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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 1
January 19, 2005
Sun Enters Aquarius


  • Welcome
  • My Season: The Blank Month
  • Update: Lucky Moons for 2005
  • Living in Season: January Full Moon
  • On the Web: Tu B’Shvat Links
  • New at the School of the Seasons
  • Leaves from the Tree of Time
  • Spring Correspondence Course Online
  • In Person: Women of Wisdom Conference
  • Holiday Packet: Candlemas/Imbolc
  • Signs of Spring
  • Copyright
  • Subscribe - Unsubscribe

Welcome to my periodical newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. If you enjoy this newsletter, please forward it.

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My Season: The Blank Month
Ever since I learned that the Roman calendar didn't contain the month of January (February was missing as well — the year started in March), I've adopted the belief that January is a blank slate, a month that doesn't really count. I try to spend it in a state of quiet torpor, like a seed wrapped in a warm blanket of soil, perhaps beginning to feel a vague desire to move but for now content to drowse and dream.

Last week it snowed in Seattle which added a nice visual touch of blankness and gave me a great excuse for staying inside, wrapped in blankets reading. I also had the flu which had the same effect, although it was not as aesthetically pleasing as the snow.

Since January is a blank month, I never make any New Year resolutions until February 1st (Candlemas/Imbolc) or Lent (which starts early this year on February 8). I've noticed, more and more this year, that my friends seem to be eschewing the whole idea of New Year's resolutions, viewing them as stressful expectations rather than helpful goals.

Gladys Taber, who wrote lovely essays on living in season for various women’s magazines in the Fifties, penned this sentiment in 1955: "New Year's resolutions are a chancy thing. I make mine simple. I only pray that I may be a better person the coming year than in the past."

Be gentle with yourself in this new year,
Waverly Fitzgerald

Update: Lucky Moons for 2005
I've updated the article on my website that lists your lucky moons for the upcoming years and offers some suggestions on how to work with the lunar energy. Check it out here.

Write your lucky moons into your calendar so you won't miss the opportunities they represent.

I've also updated the article on Sun/Moon patterns which looks at the correlations between the solar holidays and the lunar energy throughout the year, to help you align with the feeling of each holiday and choose the best dates to celebrate. You'll find this article here!

Living in Season: January Full Moon
Full moons are always a great time for celebration but this full moon on January 25 offers several rich opportunities.

Crystal Moon
In her book, Feeding the Spirit, Cunningham came up with names for each of the full moons of the year, focusing around a seasonal theme (for instance June is the Rose moon, March is Spring Waters Moon). You can do the same — in fact, you might want to do this now and write them into your calendar. Cunningham calls the full moon of January the Crystal Moon and recommends washing your crystals. I like to put them out in a clear glass jar of salt water under this full moon. When I bring them in they are sparkling and charged with full moon energy.

Birthday of the Trees
I first learned about the Birthday of the Trees in Arthur Waskow's wonderful book about Jewish holidays, Seasons of Our Joy. Celebrated on the full moon of the Jewish month of Shvat, it marked the year-end date for the fruit crop, the time when the tithe of fruit was calculated and paid. This was considered a pivotal point in the life cycle of the trees, when the sap began to rise again in trees which had been dormant during the winter. In Israel, the almond trees put forth blossoms.

In the sixteenth century, the mystics of Safed associated the fruit tree with the Sephirot or Kabalistic Tree of Life. Thus, Tu B’Shvat was seen as the day the Tree of Life renews the flow of life to the universe. We can help heal the world, they said, by offering blessings. On Tu B’Shvat we bless the fruit before we eat it, thus the more fruit we eat the more blessings we can offer.

Many different customs developed as Jewish communities around the world created their own versions of Tu B’Shvat. According to Ellen Bernstein, in an article on the history of the holiday, in Bucharia and Kurdistan, it’s called the “day of eating the seven species” (see Deut. 8:8) and a dinner of thirty kinds of fruit is prepared. In India, fifty kinds of fruit are served. In Moroccan villages, the wealthiest villager invites everyone for a feast and sends the guests home with their hats full of fruit.

A Greek legend says that on Tu B’Shvat angels tap the head of each plant on this day and command them to grow. Another Greek legends says that trees embrace on this day and anyone who witnesses this will get their wish fulfilled. Women who want to get pregnant plant raisins and candy near trees on Tu B’Shvat night and pray for fertility. And in some places, young girls, eligible for marriage, are “married” to a tree. If the tree buds soon after, this is seen as a promise of the marriage to come. For families who have lost a loved one during the year, Tu B’Shvat can be celebrated as a holiday of rebirth and remembrance.

In modern Jewish practice, the Birthday of the Trees has been taken more literally and many communities plant trees on this day or send money to support the planting of trees in Israel. At the same time it has taken on a new symbolic significance as “a day of celebration and reaffirmation of the necessity of protecting God’s world.” A number of new Hagaddot have been developed which focus on healing the wounded earth.

One of these is called The Tree’s Birthday and was written by Ellen Bernstein. She uses the following correspondences to explain what is served during each of the courses:

1st course
Represents Assiya, earth, winter, the physical, west
Fruit with a hard outer shell (like coconuts, bananas, walnuts, pineapple, cantaloupe)
Glass of white wine

2nd course
Represents: Yetsira, water, spring, the emotional, south
Fruit with a hard inner core (like peaches, dates, apricots, plums)
Glass of white wine with a few drops of red in it

3rd course
Represents: Briav, air, summer, cerebral, east
Fruit that is soft throughout (strawberries, cranberries, grape, apples, figs, pears)
Glass half red and half white wine

4th course
Represents: Atsilu, fire, autumn, spiritual, north
No fruit at all
Glass of red wine
If you think fruit will not be substantial enough, seeds (like chickpeas and sunflower seeds), nuts and sprouts are also appropriate, along with crackers and cheese (foods of the season).

Bernstein provides readings which she culled from sources as varied as the Bible, the Whole Earth Catalog, e.e. cummings and Rumi to celebrate the elements associated with each season, for instance, the passage where Mole first sees the river from Wind in the Willows for water. Each course begins with a song or dance appropriate for the season. For each course, the plate of fruits are blessed and before drinking the wine, a toast is offered to the season. The traditional blessing is “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the tree” or “the fruit of the vine,” but you can adapt that so it fits your concept of the divine. As Bernstein comments:

“Because there is no specified liturgy for the holiday, Tu B’Sh’vat readily lends itself to creative interpretation.” If you don’t want to do a complicated ritual, you might simply add fruit to your evening meal on the night of the full moon. One of the injunctions for Tu B’Shvat is to eat a new kind of fruit, one you’ve never tried before.

My first Tu B'Shvat seder was one I hosted at my apartment with a group of friends from The Beltane Papers. We didn't have a copy of Bernstein's book at the time, so we improvised our own ritual. I asked each of the guests to bring a reading that represented the various elements. At the start of each course, I brought out plates of fruit of the appropriate kind. Each of the guests chose a fruit and blessed it. Instead of using the traditional Jewish blessing, which we didn't know, we made up our own words of praise, speaking about our relationship with or appreciation for the fruit.After the fruit had been consumed, we poured the ritual glasses of wine and someone offered a toast to the season.

The details are lost in the fog of time but I remember the juiciness: the kitchen counter dripping with fruit juice, the table crowded with plates of fruit, sticky fingers, juice running down the chin. There's a certain lightheadedness associated with a meal, hours long, consisting only of fruit and wine. Although I was drinking white grape juice and cranberry juice rather than wine, I too felt the lightening as we moved from the heavy element of earth to the most insubstantial element, fire.

We were in the middle of our second course when the full moon appeared in the eastern windows of my apartment, striking us with wonder. It was a magical moment as we sat bathed in her rays, feeling our kinship with others who had sat feasting for centuries under the full moon of early spring.

Bernstein, Ellen, “A History of Tu B’Sh’vat,” “The Tu B’Sh’vat Seder,” in Ecology and the Human Spirit: Where Nature and the Sacred Meet, ed. Ellen Bernstein, Jewish Lights 2000
Bernstein, Ellen, The Tree’s Birthday: A Celebration of Nature, 1988. No longer in print. But I notice that Bernstein is the editor of a new book called Ecology and the Jewish Spirit: Where Nature and the Sacred Meet (Jewish Lights 2000) which contains a Tu B’Shvat liturgy. There is also a new book on Tu B’Shvat, Trees, Earth and Torah (Jewish Publication Society 1999) edited by Ari Elon, Naomi Hyman and Arthur Waskow which contains an article by Bernstein on cooking up a Tu B’Shvat seder. Bernstein has a new book The Splendor of Creation out from Pilgrim Press, May 2005.
Elon, Ari, Naomi Hyman and Arthur Waskow, eds., Trees, Earth and Torah, Jewish Publication Society 1999.
Cunningham, Nancy Brady, Feeding the Spirit, Resource Publications 1988
Fitzgerald, Waverly, “Tu B'Shvat: Reawakening the Tree of Life,” The Beltane Papers, Issue Four, Samhain 1993
Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy, Beacon Press 1982

One the Web: Tu B'Shvat Links
This site contains wonderful articles about Tu b’Shevat along with suggestions for activities and haggadah. Alas, the link to other links doesn’t work.

This website has a long list of articles; scroll down to the bottom for links to recipes:

From Arthur Waskow’s home site, the Shalom Center:

Let me know if you know of other good resources for Jewish holidays on the web.

New at the School of the Seasons
I'm happy to announce two new sprouts that emerged from my winter hibernation period:

Leaves from the Tree of Time: a Calendar Companion
This is a graceful way to incorporate spirit and seasons into your life. Use it along with your usual planning tools and calendar to help you:

  • Slow time down
  • Consult your soul while creating your schedule
  • Make time for what's truly important in your life
  • Move in rhythm with the seasons and the moon

Every week for 52 weeks you will receive a brief email with a reflection on the qualities of the present time period and one suggestion, task or question that you can savor throughout the week.

Start whenever you like. When you order the Calendar Companion, you will receive the next week's calendar companion, along with an introductory email.

$20 for a year's worth of gentle reminders to help you stay aligned with natural rhythms. Click here to order or to see a sample reflection.

Spring Correspondence Course Online
For some time, I've been meaning to revise the correspondence course which is now almost 14 years old, but it's been hard to motivate myself to do so as it means virtually starting over. The original electronic files are lost in the dreams of computers past. Finally, after enjoying the format of the online Slow Time class, I decided that I would offer Spring as a twelve-week online course. This will help me produce new materials and eventually (next spring) you'll be able to order the correspondence course via email.

In this twelve week class, we'll explore a different topic every week. Your homework assignments will include tasks that help you interact with the natural world where you live, create a personal vision for the year, affirm your sacred intention for your life, adopt a magical name, celebrate a spring feast and create Brigid's crosses and magical Easter eggs. You will personalize the course so that it works for you and report on your activities every week in a private list serve.

Enrollment is limited to eight students and the cost is $120 for twelve weeks. The course begins the last week in January with an assignment for a private ritual of dedication on Candlemas/Imbolc. To enjoy all the benefits of the course, you should be able to devote at least three hours a week to your studies, which includes reading the weekly lesson, carrying out an activity and posting to the list serve. Enrollment is limited to eight students. There are three spaces left. To order, click here.

Slow Time at Women of Wisdom Conference
For the first time since I developed the Slow Time class, I’m teaching the material in person at the Women of Wisdom conference in Seattle. My workshop is on Sunday, January 19 from 1:30 to 4:30 PM and costs $30 for members, $35 for non-members. The conference is being held at a new location this year: Sand Point Magnuson Park, 7400 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle WA 98115. Here’s the description of my workshop:

Slow Time: Reclaiming Sacred Time
Do you consider your soul when designing your schedule? Are you too busy to do the things you love? Transform your relationship with time by getting off the artificial time grid — imposed by a world view that see times, like nature, as a resource to excploit — and tune in to your own tempo and the rhythms of nature. Waverly Fitzgerald writes and teaches about time and seasonal holidays for SageWoman, the web site Beliefnet.com and her own web site: SchooloftheSeasons.com

If you’re in the area, or can afford to spend that week in Seattle, I totally recommend this conference. This is one of the nation’s largest women’s spirituality conferences. Featured national presenters this year include Vicki Noble, Mary Manin Morrissey and Ubaka Hill. It’s been going for 13 years and I’ve attended every year. It’s provided me with an amazing opportunity to learn from such talented and inspirational women as Luisah Teish, Starhawk, Deena Metzger, Christine Baldwin, Jean Houston, and other luminaries. And the line-up of local presenters is equally illustrious. But the best part is simply the vital atmosphere created by the gathering of a group of women focused on spirituality and self-expression. The conference offers an abundance of good food, an art show, a talent show, a musical performance, a Goddess market full of beautiful wares and plenty of opportunities to connect with other women.

Please check out the abundance and diversity of offerings during the six-day conference on the WOW web site. Although most of the workshops are for women only (including mine), there are several workshops on Saturday afternoon (and all the evening lectures and performances) that are open to men as well. www.womenofwisdom.org/2005conference/

Holiday Packet: Candlemas/Imbolc
On February 2nd, we celebrate the ancient festival of Candlemas (Imbolc in the Celtic tradition) with its powerful messages of hope and the potential for change. My illustrated, 45 page portfolio contains:

ancient holiday customs of Candlemas, Imbolc, Groundhogs Day, Brigid, Sementiva, St. Agnes

more rowdy customs from the spring full moon festivals of Lupercalia, Purim, Valentines Day and Mardi Gras

instructions for creating candles & Brigid's crosses

recipes for navettes, Hamantaschen, blinis, nun's ribbons, Agatha's breasts, jelly doughnuts and other rich pastries of the season

lore of the dandelion & the snowdrop

songs and poems

It is available in an email version for $9 (sent within 24 hours) or via snail mail for $14 (please allow 10 days for delivery). Order at:

Holiday Packet: Candlemas
It's time to order the print version of the Candlemas packet if you want to make sure you receive it before February 1st. This illustrated, 45 page portfolio contains

  • ancient holiday customs of Candlemas, Imbolc, Groundhogs Day, Brigid, Sementiva, St. Agnes
  • more rowdy customs from the spring full moon festivals of Lupercalia, Purim, Valentines Day and Mardi Gras
  • instructions for creating candles & Brigid's crosses
  • recipes for navettes, Hamantaschen, blinis, nun's ribbons, Agatha's breasts, jelly doughnuts and other rich pastries of the season
  • lore of the dandelion & the snowdrop
  • songs and poems

It is available in an email version for $7 (sent within 24 hours) or via snail mail for $11 (please allow 10 days for delivery). Order here.

Signs of the Season: Spring
Tammra wrote me from Irvine, California a few weeks back to say that the weather was appropriate for winter: crisp cold and rainy! She said her camellias wanted to bloom but the soggy weather was keeping them still in the bud. For the past few days here in Seattle, we’ve been bathed in the soggy embrace of the Pineapple Express, a tropical storm which brought warm rain which smelled of fish. We’re also seeing the first signs of spring in the green shoots of bulbs, about two to three inches high.

I love getting a glimpse of the season in so many different places. Send me the signs of the season where you live, and I will post them here.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2004.
All rights reserved. You may reprint material from Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as long as you credit me and provide a link to: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com. Please send me a copy of the publication.

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