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Rural Roots - Rural Roots is a column by Fred Jones
2012-02-17 at 10:54

Phrases of the moon

I’ve been watching the moon. We were very lucky. On the night when the moon reached its maximum revealed size, there was not a cloud blemish. 

Each night I waited for its rise that was, of course, delayed by 20 minutes or so. Its passage got me thinking about the moon’s phases and phrases that we employ to describe its passage and more importantly, its effects on us mere mortals.

In many countries, the moon was ¬com¬monly referred to in the masculine. 

It still is in German with Frau Sonne (Mrs. Sun) and Herr Mond (Mr. Moon). 

Somewhere the moon started being referred to in the feminine. Perhaps we can blame St. Francis who called he/she Sister Moon. 

I’ve read that the moon is called triform since it presents itself as either round or waxing with horns facing east or waning with horns facing west.   

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (from where I’m gleaning most of this lore) tells of “one legend of the moon was that there was treasured everything wasted on earth, such as misspent time and wealth, broken vows, unanswered prayers, fruitless tears,” etc.

Oh joy.

So the phases of the moon (for those of us who have forgotten) are five in number: new, full, crescent or decrescent, half and gibbous, or more than half. 

Of course we have the “man in the moon” with some saying that it is a man leaning on a fork, on which he is carrying a bundle of sticks picked up on Sunday. 

The origin of this fable comes from the Bible.  We have “Minions of the Moon” and “Moon’s Men” being thieves who rob at night.
Since we have horses, it was interesting to learn the Arabs call a white horse moon-coloured (But I’ve been told by horse people that a white horse is referred to as grey. Go figure.). 

An ambitious person will shoot or aim at the moon.  One can “cry for the moon,” i.e. to crave for what is beyond one’s reach.
If you wish to avoid paying rent or having your furniture seized for back payment, you can have “a moonlight flit” or a clandestine removal of your furniture during the night. 

Then we have moonshine, an American term for illicitly distilled booze. 

A Moon-calf is a dolt or dunderhead.  Moonrakers, a nickname for a simpleton and also a term used for Wiltshire folk when raking a pond for kegs of smuggled brandy would feign stupidity when surprised by excise men. 

They claimed to be trying to rake the moon out of the water, which was reflected in the water.  

Moonlighting has various meanings depending on which country you’re in.  Currently the term is somewhat loosely applied to unclaimed, additional employment.

There is the term “once in a blue moon” meaning to occur rarely since a blue moon i.e. the full moon appearing twice in the same month, is very rare. To “cast beyond the moon” is to make wild conjectures.

So, as I mentioned, I watched the moon’s progress as it neared the full moon state. There are about three days either side of full where the moon appears to have arrived at it’s maturity, if you will. 

Each evening, I’d look to the east to watch it rise. There it was appearing full and orange as it crested the horizon. 

The first 10 minutes the moon had to be viewed through trees: large, orange and set off against poplar branches. 

As it rose, the orange slowly turned to a cream colour and stayed that way even into the morning when I would rise from sleep, head to the kitchen to put on the coffee and peer out the window to observe the cream-coloured orb slowly descending through more trees in the west. 

If I arose during the night to let an aging pooch outside, I would see the moon high in the sky this time small and almost white. 
One evening, I was driving son Doug to town for his karate lesson. The moon was high in the sky, round and peeking out amongst the fast-moving clouds. 

Doug said that it was just like in a horror movie. Yup, only thing missing was the shadowed image of a werewolf or the Count silhouetted against its light (I know, vampires don’t throw shadows).

I took a last look out the window after my pooch had returned to Casa Jones. The shadow of wood smoke from our chimney raced across the snow. 

Tracks from a fox were highlighted as they approached and retreated from our abode. 

Made of cheese or a balloon, the moon makes a rural winter night a show worth watching.

You can contact Rural Roots by e-mail: or by writing to Rural Roots, P.O.Box 402, South Gillies, Ont. P0T 2V0.


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