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An Introduction to the Use of Lunar Calendars.

Updated on November 22, 2014
The moon has long been worshiped and followed by humans.
The moon has long been worshiped and followed by humans. | Source

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 effect 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 helped our ancestors know when it was time to carry out tasks such as planting and harvesting crops.

The beginning of a time 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.

The Triple Goddess Symbol.
The Triple Goddess Symbol. | Source
Waxing Moon (First quarter)
Waxing Moon (First quarter) | Source

In the past history was seen by many people as being a spiral rather than a long straight line that could only more forwards. Everything that exists was thought to continue in an everlasting spiral of birth, life, death and finally rebirth.

The moons natural cycles also followed 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.

In some religions people 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 the god and father and moves thought a similar cycle although his is a yearlong 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 on the earth and in life. Some people believe that which moon cycle you were born in effects who you are and how you live your life just as star signs are also thought to. The occurrence of other major events in our lives such as getting married can also be effect by which moon cycle was 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 calendars currently in use over the world.

Waning Moon (Last quarter)
Waning Moon (Last quarter) | Source

Some Examples of Lunar Calendars

The Celtic Tree Calendar

The Celtic tree calendar is one example of a lunar calendar. Each moon cycle is named after a certain tree such as birch, rowan and ash. Trees were greatly valued by the Celts and many trees where considered to be sources of magic and myth in Celtic mythology, particularly if they produced herbs and other materials used in healing and magic.

The beginning of this Celtic calendar begins with the full moon nearest to Yule (winter solstice, celebrated on 21st December though the exact date can vary) It is thought that this may not of always been so and that the calendar would of once begun with the full moon nearest Samhain as this marks the Celtic new year. (Samhain is generally celebrated on the 31st October but as with Yule the astrologically correct date does 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 generally. The months are named as follows;

  • Muḥarram - "forbidden" So called because it was unlawful (haram) to fight during this month.
  • Ṣafar - "void" Supposedly named because pagan Arabs looted during this month and left the houses empty.
  • Rabīʿ I (Rabīʿ al-Awwal) - "the first spring".
  • Rabīʿ II (Rabīʿ ath-Thānī or Rabīʿ al-Ākhir) - "the second (or last) spring".
  • Jumādā I (Jumādā al-Ūlā) - "the first month of parched land".
  • Jumādā II (Jumādā ath-Thāniya or Jumādā al-Ākhira) - "the second (or last) month of parched land".
  • Rajab - "respect" or "honor". This is another sacred month in which fighting was traditionally forbidden.
  • Shaʿbān - "scattered". Named to mark the time of year when Arab tribes dispersed to find water.
  • Ramaḍān - "scorched". Ramadan is the most venerated month of the Hijri calendar, during which Muslims fast between dawn and sunset.
  • Shawwāl - "raised" Named because she-camels begin to raise their tails during this time of the year, after giving birth.
  • Dhū al-Qiʿda - "the one of truce". Dhu al-Qi'da was another month during which war was banned.
  • Dhū al-Ḥijja - "the one of pilgrimage", referring to the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj.

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 actually 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.

© 2012 Claire


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    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      Thank you. Enjoy your reading :)

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

      Beautiful hub. The Lunar Calendar is something that I'm immersing myself with right now.

    • Elderberry Arts profile image

      Claire 5 years ago from Surrey, Uk

      Your welcome. I only recently learnt about it as well. Previous I was only aware of the pagan lunar calendars.

    • OldWitchcraft profile image

      OldWitchcraft 5 years ago from The Atmosphere

      Very useful information. I especially like the information about the Islamic calender. I've never run across this before.