February – The Snow Moon and a Time of Hope
For Native Americans and early European settlers February was a cold, dark month. The days are short, the land has little to yield and food is scarce. Into this land of scarcity, the second full moon of the year, the Snow Moon, rises. For those trapped in the harsh February landscape, the Snow Moon represents a time to take the first small steps out of Winter hibernation. It is a time of hope, with the promise of Spring just around the corner.
Why is February’s full moon called a Snow Moon?
It is believed that February’s full moon was given the name “Snow Moon” by a Sioux tribe, more specifically an Eastern Dakota tribe called the Naudowessie. The Naudowessie lived in the north of of the Mississippi Valley, in present-day Minnesota, near the St. Croix River. The explorer Jonathan Carver, a Captain in the Massachusetts Bay Colonial Militia, was sent there, in the 1766, to explore the region and access Native American fur trading networks. He spent the Winter of 1766–67 living amongst the Naudowessie in a village on the banks of the Saint Croix. There, he first heard the expression, and was the first colonial to record the term “snow moon”, in his Travels through America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (1778), an account of his explorations of the northern Mississippi valley and western Great Lakes regions.
Carver’s account of his travels was widely read amongst colonial settlers, and it is believed they adopted many of the Dakota terms popularised by him, including their names for full moons and their lunar calendar. In the case of the Snow Moon, it was given its name, as you have probably guessed, because February was usually the snowiest month of the year in the north of the Mississippi Valley, around the St. Croix River, at the time.
What does the snow moon bring? Nor’easters, Polar Vortexes or Polar Vortices?
Records show that the moon’s appearance in the late February northern sky, coincides with the heaviest snowfalls of the year. At this time of year, notorious snow-laden East Coast storms, called nor’easters, can form along the Atlantic coast of North America between New England and Florida. Nor’easters were named, by seafarers, after the direction from which the strongest winds arriving in the north east came. These storms, technically called “type A” nor’easters often bring snow and blizzards to the region. “Type B” nor’easters, that develop through the central Plains to the Ohio Valley, and then move up the East Coast, can also add to the high levels of snowfall. The cities of New York, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Washington DC have all recorded their highest snowfall records in the month of February according to the National Weather Service.
The Upper Hudson Valley in New York State, once the home of the Mahican tribe, often experiences Winter snowstorms, with as much as two feet of snow being reported. For the Mahicans, February was the worst time for snowstorms, and they called the February full moon the “Moon of Deep Snow”. Some northern residents still believe that the Snow Moon brings the snow and they might be right. The moon does affect weather maybe even enough to drag a polar vortex towards the American mainland.
Signs of Hope – The Woodpeckers of Winter and the Snow Moon
In northern Europe, many associate robins and blackbirds, with the depths of Winter. These birds, highly visible against a snowy background, are hardened against the cold weather and don’t need to migrate to warmer areas. Other noticeable birds include fieldfares and lapwings that fly down from the Artic Circle to avoid more severe weather.
Among the year-round residents, in northern Europe and America, the brightly coloured woodpecker is also highly visible, as it raids garden bird feeders, that it normally avoids in the Summer months. The bird’s activity parallels the activity of the Snow Moon. Springtime is knocking on Winter’s door as the knock-knock-knocking woodpecker makes a home in expectation of Spring’s warmth. The snow moon and the woodpecker remind us that this time is a time of hope and a good time to make a new start.
The Hunger Moon
The second full moon of the year is also called the “Hunger Moon” or “Bone Moon”. Most Native American tribes saw the time of the February moon as a time of hunger and scarcity. The freezing temperatures and snowy weather made hunting difficult and food scarce. In these conditions, tribes often reverted to eating preserved meat and bones.
Cherokees during the time of February scarcity call the full moon the “Bone Moon”. With little in the way of fresh food the tribe would survive on bones and soup made from bone marrow. Also reflecting a time of scarcity, the Kalapuya of the Pacific Northwest called the February moon the “Without Food Moon”.
The Next Snow Moon
When is the Next Snow Moon over London?
The next Snow Moon rises over London on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 04:59.
When is the Next Snow Moon over New York?
The next Snow Moon rises over New York on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 11:56.
When is the Next Snow Moon over Dublin?
The next Snow Moon rises over Dublin on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 04:59.
When is the Next Snow Moon over Philadelphia?
The next Snow Moon rises over Philadelphia on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 11:56.
When is the Next Snow Moon over Boston?
The next Snow Moon rises over Boston on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 11:56.
When is the Next Snow Moon over Los Angeles?
The next Snow Moon rises over Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 08:59.
When is the Next Snow Moon over San Francisco?
The next Snow Moon rises over San Francisco on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 08:59.
When is the Next Snow Moon over Glasgow?
The next Snow Moon rises over Glasgow on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, at 04:59.