The Myth of the Year:

Returning to the Origin of the Druid Calendar

Chapter One

The Sequani Calendar and the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis

Comparative mythology and the study of culture has been in need of an objective correlative. The calendars of ancient cultures are one such correlative because they measure time by a constant: the patterns of the moon, the stars and the sun. When the myths of the culture are set to these patterns, they are able to tell a story of the myth of the year as it follows the celestial bodies. In conjunction with the celestial bodies and the myths is the pattern of the earth and the agricultural cycle familiar to ancient peoples. By combining all three, we are able to understand mythology as the ancients understood it, as a means of charting the world around them.

         Two ancient cultures that serve as sister cultures are the Celtic and the Greek cultures. Both have ancient monuments that chart the celestial bodies as far back as the Neolithic Era retaining many of the rituals and practices of these cultures through symbolic language and artifacts at the sites of their monuments. Both are able to speak the language of the stones when we are able to read them. The Indo-European migrations effected both cultures in terms of their mythologies and in the creation of their languages. With a firm basis in the Indo-European language, both cultures have accessible root meanings to concepts and words. There was also an active exchange between the ancient Celts and the Greeks. Many Druids wrote and spoke Greek, and many Greeks traded and recorded the history and sociology of the Celts.

         Most importantly, the calendar of the Celts, or The Sequani Calendar, and the calendar of the Greeks, or the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis, are strikingly similar. The calendars mark lunar and solar time with both cycles in conjunction using an intercalary month to coordinate the cycles of the sun and the moon. The calendars are then successfully able to use lunar cycles for the twelve months of the year. The equinoxes and the solstices are included in the lunar month and the stars are indicated in the calendars as well. The stars are named in Greek mythology to follow a pattern of myths, and Celtic mythology is easily transferable due to the similar archetypes in both cultures.

         In the lunar month, both calendars celebrate their people's holidays on the full moon or Oenachs and the priest's Holy Nights on the new moon. The third quarter moon is a significant time in both calendars to begin religious practices. The lunar months are also a microcosm of larger lunar cycles that both calendars follow. Every 55 years the lunar cycle begins on one of the four major phases of the moon. For example, since the middle of the Twentieth Century, the lunar cycle began on a new moon, and in the year 2001, it will begin on the next significant phase of the moon: the first quarter. Many of the Neolithic monuments such Stonehenge with its Aubrey Holes and Knowth with its lunar calendar stone mark these cycles for us.

         Both calendars have 55 night cycles that act as a microcosm to that macrocosmic 55 year cycle. In this way, people are able to experience the time in their year and the time of humanity in the lunar cycles. The Sequani Calendar and the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis have a 55 night cycle for one of their most important celebrations: the coming of the fall equinox. Both calendars follow the ellipsis of the sun's orbit and its quickening pace at the equinoxes. The quickening pace of the fall equinox might summon an inherent sense of time coming to a close and the necessity to prepare for the oncoming winter and death itself. Hence, the ancients marked it as a celebration of central importance.

         On The Sequani Calendar and the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis, the fall equinox is marked as three part celebration of the coming of winter and the acceptance of death. The first phase of the 55 night celebration is the Sacred Marriage of the people to the land. The king, as representative of the tribe, marries the goddess of the earth and reaps her harvest. This takes place in the dark half of the lunar cycle of the month of Equos on The Sequani Calendar and in dark half of the lunar cycle of Metageitnion on the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis. The constellations of Pegasus, Equuleus, and Capella mark the celebration and the horse goddesses, such as Epona and Macha in Celtic mythology and Demeter Erinys in Greek mythology represent the celebration.

         The second phase of the 55 night celebration, the entire lunar month of Elembivious on The Sequani Calendar and the month of Boedromion on the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis, is set aside as a time to accept the oncoming winter and the end of the harvest as well as the end of one's own life. The seeds of the harvest are a symbol of the potential each person has to accept the inevitability of his or her death. They serve as an agricultural metaphor to the human experience. Both phases of the lunar cycle celebrate this experience and the stars are guides to the myths that enhance it. The Greek goddess, Demeter, and the Celtic goddesses of the Matrona are the representations of this celebration.

         The last phase of the 55 night celebration is the lunar cycle of Edrinios on The Sequani Calendar and the lunar cycle of Pyanopsion on the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis. This celebration is to ensure that the seeds of our labor are safely stored for the winter. It is marked by the Hyades, the constellation of the celebration of the Thesmophoria of Pyanopsion where the priestesses of Demeter store the seeds and bless the fields. The Hyades are a cluster of stars that represent Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. As the full moon passes between the Hyades, the festival is completed.

         The understanding of these calendars is the beginning of understanding the myth of the year and the myths of the Celtic and Greek cultures. It is also our pathway to understanding the natural cycles of time and the cycles of the earth in a context of our own experience. In the pages that follow, let the heavens be your guide to this one piece in the larger puzzle of gaining back our time as it is measured by the sun, the moon, and the stars.

         Equos, the ninth lunar cycle of the calendar, and the beginning of the celebration of the Fall Equinox on the Greek and Celtic calendars contains the guiding constellations of Pegasus, Equuleus, and Praesepe in Cancer indicating that the cycle of the Divine Horse begins. In the first half of the lunar cycle, the Goddess as horse is seen in her most powerful equine form. She represents controlled strength, independence, and love of spirit. Like the grain, her power is reined in, controlled and harvested. The seventeen nights of the First Harvest are celebrated and abundant grain is prayed for. As a grain goddess, she is a figure of fertility, wealth and sovereignty. Her horse aspect , an Indo-European addition, secures and increases her power. Fomalhaut in Pisces Austrini, known as the Southern Fish, is her guiding star.

         The second half, or the dark phase, of the lunar cycle beginning on the third quarter or waning moon, marks the Holy Nights of Equos. The dawn of the last three nights of the dark moon of Equos is especially noted as the beginning of the ceremonies on The Sequani Calendar. This would be the dawn of the 11th , 12th, and 13th nights of the dark phase of the moon. Praesepe, the star cluster in the constellation of Cancer commonly known as the manger, and the two horses, Pegasus and Equuleus, decorate the sky. Similarly, the dark half of the moon in the month of Metageitnion in the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis is marked as the first phase of the mysteries of Demeter, the grain goddess of Greek mythology.

         In both cultures, the Goddess, to ensure a good harvest must be united with the people. The king, as representative of the people, sanctifies this important time. The union is the Sacred Marriage of the king to the land as equine power and agricultural wealth. The agricultural significance of the grain that is harnessed and stored is enhanced by the sexual coupling of grain mother with a male companion. In Celtic mythology there are several references to the king coupling with a white mare to impart her blessings on society.

         Geraldus Cambrensis in his "Description of Ireland," relates the ritual in Ulster where the people are gathered together to witness the king-elect act out a union with the mare who is then sacrificed and cooked. He becomes the new king by bathing in the broth, eating the flesh, and drinking the broth. The king and the tribe are deemed potent and virile because they have invoked the equine divinity. The lexical support for this ceremony is evidenced in the name Epomeduos, or Epona, the Gaulish name for the compound of "horse" and the intoxicating broth, "medhu," or mead (Mallory and Adams 278). A Celtic artist depicts Epona in a small bronze figurine with ears of corn in her lap and a dish of corn in her right hand which is held high above her steed as a symbol of power and wealth. (Ross 287).

         The Irish horse goddess, Macha, inherits the tripartite functions of the Indo-European Horse Goddess as priestess, warrior, and symbol of wealth and fertility, and it is her last function as a symbol of wealth and fertility that is seen in her marriage to the farmer, Crunnchu. Macha greatly increases the wealth of Crunnchu and becomes pregnant with his children. However, she is compelled to take on a race with King Conchobor's horse at the end of her term of pregnancy due to the boasting of her husband. Even though she wins the race in the form of a horse, she gives birth to twins and curses all the men present for making her race. Before she dies in childbirth, she curses the men of Ulster with birth "pangs" which incapacitate them in battle for nine generations. Perhaps the myth is a warning to the king-elect to be judicious with his newly found power and wealth to avoid evoking the anger of the Divine Horse.

         Other figures in Celtic mythology bring the sovereignty of the land to the people through their Sacred Marriages. Medb of Connacht takes several husbands, each of whom becomes king when marrying her. Medb's name itself means a strong and intoxicating broth or mead. Rhiannon, or Rigantona, is the Great Queen of the Mabinogion as Divine Horse. Like Macha, she is so swift that no other horse can overtake her. Finally, Etain Echraide, "horse-riding" is the mate of Midir, the god of the Otherworld mound Bri Leith, and the wife of the King, Eochaid Airem.

         In Greek mythology, Demeter Erinys is celebrated in the dark half of this lunar cycle through her Sacred Marriage to Poseidon Hippius or Fomalhaut. This is the beginning of the 55 night celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter, is the goddess of the earth's fruits. She is called "the green one," "the bringer of fruit," and the "the one who fills the barn." As grain goddess, she represents the bringer of seasons. Equos and Metageitnion are lunar cycles of the harvest, and the celebrations in both cultures mark this time by the first event of the changing of seasons: the Sacred Marriage of grain mother to the king. In Greek mythology the King, Poseidon marries Demeter as horse goddess and her daughter, Persephone is married to Pluton, the Underworld god of wealth. Because the two goddess act a mirror figures of each other, both are abducted by gods associated with horses, darkness, death and winter. The Goddesses, as Spring and Summer, must marry Fall and Winter to complete the agricultural cycle of the seasons.

         Demeter is told of the abduction of Persephone by Pluton, and she begins searching for her daughter. She is referred to as Demeter Erinys, the angry one, because of her grief; she roamed the earth for nine days without eating, drinking, or bathing. "But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come, Hecate, with a torch in her hands, met her and spoke to her and told her news" of Persephone's abduction ( Richardson 293). The dawn of the lunar cycle brings a breakthrough for Demeter and is marked on both calendars. At this time, Poseidon pursues Demeter to Arcadia where Demeter changes into a mare and grazes with the horses of Oncus at Oncieum near Thelpusa. Not at all discouraged, Poseidon changes himself into a stallion and mates with her. She retreats to a cave and gives birth to twins: Areion, a horse, and Despoena, a girl.

         The Horse Goddess in both cultures is a symbol of fertility and maternity witnessed by the fact that she bears Divine Twins from the Sacred Marriage. In Indo-European mythology, the twins, or Asvins, are an element to the Sacred Marriage of the Horse Goddess. Demeter and Macha both give birth to a horse and a child. Macha's twins are called Emain Macha, the prehistoric burial mound in Ireland, and Demeter's twins are Areion and Despoena. Despoena was worshipped as a goddess in Arcadia around Phigala.

         The Divine Horse Goddess is an expression of "female procreativity and the cyclical rebirth and death of both plants and mankind. She was the Great Mother and the entire world was her Child. The essential event in those religions was the Sacred Marriage, in which the priestess periodically communed with the realm of the spirits within the earth to renew the agricultural year and the civilized life that grew upon the earth. Her male consort was a vegetative spirit, both her son who grew from the earth and her mate who would abduct her to the fecunding other realm as he possessed her upon his death" ( Ruck 38).

         Elembivious, the lunar cycle that follows Equos and the Sacred Marriage of the Horse Goddess, is lunar cycle devoted to accepting the oncoming of winter where the nights grow significantly longer and the days shorter. It is the last quarter of the year containing the Autumnal Equinox and is generally thought to be an inauspicious time or time to "claim" and settle affairs before the darkness sets in. In the agricultural cycle, it is time to store the grain from the harvest and pray against catastrophes. Spiritually, it is time to realize that the seeds of our labors if kept in good faith, will be the basis of our spiritual strength. To guide us through Elembivious, we need protection, vision, spiritual strength, and stored wealth.

         Elembivious begins as the elliptic has moved from South to North. The star of primary magnitude, or guiding star of the month, Capella in the constellation of Auriga, appears on the Eastern Horizon with the Hyades. When Mercury is visible in the sky, it has its brightest illumination because of the slant of the elliptic. Mars is a frequent companion to Mercury either in conjunction or in opposition on the horizon at twilight or dawn. This often happens in the last days of the lunar cycle right after the new moon. Sometimes Mars is straight up in the sky. This spectacular portrait in the sky concludes with the crossing of the river in the sky, Eridanus, which changes from a morning constellation to an evening constellation at this time.

         This celebration of the tribes is one of the most important celebrations as the stars indicate. Auriga, the constellation called "the Keeper of Livestock," is the charioteer from the Otherworld of death and winter. He guides us to spiritual realization of the strength of our own accomplishments by showing us that the seeds of our labors are safe in his chariot for the winter. In Celtic mythology, Auriga is the charioteer and path-maker for Kernunnos. Mercury is his high priest aspect, and Mars is his warrior aspect. In Greek mythology, Auriga is Hermes. The Autumnal Equinox complements Auriga as an assessor of the seeds of the harvest in a public Oenach or "Claim Time" on the full moon. When we have balanced our material and spiritual accounts, we cross the River, Eridanus. The crossing of the River in Celtic and Greek mythology, is the symbolic journey of the acceptance of life-in-death.

         Elembivious is both an agricultural and a spiritual journey. It is a celebration that has its roots in Neolithic times. The Pregnant Vegetation Goddess of Neolithic sites is part of a mystery where her daughter, the seed, dies each year and is resurrected in the spring. The daughter dies annually and the grain mother mourns her death. In this way, the annual cycle of regeneration and germination would be enacted on a yearly basis before the oncoming winter. A sacrificed pig was used as the symbol of the goddess' daughter to reinforce her connection with the earth and the quickly ripening grain. Three grain types, wheat, barley and millet were often stuffed inside clay figurines of the goddess near her altars (Gimbutas 16).

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