Saturday, February 15, 2014

February's Hunger Moon

Usually the second moon of the year, February's orb is a cold one, fringed below by the vague shapes of evergreens and often attended by faint faraway stars, but mostly by feathery snow clouds. Capturing this moon on a memory card is an uncomfortable business, so why am I outside in the snow after dark?  Yesterday, it snowed here most of the day, and I thought no moon would be seen this time around, but outside I went as I've been doing for years. Doing it is a way of "saying yes to the world", of saying yes to the wildness of life in the Great Round of time and grandeur in the night.

For me, this moon is always about owls.  Around this time, the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), having taken a mate a few weeks earlier, crafts a nest somewhere and settles down to the happy business of raising an unruly brood. The great "hornies" are among my favorite birds - it's enchanting to hear a couple calling companionably to each other across the snowy woods in winter's (hopefully) closing pages. Quintessential northern residents, the great owls thrive on the tough northern climate - the further north one travels, the bigger they grow. The Saw-whet Owl or sugar bird (Aegolius acadicus) is not far behind in its courtship rituals, and neither are the other owls of the Lanark highlands. As cold as it is here in February, there is love and fertility in the air, among the northern owls anyway.

Life is a little more stressful for those of us who lack feathers and fur and dine not on mice and voles. The Wolf Moon was last month, but wolves are howling (metaphorically) at village gates, and hunger is a beast well known in wild places.  So it is to humans too, and so it has been for most of history - we count sticks of firewood in our woodsheds, vegetables in our bins and freezers, quart sealers and jelly jars in our larders, hoping to hang on to autumn's gathering for a little while longer. If we can manage to do that, March promises relief and sweetness. The splendid sylvan alchemy of the maple syrup season will be in full swing when the next full moon makes its appearance.

For a fine trove of moon and food lore about the ways in which we have traditionally hunted, gathered, cooked and "put things by" for the long nights, dip into Jessica Prentice's Full Moon Feast.  Her book follows the thirteen moons of an agricultural year from this month's Hunger Moon to January's Wolf Moon, and each of the thirteen chapters has recipes in tune with nature's own rhythms.  I am rereading Jessica's creation at the moment and finding it as much a treat now as it was in my earlier readings. This is my second copy, and I so wish Chelsea Green had published the first edition in sturdier hardcover format. One approach to addressing issues of wear and tear associated with softcover cookbooks (around here anyway) is to purchase yet another copy and tuck it away - either that or take up the fine old craft of bookbinding.

We also know this moon as the: Ash Moon, Big Winter Moon, Bone Moon, Bony Moon, Budding Moon, Chestnuts Moon, Cold Winds Moon, Coyotes Frighten Moon, Crow Moon, Dark Red Calves Moon, Death Moon, Eagle Moon, Fish Running Moon, Frost Sparkling in the Sun Moon, Gray Moon, Horning Moon, HUnger Moon, Ice in River Is Gone Moon, Ice Moon, Index Finger Moon, Little Bud Moon, Long Dry Moon, Makes Branches Fall in Pieces Moon, Mimosa Moon, Moon of Ice, Moon of Purification and Renewal, Moon of Rabbit Conception, Moon of the Cedar Dust Wind, Moon of the Raccoon, Moon of the Frog, Moon When Geese Come Home, Moon When Bear Cubs are Born, Moon When Spruce Tips Fall, Moon When Trees Pop, Moon When Trees Are Bare and Vegetation Is Scarce, Narcissus Moon, No Snow in Trails Moon, Owl Moon, Peach Blossom Moon, Pink Moon, Plum Blossom Moon, Primrose Moon, Quickening Moon, Raccoon Moon, Rain and Dancing Moon , Red and Cleansing Moon, Second Moon, Snow Crust Moon, Snow Moon, Solmonath (Sun Moon), Squint Rock Moon, Staying Home Moon, Storing Moon, Storm Moon, Sucker Fish Moon, Sucker Moon, Trapper’s Moon, Treacherous Moon, Violet Moon, Wexes Moon, Wild Moon, Wind Moon, Wind Tossed Moon, Winter Moon

Among the many names for this month's moon, I am rather fond of Quickening Moon and Wild Moon, but first and foremost, Owl Moon.


Shell said...

Happy Full Moon to you, Cate. Full Moon Feast looks like an interesting read.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo and thoughts,

Mystic Meandering said...

We are nearing 60 degrees here. But winter is not done with us yet - I hope not anyway! I am a winter person, and these warm winter days are difficult. Am glad that you trudge out into the winter nights for us : I like "snow moon", and this year, evidently, "Valentine's Moon" as well :)