Runic calendar


A Runic calendar (also Rune staff or Runic Almanac) is a perpetual calendar, variants of which have been used in Northern Europe until the 19th century.

The calendar is based on the 19-year-long Metonic cycle, correlating the Sun and the Moon. Runic calendars were written on parchment or carved onto staves of wood, bone, or horn. The oldest one known, and the only one from the Middle Ages, is the Nyköping staff from Sweden, believed to date from the 13th century. Most of the several thousand which survive are wooden calendars dating from the 16th and the 17th centuries. During the 18th century, the Runic calendars had a renaissance, and around 1800, such calendars were made in the form of tobacco boxes in brass.

A typical Runic calendar consisted of several horizontal lines of symbols, one above the other.

Special days like solstices, equinoxes, and celebrations (including Christian holidays and feasts) were marked with additional lines of symbols.

The calendar does not prove knowledge of the length of the tropical year or of the occurrence of leap years. It is set at the beginning of each year by observing the first full moon after the winter solstice. The first full moon also marked the date of Disting, a pagan feast and a fair day.

Runstavar lunds historiska museum
Rune staffs at the Museum of History in Lund, Sweden.
Sami Runic Calendar studied by Eirikr Magnusson published 1877
Sami runic calendar.
Ancient runic calendar from Sāmsala
Runic calendar from the Estonian island of Saaremaa with each month on a separate wooden board.

Marks

Runic calendar diagram
Detail of a Runic Calendar, showing the three rows of symbols. Based on page 104 of F.E. Farwerck's Noord-Europese Mysteriën [1]

On one line, 52 weeks of 7 days were laid out using 52 repetitions of the first seven runes of the Younger Futhark. The runes corresponding to each weekday varied from year to year.

On another, many of the days were marked with one of 19 symbols representing the 19 Golden numbers, the years of the Metonic cycle. In early calendars, each of the 19 years in the cycle was represented by a rune; the first 16 were the 16 runes of the Younger Futhark, plus special runes for the remaining three years: Arlaug (Golden Number 17), Tvimadur (Golden Number 18), and Belgthor (Golden Number 19). The new moon would fall on that day during that year of the cycle. For example, in the 18th year of the cycle, the new moons would fall on all the dates marked with Tvimadur, the symbol for year 18. Later calendars used Pentadic numerals for the values 1–19.

A version using Latin alphabet for weekdays and Arabic numerals for the golden numbers was printed in 1498 as part of the Breviarium Scarense.[1]

Additional runes

Because this system needed 19 runes to represent the 19 golden numbers which stood for the 19 years of the perpetual calendar's cycle, the Younger Futhark, a Runic alphabet, was insufficient, having only 16 characters. The solution devised was to add three special runes to represent the numbers above 16: Arlaug (Golden Number 17), Tvimadur (tvímaður, Golden Number 18), and Belgthor (Golden Number 19).

Arlaug

Arlaug, Runic calendar rune number 17.

Tvimadur

Tvimadur, Runic calendar rune number 18.

Belgthor

Belgthor, Runic calendar rune number 19.

Primstav

Primstav 2
Primstav from Hallingdal with coat of arms of Norway, 17th century.

A primstav (translation: prime staff) is the ancient Norwegian calendar stick. These were engraved with images instead of runes. The images depicted the different nonmoving religious holidays. The oldest primstav still in existence is from 1457 and is exhibited at Norsk Folkemuseum.

Primstav
A Norwegian primstav, carved in wood.

Modern use

Adherents of the Estonian ethnic religion (maausk) have published Runic calendars (Estonian: sirvilauad) every year since 1978. During the Soviet occupation, it was an illegal samizdat publication.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ Brinolf Gerlaksson, bishop of Skara (commissioned by) (1498). Breviarium Scarense. Nuremberg: Georg Stuchs. pp. 2–13. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  2. ^ Sirvilauad loevad aega

Further reading

  • Becker, Alfred: A Magic Spell "powered by" a Lunisolar Calendar, Asterisk, A Quarterly Journal of Historical English Studies, 15 (2006)
  • Becker, Alfred: Franks Casket. Zu den Bildern und Inschriften des Runenkästchens von Auzon (Regensburg 1973)

External links

Chamavi

The Chamavi were a Germanic tribe of Roman imperial times whose name survived into the Early Middle Ages. They first appear under that name in the 1st century AD Germania of Tacitus as a Germanic tribe that lived to the north of the Lower Rhine. Their name probably survives in the region today called Hamaland, which is in the Gelderland province of the Netherlands, between the IJssel and Ems rivers.

Chauci

The Chauci (German: Chauken, and identical or similar in other regional modern languages) were an ancient Germanic tribe living in the low-lying region between the Rivers Ems and Elbe, on both sides of the Weser and ranging as far inland as the upper Weser. Along the coast they lived on artificial mounds called terpen, built high enough to remain dry during the highest tide. A dense population of Chauci lived further inland, and they are presumed to have lived in a manner similar to the lives of the other Germanic peoples of the region.

Their ultimate origins are not well understood. In the Germanic pre-Migration Period (i.e., before c. 300 AD) the Chauci and the related Frisians, Saxons, and Angles inhabited the Continental European coast from the Zuyder Zee to south Jutland. All of these peoples shared a common material culture, and so cannot be defined archaeologically. The Chauci originally centered on the Weser and Elbe, but in c. AD 58 they expanded westward to the River Ems by expelling the neighboring Ampsivarii, whereby they gained a border with the Frisians to the west. The Romans referred to the Chauci living between the Weser and Elbe as the 'Greater Chauci' and those living between the Ems and Weser as the 'Lesser Chauci'.The Chauci entered the historical record in descriptions of them by classical Roman sources late in the 1st century BC in the context of Roman military campaigns and sea raiding. For the next 200 years the Chauci provided Roman auxiliaries through treaty obligations, but they also appear in their own right in concert with other Germanic tribes, opposing the Romans. Accounts of wars therefore mention the Chauci on both sides of the conflict, though the actions of troops under treaty obligation were separate from the policies of the tribe.

The Chauci lost their separate identity in the 3rd century when they merged with the Saxons, after which time they were considered to be Saxons. The circumstances of the merger are an unsettled issue of scholarly research.

Christmas in Norway

Jul or jol ([jʉːɽ]) is the term used for the Christmas holiday season in Scandinavia and parts of Scotland. Originally, "jul" was the name of a month in the old Germanic calendar. The concept of "jul" as a period of time rather than a specific event prevailed in Scandinavia; in modern times, "Jul" is a period of time stretching from mid-November to mid-January, with Christmas and the week up to New Year as its highlight. The modern English yule and yuletide derive from this term.The term "Jul" is common throughout Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Scotland and the Faroe Islands.

Whereas the start of "jul" proper is announced by the chiming of church bells throughout the country in the afternoon of 24 December, it is more accurate to describe the season as an eight-week event. It consists of five phases: Advent, Julaften, Romjul, Nyttår, and The End of Christmas, very often with Epiphany, the thirteenth day of Christmas, as the final day of the season. From the original beginning on Christmas Day, the custom of Julebord has spread to the entire season and beyond, often beginning well in advance of December.

The modern day celebration is largely based on the Church year and has retained several pre-Reformation and pre-Christian elements.

The central event in Scandinavia is Christmas Eve (julaften), when the main Christmas meal is served and gifts are exchanged. This might be due to the old Germanic custom of counting time in nights, not days (e.g. "forthnight"), as it holds for other holidays like Midsummer Eve (Jonsok, lit. "Wake of St. John") and St. Olavs Mass (Olsok, lit. "Wake of St. Olav"), with the main celebration on the eve of the official Church day.

Cipher runes

Cipher runes, or cryptic runes, are the cryptographical replacement of the letters of the runic alphabet.

Computus Runicus

The Computus Runicus refers to a runic calendar produced in 1328 and found on the Swedish island of Gotland. A transcription/description of the text - called Computus Runicus - was published in 1626 by the Danish physician and antiquarian Ole Worm (Olaus Wormius).

The text consists of the 12 calendar pages and a series of additional pages with detailed explanations for finding information used in the medieval computus, including golden numbers and epacts.

The calendar is written in medieval runes with a gloss in Latin and some places also in Swedish added by Worm. It follows a standard layout for a Medieval calendar similar to those found in a book of hours, with Christian feasts and saint's days. Worm attempted to identify some of the unusual symbols found in the calendar, including one marking fast days and another marking the beginning of the Zodiac months which curiously start on the 18th day of each month instead of the more common 20th or 21st.

As with any medieval calendar, there is a column for the golden numbers used in the Metonic cycle (to find the date of Easter) and another column for the dominical letters (to find the date of Sunday each week). January 31st and the month of February have an additional column to be used for finding the beginning of Lent, while March and April have an additional column to assist with finding the date of Easter. The author used a similar system of rune replacements for the Latin letters and Roman numerals as those commonly found in other runic calendars, including the use of the extra runes Arlaug, Tvimadur, and Belgthor to represent the Golden Numbers 17, 18, and 19.

Frisii

The Frisii were an ancient Germanic tribe living in the low-lying region between the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta and the River Ems, and the presumed or possible ancestors of the modern-day ethnic Frisians.

The Frisii were among the migrating Germanic tribes that settled along the North Sea in the 4th century BC. They came to control the area from roughly present-day Bremen to Bruges, and conquered many of the smaller offshore islands. In the 1st century BC, the Frisii halted a Roman advance and thus managed to maintain their independence. In the Germanic pre-Migration Period (i.e., before c. 300 AD) the Frisii and the related Chauci, Saxons, and Angles inhabited the Continental European coast from the Zuyder Zee to south Jutland. All of these peoples shared a common material culture, and so cannot be defined archaeologically. On the east they were originally bordered by the Ampsivarii who lived at the mouth of the Ems until AD 58, at which time the Chauci expelled them and gained a border with the Frisii.

The Chauci to the east were eventually assimilated by their presumed descendants the Saxons in the 3rd century. Some or all of the Frisii may have joined into the Frankish and Saxon peoples in late Roman times, but they would retain a separate identity in Roman eyes until at least 296, when they were forcibly resettled as laeti (i.e., Roman-era serfs) and thereafter disappear from recorded history. Their tentative existence in the 4th century is confirmed by archaeological discovery of a type of earthenware unique to 4th-century Frisia, called terp Tritzum, showing that an unknown number of Frisii were resettled in Flanders and Kent, likely as laeti under the aforementioned Roman coercion.

The lands of the Frisii were largely abandoned by c. 400 due to Migration wars, climatic deterioration and flooding caused by sea level rise. They lay empty for one or two centuries, when changing environmental and political conditions made the region habitable again. At that time, settlers that came to be known as 'Frisians' repopulated the coastal regions. Medieval and later accounts of 'Frisians' refer to these 'new Frisians' rather than to the ancient Frisii.

Germanic calendar

The Germanic calendars were the regional calendars used amongst the early Germanic peoples, prior to the adoption of the Julian calendar in the Early Middle Ages.

The Germanic peoples had names for the months which varied by region and dialect, which were later replaced with local adaptations of the Roman month names. Records of Old English and Old High German month names date to the 8th and 9th centuries, respectively. Old Norse month names are attested from the 13th century. Like most pre-modern calendars, the reckoning used in early Germanic culture was likely lunisolar. As an example, the Runic calendar developed in medieval Sweden is lunisolar, fixing the beginning of the year at the first full moon after winter solstice.

Hermunduri

The Hermunduri, Hermanduri, Hermunduli, Hermonduri, or Hermonduli were an ancient Germanic tribe, who occupied an area near the Elbe river, around what is now Thuringia, Bohemia, Saxony (in East Germany), and Franconia in northern Bavaria, from the first to the third century. At times, they apparently moved to the Danube frontier with Rome. The Thuringii may have been the descendants of the Hermunduri. Claudius Ptolemy mentions neither tribe in his geography but instead the Teuriochaemae, who may also be connected to both.

Joseph Barnard Davis

Joseph Barnard Davis (1801 – 19 May 1881) was an English medical doctor now remembered as a collector and craniologist.

List of calendars

This is a list of calendars. Included are historical calendars as well as proposed ones. Historical calendars are often grouped into larger categories by cultural sphere or historical period; thus O'Neil (1976) distinguishes the groupings Egyptian calendars (Ancient Egypt), Babylonian calendars (Ancient Mesopotamia), Indian calendars (Hindu and Buddhist traditions of the Indian subcontinent), Chinese calendars and Mesoamerican calendars.

These are not specific calendars but series of historical calendars undergoing reforms or regional diversification.

In Classical Antiquity, the Hellenic calendars inspired the Roman calendar, including the solar Julian calendar introduced in 45 BC. Many modern calendar proposals, including the Gregorian calendar itself, are in turn modifications of the Julian calendar.

Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology

The Lithuanian Museum of Ethnocosmology (Lithuanian: Lietuvos etnokosmologijos muziejus) is a sky observatory and ethnocosmology museum in Kulionys village located about 70 kilometres (43 mi) north of Vilnius, Lithuania. It is the first museum of such kind in the world. It was established in 1990 next to the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory.

Maavalla Koda

Maavalla Koda (literally House of the Native Land, short for Taarausuliste ja Maausuliste Maavalla Koda, Estonian House for Taaraist and Native Religion Followers) is a religious organisation uniting adherents of the two kinds of Estonian native religion or Estonian Neopaganism: Taaraism and Maausk.Maavalla Koda was registered as a union of religious associations (koguduste liit) in Estonia in 1995. The initial constituent members of the union were three local registered religious associations, Emujärve Koda (representing adherents from the south of Estonia), Härjapea Koda (with members from the north of the country), and Tartu Supilinna Koda (formed in the university town of Tartu). Later, Tartu Supilinna Koda has been renamed Emajõe Koda (after the river Emajõgi), and the newer association of Maausk adherents of the island Saaremaa, Maausuliste Saarepealne Koda, has been admitted to Maavalla Koda.

On the Estonian military NATO-standard dog tag (identifier), adherents of Taarausk and Maausk are identified with the abbreviation EST. A runic calendar noting festivals of the Estonian traditional religion is published annually by Maavalla Koda. The current focus of activity of Maavalla Koda is on traditional natural sacred sites in Estonia, with the aim of mapping and doing folkloristic research in order to preserve and perpetuate the local traditions relating to these. Along with the University of Tartu, Maavalla Koda co-operates in a government programme initiated to ensure the documentation and protection of natural sacred sites in Estonia.

Medieval runes

The medieval runes, or the futhork, was a Scandinavian 27 letter runic alphabet that evolved from the Younger Futhark after the introduction of dotted runes at the end of the Viking Age and it was fully formed in the early 13th century. Due to the expansion, each rune corresponded to only one phoneme, whereas the runes in the preceding Younger Futhark could correspond to several.The medieval runes were in use throughout Scandinavia during the Middle Ages, and provided the basis for the appearance of runology in the 16th century.

Metonic cycle

For astronomy and calendar studies, the Metonic cycle or Enneadecaeteris (from Ancient Greek: ἐννεακαιδεκαετηρίς, "nineteen years") is a period of very close to 19 years that is nearly a common multiple of the solar year and the synodic (lunar) month. The Greek astronomer Meton of Athens (fifth century BC) observed that a period of 19 years is almost exactly equal to 235 synodic months and, rounded to full days, counts 6,940 days. The difference between the two periods (of 19 solar years and 235 synodic months) is only a few hours, depending on the definition of the year.

Considering a year to be ​1⁄19 of this 6,940-day cycle gives a year length of 365 + ​1⁄4 + ​1⁄76 days (the unrounded cycle is much more accurate), which is about 11 days more than 12 synodic months. To keep a 12-month lunar year in pace with the solar year, an intercalary 13th month would have to be added on seven occasions during the nineteen-year period (235 = 19 × 12 + 7). When Meton introduced the cycle around 432 BC, it was already known by Babylonian astronomers. A mechanical computation of the cycle is built into the Antikythera mechanism.

The cycle was used in the Babylonian calendar, ancient Chinese calendar systems (the 'Rule Cycle' 章) and the medieval computus (i.e., the calculation of the date of Easter). It regulates the 19-year cycle of intercalary months of the modern Hebrew calendar. The start of the Metonic cycle depends on which of these systems is being used; for Easter, the first year of the current Metonic cycle is 2014.

Nundinae

The nundinae, sometimes anglicized to nundines, were the market days of the ancient Roman calendar, forming a kind of weekend including, for a certain period, rest from work for the ruling class (Patricians).The nundinal cycle, market week, or 8-day week (Latin: nundinum or internundinum) was the cycle of days preceding and including each nundinae. These were marked on fasti using nundinal letters from A to H. The earliest form of the Roman calendar is sometimes said to have included exactly 38 such cycles, running for 304 days from March to December before an unorganized expanse of about 50 winter days. The lengths of the Republican and Julian calendars, however, were not evenly divisible by 8; under these systems, the nundinae fell on a different letter each year. These letters formed the basis of the later Christian dominical letters.

Ole Worm

Ole Worm (13 May 1588 – 31 August 1654), who often went by the Latinized form of his name Olaus Wormius, was a Danish physician, natural historian and antiquary.

Scythe sword

The scythe sword (Sensenschwert) was a type of single-edged sword of the German Renaissance, related to the Dussack. It consisted of the blade of a scythe to which a sword hilt was attached. Like the falx or falcata of antiquity, it was thus a curved sword with the cutting edge on the inside (as opposed to the scimitar or sabre type with the edge on the outside).

The only known surviving example of a true scythe sword (its blade being made from an actual scythe), is that of Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525), kept in the Historical Museum, Dresden. This sword has a representation of a runic calendar incised on the blade. Demmin (1893) notes the existence of other sword blades of the early 16th century bearing runic calendars in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Munich, Graz and Luxembourg.

Solar calendar

A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the season or almost equivalently the apparent position of the Sun relative to the stars. The Gregorian calendar, widely accepted as standard in the world, is an example of a solar calendar.

The main other type of calendar is a lunar calendar, whose months correspond to cycles of Moon phases. The months of the Gregorian calendar do not correspond to cycles of Moon phase.

Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans, consisting of the year's chief solar events (solstices and equinoxes) and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as "quarter days" and the four midpoint events as "cross-quarter days", particularly in Wicca. Differing sects of modern Paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.

Observing the cycle of the seasons has been important to many people, both ancient and modern. Contemporary Pagan festivals that rely on the Wheel are based to varying degrees on folk traditions, regardless of actual historical pagan practices. Among Wiccans, each festival is also referred to as a sabbat (), based on Gerald Gardner's claim that the term was passed down from the Middle Ages, when the terminology for Jewish Shabbat was commingled with that of other heretical celebrations. Contemporary conceptions of the Wheel of the Year calendar were largely influenced by mid-20th century British Paganism.

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Year naming
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History of the Germanic peoples
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