Celtic calendar

Celtic calendar

The term Celtic calendar is used to refer to a variety of calendars used by Celtic-speaking peoples at different times in history.

Continental Celtic Calendar

The Gaulish Coligny calendar is possibly the oldest Celtic solar/lunar ritual calendar. It was discovered in Coligny, France, and is now on display in the Palais des Arts Gallo-Roman museum, Lyon. It dates from the 1st century BC, when the Roman Empire imposed use of the Julian Calendar in Roman Gaul. The calendar is made up of bronze fragments, in a single huge plate. It is inscribed Gaulish with Latin characters and uses roman numerals.

The Coligny Calendar is an attempt to reconcile both the cycles of the moon and sun, as is the modern Gregorian calendar. However, the Coligny calendar considers the phases of the moon to be important, and each month always begins with the same moon phase. The calendar uses a mathematical arrangement to keep a normal 12 month calendar in sync with the moon and keeps the whole system in sync by adding an extra month every 2 1/2 years. The Coligny calendar registers a five-year cycle of 62 lunar months, divided into a "bright" and a "dark" fortnight (or half a moon cycle) each. The months were possibly taken to begin at full moon, and a 13th intercalary month was added every two and a half years to align the lunations with the solar year.

The astronomical format of the calendar year that the Coligny calendar represents may well be far older, as calendars are usually even more conservative than rites and cults. The date of its inception is unknown, but correspondences of Insular Celtic and Continental Celtic calendars suggest that some early form may date to Proto-Celtic times, roughly 800 BC. The Coligny calendar achieves a complex synchronization of the solar and lunar months. Whether it does this for philosophical or practical reasons, it points to considerable degree of sophistication.

Medieval Irish and Welsh calendars

Among the Insular Celts, the year was divided into a light half and a dark half. As the day was seen as beginning at sunset, so the year was seen as beginning with the arrival of the darkness, at Samhain, the first of November. The light half of the year started at Bealtaine, the first of May. This observance of festivals beginning the evening before the festival day is still seen in the celebrations and folkloric practices among the Gaels, such as the traditions of "Oíche Shamhna" (Samhain Eve) among the Irish and "Oidhche Shamhna" among the Scots. Danaher, Kevin (1972) "The Year in Ireland: Irish Calendar Customs" Dublin, Mercier. ISBN 1-85635-093-2 pp.200-229] McNeill, F. Marian (1961) "The Silver Bough", Vol. 3. William MacLellan, Glasgow p.11-42]

Julius Caesar said in his "Gallic Wars": " [the Gaulish Celts] keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night." Although Caesar says "at night" he specifically does not say "sunset" so we do not know how much the Gauls' differed from our own method of counting from midnights. Longer periods were reckoned in nights, as in the surviving term "fortnight."

Pre-Celtic, Neolithic "calendars"

Ancient Neolithic stone monuments aligned to the summer and winter solstices, the equinoxes and lunar phenomena can be found across Europe and the Celtic Nations, with particular concentrations in in what are now Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. The most famous of these is Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, Maeshowe in Orkney, Passage tombs, like the Knowth site in Ireland, and Newgrange in Ireland's Boyne Valley. While these sites are often connected with the Celts in popular imagination, in actuality all or most of these sites are of pre-Celtic origins.O'Kelly, Michael J. (1989) "Early Ireland: An Introduction to Irish Prehistory". Cambridge, Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-33687-2]

Neopagan calendars

In some Neopagan religions, a Celtic calendar based on that of Medieval Ireland, or other ancient Celtic cultures, is observed for purposes of ritual. Adherents of Reconstructionist traditions may celebrate the four Gaelic festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnassadh, and often devote themselves to language study and the use of Celtic languages in ritual.Bonewits, Isaac (2006) "Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism". New York, Kensington Publishing Group ISBN 0-8065-2710-2. pp.134] McColman, Carl (2003) "Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom". Alpha Press ISBN 0-02-864417-4. pp.12, 51]

Some eclectic Neopagans, such as Wiccans, combine the Gaelic fire festivals with solstices and equinox celebrations derived from non-Celtic cultures to produce the modern, Wiccan Wheel of the Year. Eclectic Neopaganism is not focused on one particular culture or language.Hutton, Ronald (1991) "The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy". Oxford, Blackwell ISBN 0-631-18946-7 p.337] Some eclectic Neopagans are also influenced by Robert Graves's fictional "Celtic Tree Calendar", which has no foundation in historical calendars or actual ancient Celtic Astrology.Hutton (1991) pp.145]

Calendar terms in Celtic languages

ee also

*Irish calendar


Further reading

*Brennan, Martin, 1994. "The Stones of Time: Calendars, Sundials, and Stone Chambers of Ancient Ireland". Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions
*Brunaux, Jean-Louis, 1986 "Les Gaulois: Sanctuaires et Rites" Paris: Editions Errance
*Duval, Paul-Marie, et Pinault, Georges [eds] "Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises" (R.I.G.), Vol. 3: The calendars of Coligny (73 fragments) and Villards d'Heria (8 fragments)

External links

* [http://technovate.org/web/coligny.htm Ray White, "Coligny"]
* [http://www.pretanicworld.com/Calendar.html Pretanic World - Celtic Calendar]
* [http://caeraustralis.com.au/celtcalmain.htm Caer Australis - The Celtic Calendar]

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