The Full Moon & Its Many Names, Explained

Each full moon brings something new with it, whether that's a new opportunity or momentous personal change. But the full moon doesn't always have to be earth-shattering: There's something very familiar, even comforting, about the lunar cycle. For one thing, it's pretty easy to keep track of the moon's comings and goings. For another, every month's full moon has had the same name for as long as anyone can remember.

Although we tend to think of full moon names in a spiritual context nowadays, they actually served a practical purpose for a very long time. According to the Farmer's Almanac, many of the full moon names that we use today have their roots in the traditions of Native American tribes and Pagan or other nature-based faiths. And, while some of these names came with corresponding celebrations, they were chiefly a way to keep track of the time of year.

The only time a full moon doesn't have a corresponding name is when a second full moon occurs in a month. For example, next January will see two full moons: one on January 1 and another on January 31. The first moon will be referred to as the Wolf Moon, Cold Moon, and Hunger Moon (more on that later), but the second will simply be a "blue moon," another term for a month's second full moon. (It's for the same reason that February 2018 will see no full moon at all.)

As meaningful as each full moon is, it can be difficult to keep all of their names straight. Ahead, we take a closer look at each month's full moon, its corresponding names and symbols, and why it's important to celebrate.

January

Known as: Wolf Moon, Cold Moon, Hunger Moon

Across folkloric traditions, January's full moon is associated with the cold and dark of winter — resources are scarce and predators lurk just outside your door. In modern-day terms, that's a little dramatic. But this full moon's symbols remind us that the colder months are a perfect time to take stock of the challenges we face and what might be keeping us from reaching what we want.

Catch it next on January 1, 2018, at 9:25 p.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate January's full moon here.

February

Known as: Snow Moon, Quickening Moon

Where the first name listed refers to the ongoing winter season, the second actually alludes to winter's end. The term "quickening" in nature-based faiths often means the rapidly approaching springtime — and the February festival of Imbolc specifically celebrates the "quickening of the year." This month's full moon signals the passage of time and the transition from winter to spring in the Northern hemisphere.

Catch it next on February 19, 2019, at 10:53 a.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate February's full moon here.

March

Known as: Worm Moon, Storm Moon

In the same way that the January full moon represents winter's overall vibe, this month's full moon reflects the old adage, "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb." March weather is unpredictable at best and tends to feature storms of all kinds, from snow to hail to rain. But, as the spring equinox rolls around, those storms usually clear, and signs of life start to return to nature (for example, earthworms inching their way into the sun).

Catch it next on March 1, 2018, at 7:52 p.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate March's full moon here.

April

Known as: Pink Moon, Wind Moon

These names may seem pretty disparate, but together they reflect a common natural phenomenon we see during April: Springtime breezes help to scatter fallen seeds, adding to the widespread budding of flowers and plants (the "pink" moon specifically refers to phlox, a very common type of wildflower in the Northern hemisphere).

Catch it next on April 29, 2018, at 8:59 p.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate April's full moon here.

May

Known as: Flower Moon, Milk Moon

The most common names of the May full moon are meant evoke the divine feminine (a spiritual theme for the entire month) and reflect the scenes of life that abound in the outside world. With spring in full swing and summer only a month away, nature's bounty — flowers in bloom, mother animals nursing their newborns — is on full display.

Catch it next on May 29, 2018, at 10:20 a.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate May's full moon here.

June

Known as: Strong Sun Moon, Strawberry Moon

On one hand, June's full moon has one of the most spiritually significant names. On the other, it has one of the most literal names, too. The June full moon has long been called the Strawberry Moon because, you guessed it, strawberries are in season. Meanwhile, the Strong Sun Moon refers to another major June event among nature-based faiths: the summer solstice.

Catch it next on June 28, 2018, at 12:54 a.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate June's full moon here.

July

Known as: Buck Moon, Blessing Moon, Mead Moon

In the midst of the dog days of summer, when you're probably feeling lazy, bored, and, let's be honest, overheated, July's full moon arrives to remind you that this is actually a wonderful time of year. The hard work of fall and winter (read: the holiday season, for many people) is far away — nature's giving you permission to kick back, have a drink, and consider how you're #blessed.

Catch it next on July 9, 2017, at 9:11 a.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate July's full moon here.

August

Known as: Corn Moon, Sturgeon Moon

Hear us out: These names are more connected than they seem. They actually refer to resources available in nature now (sturgeon and other types of fish) and resources to come (corn), provided we prepare for the months ahead now. July's down time is coming to an end and it's time to start planning for the future all over again. In the same way that people used to spend August planting corn, you can use this month to lay the groundwork for later endeavors.

Catch it next on August 7, 2017, at 2:12 p.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate August's full moon here.

September

Known as: Harvest Moon

This month's moon keeps it simple: Across agrarian societies, the harvest usually arrived at some point during September (although in some years, the harvest took place in October) and the full moon was named for that event. This is also usually the last full moon before the fall equinox, so its rituals are often intertwined with equinox celebrations.

Catch it next on September 6, 2017, at 3:04 a.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate September's full moon here.

October

Known as: Hunter Moon, Blood Moon, Dying Grass Moon

Viewed all together, these names seem to paint an ominous picture of October — but they merely reflect autumnal customs. The first two names refer to the tradition of hunting and slaughtering animals to store their meat for the wintertime, while the latter name refers to the very visible fact that nature appears to be dying around this time of year. Leaves are falling and temperatures are dropping — how can you best prepare for the changes that come with the colder months?

Catch it next on October 5, 2017, at 2:41 p.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate October's full moon here.

November

Known as: Mourning Moon, Beaver Moon, Full Frost Moon

One thing's for sure: November's full moon names are hardly cheerier than October's. Like last month's Blood Moon, the Beaver Moon refers to game hunted as this time of year. The Full Frost Moon is similarly straightforward — in the words of the Stark family, winter is coming. And then the Mourning Moon serves as an important reminder that, as nature goes through its annual death, we must reflect on losses we've experienced in the last year. As a group, these full moon names reflect the signs of change within nature and allude to how this transitional period in the year can be spiritually restorative.

Catch it next on November 4, 2017, at 1:24 a.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate November's full moon here.

December

Known as: Long Nights Moon,

This full moon has the winter solstice to thank for its association with longer nights — after all, the solstice sees the shortest day and longest night of the year. With that in mind, you can use December's full moon to kick off your winter celebrations early. Light candles (or flip on a few LED votives), set intentions for the next year, and invite your loved ones over for a warm, hearty meal.

Catch it next on December 3, 2017, at 10:48 a.m. EST.

Learn more about how to celebrate December's full moon here.