For centuries, people all over the world have worshipped the moon and considered it to have magical powers. The fact that the moon has such an impact on our world was taken by believers to be a sign of the power it possesses. The idea that the moon is a goddess has been traced back as far as Neolithic Europe.
Long before clocks and calendars had been invented, time was recorded by the phrases of the moon and sun. Changes in these bodies and the earth itself also helped our ancestors know when it was time to carry out tasks such as planting and harvesting crops.
The beginning of a period was often considered to be at the first sight of a new moon and would continue until the first sight of the next new moon. This simple system created a convenient and easily understood lunar calendar that could be followed by anyone, no matter where they were. Although today, the calendar most in use is the well-known Gregorian calendar, moon-based lunar calendars are still used throughout the world to celebrate traditional festivals and events.
In the past history was seen by many people as being a spiral rather than a long straight line that could only move forwards. Everything that exists was thought to continue in an everlasting spiral of birth, life, death and finally rebirth.
The natural cycles of the moon also follow this pattern. In each cycle, the moon is born as a tiny almost invisible sliver known as a new moon. Over the following days, the moon waxes until it is completely visible as the full moon before slowing waning until it isn’t visible at all. It is easy to see how this could be considered as a birth-death-rebirth cycle and why people would believe the moon must hold great powers.
Many people, and particularly those following neopagan religions view and worship these everlasting moon cycles as the triple goddess, Maiden (waxing moon), Mother (full moon) and Crone (waning moon). The sun is worshipped as god and father and moves thought a similar cycle, although his is a year-long cycle rather than monthly. This begins with his power being at its height in the summer and fading away till his death in the winter.
Each moon cycle is named and associated with various things or occurrences on the Earth. Some people believe that the moon cycle you were born in affects who you are and how you live your life, just as star signs are also thought to. The timing of other major events in our lives, such as getting married are also thought to be affected by which moon cycle is present.
Unlike the Gregorian calendar, lunar calendars have 13 months to reflect the 13 full moon cycles. There are thought to be around 40 different moon calendars currently in use over the world.
Some Examples of Lunar Calendars include:
The Celtic Tree Calendar
Within this calendar, moon cycle is named after a certain tree such as birch, rowan and ash. Trees were greatly valued by the Celts and many were considered to be sources of magic and power in Celtic mythology, particularly if they produced herbs and other materials used in healing or magic.
The Celtic Tree Calendar calendar begins with the full moon nearest to Yule. Also known as the Winter Solstice, Yule is commonly celebrated on 21st December, although the exact date astrologically can vary.
It is thought that this may not have always been so and that the Celtic Tree Calendar would have once begun with the full moon nearest Samhain as this celebration marks the Celtic new year. Samhain is generally celebrated on the 31st October but as with Yule, the astrologically correct date can vary year to year.
The Islamic (Hijiri) Calendar
The Islamic (or Hijri) calendar starts at the point when Mohammed escaped from Mecca. This date is generally accepted as 16th July 622 AD. The calendar consists of 12 months that alternate between 29 or 30 days. Leap years have an additional day in the 12th month. In many countries, this is the official calendar but in others, it is only used for religious purposes and the Gregorian calendar is used day to day.
The Mayan Calendar
The Mayan calendar was based on the people’s agricultural needs and the life cycles in the rainforest. Mayans thought that the universe operated in a logical and functional way. They believed that if they alighted themselves with this, then they would be able to make the best of their time in the world. They developed several calendar systems, the centre of which was the sacred Tzolkin calendar. This consisted of 260 days which had two cycles. One had 13 numbered days and the second had 20 named days.