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Calendar reminder

Here in “modern” Western Europe, we’re so used to our own calendar, we tend to forget that what we’re using is largely a Roman device, imposed on us some 2,000 years ago. But there are dozens of calendar systems. The ones that we’re still vaguely familiar with are ones like the Chinese, Muslim, Jewish, Mayan, etc. These are generally either a Solar or a Lunar system. If you are Jewish or Muslim, and count lunar months, you get a 13 month year that doesn’t quite match a Solar year.

World's oldest calendar in Scotland?

Traditional archaeology used to tell us that the earliest known calendars are from the Middle East, in places like Sumer. But according to Phys.org:

British archaeology experts have discovered what they believe to be the world's oldest 'calendar', created by hunter-gatherer societies and dating back to around 8,000 BC. The Mesolithic monument was originally excavated in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, by the National Trust for Scotland in 2004. Now analysis by a team led by the University of Birmingham, published today (July 15, 2013) in the journal Internet Archaeology, sheds remarkable new light on the luni-solar device, which pre-dates the first formal time-measuring devices known to Man, found in the Near East, by nearly 5,000 years. ... Until now the first formal calendars appear to have been created in Mesopotamia c, 5000 years ago. But during this project, the researchers discovered that a monument created by hunter gatherers in Aberdeenshire nearly 10,000 years ago appears to mimic the phases of the Moon in order to track lunar months over the course of a year.
Ref : World's oldest 'calendar' discovered

Some have objected to this and say that the idea of any kind of Brits creating any kind of precision engineering from 5,000 years ago is a fantasy. This often seems to go hand-in-hand with the “splendid isolation” attitude of some of the current guardians of World Heritage sites in the UK. These places should, we are told, be left as they are, within a "naturalistic" setting, untouched by the grubby hands and feet of modern-day visitors.

Oldest calendar in England?

The Solstice and Equinox events are astronomical observances. As we know from Stonehenge, the site was aligned on the Solstice. But that doesn't happen by chance. Years of careful observation and measurement must have preceded the first surveying poles or marker stones being laid for the construction work. We don't have direct evidence from the era when Stonehenge and Avebury were built. But in Britain, we have a proxy for that, the Druidic calendar. It's not (as far as I know) been proven that the Megalithic Calendar is the same as the Druid Calendar, or even that the Druids were around when the megalithic sites were built. But it's the closest we've got yet.

What was the Druid Calendar, and how was it structured?

Druidry recognises eight particular times during the yearly cycle which are significant and which are marked by eight special festivals. Of these eight times, four are solar and four are lunar.

The Solstice and Equinox events are astronomical observances.

Winter Solstice = Alban Arthan [the Light of Arthur].

"This is the time of death and rebirth. The sun appears to be abandoning us completely as the longest night comes to us." It is no accident that the early Church chose to move Jesus' official birth day to the time of the Midwinter Solstice - for it is indeed a time when the Light enters the darkness of the World.

Spring Equinox = Alban Eilir [the Light of the Earth]

Summer Solstice = Alban Hefin (The Light of the Shore) - June 21st or 22nd - the dates for each of the solar festivals vary each year since the events are astronomical.

Autumnal Equinox, on September 21st or thereabouts, is called Alban Elfed or Light of the Water marking the end of harvest-time.

There also exist four more times in the year which are also considered sacred or special.

Lughnasadh, on August 1st = Lammas, beginning of harvest time.

Samhuinn, between October 31st and November 2nd was "a time of no-time (and) time was abolished for the three days of this festival". This was adopted by Christians All Hallows [or Hallowe'en) on October 31st, All Saints [November 1st], All Souls [November 2nd].

Imbolc, on February 1st = Candlemas, often used as a time for an Eisteddfod dedicated to poetry and song

Beltane, on May 1st = May Day

Spring is in full bloom, and twin fires would be lit at this time, through which would be passed the cattle after their long winter confinement, or over which those hoping for a child or good fortune would jump. We see traces of the Beltane celebrations on May Day, when dancing round the maypole celebrates the fertility of the land and creates an echo of the ritual circle dances that must have been enacted in stone circles throughout the country.

Passing or jumping through a smokey fire was probably a matter of practical hygiene as well as symbology, as it would help get rid of bugs, tics and other passengers that had been snug through the depths of winter. The Beltane traditions are still kept alive. The strongholds for this seem to be Cornwall, Devon and Scotland, still celebrated with copious amounts of alcohol, and many a child is born mid-winter afterwards.

The Megalithic Calendar

There are some pre-Roman calendars from another megalithic part of the world (see Hidden Circles). The calendar of Enoch emphasizes the four natural divisions of the year. With twelve months of 30 days and 4 other days which are quarter-year markers for the four seasons. Not only is it very structured with the same number of days every month, but every quarter-year contains 91 days, which is exactly 13 weeks.


© John Pratt
Ref : Uniform Enoch Calendar

The Enoch Calendar is shown in the 1st Book Of Enoch and was given by the Angel Uriel (YahEl), and is the original Priestly Calendar that was used in the Torah. The Enoch Calendar is a 12-Month Solar Calendar having 364 Days Only, and it was used by the antediluvian patriarchs and by Noah, Abraham, and Jacob. It was taught to Moses by the Angel Yah and it continued in effect through the 2nd Temple period under Ezra and Nehemiah. It was the official Hebrew calendar until the 2nd Century BCE, when King Antiochus IV Epiphanes ended the use of the Enoch Calendar and forced the Hebrew people (sons of Eber/Heber) to observe the Lunar Calendar.
© Enoch Calendars

That "antediluvian patriarchs" seems to be saying it's older than the Hebrew Lunar Calendar. Then the switch in calendars caused no end of confusion in the Old Testament. Which is why the Bible says:

Adam lived to be 930 years of age.
Methuselah lived to be 969 years of age.
Noah lived to be 950 years of age.

And then they stopped counting lunar “months” as “years” and made lunar years of 13 months each, and so …

Adam lived to be 71 1/2 years of age.
Methuselah lived to be 74 1/2 years of age.
Noah lived to be 73 years of age.

Then the Romans came along and (doh) it just gets worse!

Roman Calendar

I've tried to avoid the Roman Calendar, on the basis that it's a right mess.

The Roman calendar was still flawed after adding January and February, as well as the days and months needed to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. Many attempts were made to align the calendar with the seasons but all failed.
Ref : Time and Date

Which makes me feel inclined to go round them; like avoiding a car crash on the historical road of calendars. Nothing to see here, move along please. Maybe it was only a few Caesars/Emperors that had vanity projects to get their name in the calendar, but it seems they did keep tinkering with it. Is this an example of things they took from somewhere else and made it worse while making it their own?

"Hadrian (emperor 117-138 CE) attempted to root out Judaism, which he saw as the cause of continuous rebellions. He prohibited the Torah and the Hebrew calendar "
Ref : Jewish-Roman Wars (Wiki)

What the Romans imposed on us was a mess. An EU-type standard based on political beliefs rather than observation or empirical science. With so many holes in it that perhaps it should really be called the Roman Culinder.

Our “modern” calendar has had a long history of fudges, adjustments, and flat out replacements of earlier calendars since the BC times. We’ve added days and months, shifted them this way and that, and generally screwed things around trying to get it right. Sometimes we ran for centuries with a broken system such that seasons ended up arriving at the wrong time of year. It really has been a mess. Such things, and our flailing about trying to fix them, have left us with dates that do not exist (a nice trick history question) and with dislocations versus other cultures and countries (such as Russia having a different set of dates than we do for much of their history).
Ref : Chefio

So, while the Jewish Calendar was switched from solar to lunar, and the Roman calendar just went lunatic, did anyone else keep to a solar calendar that could link to what we're calling a Druid Calendar? Happily, yes. In Egypt, Ethiopia and within Jewish traditions.

13 months in the year?

I've seen it suggested in several places that there used to be thirteen months in the year, and it was some kind of conspiracy to banish a pagan month. But perhaps that is just caused by confusion between a 13-month lunar calendar and a 12-month solar calendar. The Orthodox Jewish calendar is still lunar, so sometimes (just to confuse) they have 12 months in a solar year and sometimes they have 13.
Ref : Jewish Calendar

Egyptian Calendar

In Egyptian mythology, Thoth is said to have won the five extra days in the 365-day calendar by gambling with the moon.

Thoth gambled with the Moon for 1/72nd of its light (360/72 = 5), or 5 days, and won.

A nice little story that encodes the astronomical knowledge in an easy-to-remember format, with a base-360 calendar.

The Essenes

Most well-known to us now from the Qumran community.

The Essenes considered themselves ‘hasidim’ (pious ones), ‘zenuim’ (chaste ones) and ‘anavin’ (humble ones). Their solar based calendar meant that all their Holy Days fall on different days to the traditional Jewish lunar calendar.
At some point some of them also gathered in Damascus, which had a large Jewish population and elsewhere. The Damascus group was a lay group versus the Qumran group who were monastic. They used a solar calendar based on twelve months of thirty days each (plus one extra day at the end of each quarter) which made their holidays different from those of other Jews.

The conflict between a lunar and solar calendar is a longer term problem amongst Jews and may go back to building of the second Temple. The solar calendar as defined by Essene documents goes back to the Book of Jubilees (possibly a fourth century BC document) and to the apparently earlier Similitude’s section of the Book of Enoch (also possibly a fourth century BC document).

This mention of a long-term conflict between the two different calendars (and their keepers) gives us a great insight into the different traditions that persisted right back from the times of the "antediluvian patriarchs", Honi, Elijah; through to the time of Enoch, and then via the Enochian Traditions, right through to the time of the Essenes, John the Baptist and Jesus.

The connection between the Essene calendar controversy predating the Essene movement is unclear. What is clear is the significance of the different calendars. When one is celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest of days for Jews, the other is working.

Early Christians came into contact with the Essenes and were influenced by them at a time late in Essene history (first century AD). They met Essenes who maintained their own calendar and repudiated the Jerusalem Temple as well as its laws ... Thus bereft of a legitimate temple, the Essenes developed a theology and religious practice that enabled them to live without this cultic institution, especially at their own monastic centers such as Qumran in the wilderness ... For the Essenes, the temporary, substitute way of life was applicable only until "the exiles of the Sons of Light return from the Wilderness of the Nations to encamp in the Wilderness of Jerusalem." ... (But) What was a temporary substitute for the Essenes, Christianity adopted as a permanent theology, part of their fixed and final canon.
Ref : revelation2seven

This is fascinating in many ways, not least because it was forgotten for nearly two thousand years; it only resurfaced after the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were discovered and translated. One astonishing thing is the high proportion of the DSS material that relates to calendars. One scholarly estimate says 80%. Most significantly, the Qumran calendar is a 364-day solar calendar, divided into four quarters. Which would immediately put it at odds with the traditional 354-day Hebrew lunar calendar. The Qumran feast days were fixed to this solar calendar. Again, that would have put the feast days of the Qumran community at odds with the traditional Hebrew feast days, and marked them as a very different society than the wider Jewish society.

A calendar with four quarters is strikingly similar to the Calendar of Enoch. Can it be a coincidence that the DSS contain so many texts on the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees? Jubilees are periods of 49 years or seven year-weeks. The Book of Jubilees also contains the story of Fallen Angels mating with mortal females to produce the Nephilim, a race of giants.

It also refers to the Noahide Laws (The Seven Laws of Noah). The Talmud regards these as a binding set of laws for the “children of Noah” and all of humanity. The Congress of the United States of America appears to agree with that, as the Bill that created Education Day (in honour of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the leader of the Chabad movement) contained these words:

Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded; Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws
Ref : Seven Noahide Laws

Again, we see that the solar Essene Calendar was different from that of the traditional lunar Hebrew calendar. This kind of Solar calendar is identical to that of the Druids in Britain.

Curiously the Druid and Enoch Calendars might have resurfaced only 200 years ago as the French Republican Calendar. More of that later. But Enoch’s calendar doesn’t have the “time of no-time” , the three days of Samhuinn. So the Druid Solar calendar doesn’t quite match the Calendar of Enoch. Where else might we look? How about the Ethiopian and Coptic Egyptian calendars?

The Gnostic Calendar

The connection between Egypt and Ethiopia from at least as early as the Twenty-second Dynasty was very intimate and occasionally the two countries were under the same ruler, so that the arts and civilization of the one naturally found their way into the other. The Ethiopian Calendar has more in common with the Coptic Egyptian Calendar. The Ethiopic and Coptic calendars have 13 months, 12 of 30 days each and an intercalary month at the end of the year of 5 or 6 days depending whether the year is a leap year or not.

The solar Coptic (ግብጽ) calendar, oldest in history, originated three millennia before the birth of Christ. The exact date of its Egyptian origin is unknown. It is believed that Imhotep, the supreme official of King Djoser C.2670 B.C. had a great impact on the construction of the calendar. Historically, ancient Egyptians initially used a civil calendar based on a solar year that consisted of 365 days only, without making any adjustment for the additional quarter of a day each year. Each year had 12 months.

The heliacal rising of Sirius coincides with the arrival of the highest point of river Nile flood at Memphis marking the first day of the year. The new year of the ancient Egyptians started on Meskerem 1 (መስከረም ፩). This date is an Ethiopian new year signaling the end of Noah’s flood. (The Hebrew new years also start in Meskerem. The Egyptian solar calendar consisted of 12 30-day months with five extra festival days at the end of the year.)
Ref : Ethiopic

From Ethiopia and Egypt, it moved west.

The Coptic calendar, also called the Alexandrian calendar, is a liturgical calendar used by the Coptic Orthodox Church and still used in Egypt. ... Its years and months coincide with those of the Ethiopian calendar but have different numbers and names.
Ref : Coptic calendar

Any mention of Alexandrian sources may be very significant. As the Coptic Church of Alexandria maintains it has been sending missionaries to Britain and Ireland since the 4th Century.

As so many ancient sites in Britain were based on a solar calendar, it's clear that Coptic Christians would not have been bringing completely new knowledge to Britain. But it would be knowledge that was empathetic to the existing traditions.

Coligny Calendar

The discovery of the Coligny Calendar in France moves us firmly into the realm of hard physical evidence.

Coligny
(c) Ancient Origins

In November 1897, a Monsieur Roux came across a buried statue of the Roman deity, Mars in a field north of Coligny, Ain, France. With it were the badly broken up remains of what had once been a large bronze plaque. There were c.153 individual fragments associated with the plaque, most of which bore some form of writing, accompanied by calibration marks and numerical values.

This is the calendar which was used in Gaul in the latter part of the BCE period and, possibly, into the beginning of the CE period. The workings of this calendar were preserved in a bronze tablet that was discovered buried near Coligny in France. This was, presumably, because the calendar was banned by the Romans as it was an indication of druidic practices and, more importantly, flouted the rule that the Julian calendar should be the official calendar in all parts of the Roman Empire.
Ref : Time Meddler (Gaulish)

How long do folk memories last? Is it significant that this was found in France? I ask, because the last major effort to do-away with the Gregorian calendar seems to have been the French Republican Calendar.

French Republican Calendar

The French Republican calendar was instituted in October 1792 as part of a move away from the establishment and the Christian systems that signified the old regime. The calendar was deemed to have begun on the autumnal equinox of that year, i.e. 22nd September 1792, that being named Year 1 of the Revolution. The calendar was modelled on the Egyptian calendar of 12 months of 30 days each, followed by five or six epagomenal days to keep it synchronised with the solar year. The months were given rather poetic names by writer Fabre d'Églantine (who was later guillotined for his alleged part in a conspiracy), based upon the agricultural and meteorological year in France.
Ref : Time Meddler (French)

This was abolished in Year 14 after the collapse of the Revolution and the monarchy was restored.

Indian Calendar

Ancient India was a source of much scientific knowledge that we in the west know little of, or only via other sources that adopted Indian knowledge. The most obvious example is the “Arabic” decimal number system. The Sanskrit calendar (from which the Hindu and modern Indian calendars are derived) is not easy to compare, as it is a lunar-sidereal calendar, and the Saura Māsa solar months resemble Vedic Zodiac months more than Gregorian months. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_calendar#Months_of_the_lunisolar_calendar

Footnote - a lost Golden Age?

One idea that keeps resurfacing is that there was a Golden Age when we had 360 days a year. So the measures of time were in complete harmony with the measures of distance. Then we got clobbered by a mega-asteroid or something like that? Or some kind of cosmic debt collector? It's supposed to have knocked the whole planet sideways into a different longer orbit that took 5 1/4 extra days a year. And we've been messing around with calendars ever since.

Next : A detour through Middle Earth