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.
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.