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Impearls: HIC 3.16: Calendar

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Calendar   by A. L. Kroeber

The Yurok monthly calendar commences “at Christmas,” that is, with the winter solstice.  The first 8 or usually the first 10 moons are numbered, not named.  The remainder, up to 12 or 13, are designated by terms that appear to be descriptive.

1. Kohtsewets. 8. Knewoleteu.
2. Na'aiwets. 9. Kerermerk or Pia'ago.
3. Nahksewets. 10. Wetlowa or Le'lo'o.
4. Tsona'aiwets. 11. Nohso.
5. Meroyo. 12. Hohkemo.
6. Kohtsawets. 13. Ka'amo.
7. Tserwerserk.

Informants who reckon 12 moons in the year omit one toward the end, or give Hohkemo as a synonym of Nohso.  The most consistent accounts regularly enumerate 13.  Pia'ago is said to refer to a red berry gathered then.  The meaning of Le'lo'o is undetermined, but it is the month of the world renewing ceremonies of the Karok.  In Nohso the people camp out to gather acorns.  Ka'amo seems to refer to cold.  The older Yurok are aware that some of them allow 13 moons to the year and others only 12.  When individual reckonings differ, long arguments result.  But when the acorns are ripe for picking, disputes end, for it is then unquestionably Nohso.  This method of correction by seasonable phenomena is quaint in view of the unquestionable astronomical starting point, and suggests that this was such in theory rather than by close observation.  At the same time, the knowledge of the fact that 12 moons do not suffice for a return of the sun indicates a closer reckoning of time than prevailed among central Californian tribes.  Of similar order is the Yurok statement that the Pleiades — teinem, “the many” — are invisible for one month only.  They disappear at the end of the fifth moon, are gone to lie in the water in the sixth, and in the seventh reappear just before daybreak.



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