Spring Equinox is a time of balance between day and night. In spring Mother Nature is awakening, starting fresh with new growth and new beginnings.  New beginnings mean change and often this means a bit of chaos.  March has always been a tumultuous month for weather being described as coming in like a lion (windy and rough weather) or a lamb (calm weather).  The saying is – in like a lion, out like a lamb – or vice versa.  Perhaps this old wives tale is an indicator of how early societies predicted how nature would behave during a critical season for their well being.  With the ever changing, often erratic weather, one thing which could be counted on to remain constant was the moon.  As usual she cycles through her phases without fail each month.  Offering comfort in her constancy, early societies would naturally name the moons for each month.  Early cultures living off the land would have chosen names closely related to their daily lives.

The March full moon has been called many things including awakening[i], fish[ii], windy[iii], sap[iv], crow[v], worm[vi], crust[vii], and sugar[viii].  All of these names can relate to how people saw their natural world.  March is a time when the ground starts to thaw thus removing the crust for the soil so worms were becoming more active.  Sap in sugar maple trees begins to flow and can be processed to create sugar so it would be a natural name for the March full moon.  Ice is often starting to break up and fish are starting to be more easily accessible.  The natural world is awakening to the new beginnings of the spring season.  Therefore early civilizations named the moon based on the experiences they had with nature and tied it in with what we now call old wives tales.

April showers bring May flowers.  Every rainy day in April brings this saying to mind.  When there is a particularly rainy April, even the newscasters will quote this one.  Looking at the natural cycle in April early crops like peas and lettuce begin to be planted.  Anyone living off the land will hope for rain during this time to coax these early crops into flowering and providing an abundant crop.  Rain will also help remove the last of the frost from the ground thus protecting these early crops.  This relates to the moon names for this month like sprouting[ix], grass[x], seed[xi].  The grass is turning green and early flowers are starting to show through the late snow.  The first fresh food is starting to be harvested.  Another very important crop for the early civilizations was the return of birds or chickens laying eggs.  With the longer daytime hours the chickens got enough light to start producing eggs.  Naming the moon egg[xii] tied it into an important spring crop and the natural cycle of life for farming communities.  April showers were needed to feed the land after the winter rest in order to prepare for May.

 'Marry in May and rue the day![xiii]  Since May is known as the planting[xiv] month, every available member of the community was supposed to be busy planting crops to feed the community through the next winter.  If a couple were busy courting, they weren't fulfilling their responsibilities to the community.  This could cause the following winter to be filled with hardship.[xv]  May is also the month when calves and other young animals were born and cows (and other farm animals like sheep and goats) began to give milk again so here is another name for the moon during this time - the milk moon[xvi].  Corn, a staple crop for many early communities, typically was planted in May.  So the corn[xvii] moon would tie in with the natural cycle for the May moon.

Moon names and old wives tales are often scoffed at as superstitious and ridiculous; however, these old sayings often related to the natural world surrounding early communities. They give a tiny window into what can be a complex puzzle of how people lived long ago.  The old wives tales like April showers bring May flowers may seem childlike in their simplicity but when your survival relies heavily on how much food the community grows, rain is a key component for a successful growing season.  The moon names are also closely tied into what was occurring in the natural world for these early communities.  These names could have acted as a reminder of what was next in the community.  Most people didn't read or write so couldn't refer to a book telling them when they should plant.  So remembering easy rhymes helped solidify in children the traditions of the community.  When facing a cold harsh winter, it seems like saying the next full moon is the awakening moon would bring hope for warmer days and the start of a new season with fresh food.  Moon names and old wives tales are two indicators of activities during these months for early farming communities in the Northern Hemisphere.  Under the constancy of the spring moons, the blustery winds of March give way to the rains of April leading to beautiful plants in May, as the wisdom and charm of these old wives tales continues to teach.


[i]              Bowes, Susan, Notions and Potions, Sterling Publishing Co., 1997,  pg 66
[ii]              http://crystalforest1.homestead.com/monthlymoons.html
[iii]             http://crystalforest1.homestead.com/monthlymoons.html
[vi]             http://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moonnames.php
[vii]            http://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moonnames.php
[viii]           http://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moonnames.php
[ix]             http://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moonnames.php
[x]              http://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moonnames.php
[xi]             http://crystalforest1.homestead.com/monthlymoons.html
[xii]            http://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moonnames.php
[xiii]           http://www.mystical-www.co.uk/time/mayi.htm
[xiv]           Bowes, Susan, Notions and Potions, Sterling Publishing Co., 1997,  pg 66
[xv]          http://www.mystical-www.co.uk/time/mayi.htm
[xvi]         http://crystalforest1.homestead.com/monthlymoons.html
[xvii]        http://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moonnames.php