Living by Moon and Sun
The ancient Greeks lived by a lunar calendar – or perhaps I should say, by many lunar calendars, as calendrical systems and festival cycles varied from place to place within the greater Hellas. But generally, they marked time by the moon – something modern Hellenic polytheists often have a difficult time adjusting to. I realize, it can be hard for some to keep track of the lunar month and the modern civic calendar at the same time – this is why I print out my own calendar at least a year in advance, synching up the two and counting out all the holy days and festivals. But aside from the feeling of continuity with ancient tradition, there are other benefits to working by a lunar calendar.
The obvious example I usually give is that the holy days of the various gods, usually set by the number that is sacred to them (the fourth for Hermes, the seventh for Apollon, etc.) actually mean something more tangible when placed during the moon’s cycle – the seventh day after the first visible lunar crescent will not change with cultural or governmental dictates (as calendars have in the past), and will always look the same in the sky, even as it did 2,000 years ago – something I have marveled at during my monthly oracular sessions with Apollon.
But acknowledging this natural and timeless cycle can also be a way to bring spiritual awareness into every aspect of your daily life, and that will really change your entire perspective on things over time. For instance, each month I do a thorough housecleaning during the last day or two of the lunar month, the dark moon nights, in preparation for the Noumenia (which is today). This is an extension of ancient Greek custom of leaving house sweepings and sacrificial detritus for Hekate at this time. (I also do a formal deipnon for Hekate, as I do not think daily-life stuff should replace more direct devotional activities, but rather add to them.) This morning, I trimmed my bangs and put in a fresh pair of month-long-wear contacts, as I always save these things for the fresh start of the new moon.
This same approach can be applied to the moving of the sun – the progression of the seasons. We don’t even have to try that hard to find ways to do this, as seasonal activities and markers still exist in our culture: spring cleaning, for instance, or letting one’s diet naturally change with the seasons (especially if you eat fresh, local food and therefore don’t eat strawberries in winter or pumpkin in June).
And for both monthly and annual holy days and festivals, I encourage you to think beyond just the ritual or feast you may be planning, or other overtly devotional activities, and see what other aspects of your life can be timed to fit into the natural patterns. Delaying a market trip a day or two until it falls on the fourth, sacred to Hermes. Launching your new blog on the Noumenia. Maybe even scheduling your dog’s next vet checkup for the sixth of the month, sacred to Artemis. Only eating foods when they naturally grow in your area, thereby connecting yourself directly with the seasonal changes and indirectly with the various spirits of the land. Over time, you become more attuned to these cycles and it starts coming naturally to integrate your daily activities with them. I’ve found that it also becomes easier to be aware of what time of the lunar month it is at any given point, where I am in the cycle, whose holy days are approaching, etc. The more it becomes part of your everyday life, the easier it is to work in devotional practices and larger celebrations as well.
[On a side note, for those struggling with the lunar calendar, I highly recommend just making a simple calendar template – I do this in Word – and each year filling it in with the regular civic calendar days and holidays you celebrate, and then adding New Moons and Full Moons and working out whatever lunar holy days you want to celebrate from there. If it becomes your regular household calendar, it’s easy to keep an eye on it and any important upcoming days, both secular and spiritual. This is a useful resource for the dates of the lunar phases each year. Just remember that (a) the Hellenic Noumenia is the first visible lunar crescent, often calculated as the day after the so-called “New Moon” which is really the dark moon, and (b) all times on that site are Universal Time, and you have to adjust for your time zone and daylight savings time.]