All calendars started with people attempting to record the passage of time by observing the cycles in the natural world. Over time people then started to create calendars so they could understand where in the cycles they were. Many calendars were produced that attempted to reconcile the months to the phases of the moon, and the years to the solar year, and also to take into account that the length of a year is actually 365.24 days, and that the lunation cycle of the moon is 29.53 days. Different calendars have tackled these problems in different ways, with leap years and intercalary days and months. And each calendar has had its own degree of accuracy. Some drifting out of sync with the seasons faster than others.
The Egyptians are credited with the creation of the first 12-month year, after abandoning trying to stay in sync with the moon. Each month was 30 days long, resulting in a 360-day year recognising that it did not align with the solar year, and that it would take 1460 years for the seasons and the dates to realign. Eventually the Greeks introduced the concept of a leap year, and the Romans continued the trend when they took over Egypt.
The current Gregorian calendar is based on the Julian calendar, implemented by Julius Cesar in 46 BC. Before this the roman calendar was extremely messy with extra days added in here and there at the whim of pontifex who were often politicians. Although the calendar could work if followed correctly it was common for politicians to extend years by adding intercalary months when they were in power and refusing to do so when in opposition. Julius Cesar, after seeing the Egyptian calendar, introduced his calendar in order to correct this situation, and it was widely used for the next 1700 years.
The Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 in order to correct the date of Easter, which was traditionally celebrated on the 21st march (Spring equinox). Europe had been using the Julian calendar, implemented by Julius Cesar in 46 BC, but due to an 11-minute discrepancy the 21st of March had drifted over the years away from the astronomical equinox, as the months drifted through the seasons. Initially the Gregorian calendar was rejected by protestants as some kind of catholic plot to reintroduce Catholicism. Britan did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752.
The Gregorian calendar today holds little significance for the practicing modern Druid or Wiccan, and indeed confuses matters somewhat. Firstly, for many Druids and Wiccans the new year starts at either the winter solstice or Samhain. Months do not align with the phases of the moon any longer, and so practicing rituals around moon phases is more difficult than it has to be. Month names have little to no meaning. September, October, November and December all mean seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months respectively, yet they are the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth months! July and August are both named after Roman Emperors, and the rest are named after Roman and Greek gods.
Our day names are not much better, taking their names from at least 3 sources. Sunday and Monday are very obviously named after the sun and moon. The remaining week days are named after Norse Gods, and Saturday after a Roman God. Ultimately, all representing planets.
Further confusion has also been introduced by then defining astronomical events as special, just because of how they fall on the Gregorian calendar. For example, the term blue moon is now used to denote the second full moon in a calendar month. There is nothing special about that, it is just that it has fallen between two arbitrary dates. If the month was a single lunation cycle then this would be impossible. The true definition of blue moon is more reasonable, as it used to refer to the third full moon in a season that had four full moons, which happens every two and a half years.
Finally, the year number is also meaningless to many modern Druids and Wiccans, as it is simply a count of years since the birth of Christ, which is a disputed fact anyway. Attempts have been made to de-secularize the year, by switching from the postfix AD (anno domini) to CE (common era) and changing the meaning of BC from “before Christ” to “before common era”. Ultimately though, it is still dated from the supposed birth of Christ and is very obviously a Christian calendar.
There have been other attempts to produce calendars for the Druid and Wiccan communities in the past. Most notably Robert Graves’ Celtic tree calendar, the origin of which is disputed, and which is little more than a list of ogham trees attributed to a synodic month. However, due to the discrepancy between a 28-day month and a 27.3-day synodic month his calendar drifts in relation to the lunar cycles by 10.35 days per year. Indeed, there have been a number of similar calendars, and many traditions simply have names for each lunation cycle in the year.
The Druidcraft Calendar is an attempt to create a calendar specifically for the timing of rituals by going back to the source material, and to measure time based on direct observation of the cycles of the sun and moon. But nothing is created in isolation, and like any other calendar, it builds on a selected body of existing systems in order to achieve its goal. These influences and inspirations are namely the Druidic\Wiccan wheel of the year, the Metonic cycle, the Aubery holes at Stonehenge and the Celtic Coligny calendar discovered near Coligny in France. A number of other sources have also been considered and the merits of some are discussed in these pages.
Throughout history, the measuring of time and the practice of ritual have been intimately linked. The prevailing theory is that Stonehenge is a giant ritual calendar, where the practice of measuring time was itself a ritual. It is here that the Druidcraft calendar differs from other contemporary pagan calendars. It is not just a list of names and dates, but a ritual act of measuring the cycles of the heavens. It is your own personal Stonehenge.
The Druidcraft calendar is a contemporary calendar for the modern practice of Druidry and Wicca (known together as Druidcraft). It is aimed at deepening one’s understanding of and connection with the cycles of the earth and the solar system. Using this system of pegs and holes the calendar can be used to:
- Count days, months and years
- Keep track of the moon phases (new, waxing, full and waning)
- Predict regular solar events (solstices and equinoxes)
- Predict lunar events (lunar standstills, and blue moons)
- Mark the quarter days or Celtic fire festivals (Imbolic, Beltain, Lughnassa and Samhain)
- Predict solar and lunar eclipses
- Show the current (sidereal) zodiac position of the sun and moon
This calendar gives the modern practitioner of Druidry or Wicca a mechanism by which to time rituals and attune to the seasons and cycles, in a simple observable manual way, without resorting to complex charts, tables and computer applications. And indeed, the very act of moving the pegs can easily become a small daily ritual of attunement, perhaps at dawn and dusk.
Next: The 7 rings