Today, 31st May, 2007, presents us with a relatively rare celestial event, commonly referred to as a Blue Moon. We all use the term in every day language, but did you ever stop to wonder where the phrase came from? It’s roots may be traced back quite a way. In actual fact there are references to blue moons in Ancient Egyptian texts and hieroglyphs! More than likely back then the phenomena may have been a direct observation from some environmental event, which may make the moon appear blue on some occasions, just as it is possible now. As the Egyptian Religious beliefs were steeped in celestial observations and phenomena, it may be that a blue moon was seen as some kind of rare religious omen and revered as a sign from the Gods.
These days the use of the term, “Once In a Blue Moon”, is a very common phrase in our language. In the English language the first known literary reference to a blue moon was in a poem by Roy and Barlow, written in 1528, entitled “Rede Me and Be Not Wrothe”. An excerpt, “If they say the moon is belewe, we must believe it to be true.” which is a reference to the English nobility. Commonly in this day and age and over the years a blue moon is used as a symbol of melancholy, sadness or loneliness in songs and poetry. We are literally accustomed to the idea of the moon or Lunar, as being a symbol of Romance or Love. Therefore a blue moon reflecting the idea of sadness or feeling ‘blue’. The moon seems to be intrinsically connected to our emotions and for many of us, as is the case with your’s truly if you have any faith in Astrology, Cancerians are ruled by the moon and their moods can be affected by the various phases of the moon. It was a little ironic to learn after having dragged oneself around shroud in melancholy this week, that there was in fact, a Blue Moon on the horizon. Coincidence?
There is also a famous farmer’s manual called the Maine Farmers Almanac, which was used to record the weather and moon phases. The first full moon of the month was recorded in red on the due date and the second full moon of the month, recorded in blue. This could be the first modern day origin of the term. When there are two full moons within a calendar month, in modern times the second full moon of the month is referred to by meteorologists and astronomers as a blue moon. This only occurs once every 33 months. Not that rare really. The last one was in July 2004 and the next after today’s will not grace us with its presence until December 2009. Hence the term, “Once In a Blue Moon”.
Of course the moon does not magically turn blue in color. But there are some meteorological phenomena or environmental causes that may make the moon appear blue. These include such things as volcanic ash from any large eruption, fine grains of sand or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere or even from the smoke of large bush fires. Also, if you have been snug in your cottage under an oil lamp and go outside to look at the moon, it will appear blue. This is because our optical organs are governed by an automatic response to ‘white balances’ much like that of a digital camera, and it will take a moment for your eyes to adjust from being in ‘yellow’ light.