On Syncretizing Calendars

I tend not to ID as an eclectic, but on paper it fits. I’m actually spirit-led, largely, and try to avoid making religious decisions based on things I personally want – other than, you know, the occasional petition for blessings or for help with something specific; still on the hunt for a reliable power to assist me with my art path, for instance – but what this means in practice is that I have to juggle a lot of calendars.

Hopefully, in reading how I’ve come up with a workable ritual and feast schedule, you can get some ideas on how to reconcile your own. The tl;dr follows.

My primary “hearth” framework is largely Mesoamerican in origin, an amalgam of Yucatecan and Mexican, which collectively provides me with not one but two calendars: the ancient civic and religious ones, which are mathematically different in their reckoning. Then there’s the solar “wheel of the year” calendar. Lunar calendar. Heathen calendar for the occasions that I honor Germanic/Saxon folk custom. The Gregorian calendar. American civic calendar. Canadian civic calendar.

That’s a lot of moving parts. 8 of them, to be exact. Thankfully, the only real discrepancy between the American and Canadian national holiday schedule is July 4th vs July 1st, Remembrance Day, and the October Thanksgiving. (I just celebrate both Thanksgivings, instead. And I’ve repurposed one to be a feast for the dead anyhow! Still trying to get prospective guests on board with a full-on Dumb Supper, though…)

Coordinating everything can very easily be an exercise in frustration, and this has been a work in progress for me for years. In the middle of those years, I moved from a desert/mediterranean climate to a rainforest/mediterranean climate, because apparently I wanted to make things harder for myself. And trust me; while it may not seem like “snow plus a lot of rain” a big deal, it is when your primary power is a summer storm god and his holy days closely coincide with an agricultural calendar that originated in the tropics. It’s taken me the better part of 5 years to realize that Chaak leaves the region entirely before the first frost, and heads out to sea here on the coast of British Columbia.

Superimposing the ancient Haab (secular calendar) on top of the Gregorian one was a relatively easy, though not painless, decision to make. I barely know what day of the week it is as it stands (unless it’s payday!), so extracting what was the most pertinent calendrical information for my purposes and shaping them to fit the modern Gregorian calendar was essential.

Most of the feasts weren’t relevant to me or the gods I honor, so I was able to pick and choose which of the Haab’s months I needed to syncretize – ultimately, it was the spring that mattered most, so I centered my year around the Wayeb, the five Nameless Days which are left over after the 360 named days have turned. Obviously, when these dates fall is entirely ignorant of what’s going on in the Gregorian calendar at the time, aside from occurring during the spring, near the equinox. It worked out that I could honor them exactly as intended, however, so I started there and built the rest of my year around them. At the end of the Wayeb, neatly enough, does Chaak return to herald in the spring, signalling the beginning of the new ritual year.

Stat holidays of the contemporary civic calendar and the like are observed, for better or for worse, so they obviously stay. As I said above, certain things can be commandeered for our purposes, like my two Thanksgivings, the American one of which still nicely fits with the general theme of November being a month for the dead, starting with the carnivalia of Halloween and the ancestral remembrance of Dia De Muertos, and ending with various other remembrance days, like the Trans Day of Remembrance and Remembrance for Lost Species Day, as well as being peppered with more throughout the month. The end of November here seems to usually coincide with Wild Hunt type weather as well, which signals me to prepare for the departure of my primary god. The same general instinct, however, applies to December and all the rest of them.

December’s highlight is our household’s new 12 Days of Yuletide, starting with Modraniht, and ending on New Year’s Day.

The most important month of the Haab for me to maintain, though, is the month of Mol, which was dedicated to the artisans, and the renewal of the sacred idols. It’s a 20-day period of intensive religious work for the icon makers, which I’ve decided to place in the month of February, which is as close to 20 days as our modern calendar gets. It includes periods of fasting* and isolation, and seeing as how my tradition often requires fasting for a minimum of 13 days, I’ve decided to synchronize the beginning of my fasting period with the day after Ewemeolc/Imbolc/Candlemas. I wanted this to fall during the time that Chaak is “gone”, so that I can have his new icons ready when he returns.

Other holidays that were important for me to maintain, such as the Renewal of the Tools, and the Renovation of the Temples (my names for them), were all very spring-like, so that’s where I placed them, even though one of them happens to occur at a completely different time of year.

May Day is also ritually important to me, marking the beginning of my summer season which is usually more focused on spirit-work than god-work, so that stayed. May through August is largely occupied with a more spontaneous, hyperlocal focus, where I do work outdoors with the genus loci and other numinous beings. I do a lot of gathering, foraging, and gardening during this time, so I get my hands dirty. So no real calendar here, except for the solstice, which is a minor affair for me. Certainly nothing to take time off work for. As fall settles in, the “harvest” from my deck garden starts to come in, my foraging kicks into high gear as berries ripen and acorns plump up, and before I know it, Canadian Thanksgiving is here again.

Most recons trying to make sense of their calendar won’t have the same problems I do, as many old world holidays have solar/lunar components and aren’t based on completely mathematical reckonings of time, or whose dates have been Christianized for so long that we more or less just use them anyways, or all bear a close enough resemblance to each other that syncretizing comes effortlessly… provided you can remember all your holy days!

For me, I had to pick someplace in the year to anchor all the calendars together. I had to start somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be a perfect fit, especially with how neatly it lines up with my regional Chaak UPG. The rest was put together piecemeal: clusters of holy tides, periods of sacred work and things, all that which needed to be buttressed by other specific rituals and days. These could be slotted in next. Certain movable feasts, minor holidays, and others that didn’t call for a lot of preparation, could be placed in the remaining spaces between. (All in ways that made sense and complimented the flow of energy through the progressing seasons, the march of civic holidays, and other regional quirks like weather patterns, and so on.)

The goal is to wind up with something that works, and not something that’s hopelessly complex, stressfully busy, or nonsensical. If you have to shift something around by 2 months to make it work, there’s a chance that it’s possibleProvided, again, that it makes sense, honors and dignifies your numinous powers, and contributes to a functional cosmology that brings you further into right relationship rather than being an escapist fantasy. (Not saying that any of you do that, but I’m sure we all know of someone online whose bastardized a tradition beyond recognition to fit their Llewellynized, omnist lifestyle.**)

In other words: don’t make things needlessly difficult for you, but at the same time, do the right thing.

*Fasting can mean all sorts of things other than complete abstention from food. Intermittent fasting is one form. Fasting from types of food, or seasoning, is another. For my 13 day fast, I will probably maintain my mostly 16:8 IF schedule, as well as abstain from meat, sweeteners, processed foods, and strong seasoning.

** Gonna start a new hashtag. #rosequartztintedglasses

4 thoughts on “On Syncretizing Calendars

    1. This is actually a calendar system I implemented a good many years ago but lapsed on – it’s not quite like riding a bicycle, unfortunately!

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  1. Sounds like you’ve got a great system worked out! I also live in a rainy place, and as a kemetic polytheist, that can be pretty jarring when I try to sync up the Ancient Egyptian seasons and associated holidays with my decidedly non-desert climate.

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