As we already know, in ancient times, it was common to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year, which the 12 months in our modern calendar are based on.
For millennia, people across Europe, as well as Native American tribes, named the months after features they associated with the Northern Hemisphere seasons, and many of these names are very similar or identical.
Today, we use many of these ancient month names as Full Moon names. A common explanation is that Colonial Americans adopted many of the Native American names and incorporated them into the modern calendar, and they are commonly used still today. Traditionally, each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred, and not solely to the full Moon.
August’s full Moon was traditionally called the Sturgeon Moon because the giant sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, North America’s largest fish, were most readily caught during this part of summer.
As the dog days of summer began to give way to cooler temperatures, the Algonquin fishing tribes converged on the great lakes and other major bodies of water to fish for this massive, prehistoric fish that can grow to more than 2 meters long.
Because these fish were such an important part of the tribes’ survival, August’s full moon came to be known as the Full Sturgeon Moon.
Sturgeon used to be abundant in North American lakes and rivers, but it is currently listed as threatened or endangered in 19 of the 20 US states it inhabits.
The lake sturgeon has a greenish-grey color and a pointed snout with two pairs of whisker-like tactile organs dangling near the mouth.
It is sometimes called a “living fossil” because it belongs to a family of fish that has existed for more than 135 million years.
And, moreover, they are extremely long-lived.
The males can reach 55 years, while females require around 20 years to start reproducing, and they can only reproduce every 4 years. However, they can live up to 150 years!
And they can grow to be enormous: they are the American continent’s largest fish and can grow to over 2 meters long (6 feet) and weigh around 90 kilos (200 pounds).
Lake sturgeons live in lakes and in rivers, but not in the ocean. The word “sturgeon” means “the stirrer,” which is what this giant fish does when it is looking for food; it stirs up the mud and silt on river and lake bottoms.
It used to be a major part of the ecosystems in North America’s Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and in the Mississippi River, and they were once found also all the way from Canada to Alabama.
But today, it has become one of the rarest fish in North America because of intense overfishing in the 19th century, pollution, and damage to their habitat and breeding grounds due to agriculture and lumbering.
Other names for this Full Moon include Grain Moon, Green Corn Moon, Fruit Moon, and Barley Moon, all inspired by various crops that can be harvested on this month.
Flying Up Moon is a Cree term describing the time when young birds are finally ready to take the leap and learn to fly.
Corn Moon (Algonquin, Ojibwe) and Ricing Moon (Anishinaabe) signify that this is the time to gather maturing crops while, along the same vein, the Assiniboine people named this period Black Cherries Moon, referring to when chokecherries become ripe.
The Tlingit people of the Pacific Northwest traditionally called this time of the season the Mountain Shadows Moon.
In 2021, August’s full Sturgeon Moon reaches its peak on Sunday, August 22.
Images from web – Google Research