- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The "Great Druid Secrets"

The Key to the Mysteries...

The Solstice / Equinox Square...

Yes, it's because the Earth's tilt does NOT CHANGE throughout
the year that we have our changing seasons... 

Can you see why we have our longest daylight hours in June (bottom) 
and our longest nights in December (top)?

I personally developed this diagram back in the 1980's when I was working at the planetarium giving classes and science demonstrations. Although there are various "reasons for the seasons" diagrams in science books showing the Earth's seasonal orientation as it orbits around the Sun, none of the books I have seen ever show the Earth/Sun/Earth's-orbit relationship from this particular perspective.

Below is one of my versions with more explanation. In either diagram the cycle runs counter-clockwise. This is because the Earth actually orbits the Sun going around it in a counter-clockwise path while it spins on its axis counter-clockwise as well.

A primary thing to notice is the relationship of the Arctic Circle, the inner circle with a dot (North Pole) scribed in each Earth-disk, and its position relative to the Earth's "terminator" (the day/night line marked by the dotted lines). This view becomes the very "key" to the Great Druid Mystery. Only from this special perspective ("looking-down" on it all, from "above") can we see, simply and simultaneously, the reason for the Summer Solstice and Yule Solstice but also the reason for the Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox, as well.

- E.

SOLSTICE (SOLC): Either of the two extremes of the Earth’s constant 23.4° axial-tilt, relative to the sunlight falling on its surface. Only at the June Solstice is the Earth’s north pole tilted the full 23.4° towards the Sun... and only at the December Solstice is it tilted the full 23.4° away from the Sun.
EQUINOX (EQX): The Spring or Autumn quarter begins as the Earth’s terminator, the boundary-line between night and day, momentarily crosses the North and South Poles. Therefore, with the Earth’s day/night boundary line briefly poised simultaneously over both poles, only on dates near these times of year are the number of hours of night and day equal all over the globe.



I've always considered this also to be a Great Druidic Secret: The "quarters" of the natural year, the sections of the Earth's orbit between adjacent equinoxes and solstices, are not of equal length... they actually differ by several days!

Quartering the year is not a matter of simply dividing the length of the year into four equal parts (365.242d/4). Nope; prepare yourself for a surprise... The current values for the lengths of the seasons are:

• Winter = 88 .99 days
• Spring = 92 .76 days
• Summer = 93. 65 days
• Autumn = 89. 84 days
Did you know any of those values?

So, spring and summer run nearly three days longer each than the autumn and winter quarters! It may seem mysterious but it all makes sense when you recall that the Earth is about one million miles closer to the Sun in the first week of January than it is in the first week of July. The Earth's orbit is not perfectly circular; it's out of round by one part in 93. Actually the definition of an orbit requires that is that it be an ellipse, that's what keeps an orbiting body "going". The last time there was any parity among the seasonal quarters was the year 1246 CE when Spring and Summer were the same length as well as Autumn and Winter having a different but equal length.

...Is it really unreasonable to expect a "Druid" to know
how many days there are in each season? 



This chart shows the similarities and correlations between 
     the cycle of a day
     the seasons of a year,
     and the stages of a lifetime... 

(c)1994, 2005 Earrach of Pittsburgh
On understanding and using this chart...
Not only does it suggest the stations quartering these cycles but also those subdividing the quarters into intervals divided by cross-quarters. Using a chart like this we can build a rational system of interlocking and sequential “layers” of meaning, each suggesting comparative meanings across these domains in a fashion known in ancient times as a “table of correspondences”. (memetic resonance / nested metaphors, etc.)
One way of understanding the pattern being presented here is to recognize the chart’s “spine” or central column which marks-out the stations along the cycle of one day. From there we see the page’s left half lists the calendar of a year, while the right side lists the set of four stations of a human life and their intervals.
The DAY 
Marked down the chart’s center we see that the day is quartered by four solar stations: Midnight, Sunrise, Noon, and Sunset. Between each of those run the “seasons of the day”: the Predawn or “Wee Hours”, Morning, Afternoon, and Evening. A critically important thing to notice is that the four solar “stations” themselves marking the lowest, rising, highest, and setting times of the Sun do –not- mark the equivalent extremes and means of temperature over the cycle of the day. In otherwords, although the Sun is at its lowest at midnight, the coldest time actually occurs near the middle of the pre-dawn or “wee hours”. Likewise, although the Sun is at its highest at noon, the hottest time of day occurs later, in the mid-afternoon. Now, hold that thought and proceed...

     (c)2012 Earrach
The four astronomical "quarter-days" make up the framework of the year... and, please note, the popular assertion that the Celts "began" their year at Samhain (Nov.1st) has NO historical basis and is probably worth ignoring, especially in this context.)

     December Solstice,

     March Equinox,

     June Solstice,

     September Equinox.

Midway between each of these quarterdays fall what are known as the “crossquarters”, ("XQ") dates traditionally celebrated as being roughly mid-way between each of the four solar stations:

     February XQ: (trad Feb. 2; "Imbolc") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Wee Hours")

     May XQ:  (trad May 1st; "Beltaine") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Mid-Morning")

     August XQ:  ( trad. Aug 1st; "Lughnassadh") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Mid Afternoon")

     November XQ:  (trad. Nov. 1st; "Samhain") - - (diurnal equivalent: "Twilight's End")

Now, recalling the temperature lag seen above in the process of a day, notice the four “stations” of the solar year here similarly marking the lowest, halfway-up, highest, and halfway-down days on the Sun’s yearly cycle overhead. As seen in the cycle of the Sun through the year, these ALSO do –not- mark the equivalent extremes and means of temperature over this cycle. So, here we see, in other words... although the Sun is at its lowest at Yule Solstice, the coldest time of year actually occurs near the middle of the winter quarter in January or February. Likewise, although the Sun is at its highest at Summer Solstice in late June, the hottest time of year occurs later, in July or August.

The right side of the chart lists a human life, sectored-off by four developmental milestones or thresholds:


     Coming of Age,



In each of the intervals between these thresholds we find a dynamic triad of factors following the three nornic (temporal) modalities of

“From” -"Through” - "To"

With each set summing to a “to”, the sum of each “from” and “through” lead to a concept which helps both justify and open-onto the life-threshold which immediately follows...

Example: Lying between the life-stage milestones NATIVITY and COMING of AGE, we see the crossquarter between them revealing  its "seasonal-mystery" in the transitional factors manifesting there deemed  "from Infancy through Weaning to Fosterage"..

(And you wondered if there could be any other justifications for the milk-themes in the lore of Imbolc... !)

- (c)2006 Earrach of Pittsburgh
IV.  The Wheel of the Year:  

one example...

" A DAY is to a YEAR,  
as a YEAR 
is to a LIFETIME "

- (c) 1994, 2011 Earrach of Pittsburgh
ALL PHOTOS, IMAGES, CHARTS and TEXT ON THIS PAGE are original works of "Earrach of Pittsburgh",  the sole author of this website, (c) 2011, 2013. Use in a for-profit context is prohibited without permission and use in a non-profit context should be at least credited to the author via link to this blog.

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