Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/343

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329
ON THE ORIGIN OF WEEKS AND SABBATHS.


"Man's thought is like Antteus, and must be
Touched to the ground of Nature to regain
Fresh force, new impulse, else it would remain
Dead, in the grip of strong Authority.
But, once thereon reset, 'tis like a tree,
Sap-swollen in springtime; bonds may not restrain.
Nor weight repress; its rootlets rend in twain
Dead stones, and walls, and rocks, resistlessly.

"Thine then it was to touch dead thoughts to earth
Till of old dreams sprang new philosophy.
From visions, systems, and beneath thy spell
Swift they uprose, like magic palaces.
Thyself half-conscious only of thy worth.
Calm priest of a tremendous oracle!"


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ON THE ORIGIN OF WEEKS AND SABBATHS.

By the late Colonel A. B. ELLIS.

ALL over the world we find that peoples who are low in the scale of civilization reckon time by moons. In some cases a moon is the sole measure of time; in others a lunar year, composed of a certain number of moons, has been evolved; but the solar year only appears to come into use when some progress in civilization has been made. The most primitive method of measuring time, that which is found among all savages at the present day, is to count by moons, the recurrence of the moon at regular and short intervals of time affording a natural and easy mode of reckoning its lapse. A moon, or month, is reckoned from the first appearance of a new moon, and as the moon is chiefly visible by night, so it is by nights rather than by days that a moon is computed. In other words, time is measured by moons and nights.

The next step is to divide the moon into periods corresponding with its principal changes, which generally results in its being divided into halves and quarters, the fourteenth to the fifteenth night, which is the night of the full moon, dividing the twenty-nine and a half days which elapse between the advent of two new moons into two. In this connection it is curious to note that we still speak of the "quarters" of the moon. The month is thus divided into four equal periods; but as twenty-nine and a half days will not divide exactly by two or by four, each period consists of seven complete days and some nine hours extra. This is the plan which has been adopted by the Tshi tribes of the Gold Coast of West Africa. They have what may be called a seven-day week, but