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The full moon of March has many faces or expressions people have claimed to see. We always see the same face of the moon; however, we have given it multiple personalities with all the names assigned to it, especially this month’s moon.
Monday, March 29, marked the day of the full moon and if you were like me when gazing up in admiration, you might not have given thought to all the history that went along with this common astronomical event.
The history starts with all those names. One of those names is the Full Worm Moon, given because the ground is warming up and the worm castings appear. This of course is the reason for the return of the robins we all see as the first sign of spring.
Another name for this moon, for those in colder climates, is the Full Crow Moon. It is the time of year the crows caw returns to break the morning silence.
Travel a little farther north and the moon may be referred to as the Full Crust Moon because the melting and refreezing of the snow causes a hard crust to form across the surface of a snow-covered field.
If you live up in maple syrup country, you may call this moon the Full Sap Moon, signified by the tapping of the trees.
The last name for this moon is the Paschal Moon, and it is the first full moon of spring.
That ends the name-calling of this full moon; we now start with the history that surrounds this moon.
Paschal Moon is the most significant name given to March’s full moon. The full moon sets the date for Easter. Paschal mystery means the suffering of Jesus. Simply put, Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon, which takes place on or after the fixed date of March 21, the first day of spring. This means Easter can be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25.
This is an ecclesiastical full moon and spring, not astronomical full moon and spring. The two differ only slightly, as the days were set by the church to give Easter a universally working system to set the date. You can read an in-depth study at the United States Navy Observatory Web site on its Astronomical Applications Department page.
The next event in history has a biblical background also. Do you remember Herod the Great? Yes, he was the ruler that had all the 2-year-old and younger males killed after talking to the Magi. His death, according to Josephus, happened after an eclipse of the moon.
Lunar eclipses happen only when the moon is full. March 13, 1 B.C. was the day of an eclipse, which would have been visible in Jerusalem, and some historians suggest that was the full moon Herod’s death followed.
Julius Caesar’s counsel warned him about the Ides of March, or in our modern day lingo, “Watch out during the full moon of March.”
The Julian calendar began with a new moon and ended with the following new moon, and the middle of a month was a full moon known as Ides.
The soothsayer’s message was, “Your enemies are going to kill you in the middle of March.” However, Shakespeare said it much better in his play.
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Mark Jankowski is a senior technician at Ingram Planetarium. Reach him at email@example.com or by calling 575-0033.