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The New Celtic Calendar

Today's date in the New Celtic Calendar is: 18 Aodhrain, 3045 N.C.E.

Aodhrain 3045
Lua Mar Cia Ard Aon Sat Dom
     
1
31/8
2
1/9
3
2/9
4
3/9
5
4/9
6
5/9
7
6/9
8
7/9
9
8/9
10
9/9
11
10/9
12
11/9
13
12/9
14
13/9
15
14/9
16
15/9
17
16/9
18
17/9
19
18/9
20
19/9
21
20/9
22
21/9
23
22/9
24
23/9
25
24/9
26
25/9
27
26/9
28
27/9
29
28/9
 

The New Celtic Calendar

The New Celtic Calendar is a notional lunisolar calendar that I have devised for my own interest and enjoyment. It is not meant to represent any real calendar that may or may not have ever existed at any time, it is a combination of various possible lunisolar calendars used by different Celtic civilisations. It is inspired by the Moonwise tree calendar and the Gaulish "Coligny" calendar. The Coligny calendar is named after a bronze tablet that was discovered near Coligny, France in 1897 that details the design of a lunisolar calendar (i.e. a lunar calendar that uses intercalary months to the years synchronised to the tropical solar year). The New Celtic Calendar is my attempt to create a lunisolar calendar that keeps in synchronisation with these cycles as closely as possible using a simple rule-based system. (N.B. This calendar has variously been called the Pictish calendar, and is the same calendar as the New Celtic calendar.)

Mean Months and Years

The system used to achieve this synchronicity is based on the 19-year Metonic cycle, whereby the Moon's phases occur on or around the same dates at 19-year intervals. To follow this cycle exactly, though, would result in the months drifting gradually later in the year over a long period of time (this is actually occurring in the Hebrew calendar, whereby the month of Nisan, which contains Passover, is drifting later such that Passover will eventually occur in the summer if it is not corrected). The aim, therefore, is to achieve a mean lunar month as close to the actual mean synodic month and a mean year as close to the actual mean solar year as possible.

A "standard" lunar year has 12 months alternating between 29 or 30 days long, and can have a total of 354 or 355 days depending on the sequence of months. This is 10 or 11 days short of a normal solar year, so unless additional "intercalary"e; months are added, the calendar will become out of synchronisation with the solar year, and the months will fall at the wrong time of year. To keep the year in synchronisation a system of 19-year cycles, called "Metonic cycles", is used and 7 years out of these 19 (years 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 18) have an extra month added at the end of the year. This is called a "Long Year", and as the month may have 29 or 30 days a long year can have between 383 and 385 days. To keep the calendar aligned on a long-term basis, 8 years are omitted from every 19th cycle, so there is a "grand cycle" of 18 cycles of 19 years and one of 11 years, only 4 of which (years 2, 5, 8 and 10) have an extra month. This produces a mean year length of 365.242333363935245 days, which is very close to the actual mean solar year length. The short cycle occurs in the 10th cycle of every 19, i.e. in the mid-point of the grand cycle (when MOD 19 = 10).

To keep accuracy with the lunar cycle a system of alternating 29- and 30-days months is used, and periodically there are two 30-day months in a row, but never two 29-day months in a row. This means that each Celtic month can have either 29 or 30 days, depending on the year and its position in the sequence. At the optimum interval this system produces a mean lunar month of 29.530588 days, which is very close to the actual mean lunar month in the current era. This of course may need to be adjusted in the long-term to keep pace with changes in the length of a lunar month but it suffices for us in our present era.

Structure of the Months

The months in the calendar are as follows:

#
Moon Pronunciation Meaning
1
Samhain Sah-vin (Summer's End/Seed Fall?)
2
Dumhainn Doo-vin (World Darkness/Darkening?)
3
Riùr Roor (Cold & Ice?)
4
Naghaid Nah-id (Staying at Home?)
5
Uarain Oo-urr-un (Cold/Cold's End?)
6
Cuithe Kwee-huh (Wind)
7
Geamhain Geh-vin (Winter's End?)
8
Siùfainn Shoo-fin (Half-spring/Brightening?)
9
Eacha Ech-uh (Horse?)
10
Eilmì Ell-mee (Claim?)
11
Aodhrain Urr-un (Arbitration?)
12
Cadal Cad-ull (Song?)
13
Eadràn * Ed-rahn (Intercalary/Between?)
* Is added in years 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 18 of every cycle, apart from the 10th out of every 19 cycles, when a month is added in years 2, 5, 8 and 10.

Translation of the names of the months

There is much debate about the names of the months. In fact it is not known even if the months occurred at the times of the year depicted in this calendar, for example "Samonios' may not be cognate with "Samhain". However, the associations and translations used are those generally accepted as being most likely, but it should be noted that nobody actually knows with certainty when in the year the months occurred nor what the true translations of the names are. For example Cadal in modern Scots Gaelic means "to sleep" or "sleeping", but the name of the 12th month may have come from an older word cognate with the Gaulish Kantlos.

New Moon or Full Moon

Another debate is whether the months would have begun at new moon or full moon. In fact, in relation to the Gaulish calendar Pliny the Elder says in Natural Histories, 16, 249: "the sixth day of the lunar cycle - this is from when these tribes count the first days of the months and the year", so the suggestion here is that each new month began on the sixth day following the new moon. However, most known lunar calendars begin each month at or just after new moon (i.e. lunar-solar conjunction) or at first sighting of the new lunar crescent. I have therefore adopted the practice that each month begins at or near new moon.

Epoch and New Year Dates

The epoch of the calendar is 8th November -1026 Gregorian (i.e. 1,027 B.C.E.). This date was not chosen specifically but was arrived at by working back from the start date of the current cycle, 9th November 1999. The latter date was chosen for personal reasons, and as a result each cycle has been starting on or around the 9th November. The calendar is structured, however, to keep the average start date nearer the 5th-6th November, which is the mid-point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Within a 19-year cycle, the date of the start of each year thus varies from around 22nd October to 20th November.

The date of each new year, therefore, will usually be the nearest new moon to the halfway point between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Some traditions would place the new year date, i.e. the start of the month of Samhain, earlier than this so that it is the full moon that is closest to the midpoint that Samhain is celebrated. In my version, however, Samhain is celebrated at the nearest new moon, as there is nothing that says that all festivals were held at night or that a full moon was required to do so. True, they did not have electric light, but they had fire, and at Samhain fires are often lit as part of the festivities. It is not without credence, therefore, that they did this to light up the darkness and worship the artificial light that would be needed over the winter period. This ritual may have similar origins to Diwali, the Hindi festival of lights, which coincides with the Celtic new year in most years. The short answer is "nobody knows", but the new moon system is the one that I have chosen to go with.

The following table shows the starting dates of each year in the current trio of lunar cycles.

Year
Cycle 163
Cycle 164
Cycle 165
1
8 Nov, 1980
9 Nov, 1999
8 Nov, 2018
2
28 Oct, 1981
28 Oct, 2000
29 Oct, 2019
3
16 Nov, 1982
16 Nov, 2001
16 Nov, 2020
4
6 Nov, 1983
5 Nov, 2002
5 Nov, 2021
5
25 Oct, 1984
26 Oct, 2003
25 Oct, 2022
6
13 Nov, 1985
13 Nov, 2004
13 Nov, 2023
7
2 Nov, 1986
2 Nov, 2005
2 Nov, 2024
8
23 Oct, 1987
22 Oct, 2006
22 Oct, 2025
9
9 Nov, 1988
10 Nov, 2007
10 Nov, 2026
10
30 Oct, 1989
30 Oct, 2008
30 Oct, 2027
11
18 Nov, 1990
17 Nov, 2009
17 Nov, 2028
12
7 Nov, 1991
7 Nov, 2010
6 Nov, 2029
13
26 Oct, 1992
27 Oct, 2011
27 Oct, 2030
14
14 Nov, 1993
14 Nov, 2012
15 Nov, 2031
15
4 Nov, 1994
3 Nov, 2013
3 Nov, 2032
16
24 Oct, 1995
24 Oct, 2014
23 Oct, 2033
17
11 Nov, 1996
12 Nov, 2015
11 Nov, 2034
18
31 Oct, 1997
31 Oct, 2016
1 Nov, 2035
19
19 Nov, 1998
19 Nov, 2017
19 Nov, 2036

Important Dates

The most important dates in the Celtic year are based on the four cross-quarter days (mid-point between solstices and equinoxes), except that they are movable and based on the lunar calendar. For example, in 2018 these dates were:

  • Là Fhéill Brìde (1 Naghaid): 16th February
  • Bealtainn (1 Geamhain): 15th May
  • Là Lùnast (1 Eilmì): 12th August
  • Féill na Shamhna (1 Samhain): 8th November

Date Conversion

The following tools can be used to convert dates in the Gregorian calendar to those in the New Celtic Calendar and create printable calendars for the current Celtic month and for months in the past and future.


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