Names of the full moon according to indigenous cultures

June 23, 2023 0 Comments

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Indigenous cultures have long held a deep respect for all that is natural, as well as heavenly. The movement of the moon through its cycles was considered a reference point for the passage of time. More than just counting time, this signpost was understood as a synchronization of cosmic and earthly cycles. Attuned to the Moon, indigenous peoples enhanced their role in the larger tapestry of existence.

“The lunar cycle is a sacred part of our culture and identity,” says Sarah Thompson, a writer and yoga teacher who learned about the importance of the moon from her grandmother, a member of the Ojibwe tribe, North America’s most populous indigenous community.

Each full Moon marks the end of the month, a concept known as “lunar time.” Cultures throughout North America assigned names to each full moon throughout the year based on significant seasonal events that occurred during the moon.

The number of native names for the full moon is huge and varied. The naming conventions of each tribe are closely related to its cultural structure, with hundreds of tribes throughout North America. Although some names have fallen into disuse, their resonance with the natural world remains a testament to the rich heritage and wisdom of indigenous cultures.

By recognizing and honoring the traditional names of the full moon, we cultivate a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living things, as well as our connection to nature and the celestial worlds. We also create a bridge between the wisdom of the past and modern life.

Names of the full moon and their meaning

Preserving the native names of the full moon reminds us of a time when we existed in greater harmony with the natural world. Not only do these relationships last, they have lessons to teach us if we only pay attention.


Known as: Wolf Moon

Also: Great Spirit Moon, Ice Moon, Winter Moon, Cracking Tree Moon

At the turn of the new year, the nights are long and the temperature hovers above zero. Here, in the dead of winter, there is not enough food and little energy. Wolves howled into the night, piercing the cold air with the resonance of their cries. The cries were once thought to be caused by hunger, although we now understand that they were relied on to find the rest of the pack, define territories and communicate socially. Due to the increased vocalization at this time of year, the January Moon was dubbed the Wolf Moon.

Full moon over snowy ground and trees
(Photo: David Clapp)


Known as: Snow Moon

Also: Sucker Fish Moon, Full Famine Moon, Eagle Moon, Deep Snow Moon

As a rule, in North America heavy snow falls, in February winter gives its last bloom. With the earth covered in a blanket of white, it’s easy to see why the full moon is known to many tribes as the Snow Moon. However, the Ojibwe tribe named it after the Catostomidae, or sucker fish, which were an abundant and important food source for Native Americans during the winter. (Remains of stone fish traps still exist along spawning rivers at Ajumawi Lava Springs State Park in northeastern California, which was inhabited by the Pitt River Achomavi Band of Indians.)


Known as: Worm Moon

Also: Hard Crust on Snow Moon, Crow Moon, Goose Moon, Wind Moon

As the temperature rises, the snow begins to melt, turning the ground into mud. The name of the month of March is often associated with a turning point in the area, a time that awakens the worms and prompts the return of the birds that hunt them. An alternative interpretation from the late 1700s was described by the explorer, cartographer, and author Jonathan Carver, who suggested that the term “worm” refers to larvae that emerge from the bark of trees and other sheltered places in the spring.


Known as: Pink Moon

Also: Maple Juice, Boiling Moon, Sugar Moon, Frog Moon, Loon Moon

When the first wildflowers appear, wild terrestrial phloxes become visible. Colloquially known as “pink moss,” this low-growing plant blankets eastern North America in swaths of pink, blue, purple, and white every April. Alternate names associated with this season refer to characteristics or symbols commonly associated with the season.


Known as: Flower Moon

Also: Growing Moon, Snake Moon, Planting Moon, Dancing Moon

This month also brings wildflowers that fill the land with a myriad of sights and smells. Some May Moon names honor budding and flowering, while other Moon names reflect a more practical mindset, referring to this time as the time of sowing.


Known as: Strawberry Moon

Also: Gardening Month, River Month, Birth Month

As the summer heat sets in, wild fruits and edible plants begin to flourish. Strawberries, once abundant across much of the United States, have opened a new chapter in nature’s cycle—a chapter of abundance. Native tribes almost unanimously refer to the June Moon as the Strawberry Moon, although it has sometimes been called the Birth Moon, which also indicates the vital fertility of the earth.

A tank at night with a full moon in the background


Known as: Buck Moon

Also: Midsummer Moon, Blueberry Moon, Flying Moon, Honey Bee Moon

In July, the naming of the full moon begins to turn away from plants and back to the animal world. In the summer, the deer’s antlers grow to full strength. With an abundance of plant life, deer and elk run rampant on the North American plains and are an important food source not only in the summer but also in the coming cold months, given the preservation methods of smoking and drying.


Known as: Sturgeon Moon

Also: rice moon, blackberry moon, dry moon, hot moon

August August refers to a species of fish that can be found along the Atlantic coast stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Newfoundland. Sturgeon also live in vast expanses of the Great Lakes region and thrive in the waterways of the St. Lawrence, Missouri and Mississippi rivers. A few species can reach lengths of more than 12 feet, making this colossal fish a revered and sometimes spiritual source of food and life for tribes.

Full moon near a corn field
(Photo: crisserbug | Getty)


Known as: Harvest Moon

Also: Moon that changes the color of the leaves, Moon of the corn, Moon of the moose, Moon of the pumpkin, Moon of someone harvesting

The September Moon signifies that fall crops are ready for harvest, another important shift in natural cycles. When the autumnal equinox approached and the crops were harvested, joint celebrations were common. Tribes gathered to feast, dance, socialize and give thanks before beginning preparations for the coming cold.


Known as: Hunter’s Moon

Also: Month of Falling Leaves, Month of Someone Storing Food, Month of Hunting

October is the best time to hunt, as the game is at its healthiest after the summer feast. Also, when the trees start to lose their leaves, it is almost impossible for the prey to hide. For hunter-gatherers, the importance of hunting and gathering resources is critical to survival. As the nights grow longer and colder, this is a good time to gather food and store fur for the approaching winter months. This is the Hunter’s Moon.


Known as: Beaver Moon

Also: Freezing Moon, White Moon, First Snow Moon, Small Winter Moon

As winter slowly begins to approach, the last month of hunting arrives. Beavers are also preparing for the coming winter and seclude themselves in their houses, which makes hunting easier. Alternative names for the full moon in November indicate the onset of winter.


Known as: Cold Moon

Also: Moon of Little Spirits, Moon of Great Winter, Moon of Long Night, Moon of Stories

December marks the winter solstice, and the seasonal cycle reaches its beginning again. Long nights and cold temperatures bring back the snow and encourage families and tribes to gather around the fire. As winter tightens its grip on the land, activities shift from hunting and gardening to storytelling, repair, and conversation with loved ones. The cold may seem exhausting and the nights long, but there is the knowledge that the Sun will return and the cycle will begin again.

About our contributor

Sierra is a writer, yogi, and music lover based in the Pacific Northwest. She has been practicing yoga for almost ten years and received her certification in 2018. She writes and teaches all about connection: the connection to the body, nature, and the universal love that holds us together. She is also the author of Your Year of Magic, a lunar magick journal and workbook for witches. For free yoga and witchcraft wisdom, find Sierra at, on Instagram @thelocalmystic and on YouTube.

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