Alternatives to the Calendar New Year

Camille Flammarion, L'atmosphere

Camille Flammarion, L'atmosphere

It's 2018 and we've started a new year according to the legal calendar of empires. Our current calendar, starting on January 1st, was adopted by England and its colonies in 1752. It’s an updated version of the Gregorian Calendar (named for Pope Gregory XIII in 1582), which was an updated version of the Julian Calendar (named for Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.).

Ours is a solar calendar, following the 365 days of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. It’s been adapted to fit Christian holidays, to standardize time for the Roman and British empires, and in attempts to deal with the pesky fact that the solar year is technically 365.2422 days (enter Leap Year). The result is a set of twelve arbitrary months that have nothing to do with their namesake the moon, and a year that begins rather randomly about ten days after the Winter Solstice. It’s usually not the most auspicious day for setting New Year’s Resolutions, because it doesn’t coincide with any solar or (usually) lunar timing. Except for beginning a month named after Janus, the Roman god of doorways, January 1st is not magically significant. It’s just the end of the fourth quarter and the beginning of the next fiscal year. Rebels have better, older ways of telling time than this.

Astrology works in sets of cycles. Everything is a circle, and in that sense there is no beginning or ending. But it’s human to want to mark time. We need endings and beginnings so that we can harvest the old and set intentions for the new through the cycles of our lives. Here are some more magical, seasonally-aligned ways to begin and end your personal year.

Lunar New Year

Instead of a solar year, consider marking time with a lunar year. This brings the months into alignment with the moon’s cycles, so you have a new month every 28 (or 29.5) days. People throughout history have used lunar or lunisolar calendars to tell time. Currently, the Chinese use a lunisolar calendar, with the next Year of the Dog beginning February 16, 2018 at the Aquarius solar eclipse. The Hebrew calendar is lunisolar, with the Jewish New Year beginning on Rosh Hashanah (September 9, 2018). So is the Islamic calendar, which begins on the first day of Muharram, the first month (sunset on September 11, 2018). You could also get super New Age and use Law of Time’s 13 Moon Calendar, which begins with the rising of Sirius. The Egyptians began their year with the heliacal rise of Sirius, an event that was significant in many ancient cultures.

Theoretically you could just start a personal lunar calendar with any new moon. The 13 Moons Report can help you plan your lunar year.

Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox (or Vernal Equinox) is the astrological new year. It’s the day the sun moves into Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. Day and night are equal lengths. It is also, of course, the beginning of spring in northern hemispheres, a time of beginnings. In the Julian calendar, the year began with March, named for Mars, the ruling planet of Aries. The spring equinox in 2018 is March 20th.

Samhain: The Witches’ New Year

Originally a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, many pagans celebrate Samhain as the Witches’ New Year. It’s a liminal time, when the veils between worlds are thin. It’s also a time to honor the dead and prepare for winter. This liminality, with a focus on endings, recognizes that every ending is a new beginning. The actual date of Samhain is controversial. You can celebrate it from October 31 - November 1, or when the sun is at 15 degrees of Scorpio (November 7, 2018). This year we also have a new moon in Scorpio at 15 degrees on November 7th!

Your Solar Return

Every year, the sun returns to the exact degree of its placement in your natal chart. This is your birthday, though in different years it will occur on different days and times. If you’re going to measure time with a solar calendar, this is a perfect moment to look back on how far you’ve come and plan for the next 365 days. Your solar return gives you a new astrological chart that tells you about the year ahead. I offer a solar return reading for returning clients (who have already had a natal chart reading.)

How do you choose to measure your personal year?