I have always had trouble finding just the right calendar to track the days, weeks months, years, what have you. Our lives revolve around the passing of days. And the days turn into weeks and months and years. It makes you think pretty hard about how these cycles came into being.
I especially think about calendars when the ones you buy every year around Christmas (secret be known I always shop for calendars the week after Christmas. All the calendars are about 1/2 price.) And while we like to follow the the progression of days, the standard calendar may not (who am I kidding, it doesn’t) describe everything that is happening.
What we find is that there are so many different ways of categorizing and counting the passage of time that settling on a single one may not cut it. So for now, we will start by discussing the passage of time itself and how we do it.
Actually, before getting into the nuts and bolts of calendars, we might consider how the natural world around us works. Time for us is a mechanical thing. Life here on Earth is made possible by a series of fortunate events that makes time very regular. In fact, you can set your watch by it (haha).
The Earth rotates on its axis. We count this rotation as a day – broken up in hours, minutes and seconds. It is a 24 hour day, with 60 minutes per hour and 60 seconds per minute.
The Earth revolves around the sun. This trip takes 365.25 days to complete. Along this trip, due to the tilt of the earth relative to the sun, we experience seasons. These are caused by the amount of sun visible to any one point on the earth. These quarters are categorized as the Seasons of the year (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter)
The illustration shows how at the extremes (Summer and Winter solstices) the difference in number of hours of light in the day. I just googled the difference for Pennsylvania – which they say is 5 hours and 41 minutes. At the Spring and Summer equinoxes, the number of hours per day are equal (12 hours light and 12 hours dark). So if you split the 5 hours and 41 minutes in half, it says we have 2 hours and 51 and a half minutes more daylight in summer (about 14 hours and 51.5 minutes) and in winter it is 9 hours and 49 minutes.
In addition to the Rotation and Revolution cycles, we also are affected by other heavenly bodies in our solar system. Chief among them is them is the Moon. Counting its revolutions in terms of days here on Earth is a little more complicated. The moon revolves around the earth once every 27.32 days, or one sidereal month. This is if you count it in relation to the stars (or 360 degrees of a circle). When counted in relation to the Sun, it is every 29.53 days (or about 27 degrees more). Why is this important? In a lunar calendar, the count of days begins at the new moon – when the moon is conjunct the sun and ends when the Moon is new again.
And while we are talking about the moon, it also presents another direct affect upon the world. And that is the tides. As we rotate on earth around its access, the moon exerts a gravitational force upon the side of the earth facing it. It pulls against the planet causing it to bulge – enough that the water on the planet will shift – causing tides.
In addition, the earth is affected by the other planets in our solar system, including Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (I count Pluto even though NASA has decided not to). The affects of these planets on our life here is largely part of the study of Astrology. Mainstream science counts these as a constant and tends to ignore them. I like to hope that all of these scientists may enjoy a particularly intense Mercury Retrograde 3 times a year. One day they will figure it out.
So to sum up, the Natural Cycles include:
Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Seasons, Years, Lunar months
Man Made Cycles
While Natural cycles describe aspects of nature and their affects upon our lives, Man Made Cycles are those we have imposed upon ourselves. The best description would be Calendars. We have days, but the calendar organizes them into weeks and months and weekends.We have holidays and observances that are marked at specific times of the year or specific days. Like Christmas is on December 25th. At least in the Western World. In the Eastern Orthodox world it is January 7th.
Where much gets confusing with these observances is that they occurred before the modern Gregorian Calendar was created. At the time, they were following any number of lunar calendars. And when the date of something becomes dependent upon the New Moon or the Full Moon during a certain cycle, the specific date will vary.
Examples would be the Hebrew Calendar, Islamic Calendar, Indian/Hindu Calendar and Korean Calendar. I confirmed the existence of each of these with contacts on Facebook. They also noted that the use of these lunar calendars is primarily in determining the dates for religious holidays. In the case of Israel, it can be especially complicated due to laws forbidding work on the Sabbath. In these cases, many businesses employ muslims to stay open. But then they must pay attention to the Islamic Calendar to be sure that there are not additional conflicts on these dates.
And the Eastern Lunar calendars are nothing in comparison to the mesoamerican calendars (Think the Mayan Calendar and the Aztec Calendar) as far as being complicated.
For work in Astrology, I have spent a lot of time following lunar calendars. I have yet to find a printed calendar that was easy to follow. There is the Gregorian Date, the zodiac sign, the lunar aspect as well as aspects to all the planets. I have had the most luck with the the Almanac, which lists a lot of random information.
But the point is that there are many cycles that we follow. From the point of view of this backyard gardener, the important days involve planting and harvesting.
In researching Calendars, I got caught pretty deep in a rabbit hole. Definitely I will need to write more on this subject.