FINNISH FOLK CUSTOMS CULTURAL HOLIDAYS TRADITIONS and CELEBRATIONS
THE FINNISH FOLK CALENDAR STAFFS Calendar Staffs with Runes were used before printed calendars
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Runestavs had runes carved on a four-sided staff.
The year, as ever recurring cycle, formed the basis of folk life. The fruits of nature and the animals of water, land and forest were the life-giving forces within the framework of the seasons. Thus from January to December, they hunted, fished and harvested in rhythm with the seasons and weather conditions.
Calendar staffs were in general use in the Scandinavian countries before printed calendars became common. They were staffs of about a metre long with three lengthwise rows of incised markings.
Most of the signs on it were taken from the Scandinavian runic alphabet. In the 15th century signs for the Saints and their Holy Days were invented and added, Signs associated with the work year and nature were also featured.
The middle row carried groups of seven marks each which were repeated 52 times each and represented the days and weeks. There was an extra mark in this row to make up a total of 365 days. The 28th of February in Leap Years was simply counted twice.
The top row featured the signs for the recurring feast days which had fixed days. Examples are New year, Epiphany and the Saint’s days.
Not all staffs had the third row with the so-called “Golden Numbers” of which there were 19. These made it possible to calculate the lunar cycle and thus the dates for the moveable feasts such as Easter.The lunar cycle repeated itself every 19 years, so that the date for any given New Moon would be the same again in 19 years.
Out of their original worship of nature and their ensuing close observation of it, developed the ability to forecast, to some degree changes in the weather. The result is a wealth of sayings and proverbs pertaining to nature and weather prognosis. Through the ages these were passed on from generation to generation and were eventually included in the Books of Days, farming manuals and calendars.
The solar calendar has undergone several changes since it was first adopted. Two or more dates can often be attributed to the same event, depending on whether the original calendar or the present one is used.
The Julian calendar was adopted in 46 B.C and generally used in the Western world until 1582 when pope Gregory promulgated the new style calendar that moved everything forward by 11 days.
Furthermore, the peasants had their own calendar based on nature and the lunar cycle, which co existed with the official version.
All Text, Illustrations and Photos Copyright Anneke Lipsanenwww.anniarts.com Runestavs was compiled from the book "The Finnish Folk Year" by Anneke Lipsanen. A collection of articles from the book can be read on this site
I am the author of the original book which is no longer in print. However, it is in the process of being released again in a new format.