04 August 2007

Black Cherry Moon

How do you count your days? Most of the world now uses the Gregorian calendar to keep us on our schedules; August 4th for me is the same day as it is for you. But long before Pope Gregory used math to put us all on track, people across the world had their own time keeping systems.

Native Americans use of the moon to measure time is a bit less precise than the Gregorian system, but it worked for them. "Black Cherry Moon" was the name given by the Assiniboine tribes of North East Montana to the month of August. As a culture less concerned with getting to Wall Street in time for the markets opening bell, and more worried about when the berries would be ripe for picking, the names they used have a more practical, but lovely for it, sound to them. "Moose Hunter Moon" was what the Abenaki called our March, a month their people were on the hunt for the might moose. The Mohawk's "Time of Cold" (December) and "The Big Cold (January) were certainly long, frigid days.

The Sioux were a fierce and proud tribe. They also had a gift with words - each of these names brings such a clear image of the time of year it is set in, you can all but smell the spring grass :
JANUARY - Strong Frost Moon
FEBRUARY - Raccoon Moon
MARCH - Buffalo Calves Drop Moon
APRIL - Growing Grass Moon
MAY - Ponies Shed Moon
JUNE - Making Fat Moon
JULY - Ripe Cherries Moon
AUGUST - Geese Shed Feathers Moon
SEPTEMBER - Drying Grass Moon
OCTOBER - Flying Ducks Moon
NOVEMBER - Falling Leaves Moon
DECEMBER - Popping Trees Moon


Another tribe with a gift for words was the Northern Arapaho. (Some of these are very similar to the Sioux.) The lyrical names they used will almost make you look forward to the coldest winter day :
JANUARY - WHEN THE SNOW BLOWS LIKE SPIRITS IN THE WIND
FEBRUARY - FROST SPARKLING IN THE SUN
MARCH - BUFFALO DROPPING THEIR CALVES
APRIL - ICE BREAKING IN THE RIVER
MAY - WHEN THE PONIES SHED THEIR SHAGGY HAIR
JUNE - WHEN THE HOT WEATHER BEGINS
JULY - WHEN THE BUFFALO BELLOWS
LATE JULY - WHEN THE CHOKEBERRIES BEGIN TO RIPEN
AUGUST - GEESE SHEDDING THEIR FEATHERS
SEPTEMBER - DRYING GRASS
OCTOBER - FALLING LEAVES
NOVEMBER - WHEN THE RIVERS START TO FREEZE
DECEMBER - POPPING TREES

Still looking for the perfect name for August? How about "End of the Fruit" or "Drying Up Moon" (Cherokee); "The Month Young Ducks Begin To Fly" (Cree); or just "Big Harvest" (Creek).

There's power in a name, and even more in having the right name for the right time. I think maybe the Hopi were on to something with this end of summer month. They called it "Month of Joyful" or "Month of Life at it's Height". I hope this long golden month is full of joy, and life at it's height, for each of you.
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