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  • Writer's pictureLolly Spence

2021.09.21 Harvest Moon, September 2021

Tonight’s Full Moon is known as the HARVEST MOON. I am glad to see it because the last lunar month has been pretty dire - I was ready for a change. Today is also the anniversary of my darling granny’s death in 2004: it may as well have been yesterday, I miss her every bit as much.

Tomorrow (Sept 22nd) is the autumn equinox and here, in the Northern Hemisphere, we always call the full moon closest to the autumn equinox the Harvest Moon. For my friends in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, you will get your Harvest Moon in March.

Every lunar month for a year now I’ve been researching and posting about the full moons and their different names. The Harvest moon is different: it doesn’t have any alternative names because it’s not associated with a specific month or time of year, but is solely equinoxial. The name just relates to the gathering of autumn crops and the big, bright moon lengthening the farmer’s day in an age before electric lights. No sooner would the sun go down than the harvest moon would come up. Last year it came in early October, this year it’s September.

One other difference with the harvest moon is that for a few nights in a row (yesterday, today, tomorrow) it will appear to rise at the same time (sunset) each night; whereas all the other moons rise an average of 50 minutes later each consecutive day. This is why we’ll almost have full moons, dusk-to-dawn, for 3 nights in a row.

People have been moon gazing forever. There’s something beautiful about its desolation and knowing that it’s looked the same to everyone, always. In past civilizations the Moon was regarded as a god with power over the tides, human behaviour and the cycle of female fertility. It was the alchemist for magic, transformation, lunacy and romance. My Dad listens to a lot of Doo-Wop music and you’d be astonished how many of those lyrics are addressed to the moon above (which conveniently rhymes with ‘the one I love’).

I think about Galileo and all the earlier philosophers and scientists, staring up at the moon and thinking deeply. The clever ones realised that observation of the moon’s motion and position would allow them to predict tides and develop calendars. We just take these things for granted now - like glass in windows and radio waves and silicon chips; but it’s been the brilliance of people before us, moon-gazers probably, who worked it all out.

(Left) Near side of Earth's Moon, photographed by the Galileo spacecraft on its way to Jupiter.

(Right) Far side of the Moon with some of the near side visible (upper right), photographed by the Apollo 16 spacecraft.

This week in the News, I see a group of spacers took their rocket ship holiday into orbit: I’d say it won’t be that long in the scale of things before we are booking our trip to the moon as nonchalantly as a fortnight in Benidorm, and what are the odds there’ll be an Irish Bar end up there somewhere…..

As for me, I gaze up at the moon in complete empty-minded blankness. I just like its roundness and its shadows and its refusal to do anything other than what it’s always done. It makes me happy.

It also makes the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese happy - they have all kinds of mid-autumn festivals and traditions; and I’ve just discovered that they give and receive ‘mooncakes’. Just look at these delicious things (see pic)! The pastries are given as gifts to all and sundry and the traditional fillings have evolved to now include everything from alcoholic infusions, ice cream and jellies to red velvet, rum raisin and tiramisu. I have never had one but I really think it’s something we should introduce here.

Anyway - last thought of the night - this is the time for lovin’. The long days of summer are away, the nights are closing in, and you need to get harvestin’ yourself some winter-time company before the snows arrive. That’s the message anyway in the early 1900s song ‘Shine on Harvest Moon’ of which most people only know that one line, lol. The lyrics are:

Shine on, shine on harvest moon
Up in the sky,
I ain’t had no lovin’
Since January, February, June or July
Snow time ain’t no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon,
So shine on, shine on harvest moon,
For me and my gal.

Best of luck with that now, friends.

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