The Full Moon Post – June 2014, Sun, Roses and Honey

When it comes to the swirl of scientific and traditional lore that surrounds June, it’s one of my favorite months.  Summer, both from the aspects of weather and solar geometry, begins in full as hot days, blooming flowers and outdoor chores become the everyday norm.  Named after the Roman Goddess Juno, June has become traditionally known as the month of weddings (a fact supported by several friends of mine who are wedding photographers) which is interesting because along with many other things, Juno was the Goddess of weddings.

Besides containing such important observances as D-Day and Father’s Day, the month of June marks the beginning of Ramadan, a month of fasting amongst Muslims, that’s the ninth month in the Islamic calendar.  Equally important for many other cultures and religions, June also contains the Summer Solstice, which from an astrological stand point occurs this year at 6:51am on June 21st.  Known in many cultures as Litha, the Summer Solstice marks the point where the sun makes its highest arc in our day time sky causing that day to contain the longest amount of daylight in the year.

Midsummer is also associated with fairies as it was believed that on this night their magic and merriment were at its highest.  Fairies play a key roll in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream”

One of the older observances during this time is the Old Midsummer Eve celebration, which is especially important in Northern European countries. While this day (and the evening that follows) was usually celebrated sometime between June 21st to June 25th, depending on the culture, over the years June 24th has become highly equated to Midsummer, as this was the day on which ancient Romans celebrated the Summer Solstice.  Christianity later appropriated this date as the Feast of Saint John the Baptist as the Gospel of Luke states the John was born six months before Jesus.

As with many months, the associated full moon (12:11am) and lunar cycle goes by many names.  For some cultures, the moon was referred to as the Flower moon, while to others it was known as the Strawberry moon due to the harvesting of the fruit which happens heavily in the month of June.  It is also referred to by some, appropriately as the Strong Sun Moon, but it is the name it receives from a scientific reason, not a traditional one that I’ve always enjoyed.

Because of the alignment of solar and lunar geometries, while the sun slowly rises to its highest arc in our sky during June, the full moon will travel across our night sky on its lowest arc.  This proximity to the horizon will cause the moon, due to the way light filters and scatters through the Earth’s atmosphere, to stay a light amber color throughout the night.  It’s this color that has earned the June moon the title “Honey Moon”, a term that hasn’t come historical context like many other moon names, but has fallen into common use none the less.

This ties in exceptionally well with two other names for the June moon and an Old English tradition that surrounds it.  The June moon is sometimes referred to as the Rose moon, a name which many believe harkens to the many weddings that occur in the month of June, and the love that surrounds them.  The tradition for these old weddings was to serve mead (usually as part of a dowry from the bride’s father), or honey wine, at the celebration afterwards and then send the newlywed couple on their journey with a moon cycle’s supply of the fermented beverage.  The belief was that this steady diet of mead during following days would bless the union, and bring forth a child into the couple’s lives very soon.  This tradition not only gives the June moon the monicker of the Mead Moon, but gives us the modern term honeymoon.

For obvious reasons, I would recommend that craft beer lovers and brewers take some time to turn away from their usual drinks of barley and hops, and explore (or brew) the fabulous beverage that is honey wine.  Well stocked liquor stores should carry several labels, and the thing that makes mead interesting is that a large part of the wine’s flavor depends on the type of honey that it’s made from, dictated largely by the type of flowers the bees feed on to produce it.  Next to beer and champagne, mead is one of my favorite drinks.


Honey Moon Mead II
THE FINAL SIP: This year’s Honey Moon falls on Friday the 13th. Like many cosmic occurrences this alignment happens in clusters with occasional long periods between them. The next full moon that falls on Friday the 13th does not occur until August of 2049. This month’s featured photo is of the product line of Honey Moon Mead & Cider, from Bellingham, WA. (Photo: WWW.MOUNTBAKEREXPERIENCE.COM)


Brew Review – Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice and How the World Turns

The summer solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s semi-axis in a given hemisphere is most inclined towards the star that it orbits.  Bet you’d wished you stayed awake during science class now, huh?  Earth is tilted, and by that I mean literally, not from a “human consciousness” perspective.  The axis that passes through the North and South poles on which the Earth revolves does not go straight up and down relative to Earth’s orbital plane around the sun, but tilts at an angle of 23o26’.  To add a little more variability, the direction of the tilt is constant, independent of its orbital location around the sun.

If you’ve never thought about this before, imagine a paperclip that’s been unfolded slightly:

Now find a record player and an album (no “old” jokes please), place the paperclip on the outside edge of the record so that the tilted part that’s sticking up is pointing directly to the hole in the center of the album.  Now spin the album so that the paper clip is exactly on the opposite side (180o) from where it started.  See how the part of the paperclip that’s sticking up is still pointing towards the center of the record?  The Earth doesn’t do that.  Instead, if it mimicked the Earth, the paperclip would be pointing away from the hole, in the same relative direction it started in.

Put these two orbital geometries together and you have seasons. Today, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are going to pass through the exact moment in time when our part of the paperclip is tilted directly towards the hole in the record, or the sun.  And although many people think of the summer solstice as a day long (or in some cases several day long) event, it is in fact an exact instant in time happening today at 23:09 UT (7:09 EDT).  Along with it comes the usual trappings associated with the summer solstice, it’s the day with the longest amount of daylight for the northern hemisphere, and it of course marks the beginning of summer.

However, the time around the solstice is known in many countries as midsummer, and in ancient times actually marked the middle of summer which for some cultures (especially the Irish and the Scots) start on May 1st.  Neopagans, especially those following a Celtic tradition, call this time Litha and also mark it as the middle of summer which for them started on May 1st, or Beltane.  But the significance of this time of year has not totally disappeared from current world culture.  In Scandinavia, Estonia and Latvia it is still a highly celebrated holiday, second only to Christmas, where along with Lithuania and Quebec it is still a public holiday – all though the actually observance date may vary from country to country.

Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice (Disclaimer: No classic 60’s British Invasion albums were harmed during the making of this blog post.)

Whatever today means to you (and right now to me it means it’s getting HOT outside) I can think of no more appropriately  named beer to celebrate with than Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice.  Styled as a cream ale, the beer contains 5.0% ABV and clocks in at an almost nonexistent 4 IBUs.  Anderson Valley doesn’t give much away on this beer.  They talk of a spice that I’m not getting but I definitely get vanilla in the mix along with a touch of malt.  A little sticky on the back end, with no hop bitterness to speak of.  As would be expected from a cream ale, the carbonation is low, but still adequate.

I’m not going to over analyze this beer, because to be honest there isn’t much here to analyze.  But to be fair, it’s also not supposed to be that kind of beer.  This is a beer to enjoy on a hot summer day when the temperature of the beer and the temperature of the air differs by about 45 degrees (like today) and you were still stupid enough to go out and mow the lawn (or what ever it was you did).  And if the beer has any other redeeming factor, it’s that its very nice copper color will set  you apart from all the other guys with their fizzy yellow beers as you gather at the fence line and remark about how hot it is.

Happy summer everyone!

And to my Celtic friends, Happy Midsummer (Litha)!

Time for another beer……inside…..

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