Could an Eight-Part Year Have Existed in Ancient Northern Europe?

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In summary: Likewise, when the moon is new, they know it is time to start hunting. So the lunar cycle would influence when things like hunting and planting would happen, but not the number of days in a particular month.
  • #1
What were the methods of time-keeping for northern Europe before the Christian epoch and apart from the Julian calendar? Apart from lunar reckoning, there is also historical mention of an eight-part solar year, with solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters.
Today there are "neo-pagans" who have their models of an eight-part year, but they merely attach their cross-quarter days to the Julian or Gregorian calendar. This is naive because there was no Julian calendar in use there around the very time when this wisdom supposedly originated. The question remains as to how an eight-part year could have been perceived long ago. Unless the reconstruction of an eight-part year method of time reckoning, independent of the counting of days, can be demonstrated, the past existence of an extinct eight-part year remains puzzling.

Let's look at the mathematics of this. Let's suppose an eight-part year is defined by the Sun's ecliptic longitude = 0°, 45°, 90°, 135°, 180°, 225°, 270°, 315°. We'll also find the special latitude L* where the summer Sun rises at north-east and sets at north-west. Here are the relevant equations;

sin ( DECLINATION ) = cos ( LATITIDE ) sin ( AMPLITUDE )
[ SQR 2 ] sin ( OBLIQUITY ) = cos ( L* )
[ SQR 2 ] sin( AMPLITUDE ) = sin( ECLIPTIC LONGITUDE ) at L*

The special latitude L* is approximately 55.7682°. Here, the year can be tracked by the azimuth of sunrise from the east at 0°, 30°, 45°, 30°, 0°, -30°, -45°, -30°, or likewise for sunsets from the west. Because all these angles can be easily drawn by any geometer, unlearned in the ways of trigonometry, I think the peoples long ago, indigenous to this vicinity of this special latitude would have discovered this for themselves and it is here that the eight-part year could have originated and be used as seasonal measure.
I know there are little issues like refraction, the apparent size of the sun's disc, or the slightly unequal duration of the eight parts due to the Earth's eccentric orbit.
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  • #2
The ancients were interested in astronomy and calendars because it helped them farm. Equinoxes and solstices provide a natural division of the year into four parts, but nothing particularly important happens half way between one and the other. The correct time to plant seeds would be the same each year, but different in different locations. So you need someone who can say "The solstice was 71 days ago, it's time to start plowing."

The other calendar influencer would be the moon. This produces 13 per year, but drifts slowly, and so isn't as good for farmers. Hunters though would find the moon more important. When they notice something like the full moon rising before the sun has set, they know it is now spring.
  • #3
But these are minor and can be corrected for. The main point is that the mathematics of the eight-part year is simple enough to have been discovered and used by ancient peoples without the need for complex mathematical calculations. It is also a practical way of tracking the Sun's movements and the changing seasons. This could have been a method of time-keeping for northern Europe before the Christian epoch and apart from the Julian calendar.

Related to Could an Eight-Part Year Have Existed in Ancient Northern Europe?

What is the Ancient Eight-part Year?

The Ancient Eight-part Year is a system used by ancient civilizations to divide the year into eight equal parts. It was based on the changing of the seasons and was used for agricultural and religious purposes.

How did the Ancient Eight-part Year differ from modern calendars?

The Ancient Eight-part Year was based on the natural cycles of the Earth, while modern calendars are based on a combination of the solar and lunar cycles. The Ancient Eight-part Year also did not have a fixed starting date, unlike modern calendars which typically start on January 1st.

Which civilizations used the Ancient Eight-part Year system?

The Ancient Eight-part Year system was used by many civilizations, including the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Celts. It was also used by some Native American cultures.

What were the names of the eight parts of the Ancient Eight-part Year?

The names of the eight parts of the Ancient Eight-part Year varied depending on the civilization, but they generally represented different stages of the agricultural cycle, such as planting, growing, and harvesting. Some examples of names include the Egyptian "Akhet" for inundation and the Celtic "Samhain" for end of summer.

Did the Ancient Eight-part Year have any significant cultural or religious meanings?

Yes, the Ancient Eight-part Year was often tied to religious or cultural beliefs and practices. For example, the ancient Egyptians believed that the flooding of the Nile River during the "Akhet" season was a gift from the gods and celebrated the event with festivals and ceremonies.

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