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Jeff S Thompson

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What Is The Origin Of The Term Blue Moon?
By Jeff S Thompson   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Posted: Tuesday, February 08, 2005

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A brief article that explores the origin of the term blue moon and present historical evidence to support it.


People use the term blue moon to describe many things today and in years gone by. As early as the sixteenth century the term was slang for, “When pigs fly.” History has many other examples of blue moon definitions and some of them will be presented in this article.

Disaster of 1883

On a small island in Indonesia, named Krakatau, there was a violent eruption of a volcano. Over three-fourths of the island was destroyed in the blast. The effects of this eruption were felt across the world. What makes this important to this article is the fact that after the eruption the sunsets over the next few days were green. At night the moons were blue. This is one of the first documented accounts of an actual Blue Moon. This can happen even today with severe drought, eruptions, and forest fires.

Maine Farmers Almanac

In 1937, Maine’s Farmers Almanac printed an article concerning the tropical year. In this article the author talked about the tropical year, which starts on a winter solstice and ends on the next winter solstice. This is interesting because the article describes what is known as a blue moon. The article explains that there are twelve full moons in a year. Occasionally there are thirteen moons. Most of the seasons have three full moons, but one season will have four. The fourth moon in that season is the blue moon. For those that do not know a tropical year says that the lunar month is 29.5 days, which does not fit evenly into a three-hundred-and-sixty-five day calendar.

The Accident?

One of the most common answers, as to what a blue moon is, comes from a book called Sky and Telescope, which was written by J. Hugh Pruett in 1946. Pruett was said to have misinterpreted Maine’s Farmers Almanac. Pruett concluded that the second full moon in a given month is a blue moon. This was further reinforced in 1980 when a radio broadcast called Star Date made the same association. After the broadcast the term has stuck even to this day.


Today the term blue moon mostly refers to, “When pigs fly.” To the few that follow the tropical year it is still the fourth moon in a season. Finally to most pagans it is the second full moon in a given month. This time is a time of great power to magic users alike.

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Reviewed by Patrick McCormick 2/8/2005
Hi Jeff,

I enjoyed reading your article and appreciate the research you did. I have one more to add to your list, and this was always my understanding of what it meant until the last fifteen or twenty years. I have seen the moon with a blue colour on two occasions in my lifetime and I am 72. On each occasion it was early morning when often the moon can be seen before the sun gets too bright, and on each occasion it was attributed to the reflection from the snow on Earth. The first time was about 1950 in Ireland and it was a topic of conversation at work that morning. The second time was when I was in Canada but I cannot remember the year.

Pat McCormick.

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