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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Time

This article was written by Tadhg MacCrossan on May 10, 2002
posted under Druidism

The earliest Indo-European measurement of time was by the moon, and this reveals the nature of the Celtic calendar. The Celts never deviated from lunar time measurement, as their Druids had preserved it from the Indo-European tradition. Luckily for Celtophiles today, ancient Celtic calendars were unearthed in France. The most outstanding is the Coligny calendar; the others are fragments of duplicate calendars.

The so-called "tree-calendar," in which ogam tree names are used as names of months (in certain forms of neopagan Witchcraft) are not ancient in origin, and unfortunately have no connections with the Druids. They are the creation of Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess. Many neopagan Dianic groups use this invention of Graves’, but the real ancient Celtic calendar (a product of the Druids) was different and a bit more complicated to calculate.

Many month names on the modern Celtic calendars are pre-Christian in origin, such as Mi na Shamna, "the month of Samhain," cognate with the Gaulish Samonios (which appears on the Coligny calendar). The festival of Samhain was the "three nights of the month of Samhain," trinouxtes Samoni in Gaulish, and trenae Shamhna in Old Irish.

Variations on later Celtic calendars show that Latin month names replaced some native month names and that local variations of month names occurred in pre-Christian times. Evidence also shows that in the elder Celtic calendars certain month names were widespread, such as the "dark" month of Dumannios, An Dúdlachd, Mis Du or Miz Du, which occurred around December to January on the Roman (Julian-Gregorian) calendar. But there were no months of Beth, Luis, Fern, or Saille as misunderstood or invented by Graves.

Furthermore, the real Celtic months were divided into fortnights which begin near the first quarter of the New Moon, with the second fortnight being either fifteen or fourteen nights, depending on whether the month was matus, ("good, lucky"— thirty nights long); or anmatus, ("unlucky"—(twenty-nine nights long). The older Celtic calendars were calculated by the Druids and show much in common with pre-Christian Greek, Teutonic and Hindu calendars.


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