It is a beautiful sunny (but cold) February morning. I'm curled up on my couch re-reading a wonderful book, gifted to me by my dear friend, Ostara Owl. It's titled "By Oak, Ash & Thorn ~ Modern Celtic Shamanism", written by D.J. Conway.
Not only does it walk the reader through a meditaive journey into entry-level Druidic Shamanism, introducing them to many beings in other realms; it shares a lot of information about Druidic practices, which, if one were to seek it independently, would take a very long time to accumulate.
I've just finished a section outlining the Druidic Calendar, and I am struck by how much more appealing it is to me to follow an annual cycle that flows with the natural rhythms of Gaia, rather than the tick-tocking of the man-made, rigid punch-clock that we call the Gregorian calendar. I also find it interesting that the Celts' days began at sundown, rather than sunrise. They had a deep appreciation for the balance of light and dark aspects of everything, honoring one energetic equally as sacred as the other. Such a contrast of modern thinking, which tends to label light as "good" and dark as "bad".
Below is an excerpt from page 277-278 of "By Oak Ash & Thorn":
Ancient Celtic Calendar
Most Celtic celebrations were held at night as the Celtic measurement of a day began either at sunset or moonrise; they reckoned time by nights rather than days. Their calendar was based on the Moon and had thirteen months. The bright half of each month was made up of the fifteen days of the waxing Moon, while the dark half was the fifteen days of the waning moon. Each month of the Celtic year was begun at the Full Moon. Although Robert Graves speculated that the months were named after trees, which corresponded to the letters of the ogam alphabet, there is no hard evidence to prove this.
The Celts also knew and used the solar year, based on the time it takes the sun to circle the Earth and return to the same place. They adjusted their lunar year to the solar year by inserting an extra 30 day month alternately at two-and-a-half and three-year intervals.
The Druids understoon and used the Greek Meton cycle. This consists of 235 lunar months, the time it takes the Sun and Moon to travel back to the same positions of a previous 19-year cycle.
A Druidic Cycle was completed in six Lustres or thirty years, based on a solar year. A Lustre was a cycle of five years. A period of 630 years was called a Druidic Era. All eras were dated from the Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh in Ireland, when the Tuatha De Danann defeated the formorians.
In the Celtic areas of Britain and Ireland, a new years began after Samhain (October 31). Each year was divided into a dark and a light half, with Samhain beginning the dark half and Beltaine (May 1) beginning the light half. Religious holidays centered on the Solstices, Equinoxes, and Moon phases. Four Fire Festivals (the Solstices and Equinoxes) were the highlights of a Celtic farming year. They represented plowing, sowing, growing and harvest. There is also evidence that they observed Imbolc (February), Beltane (May), Lughnassadh (August), and Samhain (October).
In 1897 a Celtic bronze tablet was discovered at Coligny, France. This calendar, although not clear on some points, shows that the Celts reckoned each month in two fifteen-day periods (not weeks), that the lunar month corresponded to approximately twenty-nine and a half days, that extra days were added to the year when necessary, and that each month had a name. The thirteenth month was actually only three days long and ended on Samhain Eve. The following Celtic month-names are from the Coligny Calendar, but the meanings are (the author's) own.
Month Period Meaning
Samonios October-November Harvest Moon
Dumannios November-December Dark Moon
Riuros December-January Cold Moon
Anagantios January-February Quiet Moon
Orognios February-March Moon of Ice
Cutios March-April Moon of Winds
Giamonios April-May Growing Moon
Simivisonios May-June Bright Moon
Equos June-July Moon of Horses
Elembiuos July-August Moon of Claiming
Edrinios August-September Dispute Moon
Cantlos September-October Singing Moon
Ruis Last 3 days of October Dead Moon/Moon of the Dead"
All in all, I can honestly say that this book has enhanced my spiritual practices, and broadened my understanding. Druidic traditions were generally handed down through oral teachings, and I am so grateful for authors like D.J. Conway, who share their knowledge in an accessible format. These resources are invaluable to people, like me, who no longer have access to their ancestors' rich wisdom and practices, for any number of reasons.
Below is a link to purchase "By Oak, Ash, & Thorn", by D.J. Conway ~ I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about expanding their spirituality into the ancient traditions of the Celtic people.