When I arrived at work yesterday, our administrative assistant (the genius behind the blog pictures) met me with a wonderful story about the Strawberry Moon. I suggested she take over the blog for a day so here is “the rest of the story.” (Thanks to Mary Pat!)
The news media were full of reports Monday about the rare occurrence of the Strawberry Moon on the same day as the Summer Solstice. How rare is it? The next time the two will be paired is in the year 2062. What the media neglected to delve into, however, is the spiritual importance of this full moon.
Among the Seneca Indians (and other Iroquois nations) the rising of the Strawberry Moon heralds a sacred time. The strawberry is the first fresh fruit to be harvested after the long winter. To the Senecas, the fruit represents rebirth and hope. They believe you will eat strawberries when you die because they line the path to heaven.
During this time, women and children are given the task of harvesting wild strawberries in special bark baskets. On the day of the full Strawberry Moon, the berries are pressed into a juice mixed with a little maple syrup and water. The entire village gathers for a festival that includes food, dancing and singing. The focus of the day is a ceremony in which the strawberry juice is shared with all. Before each person drinks of the juice, they express gratitude to the Great Spirit for all blessings received and surviving the winter. The juice was also thought to have invigorating healing properties because of its heart shape.
Centuries ago the great Seneca warrior, Handsome Lake, entered into deep depression and drunkenness after the collapse of his culture following the American Revolution. Years later, one night Handsome Lake had several revelations in a prophetic dream that were inspired by the life cycle of the strawberry. From this dream he created a new moral code to strengthen his culture that included abandoning behaviors such as promiscuity and insobriety, confessing one’s sins and striving for salvation. His “Old Way” is still embraced as the “golden rule” today.
In this morning’s gospel acclamation (John 15: 4A, 5B) the Lord promises “whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.” Inspired by the Senecas’ ritual of the Strawberry Moon, you might rephrase that to whoever lives a life filled with gratitude to the Great Spirit will bear much fruit.