How To Celebrate The Harvest Moon

Full Moons are mysterious, can be magical, and are important ways to mark the passage of time. Each month, the Farmers’ Almanac celebrates the monthly full Moon noting their special names (Sturgeon Moon, Beaver Moon, and Harvest Moon, etc.).

Most of these names come from the Algonquin, a Native American peoples that once inhabited large areas of North America, especially the North Central United States and Canada.

In an effort to share Native American appreciation with you as well as celebrate one of the more well-known Moons of the year, we reached out to individuals of indigenous descent and others who maintain indigenous cultural practices.

The following article unites perspectives of three women who share methods for how to celebrate the Harvest Moon. (Learn more about each of them in the author biographies below.) Read on.

At the core of harvest time celebration is the recognition of what has come to fruition, what has grown from the seeds that each of us have planted—physically and metaphorically. Having a strong connection with nature—to the land, animals, plants, and sky—is essential to the Native American belief system.

There is also special attention given to the idea of everyone together as a great family or collective. Jaya Eagle Heart Opela says, “We are all looking at the full Moon together. Maybe at different times and in different place, but we are all together.”

What is the Harvest Moon?

The Harvest Moon is the full Moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox. (The Harvest Moon usually occurs in September, though there are some years when it falls in early October.)

At equinox, due to the Earth’s tilt, the Moon rises a bit sooner than it does at other times of the year. As a result, farmers and gardeners receive extra light for gathering crops.

But what if you’re not a gardener or farmer? Never fear. The full Moon should inspire the acknowledgement of what else has come to fruition in your lives. What have you accomplished and who is here with us to appreciate it? It is a time of having gratitude and giving thanks.

8 Ways To Celebrate The Harvest Moon

1) Discover the Native American tribe(s) that once lived where you live.

A potent way of connecting with nature is to recognize the Native American tribes that historically inhabited the land on which you currently reside. This can be done easily at Native Land Digital.

This Harvest Moon, connect with nature and history. One way is to discover what Native American tribes once inhabited the area where you live. Find out at Native Digital Land!

Just type in your address and it will show you a map of tribes’ territories. (The indigenous maps are worldwide.) With this knowledge, you may choose to support a local indigenous initiative.

2) Go outside and pay special attention to an animal you see.

Take a moment to pay attention to an animal that you happen to see when you step outside. It could be a house sparrow or a blue jay. This simple act of observation will connect you with nature. Plus, each animal carries a particular symbolic meaning.

Here are some animals that you may see at this time of year, along with a bit of their totemic representation:

  • Deer — Represents the importance of honoring instinct and intuition.
  • Owl — Represents hearing a message, beyond the words that someone may be using to say something.
  • Bear — Represents the need to prepare for a period of slow-movement and hibernation in winter.

3) Have a sit-down dinner with family and friends.

Gather around the table with friends and family. Laughing and sharing what is within the heart expands a sense of gratitude and helps us to acknowledge what we have already cultivated in our lives. 

4) Give an offering to the animals.

Invite your friends and family to bring along the zucchini that’s too big, the apples that didn’t ripen, and the green tomatoes. Put these items together as a “living offering” (offrenda) and set it outside somewhere safe for the animals to enjoy. (Everything in the offering should be edible for the animals.)

5) Make a fire (or light a candle) and say “thank-you.”

During harvest time, a fire reminds us that the summer light is waning. It signals warmth which will be necessary for survival in the coming months.

Many cultures celebrated harvest with a fire ceremony. In ancient Celtic tradition, for example, the celebration of Lammas (between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox), involved elaborate pagan rituals and ceremonies around large fires. These ceremonies were believed to ensure a successful harvest and invoke spiritual support in the event that harvests were less bountiful.

In a Native American context, fire ceremony is also a way to make prayers, activate intentions, and engage with the natural cycles of life. Fire ceremonies are performed during both “new” and full Moon phases. At a new Moon, prayers and intentions are made and during the full Moon those prayers are released.

A bonfire is one way how to celebrate a Harvest Moon.
Celebrate the Harvest Moon by making a bonfire or simply lighting a candle and expressing gratitude by saying, “thank-you.”

If you do not have access to a fire (or live in an especially dry area, where having a fire may be dangerous), you can light a candle. Sit down and say thank you—to whomever you pray to—for this day. That simple act is a form of celebration and ceremony.

5) Play an instrument, sing, and dance.

Just as the animals are more active during a full Moon, allow the full Moon to illuminate what is moving through you. Be active. Play an instrument (i.e., a drum), sing, and dance.

Dancing reinforces the lymphatic system of the body, which encourages toxins to be more efficiently released. 

6) Read (or write) a poem.

A full Moon is a potent time to express yourself. Take a moment for yourself and reflect on what inspires you personally, then put it into action through writing or recite a poem that embodies these inspirations (see an example of poetry for the Full Harvest Moon below).

San Francisco’s poet laureate Kim Shuck says, “I am affected by the weather, the Moon, what’s blooming, what animals are around as evidenced on my hill. I think people enjoy commenting the most on things I say in politics, but I am more interested in the weather, whether California is on fire or what the Moon is doing.

In terms of looking to the past to find answers about her Cherokee traditional roots, she insists that’s not necessary. “There are a lot of people who look backwards to find the thread, I don’t feel like I ever let go of the thread, so I feel like I am moving forward.” 

The following poem weaves Kim Shuck’s personal relationship with nature and the “Corn Moon” (Another name for September’s full Moon):

Because the volcano eight months gone

Sing water songs again

Sing water and corn moon waxing

Ripe corn

Light stealing the bedspread and we

Sing a whole night without fireworks jaw crack

Pattern breaks

Here where we can see the mountain

On fire or not

Can touch the fog some afternoons with these

Confident but unsophisticated fingertips and

Are combed by the restless and that raven has

Left me a corroded bolt and I

Left him a handful of unrhymed almonds

Can

Both of us

Taste the salt air the

Salt air and coastal plants who are still

Trying hard to teach us prayers but you know

Humans are so stubborn

All sandpiper thoughts and predictive text these are the

Wild coast weeds that

Wind through your hair and

Rearrange the leaves and one

Raven

Feather into an

Asymmetrical map of your future and then

Sweep it all down the street

Or further still

Too dark at this hour to see the whitecaps or

Catch the sunlight across the mudflats further south but this

Moon this

Singing me awake

Almost full moon

Catches the whole thing at just that one angle

Who needs the unguarded dreaming at a moment like this one

Anyway

-Kim Shuck

7) Quit unhealthy habits.

The Harvest Moon signifies what is ripe, but also as it reminds us of the winter to come, there is a call to let go. We may more easily let go of unhealthy habits. Consider a dietary cleanse or a shift of behavior that aligns with the Earth and sustainability.

8) Pick up trash in nature and make a resolution to use less plastic.

By picking up trash in nature or using less plastic as part of our everyday lives, we acknowledge how small actions are a part of larger, collective changes. Read more about “plogging.”

A Final Thought

This Harvest Moon, go outside with some friends, family, and loved ones! Look up and find what inspires you to connect more deeply to the Earth. Do it for yourself and for the common good.

Keep Learning

Learn more about the Full Harvest Moon.

Native American Star Legends, Lore, and Names.

Join The Discussion

Which of these suggestions inspire you the most?

What are some signs from nature that signal fall to you?

How do you personally celebrate the Harvest Moon?

Are you Native American? Tell us about your heritage!

How do some of your practices relate to ones mentioned above?

Please share your wisdom with other readers in the comments below!

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Kim Shuck who is of Cherokee descent and is the author of ten published books.
Kim Shuck

Kim Shuck is an accomplished writer and artist. She is the seventh Poet Laureate of San Francisco and the author of ten published books. Shuck's writing draws from her background, which includes Cherokee and Polish heritage.

Jaya Eagle Heart Opela is a spiritual leader of the Oklevueha Native American Church.
Jaya Eagle Heart Opela

Jaya Eagle Heart Opela is a medicine woman and spiritual leader of an Oklevueha Native American Church in Ashland, Oregon. She has been a shamanic practitioner for 30 years, taught by Lakota, Karuc, and Ojibe tribes.

Suzanne Astar is a writer and bodyworker based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Suzanne Astar

Suzanne Astar is a writer, bodyworker, and instructor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be found at SuzanneAstar.com.

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