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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: (urth) Lunar madness!
Date: Fri, 13 Aug 1999 10:42:20 

Whoops--I left out more steps than I thought.

Re: Lunar reckoning and calendars, my sense of it is (and I probably got
this from some comic book) . . .

At the earliest stage people reckon by the lunar phases, which yeilds a
month of 29.5 days, which is rounded down to 29 days--but still, nothing is
written down, the Moon is just like a calendar in the sky.  The system has
no anchor to the solar year, cannot adequately cope with even 360 days to a
year, and has an inherent fuzziness due to the fraction.

At a later stage the system of alternating long months (30 days) and short
months (29 days) adjusts the system to phase reality (accounts for the
fraction).  It does a better job of approximating the solar year.

At some stage, the Lunar college figures out that the revolution period is
around 28 days (27.332).

Then the astronomers and/or cultural administrators hit upon the seven day
week (other numbers are possible, of course--ancient Egyptians at some
point had a ten day week with a 30 day month), in part due to counting
celestial bodies, in part due to some mystical weirdness.  (It is
interesting to see how different civilizations have used or ignored the
concept of the seven day week--likewise, it seems to be just an
administrative unit in the Commonwealth: the days do not have names.  I
believe this was the situation in medieval Japan, and much later, when they
finally got around to giving names to the days, they put the Western system
through their now-famous reverse engineering process.)

The seven day week and the 28 day month fit together quite well.  You can
get quite close to a solar year with a little tinkering; plus you take away
the power from the peasants and make them rely upon administrators to make
calendars, since the phases no longer signify.

From there the evolution of the calendar goes on and on.

So!  Wolfe, in giving the month as 28 days, is either using a ballpark
figure (in which case Urth Lunar months are impossible as they seem to be
described) or an exact number (in which case the system works like the
earliest 29.5 day system, with the advantages of fitting into a solar year
and having exactly four weeks per month).

I didn't mean to be arguing with John Bishop--I was juggling apples and
oranges at the time.  The Urth calendar (if the month really is exactly 28
days) is a blend of the earliest Lunar reckoning and the final
administrative model Lunar calendar (13 months), this second thing being a
beast which was probably never used anywhere in history (hard to guess
about prehistory), yet might account for 13-o-phobia, and it still crops up
as "new calendar" model from time to time.

Regarding "years used to be longer" as a physical reality.  Well, seems to
me that if we can't shift Urth's orbit a tad closer to Verthandi, then
years can only be longer in a subjective way by having shorter days, which
leads to "more" days in a solar year.

Re: collection of Moons--great haul, Roy!  Alas, Spading Moon continues to
ellude us.

Re: agricultural behavior.  Well, my limited observation was of a monsoon
fed rice culture, so I don't know how much bearing this has upon Western
quasi-medieval (and the agricultural technology really has to be =much=
better than that to support Nessus) agricultural behavior in an imaginary
continent, but!

IIRC, after the autumn harvest and stubble burning, the former rice paddy
was plowed and a "winter" crop of barley was sown.  That is to say: the
field is not allowed to be unproductive for the period between autumn
harvest and spring sowing; the farmer works it as much as seasonally
possible (and I don't remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure they harvested
whatever barley they had before the winter snows came--almost certainly
before astronomical winter began).

So in my very limited experience I can see how a Spading Moon could come
after a Harvest Moon.

Then again, why are they spading at night?  That is: Harvest Moon gives the
farmer extra hours of light in which to gather up the crops before rain
and/or early snow ruin everything.  Harvest Moon is therefore something
like "Indian Summer" with just light and not heat; a happy little bonus
just when you need it.  Likewise, "Hunter's Moon" gives the hunter a boost
in hunting.  But why spade at night--what's the rush?  Well, this might be
a case of the Moon being just a symbol for
"month-when-said-activity-takes-place" rather than any kind of

Finally, I previously mentioned Halloween-like holidays not located in
Autumn.  More specific:

Lemuria (ancient Roman) in May
Setsubun (Japanese) in Feb (now but previously "beginning of Spring")

Vernal Equinox    Mar 20    Southern Hemisphere Autumn begins
+Setsubun (then)  Mar 20-ish
mid-Spring        May  1    mid-Autumn
+Lemuria          May
Summer Solstice   Jun 21    S. Hemisphere Winter begins
mid-Summer        Aug  1    mid-Winter
Autumnal Equinox  Sep 23    S. Hemisphere Spring begins
mid-Autumn        Nov  1    mid-Spring
Feast of Cath. A. Nov 25    last quarter of Spring
Winter Solstice   Dec 22    S. Hemisphere Summer begins
mid-Winter        Feb  1    mid-Summer
+Setsubun (now)   Feb


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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