26. Moon Measurer: Using the Moon to Measure Time
Updated: Feb 23, 2022
Lunar calendars. Many cultures have used them, and continue to do so, prioritising the moon's cycles over the sun's.
This is one example from a historical account:
"The Moon is the auspicious Planet of the Turks: According to the course of which they celebrate their Festivals. They begin their Months from the first appearance of it, at which time they choose, except a delay brings a great Prejudice and Inconvenience with it, to begin their great Actions. The Crescent is the Ensign of the Empire, which they Paint in Banners, and place upon the Spires of their Moschs. Next to the Day of the appearing Moon, they pitch upon Friday, to fight upon, to begin a journey, and especially their Pilgrimage toward Mecca, or do any thing of great Consequence, as very lucky and fortunate."(6)
The Gregorian calendar, the most widely used in the world today, is solar, but it has inherited aspects of lunar calendars. For example, I was surprised to read about the reason our leap year is in February:
"There are also special markings in the Kharnakhoran that refer to the place the leap year’s additional day should occupy. March 17, for instance, is preceded by the following note: “Hebrews put the day of the leap year here.” This means that in the other calendars of the same group the place of this additional day will be the same. Thus, the place of the leap year’s additional day in the Arabic calendar should be before March 17, i.e., March 16. "(8)
It is no surprise to read about the central importance of the moon to many cultures. Many countries today use the moon's crescent in their national flag. I have been wondering if the moon might have been used as a central part of calculating and measuring time cycles.
Were the cycles of the moon once used to calibrate the measure of time generally?
We traditionally divide the year into twelve months, and so it seems obvious that the moon, renewing itself between twelve and thirteen times a year, should be the driving force behind such a division of the solar year. But do the moon's cycles support the other calibrations of time that have come down to us from the past?
The Hebrew calendar is a luni-solar calendar, and as such the epitomy of sophistication, in that combining the cycles of the moon and the sun into one, precise and working system of time-keeping is an incredible feat. It is a very ancient and accurate artefact from the distant past. In it, the day is divided into 25,920 parts or chalakim.(1) Why this number, which also describes a very long cycle of the earth, in years?
This 25,920 itself is 24 times 1,080. This is a lunar number, in that the moon’s equatorial radius is 1,080 miles (or 1,738.1 km). Also, the average distance between the moon and earth is the moon diameter multiplied by 108.
12, 24, 144, 108, 864, 1296, 3168, 25920.....
These numbers come up again and again.
I first came across 25,920 when reading Graham Hancock's books, who describes 25,920 and many of its divisions such as 108 and 864 as precessional numbers. This is because the precessional cycle the Earth goes through lasts roughly 25,920 years. Was this precise number chosen because it is 2,160 x 12?
Much later, I read Berriman's book on metrology, and discovered the importance for him of the number 1,296, which he terms 'k'. Sometimes 'k' is also 1,296 x 4,375/4,374 = 1,296.296296296... I've since become quite fond of dividing things by 1,296 and 25,920.
864 is exactly one thirtieth part of the traditional figure given to the length of a precessional cycle in years, 25,920. The number 864 can be associated with both lunar and solar years. A circle with a diameter of 864 units would have a circumference of approximately 1,000 lunations / the difference in days between solar and lunar years. Funnily enough, the sun has a diameter of 864,000 miles. So you could say the sun has, in miles, a circumference of 1,000,000 lunations / the difference in days between solar and lunar years. 22/7 is an approximation of pi. The number of days in a lunar month divided by the difference in days between twelve lunar months and a year is therefore very close to Pi as 22/7 times 0.864. Twelve lunar months of 29.53059 days give a lunar year of 354.36708 days. That’s 10.875119 days fewer than a solar year of 365.242199 days. You could say that pi itself can be approximated as 1 lunation / difference in days between twelve lunar months and a year multiplied by 0.864.
29.53059 / 10.875119= 2.7154268
864 x 22 / 7,000 = 2.71542857
The solar and lunar years, and the wobble of the earth’s spin on its own axis, are all connected to the number 864. Or you could say that the relation between the solar and lunar years can be expressed as pi multiplied by the length of a precessional cycle (traditional value) divided by 30,000. If one thousand lunar months of 29.53059 days and the number of days difference between the solar and lunar years, 10.875119, then divided by pi as 22/7, gives 864, then 3,000 lunar months give, in the same way, the precessional cycle. 30,000 x 29.53059/10.875119 x (7/22) = 25,919.983, call it 25,920.
Michael S. Schneider, in his excellent website and book, points out that 86,400,000 is a very nice number. He asks (2):
How many milliseconds are in a day?
Obviously, 1000 milliseconds/second x 60 seconds/minute x 60 minutes/hour x 24 hours/day = 86,400,000
or, more neatly = 55 x 44 x 33 x 22 x 11
In all the oldest traditions across the world, the number 60 is associated with counting time, the day might be divided into 60 parts, or there are 60 minutes per hour, 60 seconds per minute. Is the moon the reason for the sexagesimal system?
The cycles of the moon are not just limited to the month, whichitself is variously defined, according to the stars or the earth in relation to the sun, or in relation to eclipses, and the Metonic cycle of 19 years. There's a period of 600 years that Cassini found to be very exact, and which the Chaldeans used also. It links up the solar year with 223 lunar months. This period of 600 years was multiplied by 6 for a greater cycle. Six of these would obviously make 3600 years. (see Bailly's Histoire de l'Astronomie Ancienne, page 110). Three of these cycles, so 669 lunar months, formed a cycle that was used to predict eclipses. (Bailly p 140)
Isthis cycle is the reason for the number 6 being so prominent in some ancient counting systems, such as the Babylonian, but also in the way we keep time still today, and geographical coordinates too?
The Moon's cycles may also be part of a measurement system that includes the planets.
The Aubrey holes form a ring of fifty-six pits at Stonehenge, named after the seventeenth-century researcher John Aubrey, and date from the late fourth millennium B.C.E. The number 56 is very interesting, in several ways. In Pythagorean teaching, a geometric figure with 56 angles was considered sacred to Typhon, the chaos deity of the Egyptians. (3) The number 56 was also connected by the Pythagoreans with the Morning Star, or Venus. But far from being compatible only with chaos, 56 seems to be compatible with order, as it seems to be common factor in several planetary and lunar cycles. As researcher Robert Carl (4) has shown: the draconic or eclipse year is 346.62 days long, and (12,000 Phi) / 56 would give a very similar 346.72156. Mercury’s Orbital Period is 87.9691 days, almost 88, and combined with 56, this brings us back to the 22/7 approximation of Pi, as 88/56. Saturn’s orbital period is 10,759.22 days can be loosely linked to Mars’s orbital period of 686.971 days: 10,759.22 x 200 / 562 = 686.175.
I found also that Jupiter’s Orbital Period of 4,332.59 days x 56 / 100 is almost equal to the number of days in 7 draconic years, and also almost equal to the number of years in 30,000 lunations. 1,000,000 draconic months (in days) divided by Jupiter Orbital Period (in days) is 56.0394² x 2.
(Based on representative image of the Solar System with sizes, but not distances, to scale, Wikimedia Commons)
To go back to Stonehenge’s Aubrey circle, the number 56 is crucial not because it represents a cycle in days but because it is the number of points needed to create a system by which to keep track of the draconic or eclipse year. In fact, half of 56 would do, but a circle of 56 points makes a perfect clock for predicting lunar eclipses. The method, discovered by Gerald Hawkins, involves using two markers going round anti-clockwise at different speeds over the course of a year, with corrections every so often, because the sun and moon’s cycles aren’t in integer numbers of days. There are at least two lunar eclipses every year, sometimes as many as five. These happen when the moon, in its orbit, crosses the sun’s path, or the ecliptic. At the time of a lunar eclipse, moon, earth and sun are aligned. The places where lunar eclipses can happen, called nodes, slowly drift, and this gives rise to another cycle: these nodes, complete one full circle in 18.61 years. In the 56 Aubrey hole system, the sun marker is moved two holes anti-clockwise every 13 days, and the moon takes one turn of the circle in 28 days (hence the number 28, or its double being used for the number of markers).
A circle of 176 units would have a diameter of 56, using pi as 22/7.
Each pair of Aubrey holes is separated by 31.68 feet, or 176 x 12 x 15/1000 feet, or 19008/600. The embankment circle at Stonehenge is 1,056 feet in circumference, or 3,168 / 3 feet.
Arguably, any of these figures connected to the number 19.008 is ultimately derived from the difference between the length in days between the solar and lunar years.
It's clear that the moon was worshipped for a very long time, and this may have been due, in part, to its importance in science and measure. I think it's quite possible that the link between time-keeping, calendars and even space coordinates, and the duodecimal system, i.e. base twelve, comes from the central part the moon plays and has played in human minds for many centuries, both in religion and in science.
I'd like to conclude with an account of moon worship I came across in an old book online, by one E. Halley, in the last few years of the 17th century. (7)
"6. ΥΠΟ ΙΑΡΙΒΩΛΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ (pag. 101. & 109.) It cannot well be doubted but that this Deus Jaribolus is the same with what Gruter (pag. 86.) and Spon (in the first of his Inscriptions) reads ΑΓΛΙΒΩΛΩ. By the Figure of the Idol extant in Spon, it appears that this God was made with the Moon upon his Shoulders, and consequently was the Deus Lunus worshipped by the Syrians, whose Name, in the Language of that Country, could not be better expressed than by Jarehbol ירה ביעל Dominus Lunus. Whence I am induced to believe, that Gruter mistook it ΑΓΛΙΒΩΛΩ for ΑΓΑΙΒΩΛΩ, the Ι in the beginning, and the lower part of the round stroke of the Ρ, being effaced, so as to pass for Γ. I have taken care to have the Stone purposely viewed, as also to get from thence the exact Figure of the Syrian or Palmyrene Characters thereon, wherein there is an irreconcilable difference between Spon and Gruter. By the help of these, compared with two others taken at Palmyra, which I have by me, (they being all very near the same Date,) I hope we may be able, one Day, to make out the Palmyrene Alphabet: But it were to be wish'd our Travellers had transcribed them with more Curiosity, and taken more of them."(6)
Perhaps our counting and time-keeping systems also, like the god above, have the moon upon their shoulders.
1 See Irv Bromberg’s fantastic website Why Divide Hours into 1080 Parts? (utoronto.ca)
2. Michael S Schneider, www.constructingtheuniverse.com
3. "Sacred to Typhon, as Hawkins, advised by Professor G. de Santillana, found in Plutarch (American Scientist, December 1965). This author of the first century of the present era reports that in the Pythagorean secret teaching "the figure of 56 angles [is sacred] to Typhon" in whom they see "a demoniac power.", quoted in On Decoding Hawkins' Stonehenge Decoded, by Immanuel Velikovsky, http://www.mikamar.biz/Pensee%20I/1-11-stonehnge-decode.htm
4. On the Graham Hancock Message Board
5. “From the Rollrights to Stonehenge—a measure”, Jim Wakefield, Microsoft Word - MEAS-07-Figures_19Sep08_-larger font.doc (dozenalsociety.org.uk)
6. An account of the City of Prusa in Bythynia, and a continuation of the Historical Observations relating to Constantinople, by the Reverend and learned Thomas Smith D. D. fellow of Magd. Coll. Oxon. and of the Royal Society., in Miscellanea Curiosa. Volume 3 containing a collection of curious travels, voyages, and natural histories of countries as they have been deliveredin to the Royal Society1707, The Project Gutenberg eBook of Miscellanea Curiosa, Vol 3, 1707, by Various.
7. Some Account of the Ancient State of the City of Palmyra, with Short Remarks upon the Inscriptions Found there. By E. Halley.
8. Persian and Arabic Calendars as Presented by Anania Shirkatsi Grigor Broutian Viktor Ambartsumian Museum of National Academy of Sciences of Armenia firstname.lastname@example.org (received: 05/05/2010-accepted: 29/06/2010)