A Jubilee Between Mythical and Historical Time

Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis


  • Nijolė Keršytė




jubilee, mythical time, natural time, historical time, calendar, commemoration


In contemporary Western society, a jubilee means celebration of an anniversary of some event. However, in the distant past, in the Judaic tradition, it meant a certain period of universal time: a jubilee was a period of 49 years (The Book of Jubilees). How did the transition from a calendar time-measuring unit, a period (49 years), to the festivity commemorating an event measured according to the decimal system (20, 50, 100-year jubilees) occur? In order to explain this phenomenon from the philosophical perspective, four concepts of time are distinguished: mythical, physical, historical and soul/conscious- ness time. When discussing the concept of natural (physical) time, which took shape in the period of classical antiquity (Physics by Aristotle) and later was taken over by natural sciences, it is explained how it differs from the mythical-religious concept of time, which is understood by religious anthropologists with the help of Bergson’s idea of duration; what is the difference between the measurement of time in natural sciences and the measurement of mythical time, as well as between the mythical and mathematical understanding of a number. The religious calendar establishing ritual practices regulates human actions and relates them to cosmic cycles, but it has no correlation to their consciousness. The formation of the practice of commemorating a certain event requires a different relation with time: mythical time has to be replaced with historical time, which makes necessary self-consciousness and the concept of irreversible passing of time. The passage of time is retained through memory. Commemoration of an event is one of the forms of historical memory, when a reminiscence is externalised by ritualising it, by turning it into a ceremony.

Thus, through ritual and by conferring a symbolic meaning to a number (a unit of the decimal system), elements of mythical time appear in historical time. A jubilee, as a periodical, ritual commemoration of a certain event, finds itself in the midway between mythical and historical time: it is a kind of degraded mythical time in historical time.

Author Biography

Nijolė Keršytė

Nijolė Keršytė is an Associate Professor at the Algirdas Julius Greimas Centre for Semiotics and Literary Theory (Vilnius University), a senior researcher at the Contemporary Philosophy Depar- tment of the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, and a translator of twentieth-century French philosophy (Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Marion, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gilles Deleuze). Areas of interest: twentieth-century and contemporary philosophy, semiotics, narratology, film and ideology theories. Key publications: the monograph Pasakojimo pramanai (Inventions of Narration, 2016) and Kūno raiška šiuolaikiniame socialiniame diskurse (The Expression of the Body in Contemporary Social Discourse, editor, 2007).



How to Cite

Keršytė, N. (2020). A Jubilee Between Mythical and Historical Time: Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis. Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis, (100), 16–45. https://doi.org/10.37522/aaav.100.2021.56