Something which has always confused me with Ars Magica is that they never seem to define the dates when seasons start and end. This becomes relevant because story events sometimes happen on a Solstice or Equinox, traditionally high/low points of various magical cycles.

The modern definition seems to put spring solstice about three weeks into the spring season, but I've only ever seen Ars played with seasons where each solstice/equinox is between the seasons (so you can potentially have 20 continuous days to adventure without affecting your lab total, 10 days from each season).

I suspect that the Hermetic calendar uses Astronomical rather than Meteorological (Roman) reckoning, so Spring season would start on the Spring Equinox etc., but it would be nice to know if there is a canonical reference for this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've never played Ars, but from some quick googling actual Medieval magic texts seem to sync the seasons to the astrological signs of the zodiac, and thus the astronomical use. \$\endgroup\$ – starwed May 17 '13 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @starwed even though this doesn't help answer the question, the link is a fabulous resource for fantasy games like Ars set in the Medieval period. Feel free to edit that into my question, or give me the nod and I will. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth May 18 '13 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ We actually use the more modern system, I suspect. The equinoces and solsti occur mid-season. After all, if the Summer Solstice is known as Midsummer's Day, how can it not be in mid-season? \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY May 18 '13 at 11:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can get any newspapers and use the zodiac dates. As a rule of thumb I ause day 22 Ddecember, March, June, September. \$\endgroup\$ – jean Oct 20 '16 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkBooth As I said I use a rule of thumb just to not dig in a mess. Calendars are messy and we cannot be sure of date in sec XIII. Also equinox and solstices depends on logitude, latitude and it can become complicated fast. Example: Last time I digged up in the topic I discovered there are not "true" equinos above the tropic circle. Better you can do is search for a equinox/soltice calculator and try to extrapolate back using the current gregorian calendar. \$\endgroup\$ – jean Oct 21 '16 at 9:46

The solstice or equinox marks the start of the season.

This is almost certainly due to the fact that yearly rituals expire at one of these turning points of the year, and there is no reason for magi to have multiple measurement systems (except for the crazy astrologers who can get more accurate time from the stars).

Page 48 of The Mysteries (Revised Edition), on Astrological Laboratory activities:

The Horoscope is prepared at the start of the season, on the day of the equinox or solstice.

While this is about a specific lab activity, this section does cover labratory timings, and gives a specific time. Beyond that, the visiting patterns of redcaps on the winter solstice (HoH:TL) also suggests a temporal change on that date (when most covenants renew their yearly spells).

We can also expect that equinoxes and solstices are part of seasonal timekeeping from the Year duration (Core, P 112):

The spell lasts until sunrise on the fourth equinox or solstice after its casting.

This answers references are all to 5th edition, but it is probably not the sort of thing which would have changed compared to earlier editions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It is interesting that 5th ed. specifies the time, previous editions didn't so we have always said that spells ended and needed to be renewed on at sunrise/sunset for spring/autumn equinox and noon/midnight for summer/winter solstices. It makes for different flavours for rituals cast in each season. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth May 18 '13 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ 4th ed does, as well, define it, but inobviously. page 104, under durations. "Season: The spell lasts until the next solstice or equinox after its casting." Under Aegis of the Hearth, it notes that it's cast at the winter solstice; in one of the 3E books, it's noted that Aegis is cast at the winter solstice and elsewhere noted that it's the start of the lab year. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis May 20 '13 at 7:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @aramis if you can dig up the 3rd ed. reference to "start of the lab year" that would be worth an answer. Groups I played in mostly skipped 3rd ed., sticking with 2nd until 4th was released (urgh passions). \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Booth May 20 '13 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that, thanks to the Julian calendar slippage relative to the seasons, the solstices and equinoxes are about a week offset from what you might expect; for example the Winter Solstice 1220 occured on 14th December. \$\endgroup\$ – Senji Jun 11 '15 at 1:18

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