The calendars of the Babylonians,
To keep a check on the seasons,
to measure them in days and months, to predetermine the time for sowing
and harvesting and to know the rhythms of night and day classified into
hours and weeks, were to the peoples of the high cultures in the eastern
Mediterranean area some 2,700 years ago, divine sciences. But they were
not alone, because all this luminous astronomical knowledge was also
acquired by the people who once raised the myth-encircling stone ship
Als Stenar, after having carefully followed their celestial source of
inspiration, i.e. first and foremost the Pole Star and then the magical
golden sun's constant cyclical rebirth and death far away on the horizon.
**The sun-god's ship: probably also symbolised the bridge between the earthly existence and the kingdom of the sun-god, i.e. the ship which the sun-people sailed in to heaven after death.
*Red-letter days, i.e. monthly, festival and sacrificial days.
Through inspiration from the heavenly sun-god's shadow, the pyramid-building pharaohs of ancient Egypt also decided how their time should be measured. During the 5th Dynasty, 2,400BC, this resulted in the people of Heliopolis (city of the sun), to the honour of the pharoahs and the sun-god, erecting obelisks (four-edged stone pillars symbolising the life-giving digits of the sun-god) painted with hieroglyphs
(Page 66) which from the length of the sun-shadow decided the time of the day and divided night and day into twenty-four hours.
But already long before the pharaohs' astronomical priesthood knew how to divide the length of the solar year into twelve months of thirty days each and then to add five holy "year days" which were added to the end of each solar-year. These "annual festival days" were then warmly consecrated to both the goddess of fertility, Isis, who symbolised the strong luminous star Sirius in the south and her son, the all-seeing eye, the sun-god Ra, the symbol of death and resurrection.
The sun-worshipping Egyptians became, with their mathematical and astronomical knowledge, in this way the very first known civilised people in the world who based their calendar on the 365 days of the solar year. But since the solar year, then as well as now, doesn't always measure exactly 365 days, the calendar of the ancient Egyptians got quickly out of step and started to wander off. The solar calendar was in its construction a purely mathematical calculation by the priests and didn't follow the sun's true rising and settings on the horizon but instead the priests' calculations of the star Sirius's relationship to the sun. For that reason a month moved in 1,460 years around the solar year, which surely the priests also were well aware of but didn't correct as the solar calendar was considered to belong in the sphere of the divine world. If they from the beginning instead, had proceeded from the positions of the solstices it would have been easy to have stopped the wandering year.
Translation Page 67
The only thing they would have had to have done would have been to add an extra leap day every fourth year in the divine calendar. This the pharaohs probably wanted to do on several occasions during the passing of the centuries, but they were always met by the same hard resistance from the priesthood. These thought namely, that the sun-god Ra and his powerful father and mother, the death-god Osiris and the goddess Isis, would punish them with death if they changed the great sun-god's annual calendar.
From the kingdom of the ancient Egyptians it wasn't a far step to the contemporary Babylonian Empire in Mesopotamia where they worshipped the great legislating sun-god Shamash. Unlike the Egyptians' solar calendar written in hieroglyphs, the aristocratic elite in Babylon, who were knowledgeable about cuneiform writing, calculated their annual calendar by carefully following the four returning seven-day phases of the moon in the firmament.
The Babylonian lunar calendar started with the new moon
and consisted of twelve months divided into twenty-nine and thirty days
in turn. In this way they had a lunar year which really only consisted
of 354 days divided into six summer months (April-October) and six winter
months (October-April).This was compensated for by adding an extra leap
month so that the new year would always start at the same point of time.
This way the Babylonians got rid of the wandering year and had a calendar
year which actually
From Babylon originates the division of day and night into equally long hours which were divided into two halves, the day-watch and the night-watch.Thus they got the sacred cosmic number of 12, which was the foundation of the Babylonian numerical system which used the number 60 as a base. A positional system (the so-called sexagesimal system) which made it possible to divide up hours into both degrees of angle and minutes and then minutes into sixty seconds.
Along with the star-gazing Babylonians' ingenious numerical
system, astrology (Chaldean) developed
As the symbol for the celestial messengers between the constellations became the number seven during the early ancient period and later also during the time of the Romans, it was seen not only as a magical and divine number but also as a lucky number. At the same time it also immortalized the names of the gods in the seven-day week which the Babylonians grounded their monthly calendar on. We recognise them well not only in the late-ancient Greco-Roman gods but also in our own Norse Aesir-gods who gave our contemporary weekdays their names: 1. Helios - Apollo - the day of the sun, 2. Artemis - Diana - the day of the moon, 3. Ares - Mars - Tyr's day, 4. Hermes - Mercury - Oden's day, 5. Zeus - Jupiter - Thor's day, 6. Aphrodite - Venus - Frigg's day, 7. Cronos - Saturn - Bathing Day.
The seven wandering planets in the firmament, the seven days in every phase of the moon, the enigmatic constellations in the night sky, the twelve full moons which fitted into the 365 days of the solar year; together the numbers 7 and 12 undeniably have had an incredibly loaded and magical meaning even to the Norse sun-worshipping Bronze Age peoples.* If they in Scandinavia, as well as in Babylon and Egypt, also counted the 29 days between the moon goddess's appearances, we can only speculate about, but according to Tacitus's description regarding the Germanic moon cult, this counting might be considered
(Page (68 cont)
*The Norse sun-worshipping Bronze Age peoples had without doubt a very good astronomical knowledge of the heavenly bodies in the starry sky.
22. "Say thou this second, for sage thou art
23. "Mundilferi* is hight the Moon's father, *Mundilferi;
he who travels like a pendulum
24. "Say thou this third, in thy thought if it
25. "Is one Delling* hight, he is Day's father;
*Delling; "the bright one" (the sunrise), was one of
26. "Say thou this fourth, if thou fathom it,
(page 69 cont)
27. "Is one Vindsval* hight, he is winter's father,
*Vindsval: the cold one, the winter half year
(The Poetic Edda translated by Lee M. Hollander, 2nd Edition, University of Texas Press, Austin, ISBN 0-292-76499-5, Copyright 1962 Lee.M.Hollander, 4th Paperback Printing, 1990)
The unique Icelandic calendar year consisted of fifty two weeks with 360 days divided into 12 months of 30 days in each as well as 4 additional days, which were added to the third summer month, "the month of the sun", which in this way always counted 34 days. In other words, a solar calendar, which was almost identical to the 3,000-year-older Egyptian calendar year but which in contrast, was totally tied to the sun and not wandering its way through the seasons. The Icelanders were of course very well aware of the meaning of the leap days so that their calendar would correspond with the real solar year. One or two leap days were therefore added every year so that the solar calendar would work in a satisfactory way.
The final solution came, however, when a man by the name of Thorsteinn Surtr appeared at the Althing (the Icelandic Parliament) at midsummer-time in 960 and said that he had found the correct answer. Through the interpretation of dreams he had come to the conclusion that every seventh summer month should be increased by an extra leap week in order to always be in step with time. Thorsteinn Surtr's "dream-proposal" was met with great enthusiasm and passed unanimously by the Althing and from then on was implemented immediately.
During a cycle of 28 years, 5 leap years of 371 days were added according to a fairly settled pattern. The division consisted of 10,227 days and corresponds even to solar calendar of our own day.
When, during the Viking period in the Nordic countries,
the solar year was calculated, one started from
According to Nordic tradition a new solar year started
when on Christmas night one let burning four-spoked wheels roll down
steep hill-slopes as a sign that the retrogression of the sun had been
Outside the scope of the proper solar year the Icelanders divided the calendar year in the same way as the Babylonians in two seasonal groupings, a division into six winter months (October to April) and six summer months (April to October).
The beginning of the winter half-year was marked by
the so-called "winter-nights" with the pagan autumn sacrifice,
which according to Snorri Sturluson always occurred around the 15th
and 16th of October. Probably from an ancient pattern and as a reminder
of the fact that parallel to the solar year
The Winter Months
The Summer Months
The old Icelandic solar calendar is probably in origin
of a much older date than from the Norwegian-Vikings who in the 9th
Century settled in Iceland. Similar annual calendars were therefore,
as far as can be judged, been frequent in most places in the Nordic
countries in the past. The way to divide the year into seasons, räppor
or täljor, which they sometimes were also called, is very old and
has without any doubt its roots far back into the sun-worship of the
Bronze Age and maybe even further back than that.
According to the same simple principle which people in the Viking Age divided the year into seasons, winter months and summer months, people also divided the time of day and night into so-called "eyktir and eyktar" from the sun's ordered and fixed seasonal orbit and positions at the different points of the compass. One eyktir corresponded to about 3 sun hours and could easily be assigned into the 8 points of the compass. Since the day and night consisted of 24 hours, they needed 8x3eyktir divisions so that the day and night could be complete and like the calendric year could be divided into two halves x 12 hours, that is 4x2 eyktir. Every eyktir was then usually divided into halves in so-called "halv-eyktir" of 1.5 hours duration and thus increased the divisions to the 16 fixed points of the compass into day and night eyktir (eyktar) according to the well-known Viking Age Icelandic day and night division of watches.
1st 04.30 Morgun Early in the morning
The Night Watches
9th 16.30 Aftansmal Time for early evening meal