A Reckoning of Time

When talking of reckoning time in Gaulish practice, there is but one source on the matter: the Sequanni (or Coligny) Calendar. Simply put, done and done, right? Wrong. In the Gaulish Polytheist world, the placing of the months is contentious and open for debate. However, I think this is good. We must remember that there were many Gaulish tribes. These tribes had different customs, varying levels of technology, and different Gods, or at least different names for Them.

It is for these facts that I can honestly say that I welcome differing approaches to the matter of timekeeping. If we ever all agree on a universal Gaulish Calendar, I’m okay with that, too. Not that I see that happening any time soon. We simply don’t know how many calendars the Gauls had because we have only found one that can be reconstructed with any amount of comfort. There are small fragments of another thing suspected of being a calendar, but it is impossible to reconstruct it at this time. At the least, until more fragments are found.

Nights Become Days

With that said, let’s explore a little on the matters of timekeeping that we know. Caesar mentions that the Gaulish peoples considered the day to start at sundown. This isn’t really unusual, the Jewish people reckon the same with their own calendar. Thus the reason their sabbaths start on Friday night. Considering that where they lived at the time of the Gauls was some distance away from the Gauls, starting the day at sundown was not at all uncommon in the ancient world.

Caesar didn’t likely gain anything from making mention of this, and so it is likely a truthful observation. The history of issues (to put it lightly) between Gauls and Romans were certainly not because of their differing approaches to calendars. With that said, we can safely wager that the day begins at sunset. If one wanted to have a more consistent measure of days (or lives in a far Northern place, or for whatever reason is in Antarctica), I suggest 6:00pm, or 18:00 as a good reference. With that settled, let us look at the divisions of the month.

There wasn’t a concept of a seven day week for the Gauls. The Romans introduced the idea to Europe. They got the idea from the Hebrew people. Of course, the Germanic peoples thought this was a good idea, and inserted the names of their own Gods (save for Saturn, I guess) for a seven day week. There’s no reason that the modern Gaulish Polytheist couldn’t do the same. In modern Celtic cultures, they use the names of the Roman Gods, and this would technically be more accurate than days based off of the Gaulish Gods. However, there is absolutely no reason why one couldn’t use Gaulish Gods’ names. I certainly would.

In case someone is interested in doing so, here is a recommendation:

  • Sunday (Sun/Sâwelos) Dius Sâweli
  • Monday (Moon/Lugrâ) Dius Lugriâs
  • Tuesday (Mars/Camulos, for example) Dius Camuli
  • Wednesday (Mercury/Lugus or Carnonos) Dius Luguos
  • Thursday (Jupiter/Taranis) Dius Taranuos
  • Friday (Venus/Brigantiâ) Dius Brigantiâs
  • Saturday (Saturn/maybe Sucellos) Dius Sucelli

However way in which one does that, the Gauls did not. That’s because they divided the month in half. The closest example of this is the fortnight, which is of course two weeks. Though the months in the Sequanni Calendar, save for one exception, are either 29 or 30 days long. So, that’s two 15 day periods, or one that is 15 days, and the other is 14. The 15 day halves are called “Matis” which means auspicious, lucky. The ones that are 14 days are “Anmatis”, which is the opposite of “Matis”, of course.

Over The Moons

The 30 and 29 day months are also given this treatment, matis and anmatis respectively. In this respect, I cannot help but notice that the Attic Calendar, used by ancient Athenians, marks months as “full and “hollow”. It is worth noting that Greek culture was prestigious to the Gauls, especially before their fall to the Romans. Sequanni territory was not very far from the Greek colony of Massalia, and if I were a betting man, I’d say that the Greeks had a major influence on the Sequanni Calendar. This isn’t to say that I believe that the ancient Celts weren’t already using a lunisolar calendar as it were. Which the Sequanni Calendar certainly is.

A lunisolar calendar attempts to reconcile the lunar months with the solar year. This is a relatively old style of timekeeping. Though purely lunar calendars like the Islamic Calendar do exist. Then, of course, the modern calendar, which gets its start in Rome, who weren’t about lunar months, apparently. They were more interested in the solar year. Now, back to Gaul, where the Sun and Moon must agree, at least somewhat. Most of the time, the Sequanni Calendar has twelve months. Did I mention that modern Galatis don’t agree on the matter? Well, they don’t. However, there is little to no disagreement on what those months are, just on how they are placed. The first month is Samonios.

Does Samonios mean “end of Summer” similar to Irish “Samhain”? Or does it mean “great (or divine) Summer”? There is some contention here, and a few good arguments. Instead of repeating myself what other folks, smarter than I, have already said, I’m just going to give you all a couple of links on the matter:

A perspective that offers a Winter start to the year, here.

A perspective that offers a Summer start to the year, here. Scroll down to the section titled “Samon and the Celtic New Year”, unless you want to read the whole article. For what it’s worth, Wikipedia agrees with the latter. I have to say that I also believe that Samonios falls in the summer. You will see when the months are listed that many months end in -ios. So, either the Gauls were more concerned with the end of things, or that suffix is a type of proper noun. I believe the latter.

Remember that the Gauls recognized primarily two seasons, as opposed to four. So, depending on what you think of Samonios and Giamonios, whether they refer to the seasons literally, or the end of said seasons, will make the time of year that your calendar starts different than someone who disagrees. Though, this can still run somewhat smoothly, if you swap months in discussions. Segomâros Widugeni offers “Blêdani Galation”, or Year of the Galatîs” as a term to date years. So, BG as opposed to BCE and CE or BC and AD.

The Months

At the most basic, and we’ll get to intercalary months in a minute, the months are as such:

  • Samonios
  • Dumannios
  • Riuros
  • Anagantios
  • Ogronios
  • Cutios
  • Giamonios
  • Simiuisonnios
  • Equos
  • Elembiuos
  • Edrinios
  • Rantanaros

 

These are your basic twelve months in order. So, what about those intercalary months? There is less surety in regards to them. Some say Ciallos is an intercalary month. Another thought says that Quimonios and Rantanaros are the two intercalary months inserted to even out a five year cycle. Before Samonios and Giamonios respectively. Even if one just uses Ciallos, the first time used, it falls before Samonios, and the second time before Giamonios in a five year cycle. Personally, I don’t think it matters much either way, but if you want to build a calendar, you have to make a decision.

Some also debate whether or not a month starts at a new or full moon. Furthermore, an emerging camp agrees with Pliny the Elder who states that the Gauls started their months on the first quarter. This centers the full and new moon in the middle of each half. This is what I think, personally. However, the word “Atenoux” meaning renewal is right in the calendar, dividing the month in half. So, whatever you might think, that is worth remembering.

In the links, you saw two ways to start a year. Some folks just use the modern calendar, and I guess one could. Personally, I think that lunisolar timekeeping is a good way to be in touch with the worldview of the Gauls of the past. However, a few intrepid souls created a calendar in Modern Gaulish (Helen McKay, Bellouesus Isarnos, and Steve Hansen aka Gwiríu Mórghnath): Amanar Ghaláthach (Modern Gaulish Calendar)

The calendar uses Modern Gaulish names and corresponds them with the modern calendar. So, there’s still an option for those that prefer the modern calendar, but still want a touch of Gaulish. Of course, one could use Ancient Gaulish names and correspond them to the months in the modern calendar as well. There are many ways to do these things.

An alternative calendar based on my local environment has been something I have thought of doing. However, I’m working on steeping myself in available material. One based on my local environment would look like this:

  • Samonios – “Great Summer” (roughly in June)
  • Sâweliotennos “Sun Fire” (roughly in July)
  • Arnicos “Grain” (roughly in August)
  • Bongîmos “Reaping” (roughly in September)
  • Ateogronios “Returning Cold” (roughly in October)
  • Donnios “Darkness” (roughly in November)
  • Giamonios “Great Winter” (roughly in December)
  • Iegionos “Great Ice” (roughly in January)
  • Bivocolânos “Coming Alive, Quickening” (roughly in February)
  • Allatios “Wild, Fierce” (roughly in March)
  • Lovonios “Great Rain” (roughly in April)
  • Bitubivâcos “World Alive” (roughly in May)
  • Ciallos (Intercalary month. Falls either before Samonios, or before Giamonios when applicable.)

That said, the aforementioned is merely a creative exercise. What I use personally is a take on the Sequanni Calendar developed by Shane Krusen, based on the works of Helen McKay. A link to that form of the calendar can be found here.

As a member of Toutâ Galation, I use the Coligny calendar as interpreted by them when applicable. However, my interpretation does (respectfully) differ. Plus, there is the possibility of the usage of a more local calendar. Feel free to use it if you feel inclined. I hope you all enjoyed reading.

Further Reading:

Segomâros Widugeni – “The Coligny Calendar

Garrett Olmstead – “A Definitive Reconstructed Text Of The Coligny Calendar

Whoever in Caer Australis wrote this – “The Celtic Calendar

 

 

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2 thoughts on “A Reckoning of Time

  1. This is great. I totally agree we should be creative and tap into the spirit of our cultures rather than trying to stay true to the letter. I really like your calendar. I’m also intrigued by the lucky and unlucky divisions of the months. Was that based around the waxing and waning of the moon? Intriguingly the Welsh word for ‘week’ is ‘wythnos’ – ‘eight nights’ suggesting weeks were not seven days and different time keeping was used.

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    1. The “lucky” and “unlucky” divisions on the months came straight from the Sequanni (Coligny) Calendar itself. Days and months alternated between Matis (lucky, auspicious) and Anmatis (unlucky, inauspicious).

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