You might have noticed that I didn’t do a full moon post in July. That’s because July is a quiet month as far as spirituality is concerned, but August picks it back up again on the 1st which marks Lammas, the first of the Autumn or harvest festivals with Mabon (autumnal equinox) and Samhain (Halloween) following in suit.
While Lammas may not be one of the more well known festivals in the common culture (like Samhain or Yule) its significance should not be dismissed. Marking the first harvest of the year, usually a grain such as corn or wheat, the tradition was to bring bread made from the wheat to the local churches to be blessed and bring good fortune to future harvests. In a society that lived or died on that first harvest, the importance of this time of the year should be obvious. In fact, Lammas was such an important time of the year that it is mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet) and the Scottish ballad The Battle of Otterburn.
In the Gaelic tradition the festival is known as Lughnasadh which like Lammas was originally held on August 1st, but later was moved to the Sunday closest to that date. In modern Irish, the name for the festival is Lúnasa which is also the name for the month of August in that language, in Welsh it’s Calan Awst, and in modern theology the date coincides with the Feast of Saint Peter in Chains which commemorates his rescue from prison by an angel.
Because of its association with these harvest festivals several names for August’s moon are the Corn Moon or the Grain Moon. Although the more commonly referred to name is The Sturgeon Moon because the fish was plentiful this time of year to the Indian tribes who relied on them for survival.
The moon reaches full today at 2:09pm (EDT) and brings with it omens of destruction and world apocalypse, because of a rare and terrifying event. Well, not really. What does happen is that 9 minutes earlier, the moon reaches perigee (the closest point in its orbit to Earth) which means that today’s full moon will appear larger in the sky than normal. In fact, because of the geometry in play, tonight’s full moon will be the apparently largest in the sky in 2014.
While that’s good news for sky watchers, it’s also bad. The Perseids, the hallmark of annual meteor showers peaks two nights later, and unfortunately the full moon will wash out most of the show. Known for it’s long slow build up, the shower is currently at 20 meteors per hour but luckily, it is also know for it’s bright fire balls so even with the waning full moon in the sky you may still get a good show in dark, non-light polluted areas. If not, you can always listen to the shower on Space Weather Radio. The station sends up a 54MHz signal into the sky which reflects off of meteor trails allowing you to actually hear the Perseids as they happen.
So with all the harvest connections to this full moon it obviously makes sense for brewers and craft beer lovers to look to the grain part of the beer equation. Maybe grab a wheat or rye beer that you haven’t had before, or maybe read up on malt in the brewing process (ok, I know it’s not wheat or God forbid, corn but roll with me here). Brewers…if you haven’t experienced the fun of an all grain batch, maybe now is the time.
For many cultures the full moon in August celebrated the early harvest of grain. Embrace it beer lovers.
Time for another beer.