Harvest Moon will be released this Friday, September 13th. But why was this particular moon so special for ancient cultures?
The brilliant harvest moon will be released tonight, culminating on Saturday 14th at 12:33 CET. For some nights before the Harvest Moon, the moon appears shortly after sunset, allowing the old farmers to harvest their summer crops into the night, hence a Harvest Moon!
Each year there are only slightly more than 12 complete lunar cycles, averaging 29.53 days in a synodic month, and the moon rises about 50 minutes later on average every year, but only approaches the autumn equinox about 30 minutes.
The moon phases seen from the northern hemisphere to the south. (Orion 8 / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
What is the harvest moon?
The harvest moon differs from the other names given to full moons, as it is not associated with any particular month, but it is the full moon closest to the autumnal or vernal equinox (22 or 23 September) This year the harvest moon can take place either in September or in October.
According to astronomy author Guy Ottewell in his brilliantly user-friendly book The Astronomical Companion the name "Harvest Moon" originated in Europe, where it was recorded every night 10 to 20 minutes later. This means that just as the days were shortening towards the end of the year, the light of the harvesting moon extended the hours in which the harvest could be made.
Avoiding Rain and Rotting with the Moon
The South American Indians called each full moon of the month after a natural event or sign related to the season. In ancient Colombia, where native Muisca planted seeds after the lunar cycle, their entire number system was derived from it. For example, the 20th lunar month was called "Gueta," which means frog, and when frogs sounded, the rainy season had begun and the harvest was done accordingly.
A report in USA Today speaks to Alan MacRobert, an editor of the Sky & Telescope magazine, and reaffirms this last point by stating that "in the days before tractors with headlamps, the moonlight was crucial to the harvest quickly caused by rains it caused to rot ".
The abundance of the harvesting moon allowed the farmers to harvest until late at night. (Szilas / Public Domain )
In North America, according to an article on Almanac.com, the alternative full moon names for this month are: "Moon When the Plums Are Scarlet" by Lakota Sioux; "Moon When the Deer Paw the Earth" of the Omaha; and "Moon When the Calves Grow Hair" by the Sioux. And when the harvest moon took place in September, he symbolically replaced the so-called full-corn or barley moon, and in October he replaced the full-hunter's moon.
After looking at the practical applications of changing moonlight, in symbolic, metaphorical, and mythological terms, the worship of the moon required its personification, and this deity was associated with the fundamental rhythms and changes of life. The moon's cyclical process and its disappearance for the three days of darkness following a lunar eclipse made it associated with the other world and the place where souls rose after death, before they were reborn, which led to associations between the moon and destiny.
The sun god Ra kills the serpent Apep, the moon, in the shape of a big cat. Legend has it that Apep must be under the horizon every day and not allowed to exist in the mortal kingdom. But Apep comes out at night and lurks just before dawn. (DingirXul / Public Domain )
Another article by Almanac.com explains how in the three days of darkness many mythologies of ancient cultures were responsible for these battles between a moon-eating monster that someday reappears and revives the moon.
Many neo-Pagan religious and spiritual traditions worship a triple moon goddess or three distinct aspects of the moon, most commonly perceived as virgin, mother and old woman. While these three aspects are symbolic of the three key stages of the female life cycle, they have often been applied to the three cosmic layers of heaven, earth, and underworld. And that is why the sacred number of the moon goddess is also the number associated with the underworld: "three."
The triple Hecate, symbolic of the three phases of the moon. (Eloquence / Public Domain )
The Triple Moon Archetype
In their book Science of Mythology: The Myth of the Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis the authors have Carl Jung and Karl Kerényi wrote about the Triple Goddess as an "archetype that emerges at the most primitive level of human spiritual development and culture". The Jung triple division of years is inextricably linked to the primitive form of the Greek goddess Demeter, who was also Hecate, and Hekate might claim to be "the lover of the three kingdoms" and their relationship to the moon, corn and the kingdom of the dead "three basic features in their nature".
When they returned to the Muisca in Colombia, they also worshiped the moon in three aspects: Huitaca, a young rebellious goddess, Chia was the full moon goddess and Bachue was an ancient and wise mother goddess. But in the harsh reality, the moon under the archetypes of virgin, mother, and old woman manifests in three aspects of world mythology and religion, largely because we look up at night all over the world, seeing it grow, become full, and let off the moon who are the original girl, the mother and the old woman.
Statue of Chía, she was the full moon goddess of the people of Muisca . (Andruvv / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Upper picture: The harvest moon. Source: klagyivik / Adobe Stock.
By Ashley Cowie