The Modern Druidic Calendar
The druids were renowned in the classical world for their knowledge of astronomy (as well as astrology), and despite the prohibition on the transcribing of religious dogma, the dates and meanings of the major Celtic holidays have survived, and are revived in modern Druidism.
First, I think it important to point out that, despite popular misconception, the Celts did NOT follow a "Celtic tree calendar." This is an invention of the last two hundred or so years, popularized by Robert Graves, who has unwittingly done an incredible amount of disservice to the Druid community. For more on this subject, please see my w/u under "Celtic Tree calendar"
Most druids use the standard Western date, the "Common Era" or "Anno Domini," and so would write this year as being 2003 CE. It is unknown what year the classical druids would have considered this to be.
However, I have seen some individuals use the "Anno Mundi" devised in the Annals of the Four Masters, making this year 7202 AM.
Now, most modern druids either follow the current monthly calendar, or rely on a reconstruction of the Coligny Calendar, either using the original Gaulic names, or an hypothetical modern Irish reconstruction:
COLIGNY "IRISH" POSSIBLE MEANING MODERN Samonios Samhain "Summer's End"? "Seed-Fall"? October/November Dumannios Dumhainn "Dark Month"? "The Darkest Depths"? November/December Riuros Riúr "Frost Time"? "Cold Time"? December/January Anagantios Naghaid "Indoors"/"Stay-home-time"? January/February Ogronios Uarain "Cold"/"Time of Ice"? February/March Cutios Cuithe "Windy"/"Time of Winds"? March/April Giamonios Geamhain "Winter's End"/"Shoots-show"? April/May Simivisonnos Siúfainn "Semi-Spring"/"Time of Brightness"? May/June Equos Eacha "Horse Month" June/July Elembivios Eilmí "Many Fences"/"Claim-time" July/August Edrinios Aodhrain "Hot Time"/"Arbitration-time" August/September Cantlos Cadal "Song Time" September/October
However, there is some debate as to whether this is the proper order of the months on the calendar--some would begin November with Giamonios, and summer with Samonios.
Others use the old Gaelic names:
SCOTTISH(?) LATIN An t-Samhain November An Dùbhlachd December Am Faoilleach January An Gearran February Am Màrt March An Giblean April An Cèitean May An t-Og Mhios June An t-Uchar July An Lunasdal August An t-Sultain September
Also, the Celts, according to some classical accounts, reckoned the beginning of the month from the new moon. Some accounts give the sixth of the new moon, some say the full moon. However, from what I've been able to gather, the month is started at the new moon. There is no standardization of this among modern druids.
Modern druids either use the English names for the days of the week, or the modern Irish/Scottish/Welsh etc. names. Classical Celtic civilization was not based on a seven-day week, but on two "weeks" in every month, the first being fourteen days long, the second fourteen or fifteen, depending on the length of the moon.
THE EIGHT-FOLD YEAR
It is recorded in various medieval Irish texts that the Celts celebrated four "fire festivals"--Samhain, Oimelc, Bealtaine, and Lughnassadh. Of these, Samhain, Bealtaine, and Lughnassadh are found in a number of Irish mythological texts (the various cycles), while Oimelc is refered to in Cormac's Glossary. They mark what we now consider November 1, February 2, May 1, and August 1, dividing the year into four quarters, and were considered the start of each season, so that November 1 (Samhain, "summer's end") was the first day of winter. This is reflected in the Welsh name for the day, Nos Galen-Gaeaf ("Night of the Winter Calends").
It is also thought that they likely celebrated the solstices and equinoxes, though these do not appear in the texts. However, they certainly survived in folk customs, as did the four "fire festivals." The solstices and equinoxes fell between the four quarters, and were given the designation of "mid" days--hense calling the winter solstice (the first day of winter) "Midwinter" and so on.
Modern Druidism, taking a cue from "mesodruidism" (that of the 18th century Druidic Renaissance), adopted the solstices and equinoxes, as well as the four "fire festivals," into an eight-fold calendar, which was later adopted by Wicca and other neopagan groups. Modern neopagan holidays are actually a cobbling together of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon holy days, both of which may be derived from a hypothetical Proto-Indo-European calendar. At any rate, as Druidism is currently an earth-based religion, it is only logical that the solstices and equinoxes would be incorporated into the calendar, even without enough evidence to do so otherwise.
As for the names of the solstices and equinoxes, as there is no "specific" name given to these days, various names have been used, from current Irish to mesodruidic Welsh constructions to modern pagan (often Anglo-Saxon):
DATE IRISH MESODRUIDIC NEOPAGAN Winter Solstice Mean Geimhridh Alban Arthuan Yule Vernal Equinox Mean Earraigh Alban Eiler Ostara Summer Solstice Mean Samhraidh Alban Heruin Litha Autumnal Equinox Mean Foghamar Alban Elued Mabon
The Irish Nollaig and Welsh Nadolig ("Christmas") are not used for the Winter solstice, as it is thought to be derived from the Latin "natalis," refering to Christ's birth.
The other names usually retain their medieval form, except for Oimelc, which follows the modern Irish Imbolc (same pronounciation).
Each holy day has been given fairly thourough explanations in their respective articles, and so I will only leave this with a table of the days and a brief description:
Samhain: November 1. New Year, winter begins. Winter Solstice: December 21 or so. Imbolc: February 2. Feast of Brigid Vernal Equinox: March 21 or so Beltane: May 1. Summer begins. Hypothetical Feast of Beli Summer Solstice: June 21 or so Lughnassadh: August 1. Feast of Lugh Autumnal Equinox: September 21 or so.
The dating of these feasts are usually left to the first of the month. However, as Issac Bonewits points out on his site:
Astrologically oriented Neopagans use the days upon which the Sun enters 15 degrees of each of the "Fixed Signs" of the Zodiac, to wit: "Eagle Point" = 15 degrees of Scorpio, "Man" or "Angel Point" = 15 degrees of Aquarius, "Ox Point" =15 degrees of Taurus and "Lion Point" = 15 degrees of Leo. Still others use those days upon which the Sun hits 16 degrees and 18 minutes declination North or South of the Celestial Equator. This also makes them come halfway between the Solstices and Equinoxes, and usually gives results within a few hours of those given by the Fixed Signs method.
It is also worth noting that the modern Druid holidays have Christian and modern "secular" equilvalents, which is one of the reasons that we have been able to create a modern calendar:
DRUID CHRISTIAN MODERN Samhain All Hallowmas Halloween (Winter) Christmas (your holiday here) Imbolc Candlemas Groundhog Day (Spring) Easter (your holiday here) Beltane Roodmas May Day (Summer) St. John's Eve Lughnassadh Lammas (Autumn) Michaelmas
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Mary Jones © 2004