you can successfully herd cats. And I'll bet they do have a fascination with those flying squirrels…about the same fascination I have with a Porterhouse steak sizzling over coals.

Glad you liked the piece.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-
beautiful picture and perfect words to describe the traditions of the Hunter's Moon - I saw it last night too, through the skylight above the bed - it lit up the room like day light - yet it's subtle glow softened my mood and provided dusty light to drift upon. It was magical.. I always learn so much from you and today's lesson was no exception.

Love to you my friend
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

That's neat, seeing the moon through your skylight. I'm thinking that one of these days, if I redo the cottage roof, I'm going to put in a skylight over the bedroom, too. The room and location lend themselves perfectly to one.

As always, thank you….

Bernie said...

Grizz....beautiful picture of Hunter's Moon.....I saw it last night as well. I have to admit I did not know the names of the moons each month so enjoyed reading about them, thank you. Have a great day......:-) Hugs

Jayne said...

I saw this huge moon on the way to a neighborhood meeting, and was so happy to hop in here this morning, and see such a glorious image of it Grizz! Beautiful!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I first heard some of the old moon names from my father and grandfather. I'll try and remember to write something more about them on a future post.

Take care…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Judging by the response to this post, it's apparent a lot of folks who have an interest in outdoor matters paid attention to the big bright Hunter's Moon. Of course, we would, wouldn't we?

Glad you enjoyed finding a moon piece and pix here.

Scott said...

Griz:

Could you give us some details on how you took your Hunter's Moon picture, please? Type of camera, type of lens, exposure, etc.

I took a picture of the same Hunter's Moon with my pocket digital, but the brightness of the moon just overwhelms the image and leaves an overexposed gauzy white spot in my image. Obviously, you have a digital SLR (which I'm going to get for myself for Christmas), but I wondered if you'd share your knowledge.

Thanks!

Maria said...

Beautiful capture! My blog friend, Wanda sent me here to see your moon photo! Spectacular!

I kept thinking Harvest Moon, but I knew that there was another name for the full moon after the autumnal equinox. Thanks for the great post!
You should enter into Sky Watch Friday... the link is open on Thurs. afternoons!

~Maria

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Scott…

No problem sharing…I have an old Nikon D-70 (6 paltry megapixels!) and an even older 70-210mm Nikon zoom. Total outfit worth, maybe $150.

A point-and-shoot just ends up overexposing the moon because there's probably no way you can compensate and underexpose enough, so what you end up with is just a bright white circle—no detail whatsoever.

When you get yourself a DSLR, and can control things, set your ISO to 400, and just shoot the moon at about f-11 (that's the aperture) and your shutter at 1/800th or even 1/1000. That ought to allow you to handhold and get a perfect exposure.

A lot of photographers have trouble shooting the moon because they forget the moon is just an object—no different than a tree or pickup truck or coonhound—being lit by full sunlight.

When you get yourself an SLR camera, if you have questions or problems, want me to clarify this more—just ask. I'll be happy to share what I know (or think I know!)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Maria…

Sorry to be slow in getting back to you (and to Scott, above) but I've been in a meeting all afternoon and early evening.

Anyway…I'm glad Wanda sent you over for a visit, and hope you return. You're always welcome here on the riverbank.

The Hunter's Moon is the first full moon after the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon closest to the equinox. So while the Harvest Moon can come in September or October, either before or after the equinox, the Harvest Moon can only come in October or November, and always after the equinox. This year, the Full Harvest Moon occurred on October 4th; next year, the Full Harvest Moon will arrive on September 23rd (and the Hunter's Moon will be on October 22nd.)

Welcome! Hope you return often!

Rowan said...

The Hunter's Moon has been really beautiful this year. Even though we've had a great deal of rain and cloudy skies over here somehow each night it has cleared for a while and I've stood and watched as the moon's soft radiance poured down onto the earth.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

The Hunter's Moon this past week was truly spectacular—and is still, though it's now waning. I'm looking up at it in the western morning sky at this very moment. Still a lovely moon.