Worldbuilding: Calendars

Time marches on.

It’s as true for a fantasy world as it is for ours.

But how does one mark the passage of time? Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years are all terms that I would wager every adult in the world would be familiar with.

But while they measure a quantifiable event (the passage of time) these words are all constructs of humanity.

What month is it? What year? These are the two most significant calendar events that are arbitrary assignments that someone long ago created.

But if we created these in the real world, then it stands to reason that the people of your fantasy world’s are going to do the same.

Calendars, as subjective measures of time, can be based on a variety of standards and use a multitude of events as their baseline.

Today, I’m going to talk about some of the different ways in which time can be measured, common events to use as a base, and give some examples from the Griffins & Gunpowder Universe.

Cycles

The cycle of your calender is what you will use to decide how long each phase of your year will be.  These should be easily defined and easy to keep track of.

Lunar Cycles will use the moon’s natural cycle to measure time. The length of these cycles will be dependent on the specifics of your world, but for our world each cycle would be 28 days long. For a twist on your world’s lunar cycle, the addition of more moons can give you more options.

A calendar that uses Equal Division will be more straight forward. The year will be divided into a group of months that all have the same amount of days. The calendar we use today is very close to this, with the distinct exception of February.

A Seasonal Calendar will use the orbit of your planet and the natural changes of the seasons to measure time. This type of calendar can be more difficult in areas of your worlds where seasons are either poorly defined. Seasonal calendars don’t necessarily mean Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter; instead, they can also use Dry and Rainy Seasons in tropical regions.

Arbitrary calendars are usually created by a powerful person or group and have no basis on any natural event. A particular egotistical King might be a good candidate to create one of these.

Baseline Events

Seasonal Events (Equinox or Solstice)

As your planet rotates around its sun, natural seasonal events will occur. The spring and autumn equinox, the summer and winter solstice. In addition to being a part of your calendar’s cycle, these can be the events that mark the passage of years.

Arbitrary calendars choose a day and make it the beginning of the calendar. The common calendar used in our world bases itself on an arbitrary day (January 1st).

Cultural calendars are a form of Arbitrary calendars, though they use culturally significant events as the basis for their cycle. These events can be religious or tribal (such as a feast schedule or holy days). The Hebrew calendar is a Cultural calendar.

•Major Event

-Rise or Fall of an Empire 

Basing your calendar on the rise or fall of an empire can give your calendar social importance in addition to just telling time. It also serves as a way to tell history and measure progress from the humble beginnings of the empire (or regress since its fall).

-Colonization

The first day of a colony’s existence can be used to start your calendar. A calendar that bases itself on the colonization of a nation also serves as a measure of history, marking each year of success for the nation.

-Treaty Signing

A less common type of calendar would base itself on some form of treaty signing. Perhaps marking the passage of time since a truce was signed, or since an alliance was formed.

Examples

In a fantasy, and even in a Gunpowder Fantasy, there are going to be multiple types of calendars. This will be especially true in a world that doesn’t have a unifying organization as powerful as the Catholic church was in our world.

On the world of Zaria, there are a dozen major calendars observed throughout the world.

The Ansgari Calendar is an equal division calendar, based on the colonization of Ansgar. The calendar is divided into ten months, divided into four weeks with ten days each.

The Nordahrian Calendar is lunar calendar, measured from the signing of the First Accords, a set of treaties that brought peace to the nations around Nordahr.

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About Joshua K Johnson

Josh is the author of The Cerberus Rebellion and The Hydra Offensive, Gunpowder Fantasy novels set in the Griffins & Gunpowder universe. He is currently working on a new novel set in the same world as well as The Centaur Incursion, Book 3 in the existing series. He's married with a 5 yr old son and a 1 year old daughter, keeping him busy. He currently works and is a full-time student.

Posted on October 16, 2013, in writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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