When it’s dark out, take a step outside and look at the sky. If you are lucky enough to catch a cloudless day in Rochester, you will see the gray moon shining bright.

Now take a step outside on Oct. 31, 2020. A rare blue moon will be shining down on you this Halloween.

What Is a Blue Moon?

Before I get your hopes up, the moon will not actually be blue this Halloween. Literal blue moons only happen on very rare occasions.

As Professor Michael Richmond in RIT's School of Physics and Astronomy explained, the moon sometimes appears a different color because of particles in the air. The size of these particles will affect what color of light becomes scattered.

A very specific type of dust is needed to scatter red light that will let blue light shine through. This very specific dust is volcanic ash.

Richmond stated, “If you happen to be looking at the moon through a layer of dust that’s been thrown up into the atmosphere by a volcano, and it’s the right kind of volcano and the right kind of dust, and you’re looking through the right amount of it, then the moon can actually look blue.”

This is where the saying “once in a blue moon” originated from. It is used to refer to a situation that is as rare and unlikely as the moon turning blue.

The blue moon we will see this Halloween has another, less literal, definition. It is the second full moon in a singular month.

“The time between one full moon to the next full moon is about 29 days ... The fact that we have a full moon on October first ... means we get another full moon on Halloween,” explained Richmond.

Therefore, the moon on Halloween will sadly look like any regular full moon. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t special.

Magic in the Moon

For many pagans, the full moon is associated with powerful energy. Chaplain Rauncie Ryan and her group, the RIT Pagans, regularly participate in rituals that harness the energy of the full moon.

“The full moon is a powerful time to do any kind of magical working,” Ryan said.

"The full moon is a powerful time to do any kind of magical working."

Pagan rituals are about creating a connection between themselves and the divine. The divine is any particular god or goddess that a pagan worships.

Ryan joked that there is no sacrificing of cats or other crazy happenings that some people tend to think.

For example, a full moon ritual can include chanting, drumming or singing to raise energy within the group. Sometimes sigils are created that encompass your goals or aspirations. It's also a time where people can share their experiences and knowledge with others.

As Ryan explained, no matter if you are pagan or not, seeing the full moon can have an effect on us and the surrounding nature.

“The moon affects the tides and we as human beings are made up of quite a bit of water,” she stated.

Magic in the Night

October 31 is also a sacred day for pagans. Although we call it Halloween, many pagans know this day as Samhain.

Ryan explained, “On Samhain we are remembering those who have passed through the veil. For us at this time, it is when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.”

Rituals will also be performed on Samhain that usually focus on death. For example, many members will bring photos or other significant objects from those who have went through the veil, and place them on an alter in remembrance.

“What we say on our tradition, those who are remembered live ... Someday I will die, we will all die. And we don’t need to be afraid of it,” Ryan explained.

The fact that these two significant high energy events – a full moon and Halloween – fall on the same day, is quite exciting for this community.

Ryan explained, “It’s only a full moon on Halloween about every 18 to 19 years. So, depending on how long you live, you may get to see four or five.”

Blue Moon Rituals

Ryan and the RIT Pagans plan to take full advantage of this rare event while still abiding by the social distancing that has become the norm.

Ryan plans on bringing the group to a beach where the moon will be the most visible.

“The centerpiece of it [the ritual] will focus on two things this year because of the blue moon,” Ryan explained.

The first centerpiece will be honoring their ancestor, the typical focus of a Samhain ritual. Everyone will speak the names of those who have passed this year, repeat the knowledge that those who are remembered live and provide some type of offering, such as food.

The second focus of the ritual will be about setting intentions. Pagans will write down any goals that they may have on a scroll and will stuff it into a blue Christmas ornament. The blue ornament is supposed to represent the moon. When the next blue moon comes around, they will come together again to break open the ornament and read their previous intentions.

It is important to note that there are many different pagans, who worship many different things, and there is no specific nor wrong way to perform a ritual.

For those who do not practice paganism but still want to be involved, there are other ways you can harness the energy of the blue moon.

As huge parties will be off limits this year, take some time to recharge. Ryan recommends listening to music or lighting candles while running a bath. Think about what you want to put out to the universe and manifest it in your life.

As Ryan explained, “That is the thing about being a pagan – spirituality comes within you ... if you look outside of yourself, you won’t find it.”

"Spirituality comes within you ... if you look outside of yourself, you won't find it."