Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Beaker New Year

Today is the day that would have been New Year's Day in the 2nd and 3rd millennium in Western Europe and probably the holiest day in Beaker religion.

Today is the vernal or spring equinox in which the dawn goddess brings her brother (the sun) and sister (the moon) in equal phase*.  The vernal equinox would not have not been missed by those who buried their dead facing the rising sun and who adorned all of their personal gear with solar and lunar motifs.

Aphrodite (or Venus) from Pompeii

In fact, the linguistic variation of "April" or "Avril" suggests 'to open', as in a new year, and a more linguistic and mythological constructions point to a dawn goddess/morning star who rises from the sea foam of Oceanus. (This etymology is contested.  A more likely source is from Etruscan from "Apru", aka Venus.  On the other hand, it's Etruscan which is another rabbit hole)

Originally, the Roman calendar started with the vernal equinox (today), but the Romans decided early to migrate from the ten month calendar (December, 'deci' being the tenth month) to a more rational twelve month calendar) and later on moving New Year's from Mars (corrected) to Janus's month, January (he being one who looks back and forward)  Before the fist of Rome, most European calendars were on the old school system and many of those lasted to early medieval times.  I won't dive into the fifty thousand subjects that brings up and will instead say, "Happy Beaker New Year!" and also, "Happy Birthday Beaker Blog"/

*Update* Just a correction.  As Maju points out, the first month is Mars in the Roman calendar, followed by April.  Assuming they and other Europeans followed a strictly solar calendar, the first month would always be Mars or equivalents, whereas in modern times falls about half and half.  In Germanic mythology, the first month before Easter was Hretha or Rheda, who like Venus had twins with the primary war god.  Peeling away the layers of divergence and syncretism makes an interesting study.


  1. First of all, happy new year. :)

    It's clear that the ancient beginning of the year on this date is preserved in the astrological traditions, for which the first month or sign is Aries (unlike in the Indian variant, focused on constellations, the Western variant retain a strictly solar year structure). I must hence contend that this month was not April but Mars, precisely because of these astrological traditions that are rooted in the Greco-Roman world and surely even older ones. It is Mars (planet and god), and not Venus, which is strictly associated to the sign of Aries and the "pioneer" characteristics it's said to embody. Venus is related to Taurus, the second month.

    This is also true re. the first Roman calendar, the one attributed to Romulus, which had only 10 months but began in the vernal equinox with the month of Mars. It went: Martius (god: Mars), Aprilis (goddess Apru, an Etruscan name of Aphrodite-Venus), Maius (goddess Maia), Iunius (god Ianus, very important for the Romans), and then Quintilis (fifth), Sextilis, etc. to December (tenth). Oddly enough there were some 61 days at the end of the year that were not assigned to any month. Later Numa Pompilius reformed the calendar adding two months: January and February, for this especial winter period. Finally the Julian reform created the calendar we use today (slightly changed by Pope Gregorius to better fit the astronomical facts).

    It is important to underline that the relation between April and aprire (to open) is fallacious. April does not come from Latin but from Etruscan, as it were these who called Apru to Aphrodite, while the Latins called her Venus. It must be said that the primary Etruscan name of Aphrodite was however Turan, being Apru surely a Greek-rooted form (but still Etruscan). Aphrós was also used in Greek as appellative of Aphrodite (and is clearly the root of the full name), meaning foam and salive or dribble, and speculatively related to Basque "adur", also salive but more importantly the notion of "magic fluid(s) that impregnates everything", much as in the humoristic tradition of primitive medicine surely (Aphrodite was not an Olympic goddess but clearly a remnant of previous traditions, being associated to the castration of Uranos by genesis and to Troy by semi-mythical choice of Paris). See:

    1. You are correct, Mars is the first month in the Roman calendar. I assumed it was April but that's because where half of the modern equinoxes fall. At that time it would have always started on the first day of Mars assuming it was strictly solar.
      Overall the mythology surrounding the equinox is still applicable. Interesting is the parallels in Germanic mythology which is very similar to Mars and Venus and the conception of twins (girls in Saxon religion)
      The first month was Rheda or Hresa and not Easter.

      The link is very interesting, thanks for posting.

      And BTW, I see the origin of Apur, I'll do some more reading on this