People have looked for celestial bodies in the sky for thousands of years to find out more about their future,
purpose and to give them a sense of time and order. When prehistoric man looked up to the sky, he chose the path of the moon to guide him and created the first cosmic guides. Marked animal bones, recently discovered in the Dordogne region in France that date back to 28,000 B.C. , show a pattern of 7 or 13 notches. These patterned bones are believed to be very first calendars known to man.
It is hardly a surprise that early man chose the path of the moon. The lunar cycle is closely related to the female menstruation/fertility cycle, the force behind creating life here on earth and the moon light makes it easy to measure time. It is not hard to miss a Full Moon, especially when you depend on it for lighting up the night sky. Counting nights and days between two Full Moons will give you roughly 28 days, the time of the lunar cycle.
The actual word ‘calendar’ derives from the Latin word ‘calendarium’, which means register and structure. So for the first time it was possible to count days, establish rituals and festivals, establish daily routines and agricultural events. Even better, these rituals and events could now be planned way in advance.
The Ancient year was made up out of 12 moon cycles. When the lunar months fell out of sync with the seasons, a 13th moon cycle was introduced to align it again with the solar year. This method was in use for many years and in fact the Jewish calendar still operates on this basis, as every three years a leap year with a 13th lunar month is included. As the first tribes settled down and agriculture evolved around 9000B.C. the Ancient Lunar Calendar was the essential tool for planting, harvesting, to raise taxes and worship the gods.
The Greeks and pre-Julius Caesar Romans orientated their lives to a solely lunar calendar, first mentioned in the 13th century B.C. Besides measuring time, it also looked at the moon’s varying influence. Tides, crops and even human behavior changed in tune with this ever-changing celestial body. It became clear that the moon phases could affect undertakings to the point of determining their success or failure. These findings were carefully recorded and inserted into the calendar. So looking up a date did not only give a timescale, but also informed about its qualities. This Ancient Lunar model was passed down from one generation to the next and followed by urban and rural populations alike.
One example of this lunar guide is depicted in the poem ‘Work and Day’, written by the Greek poet Hesiod around 800 B.C. It depicts scenes from Greece’s rural life and mixes them with moral hints and practical tips. For example it reads: “Avoid the thirteenth of the waxing month for sowing, it is best for setting plants. And in the waning month, on the fourth, beware of heart consuming worries…”
Four hundred years later Hippocrates connected the lunar path to the successful outcome of medical treatments and diseases such as epilepsy.
The Babylonians developed a sophisticated calendar that also took the path of the sun into account. This model was called ‘ luni-solar calendar’, as it co-ordinated the lunar cycles with the equinoxes and solstices. The Babylonians were keen astronomers and astrologers and it was them who established the notion that days have certain energies/forces and they called it ‘ Individual Day Qualities’. The “Living With The Moon’ life-style calendar is a luni-solar calendar and a modern reincarnation of the Ancient Babylonian calendar model.
Nowadays most of the world has adopted the Gregorian calendar model, which only follows the path of the sun and treats everyday the same, no changes of day qualities or else. In historical terms this change occurred very recently, with Russia adopting the Gregorian calendar model in 1919 and China ,bowing to enormous international pressure, adopted the solar calendar in 1949. But the traditional Chinese Year is still calculated in accordance with the moon and that is the reason why the beginning of the New Chinese Year still varies from year to year.
The political and business world may have gone solar, but when it comes to religion and life-style, the lunar calendar model is far from being redundant. The Jewish, Hindu and other religious calendars as well as some Christian festivals (such as Easter) are still celebrated in accordance with the moon. The Muslim month Ramadan begins and ends with the first sighting of the Waxing Moon. This is the reason why the crescent moon is a well used symbol in the flags of many Islamic countries. The moon has always played a very practical role for Arab tribes. While crossing desserts the sun gave them a sense of direction and the moon provided them with their time scale. Since the heat during the days made it often impossible to travel, mild moonlit nights were used instead. The dark nights during New Moon were looked upon with great worry, as no traveling was possible and fasts were held as a sign of mourning. When the first sign of the Waxing Moon appeared, the reborn moon was greeted with applause and celebration.
Nowadays our daily language is still full of lunar references: month, menstruation, minutes, all relics from the moon cycle.
So next time you look at the monthly LWTM life-style calendar, I hope you appreciate the input all these generations and civilisations had to bring to life a complex calendar system of measuring dates, recording day qualities for hundreds if not thousands of years – that now all fits neatly on one single sheet of A4 paper.