By the light (not the dark but the light)
Of the silvery moon (not the sun but the moon)
I wanna spoon (not croon, but spoon)
To my honey I’ll croon love’s tune
Honey moon, honey moon, honey moon
Keep a-shinin’ in June
Your silv’ry beams will bring love’s dreams
We’ll be cuddlin’ soon
By the silvery moon
The silv’ry moon…

Here at Indigo Night, a graphic chosen to commemorate a honeymoon is one of the more popular prints. I have noticed that they are usually ordered by the new bride for her adoring husband and a majority of the destinations are somewhere tropical; a place with warm sand, clear water, and a view of some of the more southern constellations such as Crux, the “Southern Cross,” and beautiful Argo Navis (or just Argo), an enormous starry ‘Ship’ made up of constellations Carina, the Keel, Vela, the Sail, Puppis, the Stern, and Pyxis, the Mariner’s Compass.

Looking up these popular locations is one of the favorite parts of my job. I vicariously fly down to these beaches via Google Earth in search of the longitude and latitude coordinates. While reggae is playing on our Pandora station, I click through little blue squares of St. Thomas, Riveria Maya, Ochos Rios, Waikiki and I almost feel like I am there. Almost….

Back to my reality that is the Virginia winter… an order came through recently, remembering a Honeymoon trip to Antigua. The date happened to be for a full moon in March, a moon we call the ‘Sugar Moon.’ (There are many names for the full moon in March: Lenten, Crow, Worm, Crust, Sap, Sugar, Chaste, Death… depending on the culture you’re quoting, but Sugar is our preference.) The Headline for this print read: Our Honey Moon Night.

Hmmm. Sugar Moon on the Honey Moon. I got to thinking… what’s up with ‘honeymoon?’ Is it related to the ‘Honey Moon’?

I always like to start the hunt for derivation with my trusted source, the OED. The Oxford English Dictionary. It defines honeymoon this way: The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure (Samuel Johnson); originally having no reference to the period of a month, but comparing the mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon which is no sooner full than it begins to wane…

The OED often cites Johnson, the English scholar who completed work in 1755 on the first authoritative dictionary of the English language. His dictionary was the gold standard source authority on all things ‘words’ until 1928 when the OED was first published. Johnson was probably quoting an earlier lexicographer, Richard Huloet, who defines the word in his 1552 Abcedarium Anglico-Latinum pro Tyrunculis – the center piece of his Latin-English teaching method…

Hony mone, a terme prouerbially applied to such as be newe maried, whiche wyll not fall out at the fyrste, but thone loueth the other at the beginnynge excedyngly, the likelyhode of theyr exceadynge love appearing to aswage, ye which time the vulgar people cal the hony mone.

(Honeymoon, a term proverbially applied to the newly-married, who will not fall out [argue] at first, but they love the other at the beginning exceedingly, the likelihood of their exceeding love appearing to assuage [make blissfully smooth any disagreement]; this is commonly called the honeymoon.)

The little I’ve read of Huloet indicates he was quite a wit, and that his definitions sometimes tended to be ‘informal.’

None of these early sources tell us the origin of the term. While they do define the term, that definition seems more a wry offering than a hard fact. With no exact derivation available, we are left to speculate…

Perhaps the origin of the word is based upon the practice of the newly married drinking mead (a honey-based drink) during the first month (“moon”) of marriage. Weddings once commonly took place around the time of the solstice – in that small window of time after the crops were in, at the start of the growing season… The drink supposedly increased libido and fertility. Tradition had it that the bride’s family supplied mead to the couple… a wonderful indulgence. A special goblet was given with which to imbibe the mead, and this tradition is still evident today… the wedding goblet.

This is the most common story I find as I root around the usual sources.

Another theory states that ‘honeymoon’ is from the Norse word ‘hjunottsmanathr’ – the practice of ‘kidnapping a bride’ (let’s assume that means elopement) and keeping her from her family until the all important ability to conceive is assured, at which time the marriage can be formalized. I’ve read a few articles that refute this, mostly on the point that the Norse and English language had lost their common ground long before honey moon/honeymoon came into use. Who’s to say?

I’ll offer my own simple theory. A little variation on the mead, but of the mead. Many cultures based their calendars of the cycle of the moon. Each moon had a name that helped define or celebrate a season: when to plant, when to harvest. Think ‘Harvest Moon’ or ‘Moon Before Yule’ or the ‘Budding Moon.’ I know that the ‘Honey Moon’ is a moon that is associated with late spring or early summer, usually the full moon before the summer solstice. I haven’t been able to trace this back to a particular culture, but I’m working on it. The oldest source I find in the 1750 Farmer’s Almanac.

It’s seems so easy… the ‘Honey Moon’ takes place at about the time when honey is first available from the hive, late May or early June. This is also the season of marriage. And, with the availability of honey, a wonderful source of fermentation, mead. So my take is that… as ‘Honey Moon’ was one of the named moons and it marked the time when the sap was running and our friends the bees were in their first honey… and… as this was also the season of love and marriage… sweet as honey, it being all ‘tenderness and pleasure,’ I think ‘Honeymoon’ was associated with each of these, and therefore both of these. (And the mead, well, that too. But mostly love and honey.) And, taking it that last step further, ‘moon’ was commonly word for a period of time, about a month.

Honeymoon, from ‘Honey Moon,’ meaning sweet love at the marrying time. Any thoughts on this? As far as ‘new’ love waxing to ‘fullness’ as the moon does, then inevitably ‘waning’ with familiarity… as stated in the OED, and Johnson. I’ll buy that too. I’ve fallen in love, and I’ve married, and it can’t always be the first blush of love. But the thing about love and the moon is that they somehow always get back to being new, and that’s the interesting part.

(Posted by Van, with Anna)