A full moon occurs when the earth is between the moon and the sun. Because of the earth’s position, the moon’s surface that is facing the earth is completely lit up by the sun. This gives the moon that full circular glow.
It takes about 29 days for the moon to cycle through its orbit and return to its current phase. This time period is referred to as a synodic month.
The full moon is an important part of any lunar calendar. The moon phases are also helpful in tracking the passage of seasons and marking many religious or cultural observances. As a result, each full moon has taken on several different names that describe their relationship to the natural world and human events.
March’s Full Moon
In 2022, March’s full moon arrives on March 18. This full moon has been given many names including the worm moon, sap moon, crow moon, and the Lenten moon. Below are some brief explanations of how these names came to be.
The Worm Moon
March’s full moon is usually the last full moon of the astronomical winter season. (See the discussion about the spring equinox in the Lenten Moon section). However, in many places it feels like spring has already arrived. Therefore, the usual explanation for the name “Worm Moon” is that it marks the time of the year when earthworms start moving in the soil and the birds begin to feed. However, the researchers at the Farmer’s Almanac found a different origin story.
“In the 1760s, Captain Jonathan Carver visited the Naudowessie (Dakota) and other Native American tribes and wrote that the name Worm Moon refers to a different sort of “worm”—beetle larvae—which begin to emerge from the thawing bark of trees and other winter hideouts at this time.” (2)
Whether it is earthworms or bark beetles, this moon still refers to the little animals waking up from the winter. It should be noted that this event also coincides with mini-season of Awakening of Insects (March 5 -March 19)
The Sap Moon
The Sap Moon, also known as the Sugar Moon by the Ojibwe of North America(2), marks the time when the maple syrup starts to flow. Maple sugaring season is about 6 weeks long and can run from mid-February to early April. This full moon falls right in the middle of that season so it seems like a good fit.
The Crow Moon
The Crow Moon refers to the birds returning from their winter migration. The Northern Ojibwe more specifically referred to this moon as the Crow Comes Back Moon. Whereas the Algonquin’s call this moon the Goose Moon.(2) What stands out for me in these names is how each name also tells you a little bit about the places people call home. For example, crows are year round residents for most part of the United States. They do, however, migrate out of the northern parts of the United States and Canada. Therefore, the Crow Comes Back Moon would have originated with people who lived in the northern regions of North America.
The Lenten Moon
In 2022, March’s full moon can also be called the Lenten moon. The Lenten moon is tied to observance of Lent in the Christian tradition. However, this is only true if March’s full moon is the last full moon of winter. In other words, this is only true if this full moon happens before the spring equinox.
If March’s full moon falls after the spring equinox, then March’s full moon would be called the Paschal Moon.(3) The Paschal Moon is the first full moon to appear on or after the spring equinox. The timing of the Paschal Moon is important because it ties into the observance of the Easter holiday. Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon.
Poems About March
Some of the names that have been given the moon indicate that there is a lot of change happening during this month. The tree sap is flowing, the birds are moving, and the worm and beetles are emerging. Reflecting on this, I began to wonder what poems might exist that talk about this change.
Lorine Niedecker published a poem titled “March” in the August, 1956 edition of Poetry Foundation Magazine. In this poem, she briefly summarizes what has been happening outside my window this month.
Bird feeder’s snow cap sliding off ("March" By Lorine Niedecker)
In 1993, Philip Booth published a poem titled “March Again”. Below is an excerpt.
Yesterday the tulip shoots, considering. Today slight snow on the ground, thin snow in the sky Through which, barely, the bronze arctic sun. (Excerpt from "March Again" by Philip Booth)
This poem, which can be found in March’s issues of Poetry Foundation Magazine, seems to capture this month’s seasonal transition.
In 2022, I even tried my hand at writing a haiku about this Month
melting snow uncovers new grasses a worm moon
Do you know any other names for March’s Full Moon, or do you have a favorite poem about March? Feel free to share in the comments below.
- NASA; “Moon In Motion”
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac: “Full Moon for March 2022”
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac: “Easter and the Paschal Full Moon”
- Lorine Niedecker: “March”; Poetry Foundation Magazine, August 1956
- Philip Booth: “March Again”; Poetry Foundations Magazine, March 1993
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“Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.”Rumi