Strawberry Moon Forever

by Dr. Danny R. Faulkner on June 5, 2020

The moon is full today. There are folk culture names for each of the full moons throughout the year. For instance, harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, coinciding with the time to harvest grain crops. Because of the circumstances of the harvest moon, it rises only a few minutes later each evening, providing extra light for harvesting crops at that time. But keep in mind that the different folk names for full moons throughout the year are culturally derived, so there are many different versions.

The strawberry moon . . . has nothing to do with the moon’s color

Some people call today’s full moon the strawberry moon. This has nothing to do with the moon’s color. Rather, it is because during the few weeks before the official beginning of summer with the June solstice later this month, strawberries ripen in the northeastern United States. Farther south, strawberry harvest is ending or is already over, and around the world there are alternate names for this last full moon of spring. Some people call it corn-planting moon, though some people call last month’s full moon the corn-planting moon. Rather than calling today’s full moon the strawberry moon, some cultures call it the mead moon. Mead is an alcoholic beverage that goes back to ancient times. This time of year must have been when some of those cultures brewed mead. But other cultures call next month’s full moon the mead moon. You see, there is no consistent set of rules on this. Since I love freshly picked (as opposed to store-bought) strawberries, I’m content to call today’s full moon the strawberry moon.

For Signs and Seasons

You may notice an agricultural connection to the names of full moons throughout the year. That is understandable, because throughout history most cultures have been agrarian. With farming, there is a need to observe seasonal changes. This gets back to one of the purposes of the heavenly bodies given in Genesis 1:14 to be “for seasons, and for days and years.” The moon is a timekeeper (it defines the month) that is intermediate between the day and the year, so the moon’s phases are useful to keep time with the changing seasons. However, two millennia ago Julius Caesar abandoned the lunar calendar in favor of solar calendar. Therefore, now farmers typically consult a calendar for what month it is rather than looking at the moon.

There is something a little unusual about this full moon. It coincides with a lunar eclipse. Sort of. Today’s lunar eclipse is a penumbral eclipse. During a penumbral eclipse, the moon misses the earth’s umbra so that none of the moon appears darkened. Rather, the moon just appears a little fainter than normal. Our eyes automatically compensate for this, so the moon doesn’t look any fainter than it did before. Hence, a penumbral eclipse isn’t even noticeable to our eyes, let alone provokes any interest. And for those in the United States, this penumbral eclipse occurs in the afternoon, when the moon is below the horizon. So, besides there being nothing unusual to see, for those in the United States, there really isn’t anything to see at all.

The situation is a little different in a month. On the night of July 4–5, there will be another penumbral eclipse, this time in the middle of the night for people in the eastern United States. If it is clear where I live that night, I might be able to use my camera to capture the dimming that our eyes can’t seem to register. That won’t be easy, but I’ll have a month to think about how I might do this best. So, look forward to next month’s penumbral eclipse on the Buck moon. Or thunder moon. Or wort moon. Or hay moon. Or Teddy moon. OK, I just made that one up.

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