Friday, December 14, 2012

Pagan Blog Project - Y is for Year & a Day

When searching for info on Paganism, you will come across the phrase year and a day. What exactly does this mean? In covens with a degree system, the student will need to spend at least a year and a day before moving up. Seekers must spend a year and a day before being formally admitted into the coven. Before I get to the meaning of YaaD, I will need to define year.

What is a year?
A year is a measure of time and space, specifically, the time that it takes for a heavenly body to move around a fixed point. In our case, this is the time it takes for the earth to complete a revolution around the sun.

Why YaaD?
Apparently the timeframe YaaD is rooted in medieval common law. I couldn't find anything that pointed to a specific pagan tradition.

Types of years
Most places on Earth use the Gregorian calendar which is based on the tropical year. The tropical or solar year measures the time it takes for sun to appear in the same position of the sky aligned with the seasons. For example, March equinox to March equinox is one tropical year. The tropical year is averaged at 365.25 days.

The lunar year is a little trickier. The moon revolves around the earth which revolves around the sun. If we define a lunar month as 29.5 days, then a lunar year would be 354 (12 * 29.5) days. In order to sync the lunar year with the solar year, every 2 or 3 years a leap month is necessary. So a lunar year can be 354, 383, or 384 days.

But wait! If we take the average women's menstruation cycle of 28 days, which is roughly a sidereal month, the lunar year is 364 (28*13) days. The ancients maybe figured this was the best way to fit the moonth with the solar year with 1 day left over. Today, our moon does not have anything to do with how the months are figured.

I like to believe that the pagans of old paid way more attention to the moon than today's society. For that reason, I posit that year and a day originally referred to the moonth of 28 days fitting into the solar year. Now, many of us who practice Paganism are Neo-Pagans. We benefit from today's scientific and technological advances. If  YaaD means a solar year + 1 day to you, who am I to argue?

When does the year begin?
Just pick your favorite:

  • your personal year is your birthday. Since I'm into astrology, my personal year is marked by the sun's return to the exact place in the sky when I was born. This is called a solar return.
  • The Gregorian calendar begins on 1/1. Seems arbitrary to me.
  • Some refer to the Witch's New Year as beginning on Samhain which is 10/31 or 11/7 depending on your tradition. Other witches/pagans use other days. I like Yule / winter solstice.
  • Cultures around the world use either the full or new moon before a solar event (solstice, equinox, quarter day) to mark the beginning of the year.

How does your tradition define year and a day?

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