What the Abenaki Indians Called the Full Moon

full moon

Sometime around 1645, William Pynchon wrote down the names given to the full moons by a tribe of Abenaki Indians.

Pynchon was an English colonist who founded Springfield, Mass. He lived near and traded with Abenaki tribes. A fragment from his account book, probably written in late 1645, lists the names of the moons in an Abenaki dialect from a tribe he doesn’t specify. They may have been from the Agawams or the Woronocos.

The year started with the spring moon, according to Pynchon. It was known as Squannikesos, “When they set Indian corne’ in part of April and part of May.

The second month, in late May and June, was ‘moonesquan nimockkesos.’ Pynchon described it as “when women weed theire corne.”

The rest of the months are as follows, with Pynchon’s notes:

William Pynchon

William Pynchon

3. Towwakesos–when they hill Ind[ian] corne (pt of June & pt of July)

4. matterl lawawkesos–when squashes are ripe & Ind[ian]beans begin to be eatable

[5.] micheeneekesos — when Ind corne is eatable

6. pah[?]quitaqunkkesos–ye middle between arvest & eating Ind corne

7. pepewarr–bec: of white frost on ye grass & grain

8. quinnikesos

9. papsapquoho, about ye 6.th day of January or, Lowatannassick: So caled bec: they account it ye middle of winter.

10. Squo chee kesos–bec ye sun hath strength to thaw

11. Wapicummilcom–bec ye ice in ye river is all gone (pt of February & pt of March)

12. Namassack kesos–bec of catching fish (pt of March & pt of April)

Other Indian tribes had other names for the moon.

An Abenaki couple

An Abenaki couple

The Abenaki tribe was located in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and eastern Quebec. Anthropologists today divide the Abenaki into Easten tribes in Maine and western tribes in Vermont.

In colonial New England, the French called them Abenaqui or Oubenaqui; the English called them Eastern Indians. Eventually the Europeans drove many of them to take refuge at Saint Francis (Odanak) and Becancour (Wolinak), French mission villages on the St. Lawrence River. English and Americans often called all the Western Abenaki the St. Francis Indians.

They called themselves Wabanaki, though the Wabanaki Confederacy includes the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac of northern Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.

Other Indian tribes the colonists encountered in Massachusetts Bay included the Wampanoag, NipmuckPennacookPassamaquoddyQuinnipiac and Massachusett. Southern New England tribes included the MoheganPequot, PocumtucTunxis and Narragansett.

English colonists would adopt the practice of naming the full moons, creating some of their own names or using traditional European names such as ‘Milk Moon’ or ‘Mother’s Moon’ The Maine Farmer’s Almanac started to publish a list of the full moon names around 1930, and the Old Farmer’s Almanac does it to this day.

Here is the Old Farmers Almanac’s list of the full Moon names.

January: Full Wolf Moon (or Full Old Moon)

February: Full Snow Moon (or Full Hunger Moon)

March: Full Worm Moon (or Full Crow Moon, Full Crust Moon, Full Sugar Moon, Full Sap Moon)

April: Full Pink Moon (or Full Sprouting Grass Moon, Full Egg Moon, Full Fish Moon)

May: Full Flower Moon (or Full Corn Planting Moon, Full Milk Moon)

June: Full Strawberry Moon (or Full Rose Moon, Full Hot Moon)

July: Full Buck Moon (or Full Thunder Moon, Full Hay Moon)

August: Full Sturgeon Moon (or Full Red Moon, Full Green Corn Moon)

September: Full Harvest Moon (or Full Corn Moon, Full Barley Moon)

October: Full Hunter’s Moon (or Full Travel Moon, Full Dying Grass Moon)

November: Full Beaver Moon (or Full Frost Moon)

December: Full Cold Moon (or Full Long Nights Moon)

Photo of the moon by By Michael Gil – originally posted to Flickr as Howling at the Moon, CC BY 2.0, wikimedia commons.

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