Friday, 31 August 2012

Once in a Blue Moon

An unusual solar event tonight - a blue moon. Now in my ignorance I imagined I would be going out to see a blue moon - literally, a blue colour. That is not the case I've learned.

You are never too old to learn and my view is we'll all keep learning until our days run out. The blue moon is in fact the second full moon within a calendar month. This is indeed a rarish event and the next time this happens is in 2015. Hence the phrase, "once in a blue moon". However, what is the mystery around it being 'blue' if it's not actually blue?

We find then that this second full moon within the month is a false moon - we've already had one full moon! The old English word for false or to betray is 'belewe' (as well as meaning blue). As the church calendar was constructed in part on the moons cycles, the populous needed to know which was the real moon and which the false (second in the month) moon, hence - the blue moon.

Well we have to go back as you would expect many centuries - in fact to the sixteen century and a piece of literature which took a pop at the clergy at the time. In essence it said that if the clergy told you the moon was blue (belewe), then you are expected to believe them.

Good story and even if it's not true, it's still a good one.

Just to confuse things however, moons can be seen as blue which is caused by atmospheric pollution such as smoke from fires or volcanic dust. The Smurfs thought a blue moon was actually blue and the detective agency in Moonlighting starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd from the 1980s was the Blue Moon Detective Agency!

Finally on this lunar subject, the song Blue Moon which was played on the radio this morning on the way to work. Written by Rodgers and Hart in 1934, the song was recorded among others by Billie Holiday, Elvis, Mel Torme and Cliff Richard. I heard the Marcels doo-wop version.

The opening lines of Blue Moon, a romanticised reworked film title tune, and sung by the male lead goes like this:

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

'She' responds: 

Blue Moon
You know just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for

And by the end, you know they've got together when they both sing:

Blue Moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

I hope you have a great weekend, take care.

Chat soon



  1. There is another explanation of the expression but I have forgotten what it is!! That song - though - I remember that, and all the words - I absolutely loved it in my early dancing days.

  2. Yup, that's how I understood how Blue Moon originated, and much better than Auntie BBC's rather convoluted explanation of a brief mention in an astronomy magazine from 1947 :)

    Seems forgotten nowadays that until very recently the churches very much ruled the roost, and it was very common, and still is, for detractors to take a pop. I know because buried in my CV somewhere is the label 'Pastor' - I'm quite used to being popped at:)

    Thank you for a gentle post.

  3. Hi Weaver
    If you remember please let me know. Great song by the way.

    Hi Wheelie
    I agree that Churches certainly ruled nations and held the purse strings.

  4. My mother passed away unexpectedly this past June and I have been overcome with grief. She always loved a full moon. One of my dear friends came over and visited me on Friday evening. We went for a walk and walk 4 miles. While we were out the blue moon appeared. Needless to say, I felt my mom there with me. It was a very special blue moon for me. Seems like there was another blue moon this year or in a recent year. Anyway, I will never see a full moon and not think of my mother.

    I know the doo-wop version well!


  5. Hello Gale
    Thanks for popping by and sharing that beautiful memory of your mother and her love of a blue moon. Of course psychologists would say that your mum and a blue moon is simple a memory connection. As a spritualist, I believe that our loved ones in spirit are never far away and I am sure your mother was with you on that lovely evening.

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