Cherokee calendar

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The Cherokee calendar is traditionally defined as a Lunar calendar marked by 13 moon cycles of 28 days.[note 1] Each cycle was accompanied by a ceremony. In order to rectify the Cherokee calendar with that of the Julian calendar, these cycles were reduced to 12. The seasonal round of ceremonies was integral to Cherokee society. It was considered an important spiritual element for social cohesion and a way to bring all the Cherokee clans together.[1]

The Cherokee, like many other Native tribes, used a turtle’s back pattern of scales to determine their calendar cycle. The scales around the edge added up to 28, the same number of days as in a lunar cycle, while the center contained 13 larger scales, representing the 13 moon cycles of a year.[2][3][1]

Turtle shell calendar

Thirteen seasonal moon ceremonies[edit]

Cherokee priests, known as ᎠᏂᎫᏔᏂ or A-ni-ku-ta-ni, defined the 13 ceremonies as listed below. The common names in English are listed followed by their names in Cherokee syllabics, the Cherokee name's transcription in the Latin alphabet, and a literal translation of the Cherokee name for some of the moons in parenthesis.[1][4][5]

  • Cold Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎧᎾᏬᎦ) Nv-da Ka-na-wo-ga
  • Bone Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎪᎳ) Nv-da Ko-la (So little food the people eat bone marrow soup)
  • Wind Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏃᎴ) Nv-da U-no-le (Winds prepare the land for renewal)
  • Flower Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎠᏥᎷᏍᎩ) Nv-da A-tsi-lu-s-gi (Flowers bloom and the earth is renewed)
  • Planting Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎦᏢᏍᎦ) Nv-da Ga-hlv-sga (Putting it in a hole)
  • Green Corn Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᏎᎷᎢᏤᎢᏳᏍᏗ) Nv-da Se-lu-i-tse-i-yu-s-di (The corn is up)
  • Corn in Tassel Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏥᏣᏔ) Nv-da U-tsi-dsa-ta (the corn is showing a tassel)
  • Ripe Corn Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᏎᎷᎤᏩᏅᏌ) Nv-da Se-lu-u-wa-nv-sa
  • End of Fruit Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏓᏔᏅᎠᎩᏍᏗ ᎤᎵᏍᏛ) Nv-da U-da-ta-nv-a-gi-s-di U-li-s-dv
  • Nut Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏓᏔᏅ) Nv-da U-da-ta-nv
  • Harvest Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᏥᎠᎶᎭ) Nv-da Tsi-yah-lo-ha
  • Hunting Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎦᏃᎭᎵᏙᎭ) Nv-da Ga-no-ha-li-do-ha
  • Snow Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎫᏘᎭ) Nv-da Gu-ti-ha (First snowfall)

Cherokee names for Julian calendar months[edit]

With the expansion of Euro-American influences in North America, the Cherokee adapted their calendar to the widely accepted Julian calendar. As such the 13-moon phase calendar was gradually replaced by a 12-month calendar. However, the months were still associated with ceremonies and are still practiced by traditional Cherokee today.

Below is a list of months according to the Julian calendar followed by their name in Cherokee syllabics, then the Latin transliteration and finally their common English interpretation:[6][7][4][5]

  • January – ᎤᏃᎸᏔᏂ or ᎤᏃᎸᏔᎾ - U-no-lv-ta-ni - Cold Moon
  • February - ᎧᎦᎵ – Ka-ga-li - Bony Moon
  • March - ᎠᎾᏱᎵᏒ or ᎠᏅᏱ – A-na-yi-li-s-v - Windy Moon
  • April - ᎫᏬᏂ or ᎧᏬᏂ – Gu-wo-ni - Flower Moon
  • May - ᎫᏬᏂ or ᎧᏬᏂ – A-na-s-gv-ti - Planting Moon
  • June - ᏕᎭᎷᏱ – De-ha-lu-yi - Green Corn Moon
  • July - ᎫᏰᏉᏂ – Gu-ye-quo-ni - Ripe Corn Moon
  • August - ᎦᎶᏂ – Ga-lo-ni - End of Fruit Moon
  • September - ᏚᎵᏍᏗ – Du-li-s-di - Nut Moon
  • October - ᏚᏂᏃᏗ – Du-ni-no-di - Harvest Moon
  • November - ᏅᏓᏕᏆ – Nv-da-de-qua - Trading Moon
  • December - ᎥᏍᎩᏱ – V-s-gi-yi - Snow Moon

Below is a list of months as they appeared in ethnological studies and books of the Cherokee people from 1894 into the late 20th century, with Julian calendar name followed by Cherokee names and finally the meanings and associations:

  • January: Unolvtana or Unâlatŭni[8] meaning "windblown"[9][10]
  • February: Kagaʔli or Gŭgăli[8] Bone Moon,[1] "month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens"[9]
  • March: Anvhyi, referring to strawberries (anŭ)[10]
  • April: Kawohni, or Kùwáni[8] meaning "duck" as in "when the ducks return", "ducks swim in ponds month"[9][10]
  • May: Anisgvti, Ansgvti,[8] "planting moon"[6] month of strawberries[9] or making pottery (ŭntĭ),[10]
  • June: Dehaluyi,[8] "green corn moon,"[1] Green Corn ceremony, blackberry month[9]
  • July: Kuyegwona,[8] "ripe corn moon,"[1] huckleberry month[9]
  • August: Gaʔloni,[8] end of fruit moon,[6] wild grapes month,[9] refers to drying up of the streams[10]
  • September: Dulisdi,[8] nut moon,[1] translation unknown, Bounding Bush Feast[9]
  • October: Dunihidi, Duninhdi,[8] harvestime month, Great New Moon Ceremony[9]
  • November: Nvdadequa, Nvdadeqwa,[8] big moon month[9] [10]
  • December: Vsdgiyi, Vskihyi,[8] snow moon,[1][6] translation unknown[9]

Significance of each month[edit]

January - Unolvtani - Cold Moon

Significance: Personal and Ritual Observance, fasting and personal purification
During the Cold Moon, Cherokee would start preparing for upcoming new seasons. They would repair old tools for planting and build new ones. The elders would use this time to teach the younger ones the old ways and stories about the ancestors. The "Cold Moon Dance" took place to signify the ending of one cycle and beginning of a new cycle of seasons. Hearth fires were put out and new ones lit (usually carried out by the priests).[11][12]

February - Kagali - Bony Moon

Significance: A time to celebrate the dead
A family feast was prepared with places set for the departed. Also a time of continuing to fast and ritual observance outside of the feast. A Didanawiskawi or "Medicine Man" would organize a community "Medicine Dance" to ask for blessing on the new cycle.[12][1]

March - Anuyi - Windy Moon

Significance: Traditional the "First New Moon" of the new cycle
It is the official beginning of the new planting season. The Sacred Fire had been kept burning in a pit in the council house all winter but during this moon the fire was lit in the center for all the village to see. Kanati, the First Man created by Unethlana, the "Apportioner", is widely used to portray this moon phase. Kinati is the one who taught the people how to hunt. There was a feast called the "Feast of the Deer" to celebrate this story.[12][1]

April - Kawoni - Flower Moon

Significance: First flowers of year bloom
The first plants start to blossom. The herbal plants that taught man how to cure the sickness brought on by animals comes out. New births are also recorded. Streams and rivers come alive. Observances to the "Long Man"(river) take place during this time. A dance called the "Knee Deep Dance" of the water frog happens during this cycle.[11][1]

May - Anasgvti - Planting Moon

Significance: Fields are being prepared to plant
Corn, beans, squash (Three Sisters), tomatoes, potatoes, yams and sunflowers are planted at this time. There is also a dance call the "Corn Dance" that takes place.[11][1]

June - Dehaluyi - Green Corn Moon

Significance: Corn grows a "tassel"
During this moon various plants important to the Cherokee emerge in the fields. Preparations are made for the upcoming festivals. Repairs are made to homes. The elderly and infirm are cared for under a practice known as Gadugi.[11][1]

July - Guyequoni - Ripe Corn Moon

Significance: First foods are ready
This is the official start of the festivals. In traditional times the "Green Corn Dance" or festival would take place. This is also the month when Stick Ball returned. There were Stick Ball dances and festivals.[11][1]

August - Galoni - Fruit Moon

Significance: Foods of trees and bushes were gathered.
Herbs were gathered and medicines made by the "Paint Clan". Various wild foods along streams, marshes and lakes are harvested. The is when the "Green Corn Festival" is held in modern times.[12][1]

September - Dulisdi - Nut Moon

Significance: Ripe corn is harvested
The "Ripe Corn Festival" is held during the early part of this phase in honor of Selu, the First Woman and the one who gave the people corn. The "Brush Feast Festival" also takes place during this month. All the nuts and remaining fruits from the trees and bushes were gathered at this time. Nut breads were made for the festivals. Hunting was significantly increased.[12][11]

October - Duninodi - Trading Moon

Significance: Month of thankfulness
Two festivals took place during this month, the traditional "Harvest Festival" and the "Great Moon Festival". Both were festivals celebrating the success of the year and offering thanks to the animals, plants and all living things of the fields. The Cherokee also thanked Unethlana, the "Apportioner" during this time.[12][11]

November - Nvdadaequa - Trading Moon

Significance: "new friends made"
This was the time of year when the Cherokees traded among their various towns. They also traded with neighboring tribes and even some distant tribes as far away as Canada, Middle America and South America. Traditional time of the "Friendship Festival". All wrongs were forgiven except for murder which was taken care of by the Blood Law. The festival celebrates the world before it became "selfish and greedy". Supplies and goods were given to the needy among the people to help the get through the winter.[12][11]

December - Vsgiyi - Snow Moon

Significance: storing goods for the winter and coming new cycle
This was when the snows began falling in the high places and the earth rests awaiting rebirth in the new cycle. Cherokee used this time to store goods and the elders taught the young people the stories of the old ways and ancestors, again.[11][1]


  • Spring, Gagéyl, "near the summer,"[10] Gi-la-go-ge (ᎩᎳᎪᎨ)[5]
  • Summer, Gagi,[10] Go-ge-yi (ᎪᎨᏱ)[5]
  • Early Autumn, Gúyû [10]
  • Late Autumn, Ulăgăhûstû (refers to falling of the leaves),[10] U-la-go-hv-s-di (ᎤᎳᎪᎲᏍᏗ)[5]
  • Winter, Gâlû,[10] Go-la (ᎪᎳ)[5]

Comparison with other calendars[edit]

The traditional Cherokee moon cycle of 28 days differs from the astronomical synodic month (the time it takes for the moon to return to the same phase) of approximately 29.5 days.[13] In this respect, it differs from many other traditional lunar calendars, which use synodic months.[14] However, the traditional Cherokee definition of a lunar month as consisting of exactly 28 days is identical to that formerly used in English common law.[15][16]


  1. ^ The traditional definition of a moon cycle, however, is shorter than the synodic month by approximately one and a half days; see "Comparison with other calendars" below



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Cherokee Moons". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  2. ^ "The lunar calendar on a turtles's back". Ontario Parks. Parks Blog. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  3. ^ "THIRTEEN MOONS Curriculum" (PDF). Ontario Native Literacy Coalition, 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Days Months" (PDF). Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Word List". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d "Names of Cherokee moons". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Learning Cherokee". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Feeling 234
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dubin 193
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mooney 1894.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Religion". Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Wolfe, David. "Moons". Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Sidereal vs. Synodic Month". University of Virginia. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  14. ^ "Lunar calendar". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  15. ^ Angell, Joseph Kinnicut (1846). A Treatise on the Limitations of Actions at Law and Suits in Equity and Admiralty. Boston: Charles C Little and James Brown. p. 52.
  16. ^ Law, Jonathan, ed. (1983). A Dictionary of Law. Oxford University Press. p. 405. ISBN 978-0198802525.


  • Bruchac, Joseph; London, Jonathan (1992). Thirteen moons on turtle's back. Puffin Books. ISBN 9780698115842. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  • Dubin, Lois Sherr (1999). North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-3689-5.
  • Feeling, Durbin (1975). Pulte, William (ed.). Cherokee-English Dictionary. Tahlequah, Oklahoma: Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. LCCN 75329756.
  • Mooney, James (July 1894). "The Cherokee Calendar System". American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal (1880-1914). 16 (4): 244.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)