A 2015 Calendar/ Mandala



is an eco-designer, builder, writer, father, Zen animist, and activist. He and his partner created Abrazo House ecological learning centre in northern Spain. If he's not there, he can usually be found in Edinburgh, where he makes mischief with Extinction Rebellion. He has been writing for Dark Mountain since 2011 and has been published in issues 3, 6, 10, 15 and 23.  
One of the founding myths of our culture is the idea of linear time. Like the most powerful stories, it’s one we are barely aware of. It’s the basis for the notion of ‘progress’ —in moral, technological or economic terms.

The cyclical model of time is ancient and universal. Look at the Celtic wheel of the year, the Mayan calendar, the Taoist yin-yang symbol or the Dharma wheel in Buddhism. Yet it’s been completely discarded by modern cosmology; though a recent book, Cycles of Time (2010) by Roger Penrose, inventor of the non-periodic Penrose tiling, suggests it may be coming back into fashion. Ironically.

For as long as I can remember, my internal picture of the year has been a circle, with summer opposite winter, spring opposite autumn. The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed that there were no calendars which depicted the year in its natural form, the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun (technically an ellipse, not a circle, but the difference is negligible).

Most calendars showed time as an infinite sequence of rectangular boxes, reminiscent of the boxes—classrooms, houses, offices, cars—in which we spend so much of our lives. Eventually, since I couldn’t find any round calendar designs that I liked, I decided to go ahead and make my own.

As well as a practical wall calendar and year planner for 2015, it’s also meant as a mandala—an object for meditation, featuring both radial and fourfold symmetry. And what better than a round calendar to help you meditate on the transitory and cyclical nature of all things?

calendar-2015-n (1) 2-page-001

About the calendar

To avoid confusion, I should explain that I’m not proposing a new system of organising the year, just an alternative way of visualising it.

We still use basically the same calendrical system introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, despite reforms having been proposed by everyone from French revolutionaries to the Kodak company. It’s not likely to change in a hurry. (If I could make one change to our way of organising time, I would get rid of ‘daylight savings time’, which only dates back to World War I and seems to me a total waste of time. As if by making everyone change their clocks, the politicians could somehow control time itself!)

The calendar includes the days (named in English and Spanish), weeks, months, and phases of the moon. You may notice that the moon symbols spiral around the calendar, gradually working their way from the outside into the middle. That’s because a lunar month is 29.5 days, so each phase (new, waxing, full, waning) lasts on average 7.4 days, just over a week.

The calendar also shows the eight cardinal points of the solar year—the solstices, equinoxes and quarter days (the midpoints of the four seasons, often known by their Celtic names: Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, Samhain). These are the basis of many holidays, such as Christmas (the winter solstice), Easter (the first full moon after the spring equinox), May Day (Beltane) and Hallowe’en (Samhain). But holidays vary a great deal between (and within) countries and cultures, whereas the eight cardinal points are universal. For that reason I’ve omitted holidays from the calendar, leaving you free to add your own favourite celebrations.

The calendar / mandala is meant to be posted up on the wall, not viewed on a screen. It should be printed in colour and at least A3 size (A2 is highly recommended). It is free to dowload from abrazohouse.org/calendar, where you can also leave some feedback.

© Robert Alcock, December 2014

  1. This is great! My internal calendar has also been a circle ever since I was little, except mine goes round the other direction. Not by choice, just is.

  2. Brilliant idea. I have just read this post after reading and commenting upon the “Time is of the Essence” post. My comments were all about Cyclic Time. I’m not going to repeat. Suffice to say. Yes. Absolutely. Anything that helps us to envisage Time as cyclic is great.

    1. Thanks to you both. What I would really like to do with this is to collaborate with a graphic designer or artist, as opposed to someone like me who just mucks about with it. Any ideas?

      Andy, your comments on cyclical time are spot on. The question as to how our behaviour would change, is of course impossible to describe from the outside, but lived from the inside — well, I can only say, we are living on the cusp of this transformation. And its ramifications are everywhere at once.

      Take politics. Perhaps people don’t realise it, but there’s a profound link between linear time and the political landscape we inhabit. The division between “left” and “right” in politics — in the English-speaking world, anyway — is rooted in the creation, in around 1680, of two political factions called the Whigs and the Tories. (Interestingly, both these names are derived from Gaelic, but you won’t get me off on THAT tangent.)

      Essentially, the Whigs believed in the future, that things were always getting better, and the Tories believed in the past, that things tended to get worse — which may be why the Tories are still called the Tories after 335 years, while the Whigs became the Liberals (now LibDems) and their philosophy rooted in progress later split off into a new branch called the Labour Party, with numerous other splits on its extreme left wing inspired by Marxist (historically progressive) philosophy.

      Now, in 2015, what we see is the meteoric rise of the Green Party, whose membership in the UK has roughly quadrupled in the past 12 months (I don’t know the exact figures, but it’s still growing.)

      Though the Greens are nowadays normally characterised as a “progressive” party of the left, they used to have a slogan “Neither Left nor Right but Straight Ahead.” That “Straight Ahead” is, in fact, a trajectory that returns full circle, to a life connected with nature, and cyclical time as our ancestors used to experience it. (Not that the Greens are overtly campaigning on a “Cyclical Time” ticket, but nonetheless, I think that is where the basis of their difference from the conventional parties lies.)

      To put this in spatial terms, if the Tories are the party of the countryside and the leafy suburbs (the past), and Labour the party of the densely populated cities and towns (the future), then the Greens are a party that seeks to re-establish the ecological balance between the two.

      At any rate, the present situation is chaotically unstable, and come Beltane and the general election on May 7, I think we will see a profoundly transformed political landscape. Interesting times, indeed.

  3. Hello,
    I think your appreciation of the circularity of time does reflect a more natural appreciation of many things -earthly – material – spiritual.

    Personally I would love to have this calenda-mandala as a modern application.

    There may be something in your assertion that the greens are more conceptually mandala feeling.

    Practically speaking, I recall realizing that aircraft (and ships and people travel/ follow a curved path laterally,,,to reach their destinations, a greater circle?

    My feeling is the over emphased belief ~notion of straight lines manifests more harm than good, tho We are ultimately responsible; ie. wars being one example of the inappropriate uses of.

    (I work for the company listed in the website-field if you are interested yourself; and believe in their product and services).

    Sydney Australia


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *