The Celtic Year

Ever since learning to walk upright, man has stared at the horizon, watching the sun rise and set.  Early attempts at tracking time often tried reconciling solar and lunar movements as each marched across the sky. Some attempts were more successfully than others, resulting in the formation of calendars.

Sun’s Position on Horizon

One of the best-known calendars attributed to the Celts is the Coligny calendar, whose name derives from the location where it was discovered—Coligny, France. The calendar is of Gaulish origin and dates to the 2nd century. Despite being in fragments, the calendar has been reconstructed with confidence due to its regular composition, which lays out a five-year cycle of 62 months.

Each Celtic year contains twelve lunar months, divided into just two seasons, summer and winter. Each month is further divided into two fortnights, the first always containing 15 days, the second containing either 14 or 15 days depending on the length of the month.

The calendar is further adjusted with an intercalary month every 2.5 years, so the lunar cycle of the months also aligns with the solar year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which resets in the winter, the Coligny calendar begins and ends in the spring.

Months of the Coligny Calendar

*Note: I began aligning the Coligny calendar with the Gregorian calendar in 2020. Owing to the intercalary months for years 1 and 3, my five-year cycle might differ from calendars created by others who chose alternate starting points.

All months begin on the date of the first quarter moon.

Samonios (Summer)
May 16, 2024 thru June 14, 2024
The first month of the year has 30 days. It begins on the first quarter moon after Beltene.

Samo- is Gaulish for summer. There is a three-night festival beginning on 17 Samonios, according to the calendar. This typically occurs near the summer solstice. It occurs in early June this year, but in 2025 the 17th of Samonios is June 21st, so it may well be a solstice celebration.

Le Contel & Verdier argue this means the Celtic year began on the summer solstice. However, I’m inclined to believe the year simply began with the month preceding solstice, not the specific day. I believe this for two reasons:

  1. Festival days were recorded as “movable feasts” and the dates varied from year to year. Festivals were set according to the solar cycle, whereas months are set according to the lunar cycle. Since the months are lunar, the calendar would begin according to the lunar date, not a solar date.
  2. Pliny recorded that Celtic months and years were reckoned by lunar position and all months started on the 1st quarter moon. “This is done more particularly on the sixth day of the moon, the day which is the beginning of their months and years, as also of their ages, which, with them, are but thirty years. This day they select because the moon, though not yet in the middle of her course, has already considerable power and influence; and they call her by a name which signifies, in their language, the all-healing.”— Pliny, Natural History 16.95

Dumannios (Fumigation/Cleaning)
June 15, 2024 thru July 13, 2024
The second month has 29 days.

The Proto-Celtic roots for this month are *dumāko- (mist/smoke) and *ninā- (roof). Going further back, the PIE root is *dheu- meaning “dust, vapor, smoke.”

The Celts saw smoke as a means of purification, driving their herds between smoky bonfires to remove ticks and other insects during the spring and fall. During the Iron Age, meat was hung in the rafters to smoke as their houses lacked smoke holes. Smoke escaped via gaps under the eaves. The thickly gathering smoke directly under the roof kept birds, bats, mice, and insects at bay.

Thus, this month is the time for re-thatching roofs, changing the floor rushes, and refreshing the bedding. All the new items needed smoked to kill the insects that came in with the rushes, straw, etc. All that cleaning activity also clears away fleas, ticks, lice, mites, spiders, and other creepy-crawlers, which is likely where the name Fumigation Month came from.

Rivros (Fat/Bountiful)
July 14, 2024 thru August 12, 2024
The third month has 30 days.

By now the gardens are producing well, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are ripe, as are tree fruits like apricots and cherries. Small game, like rabbits and birds, are plentiful and easy to catch. The clan is fat and happy.

This is also the month to celebrate Lughnasad. Agriculturally, this is an idea time for a month-long celebration. Stock is out to pasture and needs little care. The first cutting of hay is in (that usually happens around July 1st) and remaining crops still need time to grow before harvest can begin in earnest. With good weather and few cares, people are free to travel to festivals and fairs.

Linguistically, I can make no sense of the name.

Anagantio (Ritual)
August 13, 2024 thru September 11, 2024

The fourth month has 29 days.

The question is, which ritual is being celebrated? It’s too late for Lughnasad, which falls at the mid-point between the summer solstice and autumnal equinox and it’s too early for sido-bremo- (bellowing of the stags.)

In Proto-Celtic, the closest I could find was *an-gnāto- meaning “unknown.” So, are we worshiping the great unknown?

Ogronnios (Cold/First Frost)
September 11, 2024 thru October 10, 2024

The fifth month has 30 days.

For most wild animals and livestock, the breeding is triggered by light receptivity. As the years darkens, the days grow shorter brining frosty mornings and the onset of the rut. In Proto-Celtic this is known as *sido-bremo- (bellowing of stags). The concept is preserved in Gaelic as Bhuiridh (day of roaring), which is officially set as September 20th.

This is another month whose translation has eluded me.

Cutios (Invocation)
October 11, 2024 thru November 9, 2024

The sixth month has 30 days.

This is an interesting month because the letter C does not exist in Proto-Celtic. The C is a Latinization. That means translating needs to consider hard c, or K sounds. By doing so, it’s possible to come up *kʷrito- (poetry) which might be a fit for invocation. Or it could be *kuti- (scrotum) and, as much as I’d like to have a scrotum month, I don’t think that’s it.

The midpoint between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice falls in early November, so the celebration of Samhain falls at the end of this month. Samhain literally translates as samo- (summer) and fuin (end). With fluttering leaves in shades of copper, amber, and crimson, there can be no doubt that summer is truly at an end and winter is on its way.

Giamonios (Winter)
November 10, 2024 thru December 8, 2024
The seventh month has 29 days.

Derived from giamos, the Gaulish word for winter, it’s clear that this month falls directly AFTER Samhain. According to Cormac’s Glossary, gam is Old Irish for winter, which he claimed started in November. Consequently, this month has been identified with greater confidence than others in the calendar.

Simivisonnios (Half the Sun)
December 9, 2024 thru January 7, 2025

The eighth month has 30 days.

Delamarre suggests simi means half, so this is “half the sun.” With the days waning, it’s not hard to notice the frigid temperatures and longer nights. There is no doubt that this is the month that contains the winter solstice.

Eponalia is Epona’s feast day, which is attested to in a rustic calendar from Guidizzolo, Italy. The date is set as December 18th. The name Epona derives from the Proto-Celtic word *ekʷos (horse). As a goddess of fertility, she’s always accompanied by horses and often depicted with a cornucopia and grain. But it is her funerary symbolism that is most pressing at the time of the winter solstice. Epona carries a large key that unlocks the gates to the otherworld as she and her horses lead souls to the afterlife.

The Welsh folk ritual Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) may be a survival of Epona’s veneration. Folklorist Ellen Ettlinger believed that Mari Lwyd represented a death horse, whereas Christina Hole suggested the mare was a bringer of fertility. Both are aspects of Epona.

But the real question is, how did this holiday end up in Simivisonnios and not Equos?

Equos (Horse/Livestock or Death)
January 8, 2025 thru February 5, 2025
The ninth months has 28, 29, or 30 days.

Depending on the year and interpretation you adhere to, this month may have 28, 29, or 30 days. In years 1, 3, and 5 of each 5-year cycle, Equos has 30 days. MacNeill suggests that Equos has 28 days in years 2 and 4, while Olmsted suggests 28 days in year 2 and 29 days in year 4.

The following table gives the sequence of days for this month in the five-year cycle, with the suggested length of each month according to Mac Neill and Olmsted:

Year 1 Year 2

Year 3

Year 4 Year 5
Equos 30 28 30 28/29 30
Year Length 385 353 385 353 or 354 355
Cycle Length 1831 or 1832 days

The total of 1831 days (Mac Neill’s interpretation) is very close to the exact value of lunar time.

62 months × 29.530585 lunar cycle = 1830.90 days

This keeps the calendar in sync with synodic months, resulting in an error of only one day in 50 years.

Less clear is the origin of the month’s name. Delamarre suggest the name may have something to do with livestock. This is likely owning to its close similarity to the word *ekʷos (horse) and the fact that the month contains the Imbolg holiday.

The most common explanation for the etymology of the word Imbolg derives from the Old Irish i molec (pregnancy of ewes), although the 10th century Cormac’s Glossary derives if from oimelc (ewe milk). Either way, sheep were involved.

In the depth of winter, when game is scarce and stores are running low, milk provided a welcome addition to the diet. Sheep are the first of the domestic animals to begin lactating, thus the festival marks the onset of lambing season.

The consumption of sheep milk was attested to by reports originating during the Gallic Wars. The Gauls were referred to as “milk drinkers” and the Romans were appalled that they even drank ewe milk. However, this doesn’t match for the attribution of the name as *owi- (sheep) and *owi-stā-ro- (shepherd) are far removed from Equos. And while *ekʷos (horse) is a good fit, horses aren’t doing anything special this time of year. Horses have an 11-month gestational cycle, so estrus, mating, and foaling all occur in the summer and Epona’s festival occurred in the prior month.

Based on the translations of the other month names, it appears that the Celts named their months after the observed natural phenomena occurring during them. This month occurs in the depts of winter, often accompanied by the coldest temperatures of the year. Foodstores would be running low. The clan would be plagued with sickness, rattling coughs, fevers, and pneumonia. To this day, January racks up more deaths than any other month—and that’s without the added stressors of starvation and exposure.

Searching for similar word forms turned up *ekorV-/*ekari- (key) and *erko- (heaven). According to Matasovic’s dictionary, the British forms are derivative from *ekwalo-, which in Celtiberian is ekualaku and ekualakos, meaning “belonging to ekuala.”

Erecura is a Celto-Germanic goddess of death and motherhood who protects humans in the afterlife. Her partner, Erecurus, hold the scroll of life while she holds a key, a symbol of entry into the gates of heaven. It should be noted that mother goddesses are closely linked to the afterlife as so many women traditionally lost their lives during childbirth. Given this, I propose Equos is actually the Death Month.

Elembivios (Stag)
February 6, 2025 thru March 6, 2025
The tenth month has 29 days.

At this time of year, many species of deer and especially the European Red Deer and North American Elk, are gathered in large herds on their winter feeding grounds. After a long harsh winter, they are in their weakest body condition of the year. The stags and bulls begin shedding their antlers. The cows and hinds are heavily burdened with pregnancy making it difficult to outrun predators. Across the northern hemisphere, wildlife and game managers warn people not to push or stress the herds.

Our Celtic forebearers likely saw this as a boon. Like the deer, they too had been struggling to feed themselves through the winter. As the snow melted, hunters were able to push the herds until the old or weak collapsed, providing a much-needed nutrient-rich food source for the clan.

However, I don’t think Stag Month is an entirely correct translation. In Proto-Celtic, sido- (stag) is the root of *sido-bremo- (bellowing of stags) which is translated as autumn. Both are well attested. A better fit is *el-an-ī (deer) or *elnā- (herd) combined with *biwo- (living) or *biwoto- (life/food) which would make this Deer Month or Herd Month.

Edrinios (Fire)
March 7, 2025 thru April 5, 2025

The eleventh month has 30 days.

This was another month that confused me until I realized that the Gauls were living in a deciduous forest. As the new buds swell and prepare to sprout each spring, the forest fire risk increases. This is because leaf litter that accumulated in the fall has begun to dry out and bake under the sun. That means fire season starts now and won’t peak until the end of April/beginning of May, when the trees have once again leafed out and cast the forest floor back in shadow.

The translation of this month also eludes me.

Cantlos (Chanting)
April 6, 2025 thru May 4, 2025
The twelfth month has 29 days.

This is another example of the C Latinization. However, it was an easy one to translate. In Proto-Celtic *kantlo (song/sing) is well documented.

Cantlos 15th is marked as a feast day, which falls on May 2nd in 2024. Because feast days were considered movable, this may well be a reference to Beltene. It might also be the reason for the chanting and makes sense some since Samhain fell in Invocation Month.

Beltene is the holyday dedicated to Belenus, whose name is thought to derive from the Proto-Celtic *bāno- (white, shining). However, looking solely at the root, *belyo- (tree) is a better fit. When transitioning from Proto-Celtic to Goidelic *belyo- becomes bile (large tree/tree trunk) and the Proto-Celtic *tefnet- (fire) becomes tene in Goidelic, thus you have biltene, essentially, a bonfire.

Beltene bonfires marked the beginning of the pastoral season as cattle and livestock were driven between a pair of bonfires to garner Belenus’s blessing before being driven to summer pasture. Druids likely chanted over the flames, smoke, and ash, which were believed to have restorative powers that protected man, beast, and crops from disease.

Intercalary Months

The Celtic year that begins May 16, 2024 ends on May 4, 2025, leaving a gap of 12 days. That’s because the lunar cycle doesn’t neatly align with the solar cycle. To fill these gaps, many ancient civilizations added intercalary months at specific intervals.

In the Coligny calendar there are two intercalary months. Regrettably, the name of the first is unknown because that part of the tablet is missing. What is known is that this 30-day month appears BEFORE Samonios in year 1 of the cycle.

Φanon- (Goddess)
May 5, 2025 to June 3, 2025

Intercalary month one. This month has 30 days.

Since no one knows what this month is, I have arbitrarily opted to name it the Goddess Month in my calendar. My reasoning for doing so is simply because the other intercalary month is named after a god.

I also like the symmetry of adding a goddess month in the spring opposite the god month in the fall. In the spring the world is filled with wonder, growth, and new life. By autumn things have died back and everything is mating, fighting for survival, or raiding neighboring clans.

Barantaranos (Judgment of Taranis)
November 8, 2027 to December 8, 2027
Intercalary month two. This month has 30 days.

The first part of this month is broken off, leaving only “antaranos”. Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the whole name as Rantaranos or Bantaranos based on the reading of the fifth line in the corresponding fragment. Neither of those made sense to me.

By evaluating the alignment of the letters, it’s possible that more than one letter is missing, so I searched the Celtic lexicon for small words ending in or containing -an. This yielded *baran- (anger). Thus, the month could be translated as “Anger of Taranis” or “Judgement of Taranis.” Either is fitting for a blustery November. This is especially true as the Romans often equated Taranis with Jupiter, indicating he was more than just “The Thunderer,” but was an all-purpose weather deity.

Calendar Use for Modern Pagans

While reconstructionist would have us following the calendar exactly as written, a calendar is of little use if it has no practical application. So, if you live in the Eastern US and your fire season is in the spring, by all means, do so.

However, I believe the most important item to remember is, the Celtic month names aligned with the natural phenomena surrounding them. As a modern pagan living in the American west, my “Fire Month” isn’t in the spring. Here, fire season rages through the summer, blotting out the sun and covering everything with a film of smoke.

Likewise, my town was settled by Nordic and Scandinavian immigrants for whom “spring cleaning” is a competitive sport. It’s nice to throw open the windows on the first warm day and let the house air out after being shut-up all winter. This is especially true, if like me, you heat your home with a wood burning stove.

It makes more sense for me to swap “Fumigation Month” and “Fire Month.” By doing so Fire Month occurs during the local fire season and I get to scratch my spring-cleaning itch while feeling smugly religious about it. Consequently, I encourage everyone to use the calendar as it best works for them.

Learn more about the Coligny calendar and how the months are organized here: The Celtic Calendar

For those interested in adopting this calendar, I have laid out the dates of the 4 major Celtic holydays below. In addition, I have added some lesser known and personal holydays.


Delamarre, Xavier (2003). Dictionary of the Gallic Language: a linguistic approach to continental Old Celtic (2nd ed.). Paris, France.

Green, Miranda. (1992) Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. Thames and Hudson, Ltd. London, England.

Le Contel, Jean-Michel; Verdier, Paul. (1997) A Celtic Calendar: the Gallic calendar of Coligny. Paris, France.

MacNeill, Eóin (1928). “On the notation and chronology of the calendar of Coligny.” Ériu.

McKay, Helen T. (2016). “The Coligny calendar as a Metonic lunar calendar”. Études Celtiques.

Mastasovic, Ranko. (2009) Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Vol. 9. Konikijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Olmsted, Garrett (1988). The use of ordinal numerals on the Gaulish Coligny calendar. The Journal of Indo-European Studies. Vol. 16.

Olmsted, Garrett (1992). The Gaulish calendar: a reconstruction from the bronze fragments from Coligny, with an analysis of its function as a highly accurate lunar-solar predictor, as well as an explanation of its terminology and development. Bonn: R. Habelt.

Olmsted, Garrett (2001). “A Definitive Reconstructed Text of the Coligny Calendar.” Journal of Indo-European Studies.

University of Wales. “List of Proto-Celtic Terms.” Celtic Lexicon Working Paper. Web accessed April 11, 2024. (PDF) List of Proto-Celtic terms – DOKUMEN.TIPS

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