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Living in Season from Waverly Fitzgerald

Living in Season
The official newsletter of School of the Seasons

January 27, 2009
8 of Pluviose, Day of Daphne Mezereum


Happy New Year!
Seasonal Quote
Living in Season: My Favorite Calendar
New Year Items:
~ French Republican Calendar
~ Natural Planning Journal
~ Candlemas Holiday Packet
~ New! A Year of Holidays
Coming Soon:
~ Living in Season Magazine
~ Slow Time online class
Signs of Spring
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Happy New Year!

I'm heading to the International District on Saturday to meet my niece to celebrate Chinese New Year. My favorite new year day is Candlemas, February 1, so it's grand to have these two celebrations fall within the same week. I've been dreaming all January about what I will accomplish in the New Year, along with the students in my online New Year Dreams class, and now it's time for me to begin making those dreams come true. You'll learn more about my dreams for School of the Seasons below.

Seasonal Quote:

Begin at once to live
And count each separate day
As a separate life.

— Seneca

Living in Season: My Favorite Calendar


(Pluviose. Photo by Catherine Kerr.)

I was shocked when I realized that I've never actually written an article about the French Republican Calendar for my newsletter. Although not surprising since there's not a lot to say about it.

I first learned about the French Republican Calendar when I was doing research for a college paper on the French Revolution while attending Reed College. I still have that typed, single-spaced paper. I found a brief mention that the revolutionaries had created an entirely new calendar, one that replaced the old, irrational religious holidays, with new rational holidays. In fact, the old erratic weeks (erratic in that the days of the week don't line up in any predictable pattern with the days of the month) were replaced with new weeks of ten days each. Each month had three weeks of ten days. And each month was named after a seasonal quality, rather than bearing the names of Roman emperors. Furthermore the year began with the autumn equinox, on September 22, the date the New Republic was confirmed. Thus the new months of 30 days each straddled the old months (but corresponded with the astrological signs).

The new months which were named by the poet, actor and playwright, Fabre D'Eglantine, with input from Andre Thouin, gardener at the Jardin des Plantes, associated with the natural history museum in Paris, were called

Vendemiare (vintage) Sept/Oct
Brumaire (foggy) Oct/Nov
Frimaire (frosty) Nov/Dec
Nivose (snowy) Dec/Jan
Pluviose (rainy) Jan/Feb
Ventose (windy) Feb/Mar
Germinal (sprouting) Mar/Apr
Floreal (flowering) Apr/May
Prairial (meadowy) May/Jun
Messidor (harvest) Jun/Jul
Thermidor (hot) Jul/Aug, corresponding with the Dog Days
Fructidor (fruiting) Aug/Sep

The English, who at this time had little love for the French, made fun of these names with the following rhyme:

Autumn: wheezy, sneezy, freezy
Winter: slippy, drippy, nippy
Spring: showery, flowery, bowery
Summer: hoppy, droppy, poppy (OR wheaty, heaty and sweety)

I also knew that a plant, animal or tool had been assigned to each day of the week, replacing the saint's days. The goal was to get rid of the old superstitions of an after-life and replace them with practical things of the earth. An animal was honored on the fifth day of each week, a tool on the tenth day. The rest of the days were associated with plants, except during Nivose, when minerals were honored. Since the calendar was developed by an agronomist, Charles Gilbert Romme, these assignments were generally based on what was in season.

The calendar didn't last a long time, about 12 years (from 1793 to 1805). You can imagine some of the problems. No one liked having a day off every ten days when they were used to a day off every seven days. It was hard to correlate the new calendar with the old patterns of the week. There were problems figuring out how to deal with leap years. And having a moving date for the start of the year (Autumn Equinox can fall on September 20, 21 or 22) further confused people.

This was about all I knew about the French Republican Calendar for decades. Despite many efforts I couldn't find a source that could tell me what plants had been assigned to what days. Then Wikipedia came along. (I love you, Wikipedia!) There I finally found the answers I was seeking.

I quickly drew up a calendar for my own use, transposing the dates of the French Republican calendar on top of the more traditional Gregorian calendar. I offered an illustrated version of this calendar for sale for the first time in 2007 and another this year. Meanwhile I've had experience using the calendar myself and can tell you that it is marvelous.

One of the criticisms of the French Republican Calendar was that the seasonal associations didn't work well in the French colonies. For instance, calling Dec/Jan Snowy in Guyana, probably didn't make much sense. But it works marvelously well for Seattle. I often find the plant of the day blooming or fruiting in my neighborhood around the same day it's mentioned in the calendar.

Today is the 8th of Pluviose and the plant of the day is sweet-smelling, early spring blooming Daphne Mezereum. I know where they grow in my neighborhood (outside an apartment building called the Daphne, in a gardening pun) and will make it a point to visit them on their day.

If you're interested in trying out the French Republican calendar to see if it works for you, I still have copies for sale, both as downloaded pages and as a print wall calendar. This year's version is illustrated with exquisite seasonal photographs taken by Cate Kerr. Check out a sample page or order it in our Store.

You can also make your own calendar, like I did, by viewing the charts at the Wikipedia article:

You may have already missed the days of Clay and Slate, Flint and the Rabbit (the days in Nivose (Snowy) are mostly associated with minerals) but you can still celebrate the other 359 days of the year, days of plants like snowdrop (Jan 23) and Hellebore (January 30), animals (like the Cat on January 14 and tools (the sieve on January 19. I love this calendar for the way it reminds me to celebrate the small items of everyday life. The gorgeous photographs by Cate Kerr provide a glimpse of the seasons where she lives in eastern Ontario: 

New Year Items

School in the Seasons has several offerings besides the French Republican Calendar to help you celebrate the year.

New Year Dreams

My students in the New Year Dreams class are enjoying the workbook I put together to help them figure out their dreams and goals for this year. This workbook will be available all year since your new year can start at any time you want, for instance, your birthday, Candlemas, Spring Equinox, Rosh Hashanah, etc. The workbook is available as part of the package that comes if you order the Natural Planner or you can order it separately.

Melanie Schmidt of Crestview, Florida wrote to tell me:

”I completed my preparation in the New Year Dreams e-book and all I can say is WOW. Not only did I organize my EXACT wishes and dreams, but for the first time in my life, I didn't overbook myself with ‘To Do’. I eliminated more wishes/dreams than I kept. I only kept the ones that resonated with me NOW for this year. I cannot wait to receive the Spring Natural Planner e-book so I can organize my wishes/dreams for the Spring season.”

Natural Planner

A set of four workbooks, one for each season, which helps you figure out which dreams and goals to pursue during the season, how to find the time to carry them out, and reflect on your accomplishments at the end of the seasons. You can order just the Spring workbook or the whole set, which includes the New Year Dreams e-book.

Holiday Packet: Candlemas/Imbolc

On February 1/2, 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 $10 (sent within 24 hours) or via snail mail for $15 (please allow 10 days for delivery). Order in our Store.

New! A Year of Holidays

Because I'm launching a new web site (see below), I'm not updating the calendars at the old School of the Seasons web site anymore. I will convert them so a permanent list will stay up for each month, and there will be a separate list for each year's moving holidays.

For those of you who really loved the calendars, or those of you who want to receive information about seasonal holidays in your email, I'm offering a new service: A Year of Holidays.

I will send you an illustrated email message every day describing the holiday for that day and offering suggestions for celebrating and links to resources and references. If you are interested in signing up for A Year of Holidays (and you can sign up at any time during the year), please visit our Store.

Coming Soon:

Living in Season Magazine

I've been promising you a magazine for three years and it's finally beginning to bloom. I'm working closely with my web designer (you may know her as the fabulous and talented artist who created the Gaian Tarot deck), Joanna Powell Colbert. We're planning to launch the magazine on Spring Equinox.

You will find all the things you've come to expect from School of the Season. Signs of the Season, with an easier way posting your signs of the season. Also articles on seasonal foods, celebrations, flowers, crafts, (some of which you will write) plus opportunities to comment on the articles. And embellishments like photographs, art, music and videos. Plus the opportunity to advertise your services to a large audience of like-minded people.

I hope to create an online community where we can share our knowledge of the seasons and create a beautiful and comprehensive resource that is organized by season. I'll let you know more about what I'm looking for in the next newsletter.

Slow Time Online Class

I'm also planning to offer an online Slow Time class. My only hesitation is that I don't if I'll be offering a year-long class or a 12 week class. I don't have to make up my mind until next week. Keep tuned for more information, coming shortly after Candlemas.

Signs of Spring

Here in Seattle, the maple trees are stretching our red twigs. In my garden, the green blades of tulips are kniving through the dirt. Around the corner from my house, there's a forsythia bush that has one yellow blossom and close to it, there's a goat willow with fuzzy buds.

What's happening where you live? Do you see any signs of spring yet?

Where ever you live, send me your signs of the season and we will post them at the website at Signs of the Season.


Copyright © Waverly Fitzgerald 2009
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Living in Season in other electronic or print publications as
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