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The heART of Ritual


Moon-Bathing Folklore

As well as a full moon, tonight and tomorrow morning will bring a lunar eclipse. I won’t go into the science of this as there are already lots of posts online explaining both the super blood moon and the eclipse itself. However, might also see the full moon being referred to as a ‘flower moon’ online and while this name does not come from an Irish tradition, the same attributes given to this full moon can also be seen here in Ireland. As I have mentioned before, many full moon names come from various North American indigenous tribes such as the Algonquin who live in the areas of western Québec and, eastern Ontario, as well as westward out to Lake Superior. The early European ‘settlers’ in America then adopted the Native American habit of naming the full moons. (That being said, there is also an element of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic month names contributing to these moon descriptions.)

The title ‘flower moon’ for May is a Northern Hemisphere tradition representing the new growth and fertility in the landscape. For similar reasons, another name for this moon is the ‘hare moon’ because of the exuberance of the new, young life the people saw around them. The hare, of course, is strongly associated with Bealtaine and witches (and Sidhe) who steal butter and milk. You can notice other interesting correspondences with Bealtaine when you look at the Native American traits given to this moon; fire, planting and even divination rituals regarding the rest of the year ahead. Indeed, another name given to this moon in tribal traditions is the ‘corn planting moon.’ Today, we tend to think of ancient sacred celebration times as being specific to a date but really there was a blurring and crossover sometimes. The equinoxes and solstices can be observed for a few days as opposed to just one exact moment, for example. Perhaps this is why we see a similar connection between Northern European symbols connected to Bealtaine and the Germanic influence on full moon names?That's more a case of me thinking out loud rather than an accepted theory, I should add. Some useful lore attached to this full moon is that it is by its light that one should harvest plants to be used in medicine and magic. As mentioned in a previous piece, planting by the moon phases is also a long, ancient tradition. Very simply put, the accepted wisdom is to plant anything that grows above ground during the waxing of the moon and plant anything that grows below ground during the waning of the moon. There is a whole art to this, though, so excuse my rough explanation.

Folklore dictates that a full moon is the best time to accept a marriage proposal! Another tradition holds that five days after the full moon is the perfect time to conceive. So, that will be next Saturday night! (Just saying.) An old Irish custom related to the full moon is 'All Heal' which is a magical night on the 6th day of a full moon. If a person was sick they were brought to the shore of a lake in order to bathe, not in the water, but in the reflected light of the moon upon the lake's surface. This moon-bathing for wellness is very interesting considering much more recent evidence regarding how different types of light affect us. This tradition also has parallels with some May Day customs and the warding of malevolent forces. The twist to this particular cure, though, is that if you did not get better after two or three nights you would hear the song of the bean-sidhe.

In this account from the archives at the tradition also includes a red-haired dwarf called Fer Fí. If you find that you are particularly restless during a full moon you might be surprised to discover that a new scientific study has found evidence that this is quite a common occurrence. For many, the full moon is a time to meet and draw down aspects of the Goddess or deity in order to heal, look for wisdom or hold initiations. We know from history and tradition that the full moon has always been associated with ritual even outside of any one particular system or path. In Sri Lanka full moons are considered so sacred that many shops close, alcohol is forbidden and the killing of animals, including fish, is not allowed. These full moon holy days are known as a Poya. Perhaps the most widespread spiritual aspect to the full moon is the association with ancestors and past family members. The full moon is said to create a thinning between the realms of life and death. Often it is the case that powerful and poignant dreams both remind us of those we have lost but also serve to help us remember to appreciate our own lives and those around us. (C) David Halpin. Art Credit: Ksiezy Colica


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