Published on November 9, 2010 by John
The Cherokee Moons Ceremonies were the ancient seasonal round of ceremonies practiced during ancient times by the Ah-ni-yv-wi-ya or Cherokee People in the ancient culture. Although a modern calendar year comprises 12 months, there are actually 13 cycles or phases of the moon each year. The seasonal round of ceremonies was based on 13 moons, and was considered a necessary spiritual element for growth and encouraged social gatherings among the Cherokee Clans and Cherokee Society in the ancient culture.
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The Ah-ni-yv-wi-ya believed the number 13 was significant. Not only did this number correspond to the lunar cycles of the year, but by a startling coincidence, all species of turtles living in the ancient homeland (in fact, all species turtles in the world) always had 13 scales on the back of their shells. As a result, Cherokee culture associated the spaces on the back of the turtle with the 13 yearly phases of the moon. These phases have shifted over time and do not fall within the 12 month year calendar year precisely every year; therefore Ripe Corn Ceremonies (now called the Green Corn Dances or the Green Corn Ceremony in Modern Times – Ah-ga-we-la Se-lu-ut-si/old woman corn mother) fall in early September as of 2005.
Ah-ni-ku-ta-ni Seasonal Moon Ceremonies
Nv-da ka-na-wo-ga – COLD MOON
Nv-da ko-la – BONE MOON (so little food, people gnaw on bones and eat bone marrow soup)
Nv-da u-no-le – WIND MOON (when strong winds strip away the dead wood and foliage and prepare the land for renewal)
Nv-da a-tsi-lu-s-gi – FLOWER MOON (when plants come to life and bloom again and the Earth is renewed)
Nv-da ga-hlv-sga – PLANTING MOON (strict translation: “the putting it in a hole moon”)
Nv-da se-lu-i-tse-i-yu-s-di – GREEN CORN MOON (when the corn is up and showing itself as an identifiable crop)
Nv-da ut-si-dsa-ta – CORN IN TASSEL MOON (when the corn is displaying a tassel)
Nv-da se-lu-u-wa-nv-sa – RIPE CORN MOON
Nv-da u-da-ta-nv-a-gi-s-di u-li-s-dv – END OF FRUIT MOON
Nv-da u-da-ta-nv – NUT MOON
Nv-da tsi-yah-lo-ha – HARVEST MOON
Nv-da ga-no-ha-li-do-ha – HUNTING MOON
Nv-da gu-ti-ha – SNOW MOON (when the first snows fall in the mountains)
There were 13 traditional ceremonies each year practiced by the Ah-ni-ku-ta-ni, and October saw the Renewal Ceremony(or new year), an additional ceremony, with another additional ceremony in November (Eagle Dance).
Modern Cherokee Moons Si-nv-da De-ka-lv-tse-gv-’i
Cold Moon….January U-no-lv-ta-na
Bone Moon…February Ka-ga-’li
Windy Moon…March Ah-nv-yi
Flower Moon…April Ka-wo-ni
Planting Moon…May Ah-n(i)-s-gv-ti
Green Corn Moon…June De-ha-lu-yi
Ripe Corn Moon…July Gu-ye-quo-na
Fruit Moon…August Ga-lo-ni
Nut Moon…September Du-li-s-di
Harvest Moon…October Du-ni-n(i)-di
Trading Moon…November Nv-da-de-qua
Snow Moon…December V-s-gi-yi
Customary and Traditional Events Associated With The Moons
JANUARY: Cold Moon, Unolvtani, This time of the season is a time for personal and ritual observance, fasting and personal purification. During this season, families prepare for the coming of the new seasons, starting in Windy Moon Anvyi or March. Personal items and tools for planting are repaired, and new ones made. Stories about ancestors and the family are imparted to the younger ones by the elders. A mid-Winter or “Cold Moon Dance” is usually held in the community as well, marking the passing or ending of one cycle of seasons and welcoming the beginning of the new cycle. Hearth fires are put out and new ones made. The putting out of Fires and lighting of new ones anciently is the duty of certain holy men of certain clans, and coincides with the first new-arrival of the morning star in the east.
FEBRUARY: Bony Moon, Kaga’li, Traditional time of personal-family feast for the ones who had departed this world. A family meal is prepared with place(s) set for the departed. This is also a time of fasting and ritual observance. A community dance officiated by a “doctor” Didanawiskawi commonly referred to as a Medicine-person. Connected to this moon is the “Medicine Dance”.
MARCH: Windy Moon, Anvyi, “First New Moon” of the new seasons. Traditional start of the new cycle of planting seasons or Moons. New town council fires are made. The figure used to portray this moon is the historic figure of Kanati, one of the many beings created by the “Apportioner” Unethlana. These “helpers” were variously charged with the control of the life elements of the earth: air/earth/fire/water. Their domains are the sky, earth, stars and the Seven Levels of the universe.
APRIL: Flower Moon, Kawoni, First plants of the season come out at this time. New births are customary within this time frame. The first new medicine and herb plants that taught mankind how to defend against sickness and conjurey come out now. Streams and rivers controlled by the spirit being, “Long Man,” renew their lives. Ritual observances are made to “Long Man” at this time. A dance customary at this season was the “Knee Deep Dance” of the Spring or Water Frog.
MAY: Planting Moon, An(i)sgvti, Families traditionally prepare the fields and sow them with the stored seeds from last season. Corn, beans, squashes, tomatoes, potatoes, yams and sunflowers are some food planted at this time. A dance traditionally done at this time is the “Corn Dance”.
JUNE: Green Corn Moon, Dehaluyi, First signs of the “corn in tassel”, and the emerging of the various plants of the fields. People traditionally begin preparations for the upcoming festivals of the ensuing growing season. People of the AniGadugi Society begin repairs needed on town houses, family homes and generally provide for the needy. The AniGadugi Society is a volunteer help group who see to the needs of the less fortunate, the elderly and the infirm of the villages.
JULY: Ripe Corn Moon, Guyequona, First foods or the new planting and the roasting ears of corn are ready. Towns begin the cycle festivals. Dances and celebrations of thanks to the Earth Mother and the “Apportioner” Unethlana are given. In the old times this was the traditional time of the “Green Corn Dance” or festival. A common reference of this moon is the “first roasting of ears” (of corn)…sweet corn-moon. This is the customary time for commencement of the Stick Ball games traditionally called AniStusti, “Little War”. Today known as “LaCross”. Stick Ball dances and festivals are commonly held at this time.
AUGUST: Fruit Moon, Ga’loni, Foods of the trees and bushes are gathered at this time. The various “Paint Clans” begin to gather many of the herbs and medicines for which they were historically know. Green Corn festivals are commonly held at this time in the present day. The “Wild Potato” Clans AniNudawegi, begin harvesting various foods growing along the streams, marshes, lakes and ponds.
SEPTEMBER: Nut Moon, Dulisdi, The corn harvest referred to as “Ripe Corn Festival” was customarily held in the early part of this moon to acknowledge Selu the spirit of the corn. Selu is thought of as First Woman. The festival respects Mother Earth as well for providing all foods during the growing season. The “Brush Feast Festival” also customarily takes place in this season. All the fruits and nuts of the bushes and trees of the forest were gathered as this time. A wide variety of nuts from the trees went into the nut breads for the various festivals throughout the seasons. Hunting traditionally began in earnest at this time.
OCTOBER: Harvest Moon, Dunin(i)di, Time of traditional “Harvest Festival” Nowatequa when the people give thanks to all the living things of the fields and earth that helped them live, and to the “Apportioner” Unethlana. Cheno i-equa or “Great New Moon” Festival is customarily held at this time. Ritual fasting would be observed seven days prior to the festival.
NOVEMBER: Trading Moon, Nvdadequa, Traditionally a time of trading and barter among different towns and tribes for manufactured goods, produce and goods from hunting. The people traded with other nearby tribes as well as distant tribes, including those of Canada, Middle America and South America. Also the customary time of the “Friendship Festival” Adohuna = “new friends made”. This is also a day of atonement for the Cherokee. Ritual fasting was also observed. This was a time when all transgressions were forgiven, except for murder which traditionally was taken care of according to the law of blood by a clans person of a murdered person. The festival recalls a time before “world selfishness and greed”. This was a time also when the needy among the towns were given whatever they needed to help them through the impending lean winter season.
DECEMBER: Snow Moon, Vsgiyi, The spirit being, “Snow Man”, brings the cold and snow for the earth to cover the high places while the earth rests until the rebirth of the seasons in the Windy Moon Anuyi. Families traditionally were busy putting up and storing goods for the next cycle of seasons. Elders enjoyed teaching and retelling ancient stories of the people to the young.