What if I told you that an argument could be made that the time around Samhain is one of the most natural times of year to mark the new year? This is not a point of view I’ve always held. As a solitary Pagan, for many years I celebrated the New Year at Yule because I thought, well, shortest day of the year and after this, the days grow longer. What changed my mind about the Samhain New Year was a little personal nerd-interest project that took on a life of its own. That project is called the Earth Epic Calendar.
What I discovered while creating a calendar
I’ve always been fascinated by calendars. As such, about nine years ago. I began to invent my own calendar—just for fun. I divided the year into four quarters.
When I first started this project, I began the New Year at Yule, the Winter Solstice. I named the first quarter Southlight, reflecting the part of the world where the sun’s light was shining most directly. The quarter in the opposite part of the year was named Northlight for the same reason.
The problem with beginning the quarters of the year on the Winter Solstice, is that Earth’s seasons are never equal in length. They range in length from 88 to 94 days, and each season’s length changes over millennia. Currently the season starting at the Winter Solstice is the shortest of the all the seasons. Since I wanted to keep the quarter lengths at 91 days each for simplicity’s sake, that meant that the sun crossed into the Northern Hemisphere during the final days of Southlight, with more than 90 days before we’d even reach Northlight. This felt really confusing.
So I decided to move the solstices and equinoxes into the middle of the quarters. This ended up pushing the beginning of the year from Yule back to almost Samhain. In doing so, I realized that I’d done something powerful. This system created two quarters that consisted of the either the shortest days or longest days depending on the time of the year and the hemisphere. It also created two other quarters that consisted of days where night and day were closest to equal. A Samhain New Year actually began to make sense.
A Samhain New Year
Please note that I did not put the new year on the day most commonly recognized at Samhain. I put it on the actual cross-quarter day, which is when the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio. That is the astronomical halfway point between the September Equinox and December Solstice. This year that falls on November 8, a week after most people celebrate Samhain. Still, some people celebrate Samhain on the actual cross-quarter. And this is not wrong, per se. Author Lora O’Brien pointed out that “Samhain” in the modern in the modern Irish language translates to “November” in English. (As a student of Scottish Gaelic, I can testify that this is true of that language as well.) These celebrations predate the Julian Calendar, October 31 or November 1. Thus they are not set in stone, as O’Brien explains here.
I want to dispel the myth that Samhain and the other three Celtic Fire Holidays are by design aligned with the astronomical cross-quarters. They aren’t. (But of course the SEO-leveraged websites that appear in our web-search top ten would love to tell you otherwise.) There is no evidence that the ancient Celts actually calculated the cross-quarters. Sharon Paice MacLeod, in her book Celtic Cosmology and the Otherworld, wrote “In early Ireland, a yearly cycle of activities existed which had a strong seasonal basis, and was originally based on the movement and herding of livestock.” ** Evidence indicates they chose the dates for their fire festivals based on the change of the seasons as they experienced them in Ireland, Britain, and Northern Europe.
More about the Earth Epic Calendar
This calendar I created is called the Earth Epic Calendar. You can download it at https://earthepiccalendar.com. This year coming to an end is the year 11.723, and that year is based on the scientifically agreed upon beginning of the Holocene Epoch, which began in 9701 BCE. The year available for download is 11.724 and that new year begins on November 8.
This calendar is also more accurate than today’s western Calendar. because it astronomically sets the date of the New Year. This way, the length of the year is simply determined by the number of days between each time the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio. This is more accurate than rather than a more arbitrary formula promoted by a pope 440 years ago. There are also longer Earth cycles in the calendar that take into account all of earth history without making humans try to visualize what a million or billion years looks like.
The calendar you download will show the Earth Epic calendar dates, dates from the current Gregorian Calendar our society uses, and also separate lunar dates with the new and full moons. It shows the dates of the solstices, equinoxes, crossquarters and also the Celtic fire festival days for both hemispheres. Again, the URL for downloading the Earth Epic Calendar is on my profile page.
And with that, I wish you a most enjoyable Samhain New Year!
11.723 Westlight 79
October 27, 2023
**Sharon Paice MacLeod, Celtic Cosmology and the Otherworld, p. 76. McFarland and Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC, USA, 2018.