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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 2, Number 14
August 13, Nemoralia - Meteor Showers


  • Welcome
  • My Season: Mercury Retrograde
  • Living in Season: Our Lady of the Harvest
  • On the Web: Great Links
  • Flower of the Month: Dallying with Dahlias
  • Holiday Packet: Harvest
  • Autumn Correspondence Course
  • Signs of Autumn
  • 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: Mercury Retrograde
It’s been a difficult week and I expect it to get more difficult as Mercury goes retrograde in my sign (Virgo). I swapped computers and lost my ability to print for almost a week. I’ve had two computers set up on my desk — one that is connected to the Internet and one that is connected to the printer. And since the floppy disk drive wasn’t working, it was hard to move files from one to the other so I could print them.

But I finally fixed both problems (thanks to the Interne — what a marvelous resource — I’m constantly grateful for the bounty of information it provides — perhaps that will be the focus of my Harvest ritual this year).

I’m still trying to get used to the new versions of my old programs. I hate the way Word 2000 thinks it knows better than me what I want to see on a pull-down menu. And I’m annoyed every time I close Word to be asked if I want to save changes to the Normal template.

But my daughter helped me install a cute cartoon dog as the help character instead of that stupid paper clip. I love the dog and now spend a good part of my time watching his antics (right now he’s just blinking his eyes—no, he just looked at my typing and wagged his tail). My daughter also helped me change the sound on my AOL account so that when I log on, Barry White says, in his deep, sexy voice, “Welcome, baby. Now where you been, baby? You got mail.” Yum.

Things change. They get better. They get worse. I wish I lived in a world of constant improvement, for myself and everything around me, but I live in a world of constant change and I’m trying to enjoy the ride. It’s good to know that from a seasonal perspective, we’re moving into the Weeks of Comfort or Our Lady’s Thirty Days.

May you enjoy the shifts of the seasons.

And the showers of shooting stars…

Living in Season: Our Lady of the Harvest
I believe the Full Moon Festival of August is one of the oldest Goddess holidays that has been continually celebrated. At this turning point in the year, between the yang energy of summer solstice and the turning inward of the autumn, the Goddess comes into her own as protector, provider and mediator between the worlds.

Known by many names, at this time of the year she is revered as Artemis, Hecate and the Blessed Virgin Mary. All three are associated with the moon. All three are invoked for protection of the grain and the fruit which is so vulnerable to storms in these weeks before harvest. And all three are mediators between the worlds: Artemis in her origin as Goddess of the shamanistic cultures of the North, Hecate as the one who stands at the crossroads between life and death, and Mary as the mediator between Earth and Heaven.

This feast of the goddess was first celebrated in Greece at the full moon of Metageitnion (August 29th this year). In Erkhia, Artemis (as Hecate) was invoked, along with Kourotrophos, and beseeched for protection summer storms, which could flatten and destroy the crops.

In Rome, the Greek lunar festival honoring Artemis-Hecate was placed on the fixed solar calendar on August 13th and called the Nemoralia, also known as Diana’s Feast of the Torches. Roman women made torchlight processions to the temples of Diana and Hecate or visited the groves of Diana with their hunting dogs leashed. Hair-washing was an important ritual activity.

The story of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption (as she was dying, her bodywas lifted up into Heaven) was first recorded at the start of the 3rd century (about 150 years after the incident it relates). At the time, Mary was livingat Ephesus, where she was living under the care of the apostle, John. Ephesus was one of the most famous sanctuaries of Artemis, the home of the famous statue of Artemis with many breasts, symbolizing the productive and nurturing powers of the earth. Mary, is also well known for her nurturing and protecting qualities (she is so tender-hearted she cannot deny any sincere request for help).

After witnessing her miraculous assumption, the story goes that the apostles declared this event should be commemorated on the thirteenth of Ab (the fullmoon of the Jewish lunar month that usually falls in August) “on account of the vines bearing bunches of grapes and on account of the trees bearing fruit, that clouds of hail, bearing stones of wrath, might not come, and the trees be broken, and the vines with their clusters.” Clearly Mary was seen as a protector of the crops and a mediator between the worlds.

As early as the tenth century, the aroma of herbs and flowers was associated with Mary’s victory over death, and people brought medicinal herbs and plants to church (periwinkle, verbena, thyme) to be incensed and blessed, bound into a sheaf and kept all year to ward off illness, disaster and death. In central Europe, August 15 was called Our Lady’s Herb Day. Gertrud Mueller Nelson’s mother kept this holiday alive by taking her daughters on walks, gathering wild grasses, a custom I’ve adopted in Seattle. It’s amazing how many kinds of wild grass grow on my city block.

This is the start of Our Lady's Thirty Days, a tide which lasts until Harvest or Michaelmas and coincides with the astrological sign of Virgo, when animals and plants lose their harmful qualities and all food is considered wholesome. This period of benevolence also coincides with the seven weeks following the full moon of the Jewish month of Av, which are sometimes called the Weeks of Comfort. The readings for these weeks are comforting, promising peace and prosperity.

  • On the Nemoralia, August 13th, make washing your hair a ritual. This seems to be an act that was seen as a luxury after a period of fast and deprivation, perhaps even lack of water. So embellish your usual grooming rituals by adding perfume, candles, whatever seems indulgent to you.
  • To celebrate the Assumption, go for a walk on Sunday, August 15th. Observe and gather the abundance of the earth mother: the wild herbs, grains and edible plants that you find growing.
  • The full moon of Artemis-Hecate falls on August 29th this year. Celebrate by eating garlic or leaving an offering for Hecate at a crossroads.

Nelson, Gertrud Mueller, To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration, Paulist Press 1986

Urlin, Ethel L, Festivals, Holy Days and Saints' Days: A Study in Origins and Survivals in Church Ceremonies and Secular Customs, republished by Gale Research 1979

Warner, Marina, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, Vintage 1983

Waskow, Arthur, Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Holidays, Beacon 1982
In the Library: Books on Bread
Bread for All Seasons, Beth Hensperger, Chronicle 1995
Although I haven't tried any of the recipes in this book, I love to feast on the gorgeous color pictures and I appreciate the way Hensperger incorporates other fruits of the season into the bread, along with history and folklore about the way bread is featured in seasonal celebrations.

The Italian Baker, Carol Field, Harper Collins 1985
Carol Field is one of my favorite cookbook writers, particularly because she’s as knowledgeable about folklore as she about cooking. I’ve found her recipes (except for the one above) intimidating and complex, but the folklore is outstanding. This book is dense with recipes and with information about the role bread has played in Italian culture over time.

On the Web: Great Links
One of my readers, Jennifer, sent me a link to a reproduction of a beautiful old Book of Days from the 1800’s which has been posted on the website of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s library.

I particularly appreciated this link because I spent many happy hours in the college library (at Reed College) poring over the pages of a similar edition of Chamber’s Book of Days, which definitely sparked my passion for these calendar customs.

Jennifer notes that the only way she’s found to print the pages is to import them one at a time into Microsoft Digital Imaging Software and size them to fit one page.

Another reader, Carmine, sent me a link to a great article called “For the Summer of It” by Ellen Goodman.

Flower of the Month: Dallying with Dahlias
The Flower of August is the dahlia. Click here to read more about the dahlia's connection with the Aztec hummingbird-war god, Huitzilopochtli.

If you'd rather read my grumblings about the sorry state of flower folklore scholarship and ideas on creating your own floral calendar go to this page first.

Holiday Packet: Harvest
My Harvest holiday packet contains over 50 pages of ideas on how to celebrate the Autumn Equinox, including the:

• Ancient celebrations of Harvest and Michealmas
• The meaning of the Harvest Moon
• The September Full Moon holidays of Mid-Autumn Moon and Sukkoth
• Transformation mysteries of beer and wine
• Recipes for gingerbread, ginger beer and other traditional Harvest foods
• Instructions for creating wheat weavings, a corn dolly and a basket to
honor Demeter
• And much more.

$9 plus $2 shipping and handling. Please allow ten days for delivery.
An email version is also available for $7. It will be sent as an attached
Word file within 24 hours of receiving your order.

To order go to our Store!

Signs of Autumn
I got my first sign of the Autumn season from Jan in southern Missouri who writes that the usual seasonal events are beginning a month early. She writes: “The hummingbirds have started their eating to gain weight for the flight south and are building their wings strength by super sonic flight patterns, often through my hair when I am refilling the feeders AGAIN! The poison ivy and sumac are turning bright red and the blue flowers that I call Straw flowers are blooming all along the highways.”

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

Autumn Correspondence Course
By the old British and Celtic reckoning of the seasons, Lammas is the End of Summer which means that Autumn is about to begin. Although most people are happy to start Spring at February 1st and Summer at May Day, starting Autumn on August 1st, often the hottest part of the year in Seattle, just seems wrong. Until you shift your understanding of the season so that Autumn is the time of harvest (rather than the time the leaves fall-that's November 1st and the start of Winter). Then you can recognize the role the warmth & sunshine play in ripening the tomatoes and basil and beans, the wheat and the corn, the dahlias and chrysanthemums.

The Autumn correspondence course is now available. (Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered, click here.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2004.
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