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Subject: Re: Time
From: "Mag.phil. Raimund Karl" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Mag.phil. Raimund Karl
Date:Wed, 21 Apr 1999 12:03:32 +0200

text/plain (60 lines)

Sharon Evans wrote:
> How did Celtic societies know when to hold their festivals?  Was it
> based on seasonal changes or astronomical observance, or did seers
> decide when a particular time would be most auspicious?  And how did
> they decide where to hold such festivals (since I'm sort of aware
> they held them in a particular place each year, not different places
> every year)?
Well, we have found some fragments from Celtic calendars that were
inscribed on Bronze tablets from southern France, the most complete and
famous of is the calendar from Coligny.

The calendar tracks the course of 5 years, with some specifics in the
counting of days and length and placing of months and intercalary months
which I don't want to expand on as it would take quite some place to
explain all these, and at least contains, every year, a month names
SAMONIOS (equals Samhain) and an entry for something called TRI(TI)NOUX
SAMONIS, which has been interpreted as "the three nights of Samhain".
After having run through a 5 years cycle, one would again start from the
beginning, as the calendar very well covers the exact span of 5 solar
years. Thus it seems that at least the feast of Samhain was at a fixed
date, and probably the same is true for Beltaine, which some scholars
also think to have identified on the calendar (or better, it's old
Gaulish equivalent). However, the Coligny calendar has also been
interpreted as a solar/lunar predictor which could be used to calculate
various "astronomical" events like solstices or equinoxes, lunar phases
and similar with a high precision, so dates that would not stay on fixed
dates could be calculated. As the two other mayor Irish Celtic festivals
in the cycle of the year, Imbolc and Lugnasad, could not be identified
with anything on the calendar, it is very well possible that these had
no fixed days in the course of the year but had to be calculated every
time, which even would make sense, as both these festivals do not that
much mark the change of "seasons", as would Samhain and Beltaine, but
rather are more closely related to actual "natural cycles" that depended
more on what really happened in nature - as Imbolc, for instance, is
also often called Eumelc, which can be translated as "first milk", it
would not make sense to celebrate this feast as long as the cows didn't
give any milk. Similarily, Lugnasad, as a harvest festival, would not
make sense unless the harvest season was about to start - which we all
know can vary by more than two weeks, depending on the weather


RAY - Mag.phil. Raimund KARL
Universität Wien, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
A-1190 Wien, Franz Klein Gasse 1
E-Mail: <[log in to unmask]>
Internet: <>

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