Many cultures use lunar cycles rather than the Zodiac as a calendar. Should we consider a calendar based on our closest celestial satellite rather than the stars?
The moon is our closest celestial partner. It makes you wonder why our calendar is based on the star constellations of the zodiac? We’ll investigate this question later. First, let’s look at the different phases of our lunar partner.
The 13-Month Moon Calendar
Depending on how you measure them, you could have up to 28 moon phases. Why so many? It takes roughly 28 days to complete one cycle. The 28-day process occurs 13 times a year. So, a 13-month calendar makes perfect sense.
There are at least ten distinct cycles of the moon that are easy to recognize. Almost every ancient civilization used these lunar cycles as the basis for their calendars. They observed the correlation between the lunar cycles and the ocean’s tides. And, since we are made of water, it is possible to feel the effects.
There is anecdotal evidence that crime rates rise when there is a full moon. This is where we get the term lunacy. See also Old French lunatique, from late Latin lunaticus, and Latin luna “moon.” The term “lunatic” derives from the Latin word lunaticus, which originally referred to epilepsy and madness. They believed that our lunar satellite could cause these and other mental disorders. The belief that changes in the lunar cycles cause intermittent insanity.
Do you relate to one cycle more than the other? Do you notice your mood change with these cycles? It draws many people to a specific lunar phase. Indigenous cultures used the bright lunar refection for hunting and fishing. It also signaled critical times for planting and harvesting. Is the 13-month moon calendar a part of our DNA?
10 Moon Phases
One way to measure these cycles is to divide them into ten easily recognizable portions. Our lunar partner has 5 “waxing phases” (1). Waxing means getting larger. We see more of it as it moves from a New to a Full Moon. Then there are five more “waning phases.” Waining means to get smaller. So, the satellite’s visible portion gets small as it goes from Full Moon to an Old Moon.
Waxing Lunar Cycles
A new moon is when the darkened half of the Moon is present. So, the moon is invisible to the naked eye. This cycle occurs when it is directly between the Earth and the Sun. A solar eclipse can only happen at the new moon.
A young moon is a crescent New Moon crescent that is less than 30 hours old or less than 30 hours from the moment of the new Moon. People need to plan to see this phase. And, this short-lived phase is usually only viewed in the west.
3. Waxing Crescent
A waxing crescent is when it looks like a crescent and the crescent increases (“waxes”) in size from one day to the next. We can only see this phase in the west.
4. First Quarter
The first quarter lunar cycle (or a half-moon) is when half of the lit portion is visible after the waxing crescent phase. It comes a week after a new moon.
5. Waxing Gibbous
This cycle occurs when more than half of the lunar sphere can be seen. The visible portion increases (“waxes”) in size from one day to the next. The waxing gibbous phase occurs between the first quarter and the full moon.
Waning Lunar Cycles
6. The Full Moon
Full moon phases occur when we can see the entire lunar sphere. This phase occurs when it is on the opposite side of the Sun, called opposition. A lunar eclipse can only happen at the full moon.
7. Waning Gibbous
A waning gibbous moon occurs when more than half of the lit portion can be seen and the shape decreases (“wanes”) in size from one day to the next. The waning gibbous phase occurs between the full moon and third quarter phases.
8. Waning Quarter
The last quarter cycle (or a half-moon) is when half of the lit portion is visible after the waning gibbous phase. A waning crescent is when the Moon looks like the crescent and the crescent decreases (“wanes”) in size from one day to the next.
9. Last Quarter
The last quarter cycle (or a half-moon) is when half of the lit portion is visible after the waning gibbous phase. A waning crescent is when it looks like the crescent and the crescent decreases (“wanes”) in size from one day to the next
An old moon occurs when you can see only a small portion of the lunar surface’s reflection. It is about to turn into a new moon.
Contemplating the 13-Month Calendar
Now let’s examine whether it is time to contemplate a different way to measure the calendar year. This isn’t a new idea. Before the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582, most of the world used the moon to calculate its annual cycle.
The Egyptians, Druids, Incas, and Polynesians have calendars based on our lunar partner cycles—even the Mayans with the most complex and correct calendar in history use a 13-month calendar.
It is also evident that these cultures watched the sky intently. They celebrated the cycles of the sun. The Sun, Moon, and Stars’ movements are part of the culture that became inscribed in many sacred texts. Some of these ancient cultures could recognize the planets, even though they did not have telescopes.
Obviously, the celestial bodies’ activities are fundamental themes in many superstitions and religions. Their importance is enshrined in architecture. The cycles of the sun and moon are built into stone circles, wats, and sacred architecture of all kinds. Some structures have internal rooms that align with the sun and moon during specific celestial alignments. Stonehenge is an example of a structure that aligns with mid-summer and sunrise and midwinter sunset.
As mentioned before, Pope Gregorius (Gregory Xiii) created the calendar we use today. That’s where the Gregorian Calendar gets its name. The result is a chaotic calendar. It’s tough to follow and out of phase with our planet and the moon. We have Months with 29, 30, and 31 days, and once every four years, February has 28 days! We need leap year (3) based on a somewhat antiquated formula. It’s a similar type of chaos we have with daylight savings time.
Julius Caesar’s astronomers created the 12 month year, one for each of the Roman leaders. Originally, each month had 31 days, but this made the year too long at 372 days. So, some months were shortened based on the importance of the leader. After all of this, it still requires the addition of a leap year to keep in sequence with the seasons.
The Roman Catholic Church gives us the calendar with 12 months. It is a way of enforcing its influence on the cultural narrative. Society conforms to its critical mass by adopting its values. There’s no rational reason to use this system of measure.
So, let’s do the simple math related to Earth’s annual cycles. Each lunar cycle has 28 days. And 28×13 = 364 days + 1 day “out of time”. This last day is a day of love and peace. It was a day of meditation and happiness before the new year.
Unlike the Gregorian calendar, the days of each complete lunar cycle (month) and the days of the week line up perfectly. This makes the 13-month moon calendar or a 28-day calendar a perpetual calendar. A perpetual calendar means we fix every date to the same weekday every year. This makes planning much easier for everyone.
Moses B. Cotsworth proposed a similar 13-month calendar in 1902. This solar calendar also divides the year into 13 months of 28 days. But, it makes more sense than our current Gregorian calendar.
The harmonious moon phases provide a 13-month moon calendar. This logical and simple to follow. Each week starts with Monday and ends with Sunday. The 1st day of every month will always be a Monday, and the 7th is on Sunday. This makes it easy to plan way ahead and reestablishes our connection to the Universe.
Above all, this discussion should make you think about how religion has integrated itself into society’s fabric. Are you ready to petition for a 13-month calendar? This discussion should help you see why it’s important to question the cultural narrative. It should make you think about all the other ways religion has integrated itself into the fabric of our modern lives.
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(1) Moon Phases, Wikipedia
(2) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia