Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Natural Calendar

During the equinox, the position of the sun creates an optical illusion on the side of the pyramid.  Can you see a snake crawling down the pyramid?  Its head is at the bottom and its body goes up the side of the pyramid.

The ancient peoples called the winter solstice,
 Mid-Winter, not the first day of winter,
and they called the summer solstice,
Mid-Summer, not the 1st day of summer. .
The solstices and equinoxes are all mid-season days.
Let me explain why.

Let's compare how the sun moves during the day to 
how the sun moves during the year.

Every day, the sun waxes, getting higher and higher, until noon
and then it wanes, descending toward the horizon;
early cultures called noon Mid-day for that reason,
and not the Beginning of the day.
The sun travels higher and higher in the sky until Mid-day,
then travels lower and lower after Mid-day.
Why would anyone call that point the Beginning of
the day?

Now let's see how the sun moves across the sky during
the year, not during the day?
With every day until the Summer Solstice the
sun's path waxes across the sky (its path gets higher and higher).
And then after the solstice the sun's path wanes (its path across 
the sky gets lower and lower).  That's why
the Summer Solstice was called Mid-Summer and 
not the first day of Summer, because the sun's path begins 
to wane the day after the solstice.  We get less sunlight each day
after the Summer Solstice!

Ancient people across the globe noticed 8 Landmark days;
the solstices, the equinoxes, and the days in between.
They called the Summer Solstice Mid-Summer
for the reasons we mentioned, above.

The Eight Landmarks of the Year
Summer Solstice - Mid-Summer - ~June 21st
Cross-Quarter Day -   ? - August 1st
Fall Equinox - ? -  ~Sep. 22nd/23rd
Cross-Quarter Day - ? - Nov. 1st
  Winter Solstice - ? -  ~Dec. 21st
 Cross-Quarter Day - ? - Feb. 1st
Spring Equinox -? -  ~March 21st
Cross-Quarter Day - ? - May 1st

What about the other 7 landmarks?
Let's name those now.

The sun's path will wane (get lower and lower) until it reaches the
Winter Solstice.  After the winter solstice its path waxes, again;  we get more sunlight with each day.
  That's why the winter solstice was called Mid-Winter, and
not the first day of winter.
Makes sense, doesn't it?  Many people think so.


The Eight Landmarks of the Year
Summer Solstice - Mid-Summer -  ~June 21st
Cross-Quarter Day -   ? - August 1st
Fall Equinox - ? -  ~Sep. 22nd/23rd
Cross-Quarter Day - ? - Nov. 1st
  Winter Solstice - Mid-Winter -  ~Dec. 21st
 Cross-Quarter Day - ? - Feb. 1st
Spring Equinox -? -  ~March 21st
Cross-Quarter Day - ? - May 1st



Following this logic, then the Equinoxes are mid-season days.

The Eight Landmarks of the Year
Summer Solstice - Mid-Summer - June 21st
Cross-Quarter Day -   ? - August 1st
Fall Equinox - Mid-Autumn - Sep. 22nd/23rd
Cross-Quarter Day - ? - Nov. 1st
  Winter Solstice - Mid-Winter - Dec. 21st
 Cross-Quarter Day - ? - Feb. 1st
Spring Equinox -Mid-Spring - March 21st
Cross-Quarter Day - ? - May 1st



What remains are the Cross-Quarter Days
which are the first days of each season.
(A Cross-Quarter Day occurs midway between an equinox and a solstice.)


The Eight Landmarks of the Year
Summer Solstice - Mid-Summer -   ~June 21st
Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Autumn - August 1st
Fall Equinox - Mid-Autumn -   ~Sep. 22nd/23rd
Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Winter - Nov. 1st
  Winter Solstice -   Mid-Winter - ~Dec. 21st
 Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Spring - Feb. 1st
Spring Equinox -   Mid-Spring - ~March 21st
Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Summer - May 1st


Notice that the first days of each season fall on cross-quarter days,
and the solstices and equinoxes are all mid-seasonal days. 

The eight landmark dates are not arbitrary.  
The Summer Solstice is always on June 21st (+  or  -  a day).  
But, what you call the day is arbitrary.  The ancient people called
 the summer solstice Mid-Summer;  many people today call it the 
First day of Summer.  That is up to you, but it makes more sense to
call it Mid-Summer.

Now that you have an explanation about the solstices, 
equinoxes, and cross-quarter days you can either stop here
or you can continue reading about the natural calendar.




Ancient cultures (Asian, European, Native American) developed traditions
 celebrating the eight landmarks of the year, which lead to the
 adoption of a natural calendar that could be depicted as 
an eight-fold wheel.  


An example of a solar calendar
or natural calendar.  
Each spoke represents either a solstice, an equinox, 
or a cross-quarter day.

This calendar has nothing to do with religion.
It's simply a calendar set to the position of the earth relative to the sun.  
You don't have to be a Wiccan or a Pagan to believe this!!
I'm not, yet I go by this calendar.  It makes sense, because
it's based on natural processes.

The old cultures believed that time was a perpetual cycle of growth, death, and rebirth, all tied to the sun's movement across the sky.  

This calendar was useful with respect to planting and harvesting crops and preparing for harsh living conditions during the cold, dark part of the year.  


The basic thing they noticed was that the sun's path across the sky changed with each day.  From December to June the sun's path gets higher and higher with each day.  To prove this, go outside
around noon each day and notice that the sun will be higher in the
sky with each day, from Dec. to June. Shadows will get shorter and
shorter until the Summer Solstice.

They also noticed the amount of daylight increased with each day. 
In June (~ the 21st), the sun's path seems to stop moving northward;  then the sun's path moves lower and lower across the sky with each day, until it's path stops again in December (the 21st being its lowest point)

The two days when the sun's path stops moving are called solstices, the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice.  
The two days between the solstices are called the equinoxes, and the 4 days in between the solstices and the equinoxes are called cross-quarter days

 These were the eight landmarks that were marked on the early calendar.  Days that fall on the eight landmarks of the yearly cycle mark the beginnings and middles of the four seasons.  

The Eight Landmarks of the Year
Summer Solstice - Mid-Summer - ~June 21st
Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Autumn - August 1st
Fall Equinox - Mid-Autumn - ~Sep. 22nd/23rd
Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Winter - Nov. 1st
  Winter Solstice - Mid-Winter - ~Dec. 21st
 Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Spring - Feb. 1st
Spring Equinox - Mid-Spring - ~March 21st
Cross-Quarter Day - First day of Summer - May 1st



Summer Solstice
The first landmark occurs when the sun's arch across the sky is at its highest.  This day is called the Summer Solstice.  On this day (usually around June 21st) we get the most sunlight of any day.  Where I live, in Kentucky, we get about 16 hours of daylight and 8 hours of darkness on this day.  It's the longest day of the year. More direct sunlight means more heat, and that's why this part of the year is very hot. 

During our Summer (June) we* are tilted toward the sun and 
get more direct sunlight and therefore more warmth. 
*we = northern hemisphere

After the solstice, the sun's arch across the sky gets lower and lower with each day , because of the earth's tilt as we circle the sun.  This means that after the solstice the days get shorter.  Less sunlight per day means less heat.  Each day after the solstice gets darker with less heating*.  This is why the solstice should 
be called the middle of summer, Mid-Summer, and not the 
first day of summer.
   
*The earth absorbs the heat and radiates the heat for many weeks after the solstice;  that's why it remains hot for some time after the solstice, eventhough we receive less sunlight.  

Click here to see a great video about Why We Have Seasons.

Earth Revolving around the Sun
(notice how the axis always points in one direction)

The word solstice* literally means "sun-stop," and refers to how the arch of the sun gets higher with each day, then stops, and then gets lower with each day.  The day that it stops is the solstice.
* the name of our sun is Sol.



Each season is about 12 weeks (3 months) long.  So, since the solstice is Mid-Summer, then the first day of summer would be 6 weeks before the solstice, May 1st, and the last day of summer would be 6 weeks after the solstice, July 31st.  May 1st is a cross-quarter day.  It falls exactly between a solstice and an equinox.  

If you're interested in rituals, read this:

Click here to read about May Day celebrations (1st day of Summer),

and here to read about Midsummer rituals,

and here for info about August 1st harvest rituals (end of Summer).



Autumnal (Fall) Equinox
As the earth moves around the sun we tilt further away from the sun with each day, receiving less and less direct sunlight, and the days get darker and cooler.  There is a point 12 weeks from the solstice where the tilt of the earth is 
90 degrees from the sun's axis.  The sun's arch is directly over the equator.  
This day is called the Autumnal Equinox (mid-autumn).  



The Fall equinox occurs around September 22nd or 23rd, and on this day the amount of daylight equals the amount of night, 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.  The ancient people realized this was the halfway point between the summer solstice and the winter solstice.  

Since all seasons last about 12 weeks, then 6 weeks before 
Mid-Autumn (the equinox) would be the first day of Autumn (Aug. 1st), and 6 weeks after the equinox would be the last day of Autumn (Oct. 31st).  

Many cultures celebrated the equinox (~ Sept 21st) with rituals of
 thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth. It was one of the 
main harvest festivals.
The last day of Autumn (Oct. 31st) was the time to celebrate the
 lives of those who have passed on.  Today, we call it Halloween.


Winter Solstice

With each day after the equinox we receive less and less direct sunlight and therefore less daylight and less heat.  The days are getting very cold and very dark, until the darkest day arrives, the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice.  (In Kentucky we get about 8 hours of daylight; the rest of the day is in darkness)


The Winter Solstice.  
We (northern hemisphere) are tilted away from the sun.


The sun's arch in the sky is at its lowest point and after this day the arch will get higher with each day.  So, because of that reason this day was considered by the ancients to be the middle of Winter, or Mid-Winter, and not the first day of Winter.  After this day the sun returns, bringing more light and more warmth...a great day to celebrate!!  Here comes the sun!!

I consider this to be the true new year's day.


Remember, each season is about 12 weeks long, so 6 weeks before Mid-Winter would be the first day of Winter (Nov. 1st), and 6 weeks after solstice would be the last day of Winter (Jan. 31st).


The ancients celebrated the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21st), because 
it symbolizes the rebirth of the sun and reminded them of 
the fertile seasons ahead.  Most cultures called this the most
 important time of celebration.  
Sacrifices, feasting, and gift giving were common elements of 
Mid-Winter (solstice) activities.  They used to make wreaths of
 evergreen branches and decorate their homes with evergreen
 plants, such as holly, ivy, mistletoe, and spruce, and even bringing
 in cut trees and decorating them.  
To me (and the ancients) this is the beginning of the New Year.




Vernal Equinox
With each day after the Winter Solstice the days get longer (more sunlight) and warmer, until the number of daylight hours equals the number of night hours.  This is the Vernal Equinox (verne = green).  The plants are turning green and making flowers.  The animals are producing young (chickens, rabbits, sheep, cattle).  This is the time of rebirth, of great fertility.  Again, time to celebrate!

Easter evolved from this ancient equinox tradition.  By the way,
do you know how the date for Easter is determined (it's a 
different date each year)?

Six weeks before the equinox would be the first day of 
Spring (Feb. 1st/2nd), and 6 weeks after the equinox would be the 
last day of Spring (April 30th), Summer's eve.

On the first day of Spring (Feb 1st) the ancients celebrated the first
 stirrings of Spring.  They were pleased because of the anticipation of new life!  


With each day after the equinox we receive more and more direct sunlight and therefore more daylight and more heat.  We're moving toward Summer;  the cycle begins again. 


The Japanese and other Asian cultures lived by a similar calendar, which used the word yang to describe light and heat and the word yin to describe darkness and cold.  They also called the solstices and equinoxes the middle of the seasons, not the first day of the seasons.  Many still prefer this calendar, which helps them with agricultural practices.  



The Summer Solstice (Jun. 21st, Mid-Summer) is the heart of Summer and would have the most yang (light).  The Winter Solstice is the deepest part of Winter (Mid-Winter) and has the most yin (darkness).  Notice that the solstices and equinoxes are mid-season days and not the first day of the season.  As the days move away from Mid-Winter, yin (darkness) diminishes and yang (light) increases.  This calendar 
is explained nicely, here, in David's website.  

  So, join me and the ancients by calling 
the Winter Solstice Mid-Winter, and
the Summer Solstice Mid-Summer,
because it is.