Back to Home Page or Contents Page or Religions and Sects or Index

Stonehenge and the Sequani Calendar


by Helen Benigni©

Although Stonehenge is surrounded by mystery and clouded in the mists of time, there is one practical use of the ancient monument: it is an astronomical observatory that measures the movements of the sun, the moon, and perhaps, the stars. The findings of astronomy may not lead us to the exactitudes of Neolithic life and the construction of the monument and its origins, but what is clear is that Stonehenge is still a viable and useful calendar of extreme accuracy. With the use of computers, Stonehenge, an absolute peak of astronomical genius, might be used as such today.

Moreover, an ancient bronze calendar tablet discovered near Coligny, France in 1897 believed to be the calendar of the tribe of Celts called the Sequani, sheds amazing light on the use of stone circles and in particular, Stonehenge. The astronomy of the ancients is easily understood and made applicable to today's night sky by understanding the basic principles upon which the text of the bronze calendar, called The Sequani Calendar, and Stonehenge is based. Keeping in mind the diversity of the stone circles of the ancient world and the diversity of the belief systems of Celts, especially in the myths of each tribe, certain basics of Druidic belief are a simple and clear beginning to understanding the calendar systems of these ancient astronomer-priests.

In 1988, Alban Wall published a paper in the Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications (Vol.17) that summarizes the similarities of Stonehenge and The Sequani Calendar. According to Wall, both Stonehenge and The Sequani Calendar are luni-solar, both are based on a 19 year cycle or the Metonic cycle of the moon, and both have months that basically alternate between 30 and 29 nights. Both can be expanded to 235 months that are divided into light and dark halves which begin at the first quarter moon. The months, or as the ancients called them, "moonths" have the full moon marked on the eighth night of the light half of each lunar cycle and the new moon as the eighth night of each dark cycle. On The Sequani Calendar, the full moon is designated as the Oenach or people's holiday and the new moon is the Druid's Holy Night.

Each marks the solar year holidays at the solstices and the equinoxes as well as the cross-quarter days the same as they are celebrated in Neo-Pagan circles today: Winter Solstice, Imbolc, Spring Solstice, May Day, Summer Solstice, Lugnasad, Fall Equinox, and Samhain. These well-known solar holidays were easily adapted to the Roman calendar that we use today, but the moonths were never transferred to our calendar as they involve the precision that a luni-solar calendar demands in order that each lunar cycle remain one moonth or month. Stonehenge and The Sequani Calendar, as mentioned above, both retain the luni-solar months and yearly cycle so that they follow the moon and the sun with "extremely close reconciliation of lunar with solar time" (Wall 30). To do this, The Sequani Calendar allows for an Intercalary Moonth every two years and six months. Both, however, give special prominence to the solstices.

The year on Stonehenge and The Sequani Calendar is divided into two distinct halves: a light and a dark half. The light half begins at the Winter Solstice when the new light of the year begins on December 21st, and the dark half begins at the Summer Solstice with the disappearing of the longest summer day on June 21st. In their Winter Solstice Oenach, the new year is celebrated on the full moon or eighth day of the moonth of the Winter Solstice. Similarly, the Summer Solstice is celebrated on the mid-point of the lunar cycle of the Summer Solstice moonth. The holiday celebrated in the dark half indicates special observance of the Summer Solstice in the darkest part of the moonth which is the eighth day of the dark half of the moon or the Holy Night of the new moon. Light is welcomed as the light in the darkness and cold of winter and darkness is welcomed as the relief from the long summer days.

Alban Wall observes that both Stonehenge and The Sequani Calendar differ from most other luni-solar calendars in their special prominence given to the solstices, their amazing accuracy of the reconciliation of lunar with solar time, and their division of the year into two halves with their year beginning on the Winter Solstice. Moreover, both calendars differ from all other luni-solar calendar systems relative to the marking of the special days of the moon in each moonth such as the beginning of the moonth as the first quarter or sixth day of the waxing moon, the full moon on the eighth night of the first half of the moonth and the new moon of the eighth night of the dark half of the moonth. They also differ from all other calendars as to their marking of the Winter and Summer Solstices.

Wall remarks that "It is highly significant that no lunar calendar other than the Coligny system, anywhere in the world or at any time in history, began its months at the first quarter moon- except the one embodied in the stones and holes of Stonehenge" (32). In the first century B.C., the historian Diodorus Siculus remarked that in the regions beyond the lands of the Gauls, there lies an island where the moon god visits every nineteen years, "the period in which the return of the stars to the same place in the heavens is accomplished; and for this reason the nineteen year period is called by the Greeks 'the year of Meton.' " Here, states Siculus, is a "notable temple which is spherical in shape" (quoted in Wall 32).

The fact that Stonehenge and The Sequani Calendar alone begin their moonths on the sixth day of the moon and that the island culture referred to by Siculus in his description of Stonehenge uses the Metonic cycle of the moon is strong evidence to correlate these highly developed systems of calendars which might have taken eons to develop and perfect. Siculus' statement as to the genius of the accomplishment that marks the stars returning to the same place in the heavens in the Metonic cycle might draw another important parallel between Stonehenge and The Sequani Calendar: if the stars are measured on The Sequani Calendar would it not then be highly possible for the stars to be marked by Stonehenge? Why wouldn't a group of highly educated astronomers and creators of a calendar system in stone and bronze include a map of the stars in their calculations of the cycles of the moon and the sun in their stone circles?

Wall has designated that the outer circle of Stonehenge, or what he calls the "Sun Circle," is used to count the days in the year by advancing a marker stone two holes each day, probably at Sunrise and Sunset in the ceremonies of the Celts. This circle gives a total of the days of the solar year if done thirteen times to equal 364 days. The next two inner circles of Stonehenge, traditionally called the "Y" and "Z" holes designate the lunar moonths by advancing one hole each day, first around the "Y" circle, then around the "Z" circle. Wall calls these the "Lunar Circles." The next inner circle, The Sarsen Stones, symbolizes the 29.5 nights of the moonth, one megalith being half size. The magnificent Trilithon horseshoe represents the phases of the moon, and the Year Dial of stones within them is used to count the nineteen year cycle of 235 months. Where then could the stars be measured on this ancient calendar?

A group of researchers including Helen Benigni, Eadhmonn Ua Cuinn and Barbara Carter, have translated the original reconstruction of the calendar found in the headwaters of the Seine at Coligny. Using the reconstruction of the bronze tablets done by Eoin MacNeill for the Royal Irish Academy in 1926, our group translated the calendar by silk-screening concentric circles to represent each moonth of the first year. Using computers to translate the astronomy into the year 2001, Barbara, our astronomer, was able to identify the stars, the moons and the sun marked in the ancient text.

Eadhmonn, a master stone-carver and artist, and a crew of graphic artists, including Mark Butervaugh, designed the Celtic circles for each month, and I researched the goddesses and gods that told the story of the stars, the moon and the sun from their Iron Age references to their Neolithic roots using my training in comparative mythology.

As we move through the second year of the calendar for reproduction for the public, we are gaining a keener awareness of the stars presented in the text. The Sequani Calendar marks a star of primary magnitude at the beginning of each moonth designated as the PRIN. These twelve primary stars appear on the Eastern Horizon shortly after sunset when the moon is a first quarter moon in its sixth day of waxing, the first day of each moonth for the Celts. They are easy to identify as they are the brightest in the night sky and appear first to the naked eye. The constellations of these stars are deities of the Celts, and as they travel the night sky through the seasons, their stories are told. In turn, groups of constellations in each season tell the stories of the seasons of the year.

Although the year is a circle without beginning or end, the beginning of the light half of the year appears at the Winter Solstice in the first lunar cycle of the year called Samonios. The PRIN, or first magnitude star to guide us on the first quarter moon, is the twin stars of Castor and Pollux, the Divine Twins of both Greek and Celtic mythology. In Celtic mythology, the twins symbolize a strong birth, a single birth from one egg containing mortal and immortal life. Twins such as Fiachra and Conn in the Irish tale of the "Fate of the Children of Lir" and Nissyen and Evnissyen in the Welsh Mabinogion exemplify the Divine Twins. In the second moonth, Dumannios, the guiding star or PRIN is Sirius and in the third moonth, Rivros, it is Regulus. Both these stars as well as Orion are representatives of the Great Goddess of the Winter Sky: Brigantia in Britain, Brigit, in Ireland, Brighid in Wales, and Brigantu in Gaul. Brigit is a goddess known for nurturing new life. In the fourth and fifth lunar cycles of the year, the moonths containing the Spring Equinox, the gods of sacrifice, Esus, Teutates, and Taranis are represented in the PRIN of Anagantios which is Arcturus, a reddish-orange star that signals a time of blood-letting and self-sacrifice. Known cross-culturally as The Dying Gods, these deities exemplify that self-sacrifice is the highest form of love. In Ogronios, the fifth lunar cycle, the rising star of Vega denotes resurrection. Vega is the first star of the Summer Triangle, a symbol not only of resurrection or of the Vulture and Raven appearing in the heavens in flight, but of the coming of the Great Mother Goddess of the summer, the Mistress of Birds, Water and of the Earth.

The next two lunar cycles of the year, Cutios and Giamonios, the sixth and seventh moonths, complete the Summer Triangle with their primary stars of Deneb and Altair, respectively. Cutios, whose PRIN is Deneb, in Cygnus the Swan, is a month for celebrating the gift of the waters of life as represented in Sequana of the Seine River and namesake of the Sequani; Boann, goddess of the River Boyne in Ireland; or Danu of the Danube in central Europe. Like the Raven goddesses, the water-bird goddesses are one aspect of a Triskele of Goddesses that make up the Great Mother Goddess of the Neolithic tribes represented in the night sky as the Summer Triangle. Giamonios, the moonth of the Summer Solstice, whose PRIN is Altair, is the another bird aspect of the goddess. Altair is most closely associated with Lugh, the eagle, who is the son of Tailtiu, the goddess of the earth. With the Summer Triangle complete, the Triskele reaches its full power.

In Simivisonnios, the eight lunar cycle, the constellation of The Plough is upright signaling the month of the first harvest of fruits and vegetables. Altair is still the guiding star of primary magnitude and Tailtiu is the goddess who declares Lugnasad be in honor of her son, Lugh. Marriage contracts are renewed or dispelled, fruits of labor are shared, and feats of physical prowess and gamesmanship become displays of a productive life. Lugh, symbol of the mastering of life, is an all-wise deity, guarding our fruits of labor. Likewise, in the month of Equos, following Simivisonnios, the gaming and horse-racing so important to the concept of the Divine Horse in Celtic mythology continues. The PRIN of Equos is Equuleus representative of Epona, the horse goddess. Known also as Macha in Ireland and Rhiannon in Wales, the horse goddess is a symbol of independent strength, prowess, and physical challenge. In the Otherworld of the Celts, horse-racing, feasting, and other such pursuits represent the ultimate peace and stability that attention to Epona brings us.

The last season of the year, the Fall, is perhaps the most derivative of ancient ritual and therefore often considered the beginning of the year by Neo-Pagan cults today. The ancient rituals of the Neolithic tribes at the onset of winter are clearly retained in the rituals of the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis for the Greeks and in The Sequani Calendar for the Celts. The PRIN marked on The Sequani Calendar for the ninth moonth of the year, Elembivios, is Capella, keeper of livestock and guardian of wealth, and the guiding constellation for the last two moonths, Edrinios and Cantlos, is the river in the sky, Erindanus. The rituals of the ancients involve the high priest, or what the Indo-Europeans called the "pont-dheh-ker," who is responsible as a transgressor of souls into the otherworld of death and winter as well as a guardian of the wealth of the tribe; that wealth must be blessed and stored for the winter as the seeds were originally stored by the ancient tribes of Europe and the Mediterranean.

In Celtic mythology, this ancient high-priest of the forests and all important deity of the tribes is known as Cernunnos. As the ecliptic has moved from South to North in the night sky, the PRIN, or guiding star of the month, Capella, appears on the Eastern Horizon on the sixth day of the waxing moon to guide us through Elembivios with the protection, vision, and spiritual strength of Cernunnos. Cernunnos accompanies us through the onset of winter. In the moonth of Edrinios, he crosses the river in the sky, Erindanus as the Milky Way meets with the elliptic. To the ancients, crossing the river symbolizes the crossing from one realm into another, from life to death, and in this case, from fall to winter. As seen in the hero's journey in the mythology of several cultures, the river acts as a medium of transfer from one spiritual plane to another.

We arrive through long dark nights of winter to begin the cycle of life again with the celebration of the entrance of the Winter Solstice light. As a full and strong beam of light crosses the threshold of the great mound at Newgrange and the Winter Solstice light is welcomed into the circle of stones at Stonehenge, we rejoice in another completion of the great cycle of the year. The mastery of the solar light, the careful calculation to keep each moonth following the moon's varying course, and the identification of each primary star in a moonth gives us a sense of time and sense about how our ancestors grasped for some identifiable part of eternity by bringing the heavens down to earth. Their and our participation in the celestial will only broaden our understanding of the infinite. Might we now begin our journey through time to re-capture this wonderful sense of the infinite by tracing the stars on Stonehenge?

The Months of the Sequani Calendar

Collect back your time. It is measured here by the Sun, the Moon and the stars. Look to the East about one and a half hours after sunset. You will see stars of primary magnitude (very bright). These stars will guide you through the hours of the nights and the moons or months of the year. Count the days around the primary phases of the Moon and you will find the natural weeks. Celebrate the Sun and Moon on the Oenachs with as many people as you can. Mercury and Venus are always very close to the Sun. Where they are noted, you will find them very close to the horizon at sunset or sunrise. Enjoy your time.

Our book, The Myth of the Year reveals the astronomy underlying Celtic and Greek mythology using the calendar of the Druids discovered in Coligny, France and the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis of ancient Greece. Our second book, The Goddess and the Bull: A Study in Minoan-Mycenaean Mythology is a study of the archetype of the nineteen year cycle of The Goddess and the Bull, and Finally our third book The Mythology of Venus: Ancient Calendars and Archaeoastronomy. For orders and information please contact the publisher, University Press of America, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200 Lanham, Maryland, 20706 USA 1-301-459-3366 https://rowman.com/Action/Search/RLPG/helen%20benigni

CONTACTS

For calendar orders and information, please contact: e-mail barbara@clope.com or write to Helen Benigni e-mail benignih@dewv.edu or Barbara Carter P.O. Box 1694, Elkins, West Virginia 26241
www.sequanicalendar.com

 

SAMONIOS

The month of Samonios is a month of miraculous births beginning with the appearance of the twin stars of Castor and Pollux on the Eastern Horizon. These miraculously born twins, from an egg containing both mortal and immortal potential, bridge the gap between this world and the Otherworld with their appearance on the first quarter moon heralding the Holy Nights of Winter Solstice. Further into the month shortly after the third quarter of the moon, a trio of stars including Rigel, Betelguese, and Castor march across the sky to illuminate this Oenach of light and birth.
Literally translated as "seed fall," SAMONIOS is the month when the light of the Dagda, the seed of his loins, penetrates the womb of the earth and creates life. This light is symbolized by the sunrise of the Winter Solstice penetrating the inner chambers of the sacred mounds of the Neolithic peoples. At Newgrange, the sacred mound of the Bru na Boinne, the light of the Winter Solstice shines through a roof-box of white quartz for seventeen minutes to dramatically illuminate the cruciform chamber of the passage tomb. Here, the stone-carved geometric motifs common to trance states of shamanic ecstasy amplify the light in order that the observer may experience the light of life bestowed by the solar deity.

This solar alignment initiates the light half of the year. Mistletoe is hung as a symbol of the immortal love that the good father, Dagda brought to Boand, the goddess of the Bru na Boinne. Oengus, the son of their union and the Lord of the Sid mound, guards the entrance to the Otherworld and immortal life.

 

MAT

The +// /+/ //+ are fully translated. They note the passage of the Moon and/or Sun over the intersections of the galactic equator and the ecliptic, or the same over the intersection of the celestial equator and the ecliptic. These are noted as GE+E and CE+E.

 

DVMANNIOS

Dvmannios begins as Sirius rises on the eastern horizon with the appearance of the first quarter moon and Regulus follows as the guiding star of primary magnitude of the month. Seven days after the full moon of DVMANNIOS, mid-winter holy nights begin with celebration of Imbolg. The celebration of the mid-winter centers on Brigantu, the Celtic goddess of Gaul later known as Brigantia in Britain and Brigit in Ireland.

Brigantu, "the Exalted One," is the guardian spirit of mid-winter light. She is responsible for kindling inspiration and igniting the well-spring of human thought like a single flame preventing darkness. Her territory is the human spirit as she carefully tends the fire of poetic truth and art. Moreover, she is the healer of the dark, winter night of the soul. A single flame symbolizes her enduring light in the mid-winter darkness and her holy nights are marked by burning a single candle.

Brigantu's healing powers enrich her tapestry of abilities to invoke the human spirit to creativity by combining fire with water. Here, as goddess of the spring and wells of the earth, she endears her powers of healing upon us even more powerfully than before. She appears in her virgin aspect, often with nine nymphs who guard her sacred wells, to admonish our fears of losing the healing waters of life. Nourished by the milk of sacred white cows and born of the Father God, the Dagda, Brigantu herself is capable of merging fire with water. As small animals are brought inside to the hearth fires and ewes begin to give milk to their young, Brigantu guides us through the cold winter of earth by symbolizing the fire and water needed to nourish the human soul. ANM

 

DVMANNIOS

Dvmannios begins as Sirius rises on the eastern horizon with the appearance of the first quarter moon and Regulus follows as the guiding star of primary magnitude of the month. Seven days after the full moon of DVMANNIOS, mid-winter holy nights begin with celebration of Imbolg. The celebration of the mid-winter centers on Brigantu, the Celtic goddess of Gaul later known as Brigantia in Britain and Brigit in Ireland.

Brigantu, "the Exalted One," is the guardian spirit of mid-winter light. She is responsible for kindling inspiration and igniting the well-spring of human thought like a single flame preventing darkness. Her territory is the human spirit as she carefully tends the fire of poetic truth and art. Moreover, she is the healer of the dark, winter night of the soul. A single flame symbolizes her enduring light in the mid-winter darkness and her holy nights are marked by burning a single candle.

Brigantu's healing powers enrich her tapestry of abilities to invoke the human spirit to creativity by combining fire with water. Here, as goddess of the spring and wells of the earth, she endears her powers of healing upon us even more powerfully than before. She appears in her virgin aspect, often with nine nymphs who guard her sacred wells, to admonish our fears of losing the healing waters of life. Nourished by the milk of sacred white cows and born of the Father God, the Dagda, Brigantu herself is capable of merging fire with water. As small animals are brought inside to the hearth fires and ewes begin to give milk to their young, Brigantu guides us through the cold winter of earth by symbolizing the fire and water needed to nourish the human soul. ANM

 

RIVROS

In the Celtic Calendar, Rivros is a precarious and often dangerous time. Lodged between the sacred nights of Imbolc and the Vernal Equinox, its primary guiding star is Regulus. The figure most prominent in mythology associated with both the weaving of fate and impending doom is the Morrigan, a triple goddess of Celtic mythology. For this reason, we focus on the powers of the Morrigan during RIVROS to be both aware and resistant to her supernatural influence.

The root belief in the force of the Morrigan comes from the bird and snake goddesses of Neolithic times. She is a primal fear of the unknown powers of the regeneration of violence inherent in our beings. She is, therefore, sexually attractive and deadly. Most important, she is able to shape-change into succinct forms as to be the least recognizable to our inner eye.

The Morrigan is one of a triskele of war goddesses whose insatiable hunger for human carnage is temporarily satisfied when she shape-changes into a raven or crow to devour the defeated on the battlefield. In this aspect, she is called Badb Catha, the Battle Raven . The victor of battle will always be the man or woman who flies with the raven.

As the Morrigan is nourished with blood, she is associated with the breaking of the hymen, menstruation, and childbirth. Her powers are those of persuasion and magic rather than physical prowess, and her allure is feminine and sexual. According to legend, she will appear to those willing to engage in violence or conflict as a stunning, red-haired woman in a cloak of multi-colors
.
The Morrigan is as ancient and powerful as human memory and her appearance is an indication to be conscious of the thunder within. MAT

 

ANAGANTIOS

Anagantios perhaps more than any other month of the Celtic calendar is a month centering on the Holy Nights. The word "anagantios" can be translated to mean "stay home time" inferring that the people's Oenach is a quiet celebration on the full moon and the Holy Nights that are marked by a cross, and therefore of great importance, are the Holy Nights of the Vernal Equinox on the waning moon and the new moon, a time to turn inward for contemplation and renewal of spirit. The star of Arcturus, which bears a reddish-orange color, is rising on the Eastern Horizon to mark the beginning of the month, and its hue signals a time of blood letting and self-sacrifice. Quiet contemplation, renewal of spirit and self-sacrifice characterize the month. ANAGANTIOS is the time for sacrifice and OGRONIOS, the following month, is the time for resurrection.

Self-sacrifice is the highest form of love. In Celtic mythology, the Gaulish gods of sacrifice are the triune of Esus, Taranis, and Teutantes. Each represents an element of sacrifice that one person makes for the rest. Esus is a woodcutter deity associated with the felling of trees such as the willow. In his iconography, he is accompanied by egrets, the sacred healing birds of the elderly and sick. It is most likely that Esus is the deity that accepted the elderly, the dying, and the sick and relieved their pain if they offered themselves as sacrifices for the tribe in times of need. He severs the sacrificed from the tribe as he severs the branch from the tree allowing them to pass to the Otherworld as free bird-spirits. Taranis is the thunder god who transfers the souls of those sacrificed in battle and those captured in war, and Teutantes is the god of the people, the true tribal father who takes care of all others sacrificed for the tribe. ANM

 

OGRONIOS

The month of Ogronios begins with the rising star of Vega on the eastern horizon and the star of Polaris clearly in view. Polaris, the North Star, is a point of ascension for the rising soul to enter the spiritual realm of apotheosis--the state of oneness free in the cosmos. In the Celtic calendar, the Tree, or world axis, is the medium for the soul’s ascension and the fires of Beltain are the medium for its purification. Beltain, like Samhuin, is an eve when the doors of the Otherworld are open and souls transgress.

The Tree erected at Beltain is the Celtic symbol of tribal cohesiveness; it is the center of life and its vegetative spirit is worshipped as the phallus. The bile, or sacred tree of toreutic tradition, symbolizes the material body ready to give rise to its soul. Sacrifice and prayer are conducted at the foot of the celestial column and direct communication with the spiritual planes are accessed on this axis. The ecstatic mystical experience is achieved through the realization of perennial fecundity.

The passage on the Tree of Life is accompanied by the fires of Beltain. Belenus, the shining Celtic god of fire, is the source of purification for both livestock and humans. The need-fires of Beltain are kindled in order that the material soul give rise to the sun soul or spirit of fire, Belenus. Two fires, the double helix of Beltain, symbolize the sunset and the sunrise, yesterday and today. We pass through them to our heart-soul, our higher solar self. In essence, we say to ourselves: “We have the power to ascend the world body to the higher self .” Solar energy is ours and the season of light begins.

This ancient festival guides us in this season of renewal and resurrection and Belenus, the spirit ancestor of fire becomes our divine fire within. MAT

 

CVTIOS

The importance of springs, wells, lakes and rivers in the Celtic Calendar is most poignant in the month of Cvtios. Planting time begins when the primary star of Deneb, the Swan, in the Milky Way joins Vega on the eastern horizon. It is a time to concentrate on the fertile, life giving water of divine origin. The veneration of the sacred sources of water is expressed through the worship of Boand, mother goddess of the River Boyne.

Boand is the most dominant goddess of the Celtic water-nymphs and goddesses who inherit the power to protect and nourish life by protecting its source. She is a sacred mother and like the Gaulish Divine Matrona, her supernatural forces are strength and fertility. Her clear, placid-blue waters evoke a gentle aspect of femininity and her sexual liaisons with the father god infer a peaceful, maternal sensuality. Lakes are also a sacred dwelling place of divine origin for Boand and her kindred spirits.

The goddess is most often depicted wearing a full-length pleated garment with a crown of stylized foliage. She holds an aquatic plant, a vessel from which water is pouring, or she is reclining on water weeds. With her are her sacred cows, divine white creatures with red ears. Like Boand, her heifers emanate fertility and maternity.

In a time of planting and plowing the earth to make ready for seeds, Boand’s influence is imperative as she draws our attention to the life sources of water, the cult of the sacred spring and the demarcation and boundaries that make ready the earth to support life. A territorial and protective goddess, “She of the White Cattle” will guide us to nourish and respect the clarity of life. MAT

 

OGMIOS

The Intercalary Moon of the calendar is included before the Winter or the Summer Solstice as a time collected by the Druid astronomers for the people in order that their calendar balances the lunar and solar cycles. Every two and one half years, in order to justify the difference between the 365 days of the solar year and the 355 days of the lunar year, the Druids add an intercalary moon alternately before each solstice. The nights of the Intercalary Moon represent, in their respective order, each moon throughout the year. In a sense, it is a bringing together of lunar time to balance solar power.

Ogmios the Gaulish cognate of the Irish Ogma and the British Omia, is the god of eloquence, poetry, literature and learning. Because of the similarity of his name to the other Gaulish months of the calendar and his identification as a solar deity leading others into wisdom and unity, he is chosen to represent the Intercalary Moon. He is the son of ancient wisdom that balances solar and lunar time by enticing lunar deities, captivated and chained by gold and amber strands to his tongue, to follow his leadership. Keeping the moon faces behind him tied lavishly to his own being, his strength and shining heroics remind us that he is descended from the Sol Invictus or Solar Wheel of the Indo-European Divinities.

In Scots-Gaelic, Ogmios means "young month." And indeed, as a young god, Ogmios is all-powerful. On the coins of the Armorican tribes of ancient Gaul, an Ogmios figure is depicted with radiant curls for hair as rays of the sun. Accompanied by the lyre and the boar, both symbols of the year, from his mouth emanate beaded strands with small heads or moons attached. As a translator of ancient wisdom, Ogma of the Tuatha De Danaan of Ireland is the inventor of Ogham, the sacred script of the Druids. He rules from the Sidhe mound of Airceltrai as a champion druid and warrior like his successors, Cu Chulainn and Bran, inventors of their own Ogham.

Perhaps, his most important role, and his most spiritual role is one similar to Hermes and Hercules in Greek mythology. As hermes, he is a transgressor of souls and path-maker to the goddesses and gods, as Hercules, he is the hero who travels through the constellations of the night sky traversing the years. Ogmios guides us to higher knowledge by represneting time beyond the year. His moon is a time to contemplate the genius of bringing together lunar and solar energy to transcend our yearly cycle into the spirals of the precession through the stars, the moon and sun as they move toward eternity.

 

GIAMONIOS

Altair, the brightest star in the constellation of the eagle, flies high in the month of Giamonios as it joins Deneb and Vega to form the Summer Triangle. When the Summer Triangle dominates the heavens, the full power of the sun’s rays are felt in the Summer Solstice and the forests are abundant. The intoxication of the earth and its riches are apparent in emerald splendor and the celebration of summer begins with the nine Holy Nights of Summer.

Midsummer fires are kindled to the solar deities, Belenus and Lugh, and the wealth of midsummer forest life is complemented by the spiritual enlightenment of the solar deities. The message is one of both appreciation for the abundance of physical and spiritual life. While the life on earth is in full bloom, we kindle fires to everlasting life on earth and in the Otherworld. Lugh, a solar deity, flies into the highest branches of the sacred oak as a spirit messenger of immortality and strength. Like the real eagle, Lugh, the mythological representative, is held in great awe when he leaves the oak and soars directly into the sun's rays absorbing the solstice energy. As a soul in bird form , he transforms his austere beauty and power into spiritual energy.

GIAMONIOS is also one of the sacred times the Druids harvest the mistletoe. In this month, the Druids cherish the sacred right to the earth’s powers. The mistletoe is collected from the oak boughs in great ceremony because the strength of the mistletoe is at its full height at this time of the summer. The mistletoe, like the midsummer fire, is a symbol of immortality. It is an evergreen that is placed in the grave of the Celtic peoples as a symbol of spiritual transformation and mystic beauty. ANM

 

SIMIVISONN

When the constellation of The Plough is upright, a position indicating that it is no longer in use, the month of the first fruits and harvest begins.

Simivisonn initiates the celebration of the earth as fruit-bearing mother. The labors of fishing, stock-tending, hay saving , berry-picking and vegetable harvesting mark the advent of the season when the Celtic earth goddess is worshipped. The goddess becomes the sovereign of the land.

Tailtiu, goddess of these seasonal feasts, embodies the magical powers of the female as the divine mother and patron of agriculture. Oenachs or fairs are held on the mounds of earth where she resides and great assemblies of trade and agriculture mark her festivities. Born of Maghmor, the Father God of the Great Plain, she toils to clear the woodlands for farming. A descendant of the Neolithic vegetation goddesses, she presides over a land of plenty.

In a mythological battle symbolizing the incorporation of a new age of Bronze and Iron that superceded the agricultural age of the Mother-Goddess, Tailtiu is aided by her foster-son, Lugh. When Lugh and the Tuatha de Danaan defeat the ancient deities Tailtiu’s power is retained and respected by her son who declares that the Calends of August be commemorated to the goddess in his name as the festival of Lugnasad.

Lugnasad, the festival of SIMIVISONN, is celebrated by balancing life-accounts in the personal sphere. Marriage contracts are renewed or dispelled, fruits of labor are shared, and feats of physical prowess and gamesmanship become displays of a productive life. Lugh, symbol of the mastering of life, is an all-wise deity guarding our fruits of labor. His intellectual capacities, his wisdom and knowledge, and his youthful demeanor assure us of the inner peace that comes with productive endeavors. As guardian of the Earth Mother, Lugh reminds us to respect the source of a bountiful life. MAT

 

EQVOS

Eqvos is a month devoted to the horse goddess of Celtic mythology: Epona. As Eqvos falls after the feasts of Lugnasad, where horse races and demonstrations of physical feats were practiced, a fitting tribute to the horse follows when the rising constellation of Pegasus is seen on the Eastern Horizon. Equuleus, another constellation of antiquity, rises with Pegasus and complements the theme of the prominence of the horse goddess as a symbol of independent strength, sensuality, and prowess.

Epona belongs to a long-standing tradition of Celtic horse goddesses who reach back as far as three thousand years ago. In ancient Gaul, her consort is a young warrior and she is often associated with sensual pleasure and physical challenge. She wears a short- sleeved, draped garment, carries a bird on her shoulder, and rides side-saddle on a white mare. In our imagination, she represents distinguished bravery and extraordinary ability.

In the Otherworld, horse-racing, feasting, and other such pursuits symbolize the ultimate peace and stability that attention to Epona brings us. By reining the equine power, we celebrate a delicate balance of controlled strength and independence. The freedom of the horse is channeled by Epona's gentle tactics and love of spirit. It is no wonder that her name means "Divine Horse." ANM

 

ELEMBIVIOS

Elembivios begins the darkest quarter of the year as the nights grow longer and the days shorter. Holy nights of the Autumnal Equinox are celebrated and the star of primary magnitude that appears on the Eastern Horizon to mark ELEMBIVIOS is Capella, the keeper of livestock. This time is literally known as "claim time" to the Celts. It is a time to assess property and wealth and use it judiciously throughout the winter. Cernunnos, the antlered stag-god, a dispenser of prosperity offers his wisdom and prowess, his strength and masculine powers, fecund and immortalizing as a guide through the onset of winter.

Cernunnos, in his animal aspect, is a protector of the stag and the bull, both symbols of material wealth and prosperity. As lord of the hunt and keeper of animals, Cernunnos controls the stag and the bull respectively. Beasts bow their heads in obeisance to his horned, black image and humans look to him for guidance n controlling the wealth he has amassed. Often portrayed in a Buddhic sitting position, antlered and solemn, Cernunnos acts as a spiritual guide to the onset of darkness.

Cernunnos, in his warrior aspect, is able to conquer darkness in the form of the serpent, a symbol of the chthonic regions of the Otherworld. In one hand, Cernunnos firmly grasps the ram-headed serpent of darkness and in the other, he holds a torc, symbol of immortality. He conquers the fear of stored wealth or underground treasure that the serpent guards like a dragon guarding its hoard. Men who are not able, like Cernunnos, to control their wealth are at the mercy of the serpent. Cernunnos, divine ancestor, conquering god of the chthonic worlds, balances, like the balanced light of the Equinox, the power between this world and the Otherworld. ANM

 

EDRINIOS

The month of Edrinios is the darkest month of the calendar. In the beginning of the month, there is no guiding light; there is an absence of a star of primary magnitude. However, the constellation of Eridanus is rising on the Eastern Horizon when the first quarter moon has peaked in its phase. Edrinios, the River in the Sky, is our guide and the Milky Way, the Heavenly River, complements Eridanus. Both rivers are highly visible and act as sacred paths for the warrior's journey. The month of Edrinios is a time of preparation and arbitration for the soul. We are challenged, as the great demi-gods of Celtic mythology are challenged, to follow the river in the hero's journey to our spiritual strength and center.

The motif of the hero's journey down the river of life is a preparation for the oncoming Oenach of the Warrior's Samhuin at the end of the Month of Edrinios. This, in turn, is a preparation for the Druid's Samhuin at the end Cantlos where the ancestors, the Sidhe, walk the earth. In order for the warrior to confront the own fears and his own death. Spiritually, we prepare ourselves, as heroes, to face our nemesis, then we are able to face death in a larger context. In an agricultural sense, we face the coming of winter by preparing our winter quarters, bringing in the animals from the fields, and putting up the seed, then we face the bitter cold, darkness, and death of winter itself.

Cu Chulainn, the greatest of Celtic heroes, is challenged to fight his battles at the ford of the river in Cuailnge. He is our symbol of heroic bravery in the confrontation of his nemesis. At the ford, Cu Chulainn must battle the war goddess, the Morrigan, kill his friend, Ferdiad, and witness his own death by the Badb who stains the water red as a signal of his blood to be shed. Like the Gaulish raven-goddess, Nantotsuelta or "Winding River," the Morrigan and the Badv are goddesses that challenge and heal the hero. The river becomes a feminine source of both courage and survival. MAT

 

CANTLOS

Cantlos literally called "song time," is the month of the Celtic Calendar when the summer constellations are replaced by the winter constellations and the guiding stars of winter: Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, and Rigel. The last visible star of the summer constellations, Deneb, the Swan of the Summer Triangle, is the symbol of transformation into the darkness of winter. Likewise, the swan drawn chariots of the solar deities in Celtic mythology are symbols of metamorphosis in the journey to the Otherworld. A triune of solar deities drawn by swans with gold and silver chains heralds the journey across the night sky into the setting sun of the Otherworld accompanied by the swan's magical song.

Foremost in that triune of solar deities is Samhuin, the brother of Goibhniu and Cian, all three sons of Dian Cecht, the Celtic god of medicine. Samhuin, like his father and brothers, belongs to a solar cult of healing and magic that forges materials from fire or solar energy. Fires extinguished at sunset on Samhuin, the Holy Night of the solar deity, are rekindled by Druids, most famous of those being Mog Ruith, who in the white-speckled head dress of the bird, lights the ceremonial fires at sunrise.

The journey to the Otherworld culminates at the lakeside or the cave's entrance, the opening to the Otherworld. Most notable of these are the Loch Bel Dracon and the Cave at Cruachan in Ireland. At the Samhuin, a procession of the ancestors emerges from these Otherworld entrances and crosses the sacred paths on the earth. The parade of spirits from the land of enchantment is visible as the thin veil that separates this world from the Otherworld is temporarily lifted.

When the host of spirits returns to the Otherworld and the solar deities recede into the winter darkness, the new year is heralded by that link or opening between two worlds most appropriately symbolized by the silver and gold chains that bind the swans in pairs, one bird of this world and one of the Otherworld, messengers of the gods to remind us that the natural and spiritual worlds are connected by those fragile links. ANM


©Helen Benigni 1/3/14 Elkins, West Virginia