Grow Your Own Lunar Calendar
Author: Bran th’ Blessed
The earliest lunar calendars were small sticks into which some Neolithic hunter carved notches to count the days between full moons. This hi-tech device required no battery replacement and was accurate within plus or minus three days of the actual lunar cycle from new moon to new moon. Depending on the hunter, of course.
By such means, it eventually became clear that the full moon occurred every 29 or 30 days. Rather than leave the one finger uncounted on the third go-round, the length of the lunar cycle was set at 30 days (three hands of days) . This length worked well with the estimated duration of the *Celestial Calendar* year, which was 360 days. You may think that the year-counting stick was not as accurate as the month counting stick, but there is always with us humans the expectation of symmetry, and even today it doesn’t set well with us that our year should not end at the end of the twelfth month—as our 12-month Gregorian calendars so clearly attest.
It is because our years were set to 360 days—in order to match precisely with twelve 30-day months—that the circle is ascribed with 360 degrees. The zodiacal path is set to 360 degrees for the 360 days the Sun takes to encompass that circuit, one degree per day.
The Moon, too, encircles the zodiacal path, but it takes only 30 days to do so. In those 30 days the Sun moves 30 degrees, so the Moon must move 360 + 30 = 390 degrees to catch up to the Sun again. While the Sun moves one degree each day, the Moon moves 13 degrees each day. At the end of 30 days, they are united again, but at the beginning of a different zodiacal sign: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer; Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio; Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces…the signs (constellations) of the zodiac. (I have excluded the zodiacal signs, Doris and Butch, as these have grown into disuse over the ages. Pity.)
The Celestial Calendar provides further symmetries with 24 fifteen-day *Esbats* in each year, corresponding with the risings and settings of the zodiacal signs. There are three esbats (45 days) in each of the eight *Sabbats* of the year: The Solstices (Yule and Litha) , Equinoxes (Ostara and Harvest) , and four Cross-Quarter Sabbats (Winterwatch, or Imbolc; Beltane, Lughnasa, and Samhain) , and there are two sabbats (90 days) in each of the four seasons of the year.
This Celestial Calendar, however, is poorly matched by the realities of our astronomy. The Earth takes 365¼ days (not 360 days) to move from Winter Solstice to Winter Solstice. The Moon takes 29½ days (not 30) to move from full moon to full moon, and twelve months is actually only about 354 days. Alas, for a more perfect world, eh?
My *Pagan Seasonal Calendar* corrects the Celestial Calendar’s error in the measure of the year by adding five intercalary days to every year, four midseason, cross-quarter sabbat days and one end-of-the-year day. Winterwatch is added between the third and fourth Esbats (my calendar begins and ends at Yule/Midwinter) . Beltane is added between the ninth and tenth Esbats. Lughnasa is added between the fifteenth and sixteenth Esbats. And Samhain is added between the 21st and 22nd Esbats. Year’s End is added at calendar’s end. At the end of every fourth year (called a Span) , a sixth intercalary day called Span’s End is added, equivalent to our “leap year’s day”. The Span’s End day is not added to the 32nd and final Span of a Gaian Era (which is 128 years) . These few adjustments make my Pagan Seasonal Calendar, incorporating the Celestial Calendar, more accurate than the Gregorian Calendar we use with respect to the length of the year. But of course, it does nothing to resolve the problem with the month.
Real lunar months cannot be conveniently aligned with real seasonal years. Various cultures have tried to devise methods for utilizing a lunar calendar, but the two cycles don’t dance the same dance. The Julian Calendar of the Romans and the Gregorian Calendar of the Catholic Church both follow the lead of the Celestial Calendar in making months as long as desired, 28 or 29 days, 30 or 31 days. Lunar calendar systems make each year twelve of thirteen moons in duration, but the systems are either complex or set by visual observations. For my calendar system, I decided to look for a lunar calendar system that is accurate and works well on its own, and then fret the details of coordination later. This isn’t rocket science after all. The lunar period data available today is accurate to ten decimal places and more, and a handy pocket calculator (batteries included) is all I needed for the simple division problems. So here we go.
The period from one full moon to the next is very close to 29½ days. Two moons are twice that, or 59 days. This 59 day lunar cycle is called a *Doublet*. The *Morning Moon* of any doublet begins at midnight opening the 1st day of the doublet and ends at midday of the 30th day of the doublet; the *Evening Moon* begins at midday of the 30th day and ends at midnight closing the 59th and final day of the doublet. Morning moons begin and end in the morning, between midnight and midday; evening moons begin and end in the evening, between midday and midnight. Both moons go halfsies on the 30th day of the doublet.
The degree of error in a 59-day doublet is such that one day must be added after sixteen such doublets (32 moons) . This period of 32 moons is called a *Cynthiad*. The sixteenth and final doublet of each cynthiad has 60 days instead of 59 days. That makes each cynthiad 945 days, or precisely 135 weeks. The degree of error in a cynthiad is much smaller and in the opposite direction, requiring us to eventually remove one day after 47 cynthiads. This period of 47 cynthiads is called a *Lunar Age*, and it’s about 121 years and pocket change. The last doublet of the last cynthiad in each lunar age does not have a day 60. This last modification keeps the calendar within one day of accuracy for about 66 lunar ages—which is eight millennia and pocket change.
Every cynthiad in this age begins on Sunday; it’s the 7th Age of Balder (or some other Sun God/dess of your choice?) in this *Lunar Epoch*. Because of the dropped day at the end of each age, the cynthiads of succeeding Ages begin one day earlier than those before them. Thus the next Age will be the 7th Age of Saturn, in which all the cynthiads will begin on Saturdays…then Fridays (Freya) , Thursdays (Thor) , Wednesdays (Woden) , and so on. (The Age of Woden, with its Wednesday cynthiads, will begin the 8th cycle of ages.)
As I write this, the upcoming new moon of October 26th, 2011, will be: the 1st day of the Elder Moon, the 16th Morning Moon of the 41st Cynthiad in the 7th Age of Balder, and the 1311th moon in that 46th full Age of the Lunar Epoch. This is the first day of the 16th doublet in the 41st cynthiad of this age.
I associate the 32 moons of a cynthiad with various totem creatures, although I’m not settled on any but the 28th moon (Crow Moon) at this time (and that of course only because it is the moon of my birth, so I name it for my own totem animal, the Crow) . Here are the sixteen doublets of a cynthiad and the names of their morning and evening moons. You should change these totems where you feel it appropriate, but I hope you’ll leave the 28th (Crow Moon) as it is.
Doublet – Morning Moon and Evening Moon
01 – Oak and Owl
02 – Redwood and Bear
03 – Ash and Fox
04 – Walnut and Deer
05 – Hawthorn and Rabbit
06 – Willow and Dove
07 – Pine and Coyote
08 – Cedar and Snake
09 – Holly and Otter
10 – Maple and Mouse
11 – Cottonwood and Buffalo
12 – Hickory and Hawk
13 – Cypress and Spider
14 – Sycamore and Crow
15 – Birch and Badger
16 – Elder and Wolf
There are only six and a fraction doublets in any given year. The doublets of this year (2011) have begun or will begin on the following dates.
(0) – November 6, 2010
(1) – January 4, 2011
(2) – March 4, 2011
(3) – May 2, 2011
(4) – June 30, 2011
(5) – August 28, 2011
(6) – October 26, 2011
(7) – December 24, 2011
(To find later dates, simply count down eight weeks and over three days on your calendar from the last known beginning doublet date.)
On the smaller scale of time, each moon (month) is viewed differently in this lunar calendar system. Three days make a *Lunar House* (or *Temple*) . Three houses belong to the *Maiden Goddess*, three more to the *Mother Goddess*, and three to the *Crone Goddess*. These nine houses mark the visible days of each moon. The other days of each moon belong to the dark moon House of Kore/Persephone. The days of each doublet are as follows:
Day 01 – (Morning Moon Begins) – Dark Moon – House of Kore/Persephone
Day 02-04 – Early Waxing Crescent Moon – House of Selene/Luna (Maiden)
Day 05-07 – Late Waxing Crescent Moon – House of Artemis/Diana (Maiden)
Day 08-10 – Early Waxing Ovate Moon – House of Hanwi (Maiden)
Day 11-13 – Late Waxing Ovate Moon – House of Ngame (Mother)
Day 14-16 – Full Moon – House of Ishtar/Isis (Mother)
Day 17-19 – Early Waning Ovate Moon – House of Nana (Mother)
Day 20-22 – Late Waning Ovate Moon – House of Mawu (Crone)
Day 23-25 – Early Waning Crescent Moon – House of Cereddwyn (Crone)
Day 26-28 – Late Waning Crescent Moon – House of Hecate (Crone)
Day 29-30 – (Morning Moon Ends) at Midday 30 – Dark Moon – House of Kore
Day 30-31 – (Evening Moon Begins) at Midday 30 – Dark Moon – House of Kore
Day 32-34 – Early Waxing Crescent Moon – House of Selene/Luna (Maiden)
Day 35-37 – Late Waxing Crescent Moon – House of Artemis/Diana (Maiden)
Day 38-40 – Early Waxing Ovate Moon – House of Hanwi (Maiden)
Day 41-43 – Late Waxing Ovate Moon – House of Ngame (Mother)
Day 44-46 – Full Moon – House of Ishtar/Isis (Mother)
Day 47-49 – Early Waning Ovate Moon – House of Nana (Mother)
Day 50-52 – Late Waning Ovate Moon – House of Mawu (Crone)
Day 53-55 – Early Waning Crescent Moon – House of Cereddwyn (Crone)
Day 56-58 – Late Waning Crescent Moon – House of Hecate (Crone)
Day 59 – (Evening Moon Ends) – Dark Moon – House of Kore/Persephone
I hope this lunar calendar will be useful to those who hate to wait for the Farmer’s Almanac to come out each year in order to know the new and full moon dates, which is what I used to do back in the age of dinosaurs when there were no computers. I have found this doublet system quite reliable for well over a decade. Sometimes the moon dates may be off about a day due to astronomical variations or when an intercalary day is coming due or has just been added. But I have noted very little such inaccuracy actually. I hope I have provided enough information for you to take it from here should you so choose. – Bran th’ Blessed