by Estelle Daniels
Note: This article was the article for the month of January 2001 in Llewellyn's Witches Calendar. The specific days and dates refer to the year 2001, though the general comments about calendars are still valid.
Welcome to 2001, the true beginning of the New Millennium. So you're wondering, just what was all that fuss a year ago? That was the result of misinformed hype, the need to create a celebration and make money selling the things that go with big parties and popular fads. Arthur C. Clarke knew, which is why he called his book 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Why is 2001 the true beginning of the new millennium? Because when the people who decided to re-number the years got together and did it (roughly 325 CE) they didn't include a year 0. The calendar went from 1BC to 1AD. So the year 10 was the last year of the first decade, and 11 was the beginning of the second decade; 100 was the last year of the first century and 101 the beginning of the second century; 1000 the end of the first millennium and 1001 the beginning of the second millennium Therefore 2000 is the end of the second millennium and 2001 the beginning of the third millennium. And those people who reinvented the calendar goofed. The year 1AD (Anno Domini--Year of Our Lord in Latin) is supposed to be the year of Jesus' birth. It is not. Current study places Jesus' birth in 3 or 4BC, with evidence supporting 7BC, 6BC, 1BC and even 2AD. But it was an excellent guess.
What is so important about 2001? Nothing really. It is another year; the beginning of a millennium, the end of a millennium; the beginning of someone's life, the end of someone's life. Every year shares these same elements. Our society is enthralled by decimal milestones, so the decades, centuries and millennia generate fascination. All those zeroes make people's eyes go big and round.
If you don't like 2001, you can choose another calendar, and a different year. Here are several popular examples.
The Hebrew calendar has this year as 5761 and on September 18th it will be Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year and 5762.
January 1, 2001 corresponds to Julian Day 36891.
The Islamic calendar is celebrating the year AH 1421 and their New Year will be at the end of March when it will be the year AH 1422. This calendar is a strictly Lunar calendar, and is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year. For every 32 Gregorian years there are 33 Islamic years.
If you like big numbers, try the Chinese calendar. On January 24th it will be 4638, the year of the Snake.
The Mayan calendar will end and a new cycle begin on December 21, 2012. This has given rise to many end-of-the-world predictions, particularly by those who were quite disappointed when 2000 didn't bring the end of the world. Sorry about that. Well, OK not really. January 1, 2001 is the Mayan day 13 Rabbit of the Vulture period.
If you celebrate 10,000 years of the Goddess, this is12,001. That is based upon the popular belief that the Goddess has existed for 10,000 years.
Why are calendars so important?
As humanity developed, a system for measuring time became important and necessary. Timing of planting, harvesting, hunting, and migration became vital. With no measurement, the days pass, as do the seasons, but you have trouble remembering how many days have passed since the snow melted or how quickly it will return. Celestial events which were regular and easily observable timed the early calendars, and still do. All that has been done repeatedly is to attempt to refine the calendars to most closely correspond to the celestial phenomenon the calendar imitates. Nobody has it perfect; a few are very close. The Islamic calendar is an extremely accurate lunar calendar. The Gregorian calendar, with leap years is a very good solar calendar.
Why do witches need calendars? To time the Sabbats and Esbats. The Sabbats are solar celebrations, based upon the Sun's position. The Esbats are lunar celebrations, based upon the phases of the Moon. We need to plan ahead and see that Imbolc falls on a Thursday this year, and to decide whether to take that day off, or celebrate the holiday some other day.
We also pay attention to the wheel of the year. Our religion is based upon the solar and lunar cycles and we track and celebrate the theater of seasons. Even in urban settings, we are aware of and worship the coming of Spring, the Fall harvest, the longest day and night. For some the actual day is more or less important than the general time of the events. These are individual decisions and priorities, but without a calendar we all would have another element of uncertainty, and another reason to argue about it.
In the end the number of the year is not important. We need some tracking of time, and the present calendar works well for most, irregardless of who developed it.
© 1999, 2003 Estelle Daniels, all rights reserved.