by Wanderer Werewolf
©2009 Wanderer Werewolf

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    Well, Gentle Readers, due to several upheavals in this wandering wolf’s life (including a car in the shop and a job on the ex-), it looks like my column on games will have to wait until next issue. In the meantime, the following occurred to me while spending New Year’s Eve with some fine furry friends in… Columbia, TN. (I know, it just shatters the alliteration.)

   Originally, the New Year coincided with the beginning of spring in agrarian areas. In the Ukraine, for instance, the New Year was rung in at the beginning of April, while Rome observed it in the month of Mars (god of the plow, before he was modified to an Ares duplicate; the rare case of a plowshare being beaten into a sword).
   In fact, the months between the onset of winter and the beginning of spring didn’t exist in agrarian calendars. These were the ‘empty months’ or ‘dead times’; because nothing could be farmed in most agrarian areas during these months, the days officially didn’t exist. The months of January and February didn’t exist in the early Roman calendar, for instance; the calendar ran:

Mars (plow)
Avrilius (light grains)
Maius (cereal grans, such as corn)
Iunius (vegetables)
Quintus (fifth)
Sextus (sixth)
Septembre (seventh)
Octembre (eighth)
Novembre (ninth)
Decembre (tenth)

   The remaining space in the year was intentionally left blank. (Keep in mind, however, that the calendar didn’t quite fit the year; the Roman calendar was originally Etruscan, so it matched the Etruscan seasons—not the Roman.)
   As a side note, the pre-Christian version of Christmas was Saturnalia in Rome: This was a days-long festival in which all laws were officially suspended, and (to paraphrase the travel agencies) ‘what happened on Saturnalia stayed on Saturnalia’. (The holiday was officially suspended at a later date; one can only take so much lawlessness in a more-or-less civilized society.) This denoted the start of the ‘dead months’.
   These factors can lead to some interesting situations. Imagine…

   Next time, I promise, it’s on to games. The elements of chance and skill, the designs and types of games, and how these can be impacted by species; all will be examined.
   Until then, this is Wanderer, signing off! 

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