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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Calendars of my Life

I had a question on the LiveJournal cross post of the past blog entry, from my friend Carol: Where/how did January 1st come about, then? This question was in response to my response to a previous comment in which she wrote "I struggle with wanting to think that the Yule is the turn of the calendar and not January 1st, but of course being raised in the US AND not having known paganism until my late 20s, I automatically think of January 1st and then scold myself! hahaaa"

So, here it goes... my thought on beginnings, years, and a bit of history of the calendar (thank you Google!)

The world, throughout time has had many calendars and even now there is not a just a single one in play. Most folks likely have heard of the complex Mayan calendar, thanks to the historical version of it having come to an end in 2012.

The well known Chinese calendar (technically the Han calendar), is a lunisolar calendar, which indicates both the moon phases and the solar terms. In the Chinese calendar, a year usually begins on the second dark moon after the winter solstice but occasionally on the third dark moon after the winter solstice. The legal calendar in China now, however, is the common Gregorian calendar, though the complex Tibetan calendar and even the Islamic calendars are also referred to in China for dating some events.

The Viking calendar recognizes only two seasons: summer and winter and is comprised of 12 lunar months. Summer begins in the middle of our current month April and ends in October.
 During the Middle Ages, various calendars were use in Europe. The Anno Domini (based on the traditionally reckoned year of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth) was devised in 525 CE but not widely used until 800.

The ancient Romans used different calendars. The original one was thought to have begun with the founding of Rome, and was based on the moon with months of both 29 and 30 days in length. This was followed by one of 30 or 31 days, begun around 753 BCE (Before Common Era) put in place by King Romulus. In this calendar, there were three different ways of numbering the days in the months: the Calends signified the start of the new month with the new moon; the Nones were the days of the half moon and the Ides (made famous by the assignation of Julius Ceasar) which occurred on the 15th of some months and the 13th of others. Don't ask me why.

It was followed by the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar,  and was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect in 45 BCE and is easily recognizable, with a year of 365 days divided into 12 months, and a "leap day" added every 4 years. This leads to the calendar gaining about 3 days every century over the observed day of equinox. Julius Caesar thought it would be appropriate for January, Janus' (God of of doors and gates, with two faces — one looking forward and one looking back) namesake month, to be the doorway to a new year, and when he created the Julian calendar, he made January 1 the first day of the year (this also put the calendar year in line with the consular year, as new consuls also took office that day).

The Gregorian calendar, which we used today, is internationally the most widely accepted and used civil calendar. It has been the unofficial global standard for decades, recognized by international institutions such as the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union. It was began by Pope Gregory VIII in 1582 and adjusted the rule for leap years. It came about because the celebration of Easter was tied to the spring equinox and  the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady drift in the date of Easter undesirable.
All this research aside, my life at least has always been comprised of many calendars... some official and some strictly personal and internal.

I grew up in a family ruled by the "school year." Even more than most kids, I was almost in shock the first year of my working life, outside of school, when everything failed to stop the first part of June and again for a week at the end of December! My dad was a teacher, and as such worked September to June and had to find additional, alternative work during the off season.

I have worked in industries where the fiscal year did not coincide with the calendar year many times.

With my interest in the garden and animals of the farm, my "garden year" begins, in earnest now, around the first of February when the seeds of the leeks and onions, early crops that benefit from a long head start, go into seed trays under lights.

Speaking strictly personally, spring equinox has felt like the beginning of the year to me for much longer than I have followed a Pagan path, though most formal Pagan groups consider Samhain (Halloween) to be the witch's new year. As the day was seen as beginning after sunset, so the year was seen as beginning with the arrival of the darkness by the ancient Celts. Celtic New Year’s Eve, when the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year,corresponds to Samhain.

Never having followed a Celtic path, and only recently (a little over 5 years ago) having come to work with Odin and Frigga, and never having been Jewish, I have not yet really fallen into the "evening and the morning..." thinking. For me, it seems, the new days starts with the sun is at it nadir (midnight) rather than at sunset.

If I were to strictly apply that thinking to the year, I suppose I would be celebrating Yule as the beginning of my year -- and yes, that did resonate with me for quite a while, beginning with my walk on the pagan path, before it had even been named and identified, well over 20 years ago.

From where I stand now, it looks more like the spiral of life just goes on and on... round and round, and there are many points at which we can look back down the road and see "oh, yes, this point has come 'round again." and we can reflect and pick up on that energy to move forward and refine our walk.

"The Turning of the Calendar" is one of those points, the cultural new year, where many folks focus their energies (for better or worse) at that point in time and where there is energy gathering, one can use it to further their work... especially when it is as free floating and unfocused as the energies of celebrating mundanes (for lack of a better word) usually is. So, I use that energy at this time, in ways that suit and help me.
Leek and onion seedlings, well started.

 Come the next cross quarter -- Imbolc or the Charming of the Plow (which it is WAY too early to do here in Maine, for sure!) I'll be harnessing that energy as I make seed blocks and transfer leek and onion seeds, one to a 3/4" square, to begin their growth under lights.

Kale and lettuce seedlings under the lights in March, 2013
And then come Equinox, (Lady Day,  Summer Finding) there will be more seeds going into blocks and under lights, as I chomp at the bit to break the soil. However, here in Maine, there will be several weeks yet until this can happen, at the earliest. Planting Peas on the St Patrick's day is a thing of jokes here (a farming friend once blogged about it, complete with a picture of the pea seeds laying in a furrow in the snow. The blog entry is here, but the picture is no more.) but I use the energies to speed growth on my grow racks.

By Beltane/May Day the garden turning and planting is well under way for me, and it is time to look for and pick a few of the earliest flowing species (likely wild) to grace my altar and celebrate the renewal of the growing growing year, as I look forward to harvest.

And of course, come Summer Solstice ("Midsummer") there are salads galore and likely peas to be picked, tomatoes and corn and all the goodies have been put out for the main season harvest and my garden energies and enthusiasm is at its peak. It is... between now and Mabon/Winter Finding... a very busy time. Another point of turning, not so much a beginning of course, as now a waypoint on the path.

Come the next cross quarter ( Lugnasad  Freyfaxi) we reach the first of the harvest festivals, a waypoint that begins to verge on the points of ending. For the early crops have been harvested and pulled from the fields and the fall crops are started or soon to be seeded for the final push before winter.

Come the fall equinox, one could see this as the beginning of the cycle once again. Also known as Mabon  and Winter Finding, it is a "dusk" of the year... the point at which dark and light balance then tip towards the lengthening dark nights.

... Which brings us to Samhain/Winter Nights and then on to Yule again.

Where ever on the cycle you feel a pull to mark an ending or renewal, there are likely energies there to help you.