from Sun, Moon and Stonehenge: pages 30 to 33

364 : The Calendrical Wonder Number

The nearest number to 365 which has a range of suitable factors is 364. The factors of this number are 2, 2, 7 and 13, and they are indeed very suitable. It is therefore not too surprising that we find that they lurk within our present 365-based calendar system. Despite the present choice of a twelve month year, we all think that there are 52 weeks in the year (4 seasons x 13 weeks), we use a seven day week and often make the assumption that there are 4 weeks in the month (4 x 7 28 days). We are taught as young children that there are 12 months in the year. This 'knowledge' takes us into dangerous waters, for the consequences of these assumptions lead to an implied year length, formed by multiplying 4 x 7 x 12, of 336 days. We are therefore missing one lunar month (29 days) by making these erroneous assumptions. The numbers here are shouting out that we need a thirteenth month and bright ten year olds with cheap calculators can work all this out. So did someone else many, many years ago, enshrining this wisdom in the world's most popular game. 

PackOfCards 364 500px

Figure 2.5. A pack of cards seen as a 364 dav calendar analogy. Black and red on a white background, these are the three colours traditionally associated with the Moon. The four suites of 13 cards has seven as the central card.

A Year of Cards


If you pick up a pack of ordinary playing cards you will discover four suites, each of thirteen cards; two black suites and two red ones. The counting of the 'pips' is very revealing, taking the Jack (knave) as 11, the Queen as 12 and the King as 13, they total 91 within each suite, the complete pack totalling 364 'pips' (figure 2.5). A pack of cards actually represents the ancient calendar system based on 364 days. Furthermore, the symbolism found within the pack has a great deal to tell us about our myths and legends. Twelve and thirteen are juxtaposed within each suite as the Queen and King - there is a gender allocated to each number - and numerical supremacy goes to the King, as perhaps we might have suspected in our present culture. The King is taken to be the 'highest' value card, and is surrounded by twelve lesser cards - 'disciples'. We can all still immediately identify here with our own cultural 'solar heroes' - King Arthur and Jesus, both of whom took the enigmatic thirteenth position amongst twelve disciples or knights. A similar mythology may be found in Mayan American culture, where there were thirteen gods until their leader Kukulcan, vanished withour trace, leaving twelve. This left the Aztecs constantly alert for the re-appearance of their own equivalent thirteenth god Quetzalcoatl, which cost them dearly, for one day they mistook the arrival of a Spanish galleon with the god's expected return - with horrendous consequences which cost them no less than their civilisation.

A thinly veiled but easily accessible calendraic information lurks within every pack of cards as it does within our myths, folkstories, religious codices and legends. The pack of cards is a very ancient artefact but clearly it is shown to be related to a 364 day calendar year structure. 

'A Year and a Day'


A 364 day Calendar, whilst in error to astronomical realities, involves only a single day to be added each year (and two days every fourth year) for the calendar to align or 'track' with the seasonal cycle. In calendar language, this is called an intercalary day. We are all familiar with this concept, for we presently add a 'leap year day' to our modern calendar every fourth year19. We might surmise that the Joker in the pack of cards provided the intercalary day needed to make the required 365; to be played once a year, whilst the second Joker represented the leap year day, to be played once every four years. One cannot imagine a better way to preserve this calendar structure than by inventing the plain pack of cards! 

The expression 'a year and a day' is so commonly met with as a mnemonic appended to fairy tales and other folklore stories originating in Europe that we might profitably investigate its origins a little further with regard to the 364 day calendar. The origins of the 364 day calendar are obscured by the mists of time. Although 'The Song of Amergin' and other pre-Celtic folklore, such as the various 'Tree Calendars' and the Ogham alphabet-calendar are perhaps fanciful, a thirteen month year is a logical choice numerically and astronomically, for the Moon does make thirteen circuits of the zodiac each year. There is evidence that, until the Middle Ages, the 13 month, 364 day calendar was in popular use in Europe. The number system inherent within a pack of cards demonstrates some antiquity for this calendar system. Although it finally faded from use around the seventeenth century, this calendar's remains are still lurking within the hapless Roman calendar for anyone to discover. When a 364 day calendar is used, 52 weeks fall exactly in the year, there are precisely thirteen months all of the same length - 28 days, a season becomes exactly 91 days (or 13 weeks in length). There are four seasons to the year (4 x 91 days 364 days) and each week can have the traditional seven days described in the creation story of Genesis. And the Moon does orbit the Earth thirteen times a year. So, why do we not use this calendar today?

Re-adoption of the 364 day calendar would allow the numbers which infuse the present calendar to integrate harmoniously - the seven day week; four week month; four seasons each of 91 days; thirteen weeks to the season and 52 week year. These things are already implied within the ludicrous 365 day calendar we inherit from the Romans; only the thirteen month year is missing. Why? Almost certainly because the number 13 is very much connected with the Moon and hence to matters matriarchal and the old Goddess religions. The advent of Patriarchy, around 2000 BC, saw to it that all matters relating to lunar worship, and hence the Moon, were systematically and thoroughly to be eliminated from the new culture, a process which, even despite the horrors of the medieval witch-hunts, still permeates throughout western society. 

Our present calendar reflects this decision, as does our modern ignorance over matters lunar. To ascertain just how much more 'solar' our culture has become, and how dimished is the 'lunar' element, try asking people to state the period of the solar year and then the lunar month. The former question will be answered correctly by nineteen out of twenty people, whilst only 3 out of twenty will correctly give either of the two main monthly lunar periods. In school textbooks, the year is always 365.242 or 365.25 days whilst the lunar month is given as 28, 29, 29.5 or 30 days, depending on the book chosen. The cultural imbalance between 'solar' and 'lunar' is evident from the number  of decimals given after the correct period and no degree in psychology or mathematics is needed to conclude that our culture is predominantly 'solar'.