The Old Celtic Calendar

 

The Coligny Tablet

In 1897, a fragmented bronze calendar was discovered in Coligny, France. It is believed to date from around 50 BC, and appears to be the remains of a Romanized Gaulish model of a Celtic lunar and solar calendar.

It displays a cycle of approximately five years on 62 tables. Unlike our present-day calendar which dates back to Julius Caesar, this system used the accurate period of the moon's orbit around the Earth (the lunar month) to measure the passage of time. Each lunar month corresponds to 29.53 days. In this Gaulish model, the month was divided into two 15-day periods.

A solar year, the time taken by the Earth to circle the sun, or one revolution of the sun about the Vernal Equinox, is nominally 365 days. Twelve revolutions of the moon, however, equals only 354 days. It was therefore necessary with the Coligny calendar to make two adjustments: first, using alternate months consisting of 29 and 30 days; second, adding a month every 2 1/2 or 3 years to link up the shorter lunar year of 354 days to the solar year of 365 days.

In Celtic legend the new year started on the moonrise of the first last-quarter moon after the autumnal equinox. In the Celtic regions of Britain and Ireland, the tradition was held that the new year started at Samhain (November 1) so that it would always occur on the same day of the solar cycle. A different calendar system from the one found in Gaul, one that reconciled the lunar and solar yearly cycles, was then in use . The year consisted of 13 months, 12 of them roughly equivalent to our modern calendar, with the inclusion of a short, three-day month at the end of October leading up to the new year. It is in this arrangement of months that Celtic cosmology and Druid philosophy are linked through the Ogham alphabet with its 13 calendar trees.

The Celtic Fire Festivals

Samhain

 

Imbolc

 

Beltane

 

Lughnasadh

The Celtic Albans (Equinoxes & Solstices)

Alban Arthuan

 

Alban Eiler

  Alban Heruin   Alban Elved


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Revised: November 17, 1998.