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What is The Almanac?
Mystery, Mechanism, and Magic
The earliest use of the word almanac in any language was by Roger Bacon in the year 1267, where it referred to a list of tables on the movement of the heavens. But the heavens then were not a vast cosmic timepiece—nor so in ancient Babylon, when such tables were first invented. They were something closer to a spirit, a living mystery whose vital throb held sway over the mortals cowering underneath. An almanac in Bacon’s time was a horoscope for the world, where one might hope to divine clues to the future: a drought, a plague, a war between princes. They recorded auspicious and inauspicious days and suggested the best times for prayer and travel.
After Galileo and Newton, that throb became instead the gear-ticks of a giant mechanism. Almanacs in the modern era were more like train schedules than horoscopes, indicating times to rise and rest, sow and reap. Festival days, once a glorious mess of local custom, where the same saint might be celebrated a thousand ways, were now aligned thanks to the heavenly regularity of God’s wristwatch. If yours wound down, no matter. Simply consult the almanac and reset the hands by the sunset that evening, predicted to the minute years in advance.
But then, something amazing happened. We discovered that the gears of the clock, when separated, go on turning as if by magic. Some spontaneously swap places. Others function only when no one is looking.
When Roger Bacon looked at the night sky, he saw the eternal looking down. We see a flux paradox, where irreconcilable facts coexist as particle and wave and all sunsets are relative.
This is a handbook to that world, the world that ends tomorrow, when everything will change again but will have always been that way.