Calendars, and their making and maintenance, has been a subject of discussion among my friends and I on more than one occasion, and since it’s been on my mind of late I thought I would sit down and detail my system. I welcome comments and constructive criticism, and if anyone else would like to share their methodology I’d love to link it here. My calendar has two halves: the fixed dates and the movable dates. I use two programs- Evernote and Google Calendar- as well a regular notebook. I start with the fixed half of the calendar- it’s pretty simple and straightforward.
I start with a file in Evernote named “Base Calendar (Fixed)” in my calendar notebook. I have each of the twelve Gregorian calendar months listed in bold, underneath which I list any holidays that fall within that month. I color code holidays for visual simplicity- purple for the gods, green for the spirits, blue for the dead, and orange for any others. (The colors were chosen at random/what wasn’t eye searing and still distinct.) So December looks like this:
15: Eortì Hekate
23: Seven Suppers
24: Seven Suppers
25: Seven Suppers
26: Seven Suppers
27: Seven Suppers
28: Seven Suppers
29: Seven Suppers
31: the Last Night
I input each of these dates into my Google Calendar- I have a set of private calendars using the same color coding scheme- and schedule them to recur annually. Initially, I also set up email reminders, but given the volume of minor days (Beloved Dead birth and death days, mostly, which I mark briefly) my inbox got a bit overwhelming.
In January of each year- usually on or just before Djehuty’s Feast- I create a new file in my calendar notebook for the year. The fixed base calendar is then copied and pasted in.
Because the fixed portion of the calendar deals with the modern Gregorian calendar, it only lends itself to certain kinds of holidays. It is overwhelmingly blue: Beloved Dead birth and death days, Christian saints’ feasts, and significant dates associated with the Heroines and the Patrons (two groups of Dead I work with.) There’s a solitary purple holiday per month- deity holidays of my own invention- and only three green spirit holidays (the first and last days of the year, and the leap day, all of which belong to the Moirae.) There are a handful of community holidays- the ‘founding days’ of my birthplace and childhood hometown, and the four major Celtic festivals, on their fixed Neo-Pagan/Wiccish dates. (Said Celtic festivals could technically exist on the movable portion of the calendar- perhaps even should, if we’re getting recon about it- but they’re as much about the community as the time of year, and I would rather celebrate them with the community.)
The movable portion of the calendar is not nearly as straightforward. It draws from several sources: the Kemetic calendar, the Hellenic calendar, and the American calendar; while the latter just requires checking the year’s Gregorian calendar and placing accordingly, the Kemetic and Hellenic calendars are old and are based off of astrological phenomena. So I keep track of both ancient calendars, to place ancient holidays accordingly.
The Hellenic calendar, if I’m being specific, is actually the Attic calendar, used in Athens. It’s technically based on lunar phases, with an intercalary month periodically to keep the months aligned with the seasons. The ancients, however, were not exactly known for their precision, and added extra days to months when it suited them (usually political stuff.) I consider this license for wiggle room, personally (though I don’t really need license, as I’m not a recon.) I place the first of Hekatombaion- the first month of the Attic calendar- on the first new moon after the summer solstice (which is possibly how the ancient Athenians reckoned it, but we’re not totally positive.) Instead of stuffing my intercalary month partway through the year (traditionally it was Poseideon 2, directly after Poseideon, which was roughly November/Decemberish) I just add my intercalary days to the end of the year like a sensible person. Much less maths, that way.
Because the Hellenic calendar relies on moon phases, there’s no set number of days per month. I rely on a lunar calendar to figure out when the phases are, because I am not a celestially oriented person- I use the lunar phase calendar in Google Calendar. There’s also the bit where the ancient Hellenic day started at sunset (much like the Jewish calendar) but it feels unnatural to me, so I shift everything a day forward. This means that I’m partially off from HMEPA but it’s still close enough that I can use it to double-check my calculations when need be.
As for the Kemetic calendar. Anyone who’s worked with them will tell you, it’s a mess and a headache. Like the ancient Greeks, the ancient Egyptians had different festival calendars in different places; they also had a ‘wandering’ lunisolar calendar that relied on moon phases and a civil calendar with a set number of days per month- the problem is that they used the same names for the months in both calendars. The whole thing is enough to drive a person mad. As I am not a recon, I gave myself license to simplify. I determine the new year, Wep Renpet, by the local rising of Sirius, which becomes 1 Akhet 1 on the calendar. The twelve months each have 30 days, and then the Days Upon the Year handles the intercalary days, however many they happen to be. I place holidays on the civil dates, unless they specifically mention being tied to a lunar phase (such as the Jubilee of Nut.)
So, to use the movable calendar, first I have to find out the date of the June solstice, find the next new moon, and start placing the months. I do this for the full Hellenic year, which means that when I’m calculating in January, the upcoming months are already done, and my new set of calculations will carry me over through next January. As I place the year’s months in my Google Calendar, I mark them down in the year’s calendar note as well.
I then calculate the rising of Sirius based on my latitude/longitude with this handy link and place the first of each month every thirty days, also noting it in the year’s calendar note as I go. At this point, my year calendar will have all the fixed Gregorian date holidays, and the first day of every Hellenic and Kemetic month.
At this point, I turn to my note “Base Calendar (Movable)”. Here I have five subheadings: Dec/Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr/May, Jun/Jul/Aug, Sep/Oct/Nov, and Other. (Other covers recurring holidays based on celestial observation, like the Jubilee of Nut or Hekate’s Deipnon.) Holidays are listed in rough order (due to the movable nature of the calendars, they can fluctuate sometimes) by the observation/phenomenon or the ancient calendar date. So Jun/Jul/Aug looks like:
(June Solstice) Eortì Auxo
(1 Hekatombaion 27, 3 days) Panathenaea
(days preceding heliacal rising of Sirius, 5 days) Heb Netjeru/Wep Renpet
(1 Akhet 18) Heb Wagy
Once my months are in place, I can go down the list of movable holidays and plug them onto their date for the coming year; I place them in my Google Calendar as a non-recurring date, and list them in the year’s calendar. While it’s a time consuming effort, after the first time it’s not a difficult one.
Both the ancient calendars are skewed heavily towards the gods; because they cover a massive period of time, they are also stuffed full of festivals and observances, that were probably more prominent in different locations and time periods. My list of movable holidays to consider adding to my calendar is much longer than the base calendar at the moment; having a date and title doesn’t necessarily help one put together an actual observation, after all. And, since I’m still getting my feet wet in proper research skills, it’s largely a work in progress.
All of this helps me map out my year, but my Google Calendar can be a bit overwhelming with other things I need to remember (doctor’s appointments, birthdays, trash day, whatever) so I like to break it down into smaller chunks in my notebook. On the left page, I write down the week: Monday through Sunday, with the Gregorian, Hellenic, and Kemetic month and day in a column and the holidays in a second column alongside. On the right page I make a list of anything I need to keep in mind during the week- upcoming holiday prep work I need to do, work-in-progress projects I don’t want to lose track of, looming deadlines, etcetera. I write out the left hand pages for about two months at a time; the right hand pages get updated week-to-week, though I do make notes in advance if I want to start thinking about something at a certain time (like advance warning for birthday gift shopping, etca.)
So, that’s my system! I’d love to hear how others manage their religious calendars!