Rings 5-22: The Golden Runes
I know that I hung
On the wind-blasted tree
All of nights nine,
Pierced by my spear
And given to Odin,
Myself sacrificed to myself
On that pole
Of which none know
Where its roots run.
No aid I received,
Not even a sip from the horn.
I took up the runes –
Screaming I grasped them –
Then I fell back from there.
(Hávamál, the Poetic Edda)
As I said above, rings 4-23 are the 19 years of the Metonic or Lunisolar cycle. Every 19 years the revolutions of the moon and the sun reunite,meaning that a particular moon phase lines up with a particular solar date. For example, if there was a full moon on Dec 21st 1990, then in 2009 there will be another full moon on Dec. 21st. The 19 years of the Lunisolar cycle are called The Golden Numbers by some, but I will call them The Golden Runes. The Golden Runes each represent a year in the Lunisolar Cycle and they also represent when each new moon will be in that year.
Then I was fertilized and became wise;
I truly grew and thrived.
From a word to a word I was led to a word,
From a work to a work I was led to a work.
(Hávamál, the Poetic Edda)
Ring 1: The Circle Of Fifths
From Ymir’s flesh the earth was created,
And from his blood, the sea,
Mountains from bone,
Trees from hair,
And from his skull the sky.
And from his eyebrows the blithe gods made
Midgard, home of the sons of men
And from his brains
They sculpted the grim clouds.
(Völuspá, the Poetic Edda)
Ring 1: The Circle of Fifths
Let’s move now to the inner rings. The first ring of the GaldorCraeft Calendar contains eight concentric rings of the circle of fifths. The circle of fifths is a musical theory tool that helps us understand all 12 notes found in western music and their relationship to each other. I chose to align C major, which has no sharps and no flats, with the summer solstice (the brightest time of the year). F# major is then aligned with the winter solstice (the darkest time of year), and has 6 sharps and 6 flats. At the equinoxes, the time of year where the day and the night are at equal length, is A major and E flat major, which each have 3 sharps and 3 flats. This orientation allows opportunities for creating sound and music that correlates with the turning of the year. It could also be used for playing along with particular times of day, if you imagine the calendar as a clock with noon aligned with the summer solstice.
There are many correlations between music theory and day keeping that can be explored further, but for now it is important to understand that one way musical scales and chords can be described is as sounding relatively darker or lighter. When we move sunwise (or clockwise) around the circle of fifths, from a particular note, the notes get relatively brighter sounding. Whereas when we move counter sunwise, from a particular note, the notes get relatively darker sounding. So,for example, if we take the base note C, all the notes to the right of C, G, D, A, E, B, F# sound bright when played together in a scale or a chord with C as the base note. As we replace these notes with notes from the left side of C, the resulting scales and chords will get relatively darker sounding.
Ring 2: The World Tree
There stands an ash called Yggdrasil,
A mighty tree showered in white hail.
From there come the dews that fall in the valleys.
It stands evergreen above Urd’s Well.
(Völuspá, the Poetic Edda)
As we move out to the 2nd ring from the center, we find the year broken up into 12 sections with each being represented by a color: yellow, red, blue, or white. These correspond to The Zodiac and help us start to organize each Zodiac sign with the cardinal directions. We have access to Yggdresel, the world tree. Our form is modeled after its form. We are not just physically related, but spiritually and psychologically linked as well. When we, as an individual world tree, tune into the greater world tree using breath, movement and sound, we gain access to the nine worlds and the wisdom of these places. When we orient or ground ourselves where we are, we gain access to the wisdom of the place and of our whole self.
Ring 3: The Lunar Months
The Sun bore south together with Moon.
On her right hand was the heavens door.
Sun knew not what hall she had;
Stars knew not their places yet.
Moon knew not his power.
(Völuspá, the Poetic Edda)
The GaldorCraeft Calendar draws from various Germanic traditions, but is particularly oriented around the Anglo-Saxon tradition. One of our primary sources of early Anglo-Saxon history comes from Saint Bede, the Venerable (673-735). In his book, The Reckoning of Time, he describes the pre-Roman and pre-Christian calendar, some of how it worked, and the names of the months.
The names of the months are found in the 3rd ring. This gives you an approximation of when each month falls. To find the true beginning of the month in any given year, we have to find the ring of the corresponding year and look to see when a rune appears in that ring. Between two runes in each ring, there is a color, either the black or white of the 3rd ring or one of the two colors found in the corresponding section of the 25th ring, which also contains the zodiac signs.
In the picture below, the black, dark gray, and brown are all AErra Geola months, whereas the white, light green, and pink are all AEftera Geola months. Notice that the start of a month changes from year to year. That’s because the new moon dates change from year to year. On ring 5 you see the rune Feyu (ᚠ) shows the new moon and the beginning of Aerra Geola on December 10th. The following year, ring number 6, rune Ur (ᚢ) shows the new moon and beginning of Aerra Geola on November 29th.
Ring 4: The Gregorian Calendar
The Gregorian Calendar is our modern calendar system. You can see that the GaldorCraeft Calendar has 364 days instead of 365. The Gregorian calendar date December 22nd is not there. This missing day is a “day out of time,” and gives the calendar a chance to catch up with itself.
Ring 26: The Major Festivals of the Year
Moving back out to the outer most rings, ring 26 is composed of eight triangles that roughly mark the winter solstice, when the nights are longest; the summer solstice, when the day is longest; the equinoxes, when night and day are of equal length; and the four cross quarters between these times. The technical dates for these significant events varies by about 2 to 3 days per year. Just like today, when we rely on priests and clergy to tell us when Easter will be, this was probably the case for our pre-Christian ancestors as well. All of these 8 festivals are lunisolar, meaning that their observance requires an understanding of the relationship between the solar cycle and the lunar.
The Julian calendar, a purely solar Calendar, was introduced in the 400s. Before that these celebrations would have been tracked using the calendar they had, which was lunisolar. I imagine each one as a tide, roughly defined by the solar quarter or cross quarter, and distinguished by a lunar phase or period. The festivals honor and celebrate an essential truth of the cyclical nature of time and our intimate interdependence with the natural and spiritual world. We are a part of the turning of the seasons and our acknowledgment and reverence for this process is essential to that relationship being strong and healthy.
Ring 28: The Celtic Zodiac
It was the Irish that first brought writing in the form of Latin to England. But it was the Anglo-Saxons who began writing in a language, English, that could be understood by the common person. Thus writing and Christianity flourished, while Paganism declined. But Pagan influence was preserved in some of the writing. Ring number 28 contains 12 symbols found in the Irish medieval text, The Book of Ballymote. They are believed by some to represent the zodiac. For those of you who are familiar with the modern western zodiac, the order is the same. Below is Aries, and then it moves clockwise through Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces:
Cen is the light in the darkness. It is the pulling back of the curtains to reveal the truth hidden behind. Cen is the year when we are initiated into the traditions of our ancestors. This is when our awareness is split wide open and we are given a glimpse at all we have been and all we are becoming. This process is often challenging and painful. It often involved us letting go of things that we previously relied upon for comfort, support and security. This rune comes to me with an image of a stone cracking, and reminds me that even the most entrenched foundations will one day crumble, making way for life to sprout anew.
There is great comfort, joy and wisdom to be found when we acknowledge and follow the turning of the year and celebrate days and seasons for their unique opportunity and power. The Runic Calendar is an amazing opportunity for divination and magic. It is such a clear and tangible relic of magical practice. As I use it, I feel myself drop into a state of greater awareness and knowing. Cycles of time and movement become larger and more distinct. Time slows down and I am able to place myself in the middle of a larger unfolding.
In this way the succession of the 19 year cycle becomes a map leading us back again and again to the core of ancient knowing. We are led to re-enchant our lives and embrace the mystery of who we are and what we are doing here. We are supported in continuing the work of our most holy ancestors, which was to cradle and nurture the essential truth that the Earth, and everything in the Cosmos, is alive. Everyone, in this world or another, has a consciousness, and we are all intimately connected. To access this Web of Wyrd is to access great power and wisdom. Power and wisdom that we need to move forward and be victorious in the face of great adversity.
Our people’s story is our story. Modernity is speeding us up and calling us away from our place in the natural world. But there is another call. Our ancestors are still with us. The natural world is still with us. There is magic and mystery to be a part of, but we need to practice getting outside of the bubble of modernity. We need tools and guides, spells and potions, that help us remember and rediscover.
This introduction is meant to give you a taste of the richness found in working with an ancestral calendar. There are many resources which can help us further explore Germanic Cosmology, such as the myths and stories, the sacred songs, the runes, the holy days, and all the other aspects of this calendar. I hope that this supports you in beginning or deepening your journey.
May the GaldorCraeft Calendar be a bridge.
May we realign ourselves with our ancestral ways
not because they have something that we don’t
but because we are so much more powerful together.
Let us make a place for them at our tables,
in our hearts, and in our minds.