Jamie Carter observes how dependent religious events such as Easter are on the moon. Humans celebrate these events not because of a numbered calendar date, but because of lunar cycles.

When is Easter? That’s easy—Easter is on Sunday, April 12, 2020 for western christians and on Sunday, April 19, 2020 for eastern orthodox christians.

Two dates, forever changing—Easter does not have a specific date.

Unlike Christmas Day, it changes every year depending on something that most people don’t often associate with the christian religion—the moon.

For the world’s 1.8 billion muslims, the exact date of Ramadan is determined by the lunar cycle—with the physical sighting of the crescent moon the day after a New Moon the critical factor. In 2020, that’s Thursday, 23 April—the evening after the next New Moon—unless the crescent isn’t sighted, in which case it will begin the evening after when the New Moon is higher in the post-sunset sky…

Easter is celebrated by roman catholics and protestant christians on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox as determined by the Gregorian calendar. That’s the rule. Since the equinox occurred on March 20, 2020 and the “Super Pink Moon” appeared on April 7, 2020, so the date of Easter Sunday was automatically set for Sunday, April 12, 2020. It’s been that way since the year 325 A.D…

Although its 99% a lunar festival in terms of the date it’s held, Easter isn’t just determined by the moon’s phases. The ecclesiastical authorities fix the vernal equinox at March 21, thereby limiting the dates when Easter can occur…

Clocks are a modern invention, as is the convention of global calendars standard time. “Prior to the Gregorian calendar, which is our standard calendar now, calendars were set by the phases of the moon because we didn’t have clocks,” said Dr. Jackie Faherty, Senior Scientist and Senior Education Manager jointly in the Department of Astrophysics and the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.

The Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar that evolved from a lunar calendar. “Standards of time only began when people wanted to set train timetables, and this idea that we have a universal time that we can all get from looking at our watch is something we take for granted,” said Faherty…

Much of our calendar comes from astronomy,” said Faherty, stating that Monday is named after the Moon. “It’s a constant and observable feature that you can get your own understanding of, with its changing phases a great way of tracking the seasons.”

Our concepts of time, and the language we use to talk about it, owe a lot to the Moon and the Sun.“There’s so much to our keeping track of our time that’s related to astronomy, and so much in the early days was set and understood by the Moon—so that was the way that many religious calendars were calculated, and still are today,” said Faherty.

Carter, J. 2020. ‘When Is Easter? The Lunar Festival That’s Determined By The Movements Of The Moon.’ Forbes. April 9, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2020/04/09/when-is-easter-the-lunar-festival-thats-all-about-the-movements-of-the-moon/#4c8acf3316d7


Defacto Design argues that religious conventions have contributed to shaping calendars which distance us from natural time. These artificial time structures is furthermore said to have perverted our impression of natural reality.

“The 12 month Julian calendar was inherited by the Christians some time around the 6th century then, in 1582, Pope Gregory the 13th reformed the 12 month calendar and it became known as the Gregorian calendar. It can therefore be argued that it is the Vatican’s calendar and the world lives on Vatican time.

The point though is the lack of reason, logic or intuition upon which this system is based. It remains devoid of methodology which stifles usability as attempts to calculate which days of the week correspond to days of the month make clear. It has no rational grounding, other than 365 days corresponding to one solar orbit, and therefore lacks any significant context: Why does a ‘new year’ begin on January the 1st? What relevance does that day have? Why isn’t the 1st day of the year on the solstice? What practical purpose do we have for months of differing lengths other than to disseminate global confusion? And why, in the UK, do we still change our clocks twice a year to encourage ‘day-light saving’ when it means children must walk to school in the dark?

The ultimate purpose of a ‘calendar’ is not to keep accounts but to synchronise. The Gregorian calendar disconnects humanity from the cycles of the planets and galaxies; from the universal order of ‘natural time’ and therefore nature itself. Jonathan Bate observes in his insightful book ‘The Song of the Earth’ that ‘thinkers from Rousseau (1) to the late-twentieth-century Greens have proposed that man’s presumptions of his own apartness from nature is the prime cause of the environmental degradation of the earth’ (2).

Our artificial time has twisted our perception of reality sufficiently for the Oxford English Dictionary to define nature as ‘the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, and the landscape, as opposed to humans or human creations’(3). Are we really ‘opposed’ to the plants, the animals and the entire system which led to our existence? Have we really out-evolved our environment to such an extent that we are no longer part of it?

The imposition of artificial time has perverted our fundamental perceptions of reality. Robert Greenway (4) concludes that if we can learn to ‘…live within the understanding that we are nature, that we cannot be separate from nature, and that an interactive awareness of our naturalness is the first step towards a vast range of wisdom now closed to us… we can return to the communion that this historic period of objectification has [denied] us’.

The Gregorian Calendar provides the main metaphysical frame of reference for humanity and as such its’ influence is unprecedented. It is single-handedly responsible for the perception that ‘time is money’ which perpetuates materialistic cultures in which greed and exploitation dominate.

The objective now is to realign our consciousness, with the synchronic order of natural time, by changing our metaphysical frame of reference and acknowledging ‘time’ as something other than ‘money’. This single issue lies at the heart of the “crisis of perception” which Fritjof Capra (5) suggests is the single root of our contemporary ecological crisis. The entire system of artificial time is fundamentally flawed; to progress, or arguably, for humanity to ‘survive’, we need a different system. Thankfully one based on natural time, which is not linked to any specific religion, has been tried and tested for thousands of years. It uses 13 months of 28 days, and is know as the 13 Moons.”

Defacto Design. 2012. ‘Gregorian versus the Mayan Calendar.’ Defacto Design. http://defactodesign.com/gregorian-versus-mayan-calendar.


Marc Ratcliff reviews how conceptions of time taken from Nature were considered, from the Middle Ages onwards, to be less weak than those relatively constructed by the respective religions. 

…from the Middle Ages onwards, three aspects had strongly affected the sacred time and tended towards its progressive naturalisation: first the mechanical clocks, second the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII (Coyne, Hoskin & Pedersen, 1982), and third the Chinese calendar quarrel (Pinot, 1971, pp. 189-279). All these transformations indicated that the religious foundations of time presented certain weak links and that there was space for new conceptions of time “taken from Nature”. Indeed, the view of a natural versus religious time became the subject of a quarrel of innovators against conservatism. It was during the eighteenth century that new attacks on the traditional model of time —both the biblical model of the Genesis and the model of the fixed species— were carried out from several parts of the scholarly world as well as from philosophers. The representation of naturalised time was transformed and theoretical glimpses at a non-fixist approach of the species were provided for instance by Benoît de Maillet in his Telliamed —an anagram of his name. Experiments were even carried out by Georges Leclerc de Buffon who brought a cannonball to the red-hot and measured the time used to refresh. A computation led him to put back the age of the earth to c. 80’000 years, providing the earth was a fired part escaped from the sun. In natural history, certain scholars such as Maupertuis and Diderot, the botanist Michel Adanson and later Lamarck in the beginning of the 19th century, challenged not the biblical model of time but the fixity of species. It is less known that representing natural time into a chart was already done in the second part of the 18th century by a botanist named Antoine Duchesne. Having discovered a type of strawberry not described that reproduced normally, he considered it to be a type descending from another ancestor, and drew a chart of the genealogy of the various strawberries. Later, the tree was one of the important iconographic charts used to represent natural descent that was developed during the 19th century (Tassy, 1991; Barsanti, 1992).

The general trend that lead to naturalise time took advantage both from the relativistic quarrel about the Christian calendar and from the desacralized approach of the Enlightenment naturalists who dared expanding the biblical time (Ratcliff 2002, 21).

Ratcliff, Marc. 2002. ‘An epistemological history of time: From technology to representations.’ Estudios de Psicología 23(1): 17-27.


David Miller interviews Pagan teacher and author Waverly Fitzgerald, who says that natural time in her book is a reference to a time that can be touched. Conversely, artificial time is characterised as a temporality that is abstracted into homogenous, identical parts. Fitzgerald notes that the rhythms of natural time intersect with Pagan spirituality.

[Miller] You make a distinction in your book between what you call “natural time” and “artificial time.” Isn’t time really an abstraction? So how can it be natural?

  • [Fitzgerald] That was my quest (in writing the book), to answer that question. What is natural about time? And the answer had to do with looking at different time intervals and noticing that some of them you can actually see, touch and smell. You can tell when it’s day and when it’s night. You can observe the moon in the sky and after a few days of observing it you can know whether it’s waxing or waning. You can know what season it is by walking outside. These are all, for me, examples of natural time. What I noticed about all of those cycles was that they were, in fact, cycles. They had, if you will, an “on” and “off” position, or a maximum and a minimum. And then they had a slow gradual progression to and from that state. That’s really different than when you look at a calendar, a schedule or a clock, where everything is completely regular and all times are presumed to be exactly the same. There are blank spaces on the calendar, and you can put the same amount of activity into each of them. There is this sort of unnatural — that’s why I call it artificial — aspect to them, which I think gets us in a lot of trouble because we think, “Oh, we can do this thing in this amount of time,” when really all of these other factors play into it that are not under our control.

You’re not suggesting we throw out our calendars and clocks, are you?

  • No. There are really good reasons why those tools were developed to synchronize activities. But I think as biological beings we also need to be aware of our natural rhythms, including the need for rest. I think many people believe that when you sit down at your desk you should be working flat out at the top of your productivity for the maximum amount of time. At least that’s the ideal. But there something called the ultradian rhythm, a biological cycle where there is an arousal period, a period of waking up and becoming alert, and then a period of getting restless or bored or unfocused and then a time of rest. If you start to observe that cycle in your life, it allows you to have a more relaxed and effective approach to your daily tasks…

How and why do religion or spirituality and slow time intersect, do you think?

  • Most of the major religions have a seasonal liturgy, even though it may be sort of buried. If you look at Christianity, with the Easter cycle and the Christmas birth, there is this lovely use of the seasons to tell a story, and the same is true in the Jewish religion. And, of course, the pagan religion really works with this notion of the seasons and the cycle. So there is a very deep connection between this notion of cyclical time and spirituality. And there is a message of hope that things will come around again, that we may feel despair but spring will come again. It is a pretty profound metaphor that is imbedded in our lives (Miller 2008).

Miller, David. 2008. “Pagan teacher and author of “Slow Time, Waverly Fitzgerald talks about rethinking her relationship to time.” SFGATE. January 28, 2008. https://www.sfgate .com/living/article/Pagan-teacher-and-author-of-Slow-Time-Waverly-2525444.php


Robin Parry notes that whilst the eternity of God transcends the natural temporality of the created world, natural time governs the seasons. Seasons in the Torah refer to religious and sacred festivals. In this impression, natural rhythms, including the periodic emergence of the full moon, are believed to regulate the temporalities of collective rituals.

The cultic association of the sun, moon, and stars – that they are the lamps in God’s cosmic temple – brings attention to a central focus of the author: “Let them be for signs (otot) and for seasons (mô’adîm), and for days and years.” The word translated here as seasons (mô’adîm) is always used in the Torah to refer to religious festivals, sacred seasons, and not merely the natural seasons of the year. The sun and the moon are given important assignments vis-à-vis Israel’s cultic festivals. It may be that the sun and moon are assigned roles over two kinds of time: sacred time (signs and festivals) and ordinary time (days and years).

With regard to natural time we may note that the stars were used to predict the seasons. They were also used to tell the time at night (when sun dials are not much help) and allowed an accurate prediction of when sunrise would happen. So they functioned somewhat akin to calendars and clocks.

With regard to sacred time we should note that ancient Israel used a lunar calendar and that its “appointed festivals” (mô’adîm) were regulated by this calendar. Thus Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Tabernacles all occur on a full moon. The “new moon” (hodes), the first day of the month, was also celebrated as a religious festival. What is fascinating about the creation of the sun, moon, and stars in Genesis 1 is that part of the reason that God made them was to regulate the rhythms of Israel’s worship – natural time and sacred time were linked (Parry 2014, 114-15).

Parry, Robin. 2014. The biblical cosmos: A pilgrim’s guide to the weird and wonderful world of the bible. Eugene: Cascade Books.