Common Themes, East & West:
Natural Temporal Cycles,
Attitudes toward Time,
& Millennium Issues
An elderly Apache Medicine Man:
"There is no time. There is only movement through space."
The Twelve Months
(Courtesy of Tradestone International)
In the opening illustration I've chosen for this page, there are twelve brothers, each in charge of one month. In the poignant Russian fairy tale, "The Twelve Months," a woman drove her little stepdaughter out into a snowstorm and ordered the child not to return without bringing spring flowers. Through this ruse, the woman sought the child's death. In despair, the child fled through the blizzard deeper into the forest. The Twelve Brothers heard her weeping and promised to help.
They shifted their temporal energy-fields, moving from linear progression to a more creatively shuffled cycle, bringing forward the younger springtide brothers under whose care the flowers would grow, while at the same time the older wintry brothers shifted into the background. Slowly, the flowers were coaxed forth from the snow.......
I, who am never on time, love to think of time this way, existing as a whole "being," one month able to shift a few cycles ahead into another position, other months free to delay a bit longer. I like to think of the hours in the same way, so that 10am could be followed by 2pm, then 3pm, then back to 11am, and so forth. But this is magical thinking....and time doesn't work this way.
To see how it does work, I've created this page.
February in a Book of Hours
Les Tres Riches Heures Du Duc De Berry
"Origin of the Seven Day Week" by Bill Hollon looks at ancient Egypt, Greece, the Near East, and Rome in tracing how the seven-day week originated by starting with Saturn (Saturn's Day -- i.e., Saturday), who ruled the 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd hours of the first day of the week. Next in reverse order, according to the ancients, and moving inward from Saturn, were Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon. Whoever was in charge of the first hour of each day was also in charge of that entire 24-hour period. Thus, near the end of the first day, ruled by Saturn, he had the 22nd hour, the 23rd belonged to Jupiter, who was next in line after Saturn, the 24th belonged to Mars, and the first hour of the following day, as well as the day itself, then belonged to the sun. Hollon provides a good chart that shows how this works out so that the third day is the moon's, the fourth is Mars', the fifth is Mercury's, and the sixth is Jupiter's, the seventh is Venus'. Amazingly, this intricate schema wasn't restricted to the Near East and the Mediterranean region. Hollon points out that:http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/linked.htmlIt is interesting to note that these exact same solar system objects, and in the same sequence, were also used to name days in ancient India, Tibet and Burma.Another chart shows the names of the days in various languages, each word related to this planetary sequence. I had always thought the assignment of different days to different planets was arbitrary and differed, depending upon what culture did the naming. Thus, I found it fascinating to learn how complex the process actually was -- and how widespread.
This is Hollon's home page -- I've excerpted direct links to introductory calendar material plus all his cross-cultural calendar links, but he has many more pages on issues connected with time (e.g., its measurement, problems, changes, more history, etc.). I'm impressed by how carefully he researches his material -- solid sources are provided for each page. When I e-mailed him for further information about himself and his fascination with time, he wrote:http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/intro.html...My background is in the computer software business, Kathleen. Starting in the mid 1950's, I designed computerized business systems....When I retired in 1987, I...[started writing] a book about calendars, which I had been researching in my spare time for quite a number of years....After I had a good start, the web became popular, so I just converted what I'd completed to HTML and put aside any notion of having it published elsewhere.We're all the richer for his labor of love.
This is Hollon's basic "Introduction to Calendars," which looks at why years based on 12 months of 30 days each (which are found in many unrelated cultures) didn't work, and why the West chose a combination of 30, 31, and 28/29 days instead. (Note: if you wish to know why February was chosen to have only 28 days, see below for early Rome's calendar.)http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/struct.html
This page is on "Calendar Structures" -- i.e., lunar, solar, and lunisolar (a combination of the two). (Note: if you wish to explore calendar histories further, follow the links at the bottom of Hollon's page.)http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/religion.html
This page looks briefly at the role religion plays in establishing calendars that measure time differently from secular calendars.http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/aztec.html
This is Hollon's page on the complex, triple Aztec calendar (for more, also see the end of: http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/eighth.html).http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/chinese.html
This is on the lunisolar Chinese calendar and the ominous traditions associated with "Double August" every 19 years.http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/sirius.html
This is on ancient Egypt's calendar and the role played by Sirius in beginning a new year.http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/greek.html
This is a too-brief page on ancient Greece's calendar.http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/hebrew.html
This is on the Hebrew lunisolar calendar, which was heavily influenced by the exile in Babylon.http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/muslim.html
This is on the Muslim calendar, which is strictly lunar; all months slowly cycle backwards through the seasons because of an 11-day shortfall each year; further, a new month does not begin until there is a visual sighting of the crescent moon (bad weather would obviously complicate this).http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/earlyrom.html
And finally, this is on early Rome's calendar, with wildly fluctuating structures (and the reason for why February has 28-29 days).http://physics.nist.gov/GenInt/Time/ancient.html
From the Physics Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) comes this very brief but nicely illustrated overview on "Ancient Calendars." (For more from this website see below under "Clocks.")http://www.mythinglinks.org/Wheel.html
This is my MythingLinks page on pre-Christian Europe's seasonal "Wheel of the Year" calendar.http://www.nas.com/jpcolbertart/seasons/sos.html
This is one of my favorite seasonal calendars: Waverly Fitzgerald's home page for her "School of the Seasons." The first of every month, she posts a calendar showing daily cross-cultural celebrations -- pagan, indigenous, Judeo-Christian, Moslem, Asian, and contemporary. With a great eye for lore, she also provides links to essays that explore some dates in greater detail.http://home.att.net/~brunner.gauger/year.html
This is the Austrian-born "Alpine Shaman's Moon Calendar," another favorite of mine. This page will take you to the entire year, divided into Monday through Sunday weeks. Click on whichever week you desire and you'll find feasts, celebrations, lore, runes, do's and don'ts (for gardening, etc), and much more.http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/calendars/index.htm: [Link updated 10/15/00]
From N.S. Gill, the classical/ancient history guide at about.com, comes a great page of annotated links to ancient and medieval worldwide calendars. This is a marvelous site for browsing.
A Clock & a Glass Slipper
(Courtesy of Tradestone International)
Calendars mark broad sweeps of time; for smaller, more intimate measurements, something else was needed. "Clockworks: from Sundials to the Atomic Second" is an informative and beautifully designed site from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The site has pages on sundials, water clocks, astrolabes, candle clocks (quite ingenious, especially in China), hourglasses (and how they helped sailors measure knots of speed), weight-driven clocks, spring-driven ones, pendulum-driven ones, quartz watches, and the cesium atomic clock. In addition to excellent text, most of these exhibit-pages have very clever animations so that non-mechanical people like me can really grasp how they work. (To advance through the exhibit, just click on the odd little icons running across the bottom of the page.) Another section has a superb essay on "Measuring Time" that runs over three linked pages. Here are several excerpts from this essay:http://physics.nist.gov/GenInt/Time/time.html. . . .The measurement of time is an ancient science, though many of its discoveries are relatively recent. The Cro-Magnons recorded the phases of the Moon some 30,000 years ago--but the first minutes were counted accurately only 400 years ago. . . .
. . . .With the introduction of mechanical clocks in the late 13th or early 14th century, clock time became increasingly removed from cyclical events in the sky, for the cycles that mechanical clocks
base their measures on are independent of Earth and Sun. A pendulum clock, for example, measures only the beat of its pendulum, not any part of a "real" day. . . .
. . . .As the precision of our clocks has exceeded that of the celestial ones, our record of rotational irregularities, wobbling orbits, light from stars hundreds of millions of years old, and misbehaving antiparticles has formed a lens through which we observe the life of the universe.
Another very handsome site on clocks & timekeeping comes from NIST's Physics Laboratory (see above under "Calendars"). It's called "A Walk through Time: The Evolution of Time Measurement." The beautifully illustrated site covers "Early Clocks" (starting with ancient Egypt), "Revolution in Timekeeping," "The 'Atomic Age'," and "World Time Scales."
Daydreaming in a Tree
(Russian lacquer box courtesy of Tradestone International)
This fine site (with good links) looks at natural cycles and rhythms ("Our rhythms still follow the African sun"). It includes lunar, menstrual, seasonal, glacial, and cosmic cycles. The author begins with circadian time:http://www.trinity.edu/~mkearl/time-c.html...John Medina likens the body to a clock store. Each cell, tissue, and organ has its own clock that determines its lifespan. These clocks, in turn, become entrained or captured within the rhythms of nature. Like some Chinese puzzle, there are clocks within clocks within clocks, which together shape our everyday experiences.
THE CULTURAL RHYTHMS OF LIFE is an engrossing essay based on In The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1983) by anthropologist Edward T. Hall. It considers cultural aspects of time, including "Sacred and Profane Times" -- and the section I found most appealing: "Monochronic vs. Polychronic Times." Quoting Hall:http://elaine.teleport.com/~jaheriot/timedis.htmP-time [Polychronic] stresses involvement of people and completion of transactions rather than adherence to preset schedules. ... For polychronic people, time is seldom experienced as "wasted," and is apt to be considered a point rather than a ribbon or a road, but that point is often sacred. ...Polychronic cultures are by their very nature oriented to people. Any human being who is naturally drawn to other human beings and who lives in a world dominated by human relationships will be either pushed or pulled toward the polychronic end of the time spectrum. If you value people, you must hear them out and cannot cut them off simply because of a schedule.
Finally, running in dramatic opposition to natural cycles are the broken rhythms of modern time:...the sudden, panicky awareness of time, the frightening sense of our being tied to it. Time is increasingly a key manifestation of the estrangement and humiliation that characterize modern existence. It illuminates the entire, deformed landscape and will do so ever more harshly until this landscape and all the forces that shape it are changed beyond recognizing. . . .That somber excerpt comes from "Time and its Discontents" by John Zerzan. His is a thoughtful, literate, carefully documented essay.
Waiting for the Millennium
(Russian lacquer box courtesy of Tradestone International)
From Melissa Snell, the Medieval History guide for about.com, comes her review of James Reston, Jr.'s popular history, The Last Apocalypse: Europe at the Year 1000 A.D. She writes:http://www.channel1.com/mpr/Only Christendom used the Christian calendar; for the rest of the world the year 1000 held no meaning. And a huge portion of Europe's population had no idea what year it was to begin with. The mass hysteria that has often been described never really took place.Snell also provides links to excellent sites dealing with millennial issues, past and present.
This is the home page for the Millennium Watch Institute, a "clearing house on ideas of global change and the people who promote them." The Institute, founded in 1992 by Ted Daniels, Ph. D., a folklorist and author, collects "ephermeral prophetic material from more than 1200 global sources." Despite an awkwardly designed (even ugly) home page, what impresses me is that this collection is housed at the Annenberg Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The university, in fact, is sponsoring an exhibit of some of these materials, 1999-2000.
Navigational tools are very poor here so I'm including several direct links I came across on my own. This is a 1994 essay, "The Millennium Legend," by Ted Daniels:The idea of the millennium is much older and broader than Christianity. It seems to be a human universal, for it appears that someone has been talking about a return to paradise at every time and place we know anything about....The New Age movement has a strongly millennialist tone, as does the UFO trend, with its forecasts of impending invasion and/or salvation from space....
The central idea of the millennium legend is that the Earth will be transformed into what it was in the beginning: a place of perfect harmony and justice, free from all suffering and strife. Often this involves the return of a hero, who established things the way they are in The First Place....
This is a listing of the categories found in the Millennium Archives. The range is impressive. Then there is the Institute's newsletter, the Millennial Prophecy Report, which
...reviews material from the publications of Christian churches, Jewish sects, New Age channels, Native American shamans, militias and Identity Christian believers, as well as environmentalists and other scientific prognosticators.It is through this online Newsletter (for a reasonable one-time fee of $30) that one has access to the actual data. (Note: this page has a selection of reviews from many respected sources.) For a generous sampling, one can go to Selected Articles from Back Issues, type sherry in the two log-in boxes, and browse through a fascinating, often disturbing, but always intelligent collection of articles.
Quick Reference Sites
This is the World Clock showing current local times around the world.http://ghs1.greenheart.com/billh/index.html
If you wish to know on what day of the week you were born, go to this page and fill in your month and year of birth. (This is another of Bill Hollon's pages.)http://www.trinity.edu/~mkearl/birthday.html
Related to your birth's day of the week is the rarity of weekend births. This breezy, fascinating little essay (with charts) looks at folklore connected with these days and considers the changing fate of the USA in terms of which weekdays "governed" her Presidents.
To Lunar New Year 5 February 2000 The Year of the Dragon
Menu of Common Themes, East & West:
Crones & Sages
Dragons & Serpents
Earth Goddesses & Gods
Floods, Storms, Rainbows, & Other Weather Wonders
Food: Sacrality & Lore
Landscape: Sacrality & Lore (Mountains, Wells, Springs, Pools, Lakes, Caves, Labyrinths, Spiral Mounds, Crop Circles, Stone Circles, Feng Shui)
Nature Spirits of the World
Rituals of Puberty
Sacred Theatre, Dance & Ritual
Sky Goddesses & Gods
Star Lore & Astrology
Symbols, Signs, & Runes:
Time (Calendars, Clocks, Natural Temporal Cycles, Attitudes toward Time, & Millennium Issues)
Trees & Plant Lore
Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Weather-Working: An experimental, on-going ritual in cyberspace
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)
Down to Geographical Regions: Africa
If you have comments or suggestions,
please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This page created with Netscape Gold
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design:
Copyrighted © 1999, 2000 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
Page designed 2 October 1999;
work begun 5-6 October 1999; uploaded 6 October 1999.
16-17 October 1999; 28 November 1999;
24 January 2000;
15 October 2000 (revised an about.com link -- no time to check the others)