You might have noticed the moon shining pretty brightly these past few days. It is gearing up for what seems to be one of the brightest, longest-lasting full moons of the year—the first one after the autumnal equinox, the Harvest Moon. And tonight’s the night.
Two things set the Harvest Moon apart. For one thing, it seems to be a gift from the Creator for more light just when it’s needed most—enabling farmers to work both night and day during the harvest season, when time is of the essence in getting ripened fruits and vegetables off the trees and vines and into a larder. For another, the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox seems to appear in the sky at about the same time on several successive nights in some latitudes, according to Space.com.
“Don’t just look for the Harvest Moon on the night of September 29 or 30,” writes EarthSky.org. “Look for the moon to be bright and full-looking for several nights at the end of September, 2012. If you live far enough north—for example, in the northern states, Canada or Alaska—the Harvest Moon will continue to shine from dusk until dawn into early October. This procession of moonlit nights is what characterizes the Harvest Moon.”
Of course, this is not the Harvest Moon to every single culture on Turtle Island. According to the Western Washington University Planetarium’s compilation of American Indian names for each month’s moon, the Algonquin call it pohquitaqunk kesos, or “middle between harvest and eating corn” moon. For the Hopi, the September moon is indeed the nasanmuyaw, or “moon of full harvest,” the planetarium site says, whereas the Kalapuya of the northwest, in what is today Oregon, call it atchiutchutin, or “after harvest.”
The Cherokees' Harvest Moon falls in October and is named duninhdi, according to the planetarium. This is in keeping with the fact that sometimes the first full moon of fall comes in October rather than September. To the Passamaquoddy, of the northeastern U.S. and the St. Croix River, it is also the Harvest Moon, or amilkahtin.
Whatever the name, the fact remains: this month’s moon, if the weather cooperates, will shine on, and on, and on….