In traditional skylore, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. In 2012, the autumnal equinox was Sept. 22; therefore, the full moon for us in the U.S. will come on the night of Sept. 29. That makes the Sept. 29-30 full moon the Harvest Moon.
The moon is the closest heavenly body to earth and captures the imagination of poets, philosophers, and those who contemplate its mysteries and magic seeking guidance in heavenly moonlight.
“When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.” - Mohandas Gandhi
For single women, the myth and magic of the moon holds a special delight, or possibly a disappointment; nevertheless, women take their chances with the Harvest Moon!
Glance at the moon over your right shoulder and say:
New moon, new moon, true and bright,
If I have a lover let me dream of him tonight.
If I am to marry far, let me hear a bird cry;
If I am to marry near, let me hear a cow low;
If I am to marry never, let me hear a hammer knock.
In Hindi mythology, the lunar deity is Chandra, which in Sanskrit means “illustrious.” He is beautiful and forever young. His two arms and hands hold a club and lotus as he rides every night across the sky in a chariot pulled by ten white horses or an antelope. Chandra has many names and affiliations. He is connected with the evening and morning dew and as such is one of the gods of fertility. He is also known as Rajanipati, lord of the night and Kshuparaka, one who illuminates the night, Indu the bright drop of dew, and as Soma, he who presides over Mondays.
Chandra and Tara are the parents of the planet Mercury, called Budha, Chandra is also married to 27 constellations, making him a lord of the heavens.
The Harvest Moon is bigger, brighter and more colorful than other full moons. The warm earth colors of autumn bathe him in brilliance. When the Moon is above, he is traveling through more atmospheric particles and they scatter the bluish component of moonlight reflected by white light from the sun. Thus, the reddish to golden glow of light travels a straighter path to one’s eye. Celestial bodies appear reddish as well when they are low in autumn’s sky.
In Greek mythology, Vesta is the personification of fire and presides over the household alter which is a sanctuary of peace, equity and the source of all happiness, wealth and the guardian angel to all humankind. Her “fire” comes from the center of the earth where there burns a hearth, which is the center of universe. She is also called the Moon Goddess, for her “fire” burns brightly in the autumn sky when the Moon turns orange. “Fire” in this classical sense is the emblem of life forever burning in every human heart pure and sacred.
In Chinese folklore, the Harvest Moon Festival is second only to New Year’s celebrations. When the moons takes on its autumnal glow the Chinese celebrate “zhoug qiu jie.” The story about the moon fairy is told and the legend lives on. The moon fairy lives in a crystal palace, and when she comes out to dance on the moon’s shadowed surface the celebration begins.
The legend surrounding the "lady living in the moon" dates back to ancient times, to a day when ten suns appeared at once in the sky. The Emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the nine extra suns. Once the task was accomplished, Goddess of Western Heaven rewarded the archer with a pill that would make him immortal. However, his wife found the pill, took it, and was banished to the moon as a result. Legend says that her beauty is greatest on the day of the Moon festival.
Today, Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival with dances, feasting and moon gazing on the appropriate day. While baked items are a common feature at many Chinese celebrations, mooncakes are inextricably linked with the Moon festival. One type of traditional mooncake is filled with lotus seed paste and is the size of a human palm. These mooncakes are quite filling, meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and shared with others.
The Harvest Moon is celebrated in many countries with divine reverence for the bounty of our planet and gratitude for what nature provides. Also with legends of the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth, we are reminded of our connection to each other and the earth.