20 Missions 5: Seasons, Moon and Tides

Mission 5: Seasons, Moons and Tides

“The clock turns time from a process of nature into a commodity that can be measured and bought and sold like soap or sultanas. And because, without some means of exact time keeping, industrial capitalism could never have developed and could not continue to exploit workers, the clock represents an element of mechanical tyranny in the lives of modern men and women more potent than any other individual exploiter or any other machine.”
George Woodcock, The Tyranny of the Clock.

This week’s mission concerns your perception of time and the way you spend it. It is an opportunity for you to explore different notions of time, and prepare for yourself, a time map that puts you in touch with natural cycles.

Originally our calendars were based on lunar cycles like the tides. The word month comes from moon ie it should be should be ‘moon-ths’. The Romans and Medieval Popes changed this and imposed a patriarchal order on the moon cycles. They divided the year of 365 days, the time it takes for the earth to make one revolution around the sun, into twelfths. They designated these arbitrary months of different days that have little connection to lunar cycles.

This disconnection from the natural cycles of our planet is another way that people are alienated from nature. Time is cut up into pieces and thought of as a linear, progressive event. New science is changing the concept of what we think time actually is. In a holographic multiverse, everything is happening now. Time is simply a construct we have invented to cope with the chaos that comes with this perception of time.

We need to examine whether our current system of time measurement actually serves us as people and planet, or serves the system of which we are part. Our current concepts of time help to support the delusional beliefs of regularised work patterns in a capitalist system. It turns us into dehumanised robots.  They separate us from now with the continually enforced awareness of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades defining our roles as slaves to a system.

With the Celtic ‘old calendar’ our year falls into eight sections, each defining a time and place in relation to the earth’s orbit around the sun. The celebrations of the old calendar take place at defining moments in these movements, called equinoxes and solstices. But in our current ‘Gregorian’ calendar system, our ‘moonths’ are out of sequence with the actual movements of the moon.

the moon through our months

With our present time measurement system, a single day has 24 hours. A solar earth day lasts for the time it takes for the earth to rotate 360° on its axis. During the 24 hours that the earth rotates the moon will have nearly travelled around the earth. There is a fifty minute difference, which is why time of the high and low tides advance by 50 minutes each day.

The lunar day or tidal cycle or tidal day is 24 hours and 50 minutes. The moon is revolving around the earth with a monthly cycle period of 27 days 7 hours and 43 minutes.

So there are two clocks at work here and you could liken them to masculine and feminine clocks, the Sun clock and the Moon clock. This year I finally got fed-up with the masculine clock of calendars and diaries boxing our days into tiny segments, unaligned with the moon or tides or natural process. I made myself a moon calendar. This divides the days into 28, giving us 13 months a year plus at extra day (some people take this for Easter) You can add in Gregorian days if you like, personal astrological aspects, activities, gardening or other structure.

I want to plan my activities more with the moon’s phases, starting with the new moon to set intention, then planning, action, celebration, reflection and releasing phases. You may download a free pdf of this if you like, it is based on a Cherokee idea using the shape of a turtle shell:


moon calendar month

If you have ever stayed for a while at a tidal coast, you will find that the tide will soon give you a new awareness. Whether the tide is coming in or going out, a spring tide or a neap tide will start to impact on your awareness of time. The tides relate you to a much more environmentally local perception of time.

At the new and full moon, the sun and moon are in ‘syzygy’ (three celestial bodies in a straight line including earth). Their tidal forces reinforce each other. The ocean rises higher and falls lower than the average. At the first and third quarter of the moon, the Sun and Moon are at right angles. Their tidal forces counteract each other, and the tidal range is smaller than average. Spring tides have higher high tides and lower low tides whereas neap tides have lower high tides and higher low tides. Hence, the range is much larger in a spring tide than in a low tide.

During the Northern Hemisphere summer, the Sun shines on the Northern Hemisphere more than the Southern Hemisphere. During this time we receive more hours of sunlight and the longest day is known as the summer solstice, midsummer. During the winter, the Sun illuminates the Southern Hemisphere more than the Northern Hemisphere because the North Pole is titled away from the Sun. During this time we receive fewer hours of sunlight and the shortest day (and longest night) is known as the winter solstice, or Yule.

The Celtic year was divided into two halves, the dark and the light. Samhain was the beginning of the dark half, with its counterpart, Beltane beginning the light half. Between these two ‘portals’ fell Imbolc, on February 1, and Lughnasadh or Lammas, celebrated on August 1, quartering the Celtic year. At two points in the year day and night are of an equal length and these are celebrated as equinoxes, namely Mabon and Ostara.

The festivals of Samhain, Lughnasadh, Beltane and Imbolc fall equidistant between the solstices and equinoxes. These Fire Festivals mark the turning of the seasons. Two of the fire festivals, Samhain and Beltane, were considered to be male, and Imbolc and Lughnasadh were female. Each was celebrated for three days – before, during and after the official day of observance. In such a way, the passing of time was celebrated in line with the natural passing of seasons, rather than the definition of time being used as an instrument of control.

the Celtic Seasons of the year

When clocks first came forward to regulate time they were often put onto church towers. This made sense as the mechanisms needed weights and long drops to operate. They were installed in clock towers in cathedrals, monasteries and town squares so they could be seen and heard at long distance. Their usage became associated with religion. They rang bells on the canonical hours, calling people to prayer and dividing up the days and weeks into segments. These segments also came to control working hours, dividing up the day for the benefit of industry and its working practices. There would also be Holy Days, when work was not required – now the basis of our earned holidays in a regulated system.

The division of time that we have in our culture is a construct to create conformity in people. It separates us from nature. When you are fully present in ‘the now’, there is no time. Time is defined by the season of the cherry blossom, the dying of the wasps, the shadow of your chimney on the land and so on. Time measurement however allows us to order our lives better than ‘I will meet you at the creek when the first snows have come’ – especially now the climate is in chaos as a result of our separation from nature.

To illustrate our arbitrary measurement of time; below is an image of an Aztec calendar measuring time in another culture. Can you make any sense of it at all?

an Aztec Calendar

So your mission this week is to play with the way you measure or count time. Suggestions are: make a ‘different’ clock from dripping water or candles, add the Celtic Year to your diary along with the New and Full Moons, make (or purchase) a moon calendar. Make a way of measuring time that suits you or work on a diary approach to constructing your days for maximum enjoyment.

You might research into other cultures’ perception of time, like the Aztec Calendar above. The study of time perception or chronoception is a field within psychology, cognitive linguistics and neuroscience that refers to the subjective experience of time. For example, the Amondowa, a tribe in Brazil might talk about seasons but have little conception of future or past at all! Apparently they are very laid back!