Blue Moon: Why so few and blue?

We’re thrilled to introduce our new contributor Tanya Fox. We look forward to sharing her stories and insights with you here on our blog. ~ Amber Lotus Publishing

Animal Tales image by Sarolta Ban

Image from our Animal Tales 2016 wall calendar featuring the work of Sarolta Bán. Click image to see more.

Have you ever used the phrase “once in a blue moon”? Ever wondered how that phrase came to refer to a rare event? Traditionally, a blue moon occurs when there are four full moons within any given season, instead of the more typical three full moons. When this happens—approximately once every two to three years—the third of the four full moons is referred to as a blue moon.

But why “blue”? The moon can certainly appear blue at times, particularly when the sky is thick with smoke or dust particles due to, say, a forest fire or a volcanic eruption. But that’s not what we mean when we say “blue moon.” There are several theories about how the term came about, and the one that makes the most sense to me is that it’s a variation on the Old English word belewe, which meant both “blue” and “to betray.” In a season with four moons instead of the typical three, the third moon would betray people into believing the season was coming to a close, confusing the timing of harvests and lunar-based holidays such as Lent.

In our modern-day usage of the term “blue moon,” the term describes the second full moon occurring within any calendar month. But this usage appears to have come about by accident, stemming from a single writer’s misinterpretation of the concept. In an article appearing in Sky and Telescope in March 1946, James Hugh Pruett calculated for readers his understanding of the term from his reading of the 1937 Maine Farmers’ Almanac: “Seven times in 19 years there were—and still are—13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one [month] with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon.” This definition was quickly adopted and became so widespread that it was too late to go back to the original meaning.

According to this modern understanding, the next blue moon will be this Friday, July 31, at 6:43 a.m. ET. According to the original meaning, however, the next blue moon won’t be until May 21, 2016. Whichever calculation you follow, the blue moon is viewed by many as an auspicious time for setting goals, beginning new endeavors, and manifesting abundance and magic.

Tanya FoxOriginally from Australia, Tanya Fox spent several years living and working in Germany, where she happened to meet a nice young man from Oregon. She ended up moving to Portland to marry him, where they now live with their two children. She works as a freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and translator, and delights in the wide variety her work brings her. She can be contacted for publishing projects.



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About Amber Lotus Publishing

We publish calendars, weekly planners, and greeting cards that nurture your heart, renew your soul, and expand your mind. Sharing the diversity of world cultures and sacred traditions as well as the inspiration and beauty of the natural world is our passion. We focus on illuminating the sacred dimensions of everyday life — healthy living, mindfulness, creativity, and earth awareness. WE PLANT TREES to offset our carbon footprint — more than ONE MILLION and growing! Each year we plant over 20 times the number of trees used to create our products

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