The Calendar Conundrum, or How We Ended Up Living in a Separate Reality

Modern society often prides itself on being the pinnacle of human development, a culmination of progress and enlightenment. There is a prevailing arrogance that suggests our era, with its technological prowess and scientific advancements, represents the zenith of civilization. 

However, when examining something as fundamental as our system of keeping time, it becomes evident that we may not be as astutely aligned with the natural and cosmic orders as our ancestors were. 

The way we measure years, months, and days reveals significant gaps in our connection to the universe — a stark reminder that, in some respects, we might not be as advanced as we believe.

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What Year Is It, Really?

The Gregorian calendar, currently the most widely used civil calendar, was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 as a reform to the Julian calendar. It was designed to change the date of Easter and fix discrepancies with the equinox. Yet, this calendar is just one of many throughout history, each with its own starting point and system of counting years.

Historical Calendar Variants

Serbian Medieval Calendar: Remarkably distinct and considered to be one of the oldest. According to this calendar, we are currently in the year 7533.

The most ancient record of the Serbian calendar is found on a tombstone from the Middle Ages. The Battle of Kosovo took place in 1389, but a medieval memorial for Emperor Lazar and Despot Stefan Lazarević indicates that the it happened in the year 6897.

Also, on one of the towers of the Lesser Town of the Smederevo Fortress, an inscribed stone attests to the year it was built, stating: “By the grace of Christ God the Herald, Despot Đurađ, ruler of the Serbs and the coastal areas of Zeta, this town was constructed in the summer of 6938” — equivalent to the year 1430 in the modern calendar.

In the Serbian folk calendar, years start from 5508 BC, believed to be the time of the Great Flood.

The Byzantine Calendar: Similar to Serbian, but according to this calendar we are currently around the year 7528. Another key difference is that it marks the date of creation of the world, not the Great Flood.

The Hebrew Calendar: Starting from what many consider the creation of the world, this calendar places us in the year 5784.

The Traditional Hindu Calendar: Varies regionally but often reaches back millennia beyond the common era.

The origin of many historical calendars likely stems from significant astronomical events, reflecting ancient societies’ deep engagement with the cosmos. A key example is the phenomenon of precession, where the Earth’s rotational axis slowly shifts over time. This process, which causes the position of equinoxes to change approximately every 2160 years, has historically prompted adjustments in timekeeping systems. 

Our modern Gregorian calendar, for instance, aligns its start with the last major shift when the spring equinox moved into Pisces. However, there was surely never a year “zero” to begin with, so even without all of the reforms that followed, the exact year we are currently in would still be debatable.

When exactly is the New Year?

The concept of when a new year begins varies significantly across different cultures and historical periods, highlighting the arbitrary nature of our current calendar system. While many modern societies celebrate the new year on December 31st, aligning roughly with the winter solstice when days begin to lengthen again—symbolizing the “rebirth” of the sun—this was not always the case. 

For many ancient civilizations, it was the spring equinox, not the winter solstice, that marked the beginning of the year. This time of year, when daylight starts to overtake night and new life springs forth, was seen as a more fitting symbol of new beginnings. Examples include the Babylonians and ancient Persians whose New Year, Nowruz, continues to be celebrated at the spring equinox. Furthermore, the same was true for ancient Greeks, Romans, Slavs and many other European cultures.

On the other hand, there are cultures that have their new year celebrations at entirely different times. In Thailand, the new year, known as Songkran, occurs in April. This festival is famous for its water-throwing events, which are meant to wash away bad luck and misfortune. 

Meanwhile, in Yakutia, a region in Siberia, the new year is celebrated in June during Ysyakh, marking the revival of nature and fertility with the summer solstice. 

These varied traditions illustrate that the start of a new year, far from being a fixed and universal point, is deeply intertwined with cultural interpretations of celestial and seasonal cycles.

The Misalignment of Months

Originally, the months were closely tied to the movements of Moon and the Sun through the zodiac constellations. This connection is now broken, and the best example is the modern horoscope. From my experience, most people don’t even know what is their real star sign.

Zodiac and Constellations

Most people determine their astrological sign using the star chart provided by modern astrologers, which focuses solely on calendar dates without considering the actual movement of the Sun through the constellations. 

For instance, traditional horoscope charts list me as a Gemini since I was born on June 2. However, astronomically speaking, the Sun was actually positioned in the middle of the Taurus constellation on that date. Thus, according to a calendar instituted by some Pope that disregards actual stellar alignments, I’m a Gemini. But if we consider the Sun’s true location on my birthdate, which should be the foundational aspect of astrology, I am in fact a Taurus.

In short, the zodiac signs used by many contemporary astrologers no longer correspond with the actual astronomical positions of the constellations at any point in the year. The stars continually shift due to the phenomenon of precession, and while ancient societies regularly updated their astrological practices to accommodate this, our modern “progressive” society has abandoned such alignments. But for some weird reason, modern astrologers keep using these meaningless horoscopes.

The Days Out of Sync

Historical Day Naming

In many ancient cultures, the seven days of the week were named after the seven planets known at the time.

The days of the week—Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday—are each named after the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, respectively. This nomenclature illustrates the ancients’ attempt to mirror the cosmos in their temporal organization, with each day influenced by its corresponding celestial body.

Monday and the Lunar calendar

Monday,  named after the moon, is a day that was historically aligned with lunar phases. In many languages, the word for ‘moon’ and ‘month’ is the same, indicating a deep, historical link between lunar cycles and monthly durations.

Ideally, the week should begin with the New Moon, positioning the Full Moon exactly two weeks later. This alignment would ensure that every Monday coincides with one of the moon’s four principal phases

However, our modern sequence of weekdays rotates in a continuous, meaningless loop, disconnected from lunar phases and the related symbolism. 

The idea of a seven-day calendar where Monday always falls on one of the four key phases of the moon (new moon, first quarter, full moon, and third quarter) is challenging to implement consistently due to the nature of the moon’s cycle.

The lunar cycle, from one new moon to the next, averages approximately 29.53 days. This period, known as a synodic month, doesn’t align neatly with the seven-day week. To have Monday always coincide with a key lunar phase, you’d have to adjust the length or the start day of the week based on the moon’s phases. However, this would mean that the week could vary in length from one cycle to the next, making it impractical for use in scheduling and most activities that rely on a consistent weekly calendar.

And yet, there’s still an old belief that Mondays are ideal for new beginnings, but from an astronomical perspective, this notion no longer makes any sense.

Ritual Significance of Mondays

In many Asian cultures, the new moon and full moon are still significant for rituals and celebrations. For instance, in the Vietnamese lunar calendar, the new moon and full moon are considered pivotal times when the veil between the spiritual and physical worlds is believed to be thinnest, facilitating communication with the ancestors. Similar lunar calendars exist all across Asia.

Conclusion: Realigning Our Calendar

The way we measure and interact with time today shows a clear drift from astronomical phenomena and historical timekeeping practices. As we continue to use a calendar system that aligns poorly with celestial events, we lose touch not only with the universe’s rhythms but also with a rich heritage of human interaction with these cycles.

Revisiting our approach to calendar might help reconnect our societal rhythms with the natural order, and perhaps even a deeper appreciation of our place within the cosmos.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The tropical zodiac was created by Ptolemy and starts with 0 Aries when the sun crosses the ecliptic The sidereal zodiac is based on the fixed stars. Contemporary astrologers may use either zodiac, but western astrologers usually use the tropical zodiac and Jyotish astrologers use the sidereal zodiac.

  2. I am aware of this but thank you for adding it here. I tried to water it down as much as possible, for readabilty.

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