This is a vast subject. I’ve attempted to present it in a brief and coherent form, a mixture of science, history and audacious conjecture. I invite you to read the following with an open mind, and a willingness to look at time in new ways. Consider our current way of measuring time as not only inherently flawed but extremely damaging to our relationship with our biosphere; a primary reason for our drift into and thru this off-kilter and apocalyptic time we are in.
Humans have been marking time for as long as we’ve been self-conscious. Watching the sun crossing the heavens, making shadows lengthen and shorten on the ground. Or the moon and stars travelling thru the night sky; the moon going through it’s phases from dark to light to dark, as the stars rotate throughout the year. Among the oldest man-made objects discovered are ancient bones with what are confirmed to be markings pertaining to women’s menstrual cycles. Notches were scratched into the bone at regular intervals marking periods of days with variants. The most well-known being the Ishango bone, a baboon fibula found near Lake Edward near the borders of what is now Uganda and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s at least 11,000 years old, possibly up to 20,000 years old. The notches are thought to relate both to the menses and thus to the moon cycles. The link between the two cycles was noted by our ancestors but is not completely regular. These menstrual calendars were an attempt to record, and thus to predict when women were fertile, as this link between ovulation and fertility has been known by hunter gatherer and agricultural city-states alike long before modern medicine.
The variants relate to seasonal influences; fluctuations in light, weather, feast or famine so hunting trips could be planned or crops sown using these calendar bones to predict the year.
These recorded events would be useful for planting and harvesting, or for planning around hunting trips for large game, such as mammoths or aurochs.
And for ceremonies to acknowledge the cycles of the year; to propitiate their gods, that things may continue and flourish in the yearly round, that there would be plenty of game for food, clothing and shelter; fresh water to drink.
There are hundreds of these ancient notched bones discovered now, some going back at least 30,000 years into pre-history.
The moon has approximately 13 cycles in one (solar) year, 12.36 in the synodic months, the lunar phases from new to full to new, a cycle of 29.5 days. The moon takes 27.3 days to orbit earth, the sidereal month.
Many early notched or burnt bones have 13 marks, showing the approximate relationship of 13 lunations in one solar year, 13 menstrual cycles in one year.
As civilizations formed in river valleys and agriculture began to become pre-eminent, other ways of measuring time began to emerge.
In Egypt the Nilometers measured the rise and fall of that once-mighty river; records could be made and trends predicted; the inundation of the land through seasonal flooding and extensive irrigation was the key to Egypt’s prosperity and longevity. Calendars were developed in China and Sumeria, cultures built around the Tigris, Euphrates and Yangtse rivers and their seasonal fluctuations.
Lunar religious calendars were developed in many parts of the world; their use continues to this day alongside the solar round as binding the old doctrines to the seasonal cycles and religious ceremonies.
Calendars give both structure and to some extent meaning to human lives, reinforcing our relationship to our cultures and creating moments of celebration or worship throughout the year. Through a critical lens this can also be seen as a control system of immense power.
In 700 BCE the seven day week was created in Babylon, the 28 day lunar month divided into four quarters. Mainly used then for accounting in the ever-fertile crescent, it has slowly been adopted throughout the whole Biosphere.
Elsewhere, far from civilisations, peoples lived in an eternal present, events happened but they were always “now”. Some groups experienced time as wet or dry, hot or cold, and of course day and night. Concepts such as the ever-changing Yin and Yang emerged from observing how these dualities continually blend and flow into each other, each apparently giving birth to it’s counterpart.
But the link between the monthly cycle of women and the moon was ever-present, and as the era of warrior cultures developed from the urge to expand, kill or enslave other smaller groups, something had to be done to consolidate the emerging solar dominance, to erase and distort the relationship between sun, moon and earth. To distance an emerging priest caste from the hoi-polloi and from the seeresses and their blood magic.
Consider how our solar system was formed out of spinning dust as the sun simultaneously attracted elements through gravity and continually spewed them out. As a pebble creates ripples on a pond, these created rings, then solidified into spheres with their own gravitational pull. As musical notes have their own frequency, the music of the spheres is like a long chord, varying over huge spans of time, attracting other bodies, which become moons, or are absorbed by the planet. There is a beautiful harmony to this, with the dissonances and overtones that create ever more complex vibrations. The oldest megalithic structures acknowledge this; major star – systems and the planets were incorporated into their forms. In more recent times, monuments such as Stonehenge are primarily focussed on the sun / earth relationship, with the moon’s phases acknowledged, but less obvious interest in other planets or stars.
It appears that as we became more “civilized” we began to lose, or at least lessen, our relationship to the cosmos.
Certainly in these modern times with light pollution and most humans living in cities or towns we are unable to experience the grandeur of the night sky. Turning to an app in our phones we lose the beauty, grandeur and poetry of space, algorithms our intermediary.
As each planet has a frequency, a “note” that makes up it’s signature, they also appear to coincide and relate through opposition or conjunction and other angular relationships in their cosmic dance.
Although I believe astrology to be a flawed “science”, formed from inherited cultural biases and misconceptions, it seems that we are affected as a planet by these movements and moments, just as the moon pulls on all the oceans, plants and animals. Moving the waters in every cell.
Jupiter takes 12 earth years to go once around the sun. Jupiter and Saturn are conjunct every 60 years. In Babylon space and time was compressed into a flat plane 360 degree circle. 12 segments of 30 degrees each. Thus the power of the 13 moons was reduced, the thirteenth moon dismembered and incorporated into the now aphasic 360 day year. As Jupiter’s power is felt both as the benevolent father / provider and as the controlling, bullying patriarch; as Saturn is both “Father Time” and religious dogma but also represents discipline and hard work and spirituality, the lunar/solar relationship was now subjugated and blocked by the forces of commerce and religion, the beginning of “Time is Money”, the Dreamspell of History.
In the Americas, far from Babylon, the Olmecs and other pre-Inca cultures had a 13 month religious calendar and a 260 day sacred count based on the cycle of Venus. Also a 360 day count. Those extra 5 days every year were days “out of time”, where various practices took place, such as just staying indoors, or silence, or breaking the old pots and making anew.
The Mayans took this time science even further, with 17 different calendars interlocking or as fractals of each other. One was for the life cycle of the bee, others spanned thousands of years.
This was partly used to control the population around the priestly class, but we knew little about the myths and meaning in Mayan culture until the middle of the last century, as all but 4 of the thousands of Mayan codices, long folded books, were destroyed by the Europeans, to erase their culture.
The long count and the sacred 260 day “tzolkin” calendar were still used, particularly by the Yucatan Maya in Mexico, and the Quiche people further south in Guatemala and Honduras.
The 260day calendar is also a fractal of the 26,000 year precessional cycle. This can be divided into five 5200 year cycles, one of which ended at winter solstice 2012, thus we are now in a new era, according to Mesoamerican cosmology
I first came across this idea from William Burrough’s “Ah Pook is Here” in which he describes this system as the “Mayan Caper”. Burroughs was fascinated by control systems and how to free ourselves of them; his “cut-up” experiments were part of this. He regarded “control” as a malevolent, possibly human made force that has us in constant thrall. “Control needs time as a junky needs junk” he pithily stated, in other words this “control” needs our time to run it’s program.
In The Peten in Guatemala in the late 1980’s I came across “The Mayan Factor” by Jose Arguelles which laid out a different way of looking at Mayan time science. How the Mayan’s, though decadent and flawed in their own way, had developed these incredibly precise interlocking calendars.
Jose’s premise is that we are in thrall to a timing frequency he calls 12:60, exactly the relationship mentioned above between Saturn and Jupiter, and should adopt the 13:20 frequency to realign ourselves with nature. To reintroduce the lunar / solar / earth relationship as a basis for our experience of time, thus shedding that control system for a more harmonious relationship with all and our own nature.
The beginning of the “Dreamspell of history” we have been hypnotized by was 3114 BCE, ending in 2012, now we need a new Dreamspell.
Looking into attempts to harmonize the yearly calendar through time has been an issue for ever, the Earth taking 365 and a quarter days to orbit the sun. Following on from Babylon Romulus gave Rome a 10 month calendar in 753BCE, modified to 12 months as per Babylon in 700 BCE, with the 7 day week adopted that year. The Julian Calendar in 46BCE, then Augustus Caesar modifies it further, is still our template. 12 uneven months. The next step took many centuries. The calendar was out of phase with the yearly festivals, especially Easter. As the Catholic church needed to consolidate it’s hold over the European imagination and the new world, it had wanted to unify all under it’s yoke of time for a couple of centuries. On what would have been the 5th of Oct 1582 it jumped forward; thus 10 days were lost, and all calendars were now the Gregorian, after Pope Gregorius XIII.
This wasn’t universally received, the emerging Calvinists and Protestants resisted. Italy, Spain and Portugal made the deadline, France and Belgium waited until the end of the year, most German catholic states by the end of 1584. The Eastern Orthodox Church adopted it in 1923, Bulgaria not until 1968. Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Sweden the following year. Japan in 1873, China in 1912. The Gregorian Calendar doubled the minutes in an hour to 60, and made the hours uniform in length, and included the night in a new 24 (as opposed to 12) hour day. The hours that previously had fluctuated with the suns’s movements over a sundial were now fixed, the frequency doubled in intensity, and the dreamtime at night measured and fixed. In the French Revolution a 10 month calendar was introduced from 1793 -1806.
Time was still different depending on where you were, that is how far from the capital city, until railways brought more precision. In 1880, Britain became the first country in the world to make it a crime to knowingly display a different time to London on municipal buildings.
Meaning the Empire could consolidate its power. Efficiently but not rationally.
So “Time is Money” has become our belief, as we now bet on the future in pico or nano seconds in sophisticated financial speculations, selling the future.
So my proposal is that we set up a new calendar system, the “13 Moon Peace Calendar”. Thirteen 28 day months, making 364 days, and one “Day out of Time” for forgiveness and cancelling all debts. Every year. Thus ending the current ecocidal extractionist capitalism that is hurtling towards destruction.
Easier for accounting too. In fact, this calendar reform has been proposed several times but is always blocked by the Vatican. Because a day “out of time” is against God and would create death and destruction..
Seems like that is precisely what is continually being consolidated by the Gregorian Calendar itself. Even though the Vatican’s crimes are slowly being revealed and acknowledged they still appear to hold the economic “Time is Money” frequency like a loaded gun to all our heads. When we are outside time, like “on holiday”, how different we feel. How much more synchronicity, love and beauty we can experience. We believe that we have to buy time with our labours, in order to spend time. Is calendar reform a way out of this false premise, and a way into experience life as “Time is Art”, the unfolding of beauty, both within and without us?