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Celebrating Phenology, pt. 2

Updated on April 3, 2016

Embedded in our technogical age, there remains an ancient artifact, [a] strange survivor [that] still recalls an ancient way [that] has, over many centuries, woven...festivals, observances, customs...into a tapestry...It is called the...

— Michael Judge

Celebrating Phenology (pt.1) presented this quote as a riddle.

Did you guess "calendar"? Well done, you are correct!

"Embedded in our technogical age, there remains an ancient artifact, a reminder of days before mechanical time, when the rhythms of earth and sky matched [ours]...This strange survivor still recalls an ancient way of seeing, still celebrates the seasons in their different moods...It has, over many centuries, woven...festivals, observances, customs...into a tapestry...It is called the calendar"

- The Dance of Time by Michael Judge, p.10

The word Calendar comes from the Latin calends, kalends, calendae, and literally means the first day of the month, which in ancient times coincided with the New Moon. The word Month comes from the Germanic monath, a period of 28-29 days spanning from new moon to new moon.

A lunar month from the Lunar press calendar 2006
A lunar month from the Lunar press calendar 2006 | Source

The calendar we use today is an arbitrary division of time, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII. It is a solar calendar and so the beginning of each month has nothing to do with the phases of the moon. If we use a lunar calendar, the argument goes, some years would have 13 months - Chaos! So erratic. And yet it is a more natural way to reckon the division of the year into months (i.e. moons).

I'm not proposing that we suddenly break the consensus and reform the calendar. We can still pay attention to the phases of the moon, and occasionally they actually coincide with the common solar calendar.

"Year with Moon Phase" (first graphic on the left) digital wheels offered by Partners In Place use the Gregorian month divisions, with a circle of moon phases surrounding it. They have available date-sensitive calendars that begin in either January or September, from now until 2020.

Wheels of Time & Place
Wheels of Time & Place | Source

Wheel calendars are arranged by seasons, evenly divided by three months. The Enoch calendar (link below) is exactly 360 days long, so would need to include some intercalary "leap" days to be practical in the workaday business and commercial world. But it fits in nicely with the other Wheels of Time and Place.


Similar in format to the Enoch calendar is the French Revolutionary calendar. It too is arranged in seasonal divisions but names them so:

  • autumn: grape harvest, mist, frost
  • winter: snowy, rainy, windy
  • spring: germination, flower, meadow
  • summer: harvest, heat, fruit

In Britain, a contemporary wit mocked the Republican Calendar by calling the months:

  • Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy
  • Slippy, Drippy and Nippy
  • Showery, Flowery and Bowery
  • Hoppy, Croppy and Poppy.

More Calendar Month Names

Algonquin nations:Wolf, Snow, Worm, Pink, Flower, Strawberry, Buck, Sturgeon, Corn, Hunters, Beaver, Cold

Northern Cheyenne 13 Moons on Turtle's Back: Popping Trees, Baby Bear, Maple Sugar, Frog, Budding, Strawberry, Acorns Appear, Wild Rice, Moose Calling, Falling Leaves, Deer Drop their Horns, Wolves Run Together, Big Moon (I think this one is cognate our Blue Moon)

First Nations of Turtle Islands named their months after phenological observation, unlike our calendar months named for numbers, gods and emperors. (Except for February "to purify" and April "to open")

The old Celtic Coligny calendar begins in autumn: Seed-fall/Darkest depths/Cold-time/Stay-home time/Ice time/Windy time/Shoots-show/Bright time/Horse-time/Claim-time/Arbitration-time/Song-time

The neo-pagan Celtic Tree months calendar names each month for a local tree. An example of this lunar calendar is featured in the Luna Ruis-Elder graphic toward the top of this page.

Here's an exercise for you: Why not name the months yourself? If the trees are different from where you live, you can create a tree calendar featuring the trees in your area. Or you can name the months for other natural phenomena that usually occurs in your area at that time.

Seasonal Calendars

The neo-pagan Wheel of the Year is evenly divided into 8 seasons of celebration, 6 weeks apart. These are often large scale affairs, but can be celebrated quietly too. You don't have to be pagan to mark these dates, there's a plethora of ideas in books or online to accommodate any religious or cultural worldview.

For example:

The Circle of Life: The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr, was written by a Sister Servant of Mary and a Benedictine Sister

In Nature's Honour: Myths & Rituals Celebrating the Earth by Patricia Montley features both Christian and Pagan celebrations of the 8 seasonal sabbats

Giving credit where credit is due, the concept of the "Wheel of the Year" comes from Wicca, and Wiccans offer some of the most comprehensive and interesting ideas for celebrating the Solstices, Equinoxes, and cross-points in between:

Ecological Seasons

There are 6 Ecological Seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. It won't be the same every year in every area, some years may be more like March/April, May/June, etc.

  • Prevernal-February/March
  • Vernal (spring)-April/May
  • Estival (summer)-June/July
  • Serotinal (late summer)-August/September
  • Autumnal-October/November
  • Hibernal-December/January

Cathy, the author of the Words & Herbs blog, expands this into 10 seasons:

1. Pre-spring 2. Early spring 3. Full spring 4. Early summer 5. Midsummer 6. Late summer 7. Early autumn 8. Full autumn 9. Late autumn 10. Winter

The link below gives a full description of each of the 10 seasons. This is a lovely blog with beautiful photos:

So there are options in how you choose to allot your time to celebrating nature.

  • If you are able to plan 12 special events a year, you can choose and celebrate a plant, tree, animal of the month, maybe one that is associated with someone's birthday. Or you can do something special to mark each of the 10 seasons of phenology.
  • If 8 times a year is better, look into the local nature correspondences associated with the solstices, equinoxes, and midpoints in between; this seems to be the most popular calendar division of the year into seasonal festivals.
  • Phenomena occurring near to a special tree or in a special sit spot can inspire you during each of the 6 ecological seasons.
  • Super busy? Do set aside at least one seasonal celebration 4 times a year, I guarantee you will find it restorative.

Create Your Own Phenology Calendar

So far we've looked at seasonal calendars created in a wheel format.

You can also create lovely phenology calendars using in the traditional rectangular format or template. For inspiration, have a look at these calendars from Missouri and Wisconsin, and this video of a calendar created by high school photography students and the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

next up:

moon phases & plant morphology

+ more ideas for celebration


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