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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 13
September 17, 2005
Harvest Moon


  • Welcome
  • My Season: Rough Re-Entry
  • Feedback Loop: Harbingers of Winter
  • Living in Season: Harvest Moon, Full Moon
  • My Favorite Moon Books
  • My Favorite Moon Links
  • Holiday Packet: Harvest
  • Goodies to Add to Your Harvest Basket:
    A Song and Harvest Feast Cards
  • Correspondence Course: Autumn
  • Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
  • 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: Rough Re-entry
One of my Calendar Companion topics a few weeks ago focused on La Rentree, the French term for that period of transition back to school and back to work after summer vacation.
I've been having a rockier transition than usual as I just accepted a part-time job and began working last week (which is why this newsletter is a bit late). The job is an answer to a prayer as I had asked the universe for a part-time job within walking distance of my home for an organization whose mission I supported. And I got all of that--I'm working for our local writing center, Richard Hugo House. But it's hard to be an employee again after years of self-employment. I miss my flexible schedule and my afternoon coffee shop visits with friends and clients. The time slot I set aside for my creative work has totally vanished which scares me. I know that eventually this job will become a support structure for my creativity--I will be able to stop juggling so many different roles and concentrate on the work that's most important to me, including the School of the Seasons--but for right now, I've not yet found my rhythm. Which makes me sulky and out of sorts.
May you have a smooth transition into Autumn,
Waverly Fitzgerald

Feedback Loop: Harbingers of Winter
In response to my question in the last newsletter about harbingers of winter, I got this response from Cristina Eisenberg, the editor of SageWoman magazine who is also a conservation biologist, specializing in the study of whole ecosystem responses to large carnivores such as wolves and grizzlies. She is working on her PhD in Forestry and Wildlife at Oregon State University and has been doing research measuring climatic effects and animal/ecosystem responses to the climate in Isle Royale National Park and in Glacier National Park. She just finished some field work in Yellowstone on wolves. I'll quote her directly:

"As a biologist I've researched the subject of harbingers of snow depth and harshness of winter and have learned that given global warming and phenomena such as El Nino, there are no traditional harbingers that work in this time of climatic transition. I live in an area that is prone to very severe winters, with our winter lows in the minus forties, our snow depths up to ten feet, so this is something that interests me very much personally--as a practical thing. I've researched all the old Indian ways and folk ways of predicting severity of the coming winter as well as animal adaptations. I have found that none of the old ways seem to work in this new era, at least not in the ten years I've lived in Montana. Animals adapt/prepare for winter based on a hormonal response to the amount of sunlight, rather than on anything having to do with the temperature or other climatic effects. In wolves and other carnivores, and in most ungulates, this is what causes them to shed their summer coat and grow a winter coat, for example, not the air temperature or anything else. The amount of sunlight triggers production of certain hormones that affect hair growth, feeding/breeding behavior, and hibernation."

On a lighter note, Melodie from Michigan passed along her winter lore. She knows it's about to snow when the leaves on her twin willows begin to flutter. (In Seattle, it's a particular pale orange glow in the clouds that signals snow). Luckily we won't have any for some months while Melodie says it always snows at least once in Michigan before Thanksgiving.

Living in Season: Harvest Full Moon

A harvest moon!
And on the mats —
Shadows of pine boughs.

At least once a year I like to focus on the moon, that other rhythmic presence in our lives, which, like the seasons ebbs and flows. I see looking back on last year that I also wrote about the moon at this time of the year, when the Moon is featured in so many seasonal festivals.
This particular full moon which peaks on Saturday evening, September 17, is the Harvest Moon, the name given to the moon nearest the Autumn Equinox, because the light of this moon is so bright that farmers could work in their fields, harvesting crops late into the night.
This full moon (of the eighth Chinese lunar month) is also the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, when Chinese women gathered in the courtyards to feast, drink and write poems in praise of the Moon. You can learn much more about this festival in my article at
And find ideas for celebrating it at:
And this is also the full moon of the Greek month of Boedromion which marks the start of the Eleusinian Mysteries. People came from all over the Classical world to Eleusis in Greece to participate in eight days of rituals which re-enacted Demeter's search for her missing daughter, rituals that culminated in a performance or revelation in an underground cave that offered a vision of immortality.
Does it seem like the Harvest Moon is bigger and brighter than other full moons? It always does to me but I've yet to find an adequate explanation for this effect. Christopher Dewdney explains that in September the relationship between the ecliptic plane (on which the planets orbit) shifts in relationship to the earth and the moon rises more or less at the same time every night for the three nights of the Harvest full moon (normally it rises 50 minutes later every night). I don't know why this would make it seem bright but it does make it more noticeable.

The full moon has long been connected with madness (the very word lunacy comes from Luna, the Roman moon goddess), aggression, accidents and births. Scientific studies have started confirming these folk beliefs.
Pat Thomas in Under the Weather lists some of the connections established by scientists. We eat more (8%) and drink less (26%) during the full moon. Our bodies also retain more water (interesting, since the moon has long been associated with water, partly because of its effect on the tides). Some surgeons refuse to operate during the full moon and studies suggest that patients are more likely to experience post-operative bleeding near the full moon.
Several studies show that emergency calls increase during a full moon (although calls to a suicide prevention line peak during the new moon, the dark phase of the lunar cycle). One study showed that schizophrenic patients exhibited more negative behavior at the full moon but a study of psychiatric emergency room visits found that they were highest at the first quarter moon and lowest at the full moon. Other studies have shown that violent crimes are more common during the full moon.
For every study that shows a correlation between the moon and human behavior, there is another study debunking it. Pat Thomas mentions a report done in the early 1970's by government scientists that found that people were more likely to have accidents during the phase of the moon the same or opposite to that under which they were born. This finding was so ridiculed that funding for the project was withdrawn.
To determine your moon phase, you can use this virtual reality phase calendar:
Moon phase may also affect conception, according to Dr Eugene Jonas, a doctor from the former Czechoslovakia, whose research done in the 1970s showed that women are more likely to conceive when the moon is the same phase it was in when they were born. Again, this theory is ridiculed by the scientific community. But when Joanna Powell Colbert and I were teaching Moon Magic classes, we relayed this information to the women in our classes and got interesting feedback. One woman who had been trying to conceive for years used this principle and got pregnant within months. Another woman finally understood how she had become pregnant during her period—it coincided with the phase of the moon when she was born. (This means most children would have moon phases similar to those of their mothers, if the pregnancy followed a completely natural course.)
Birth rates increase (but only slightly, by 1%) during the full moon. Folk beliefs from many cultures say children born at the full moon are healthier and luckier than other children. In central Africa, the people of the Baganda tribe bathe their first born child under the light of the first full moon after its birth to bring it health and wealth. A lovely custom to adopt.
Donna Henes has written very poetically about the effects of the full moon in Moon Watcher's Companion:

"When the moon is full, the seas rise up to reach it, sending wild waves of enthusiastic welcome Oysters spread their shells wide, stretching to swallow it whole in the same way that they one day may slide down someone's slippery throat. Wolves howl at it, ears pricked, eyes glued adoringly on the object of their attention. Heads thrown back in ecstasy, they sit up very straight like any good dog and sing to it songs of atavistic refrain."

In the lunar cycle, the full moon is the culmination. Henes points out that the Gaelic word for the full moon, Gealach, is the root for the word that means good fortune. It is considered especially lucky for romance and was the time chosen for marriages by the ancient Greeks, Celts and German Jews during the Middle Ages.
One of my Slow Time students, Sharon remembered her very Roman Catholic grandmother putting an empty change purse on the windowsill under the full moon, to guarantee that her pockets would never be empty. Sharon wrote: "It must have worked, for although she was never wealthy, she never wanted for money either.  So for me, the idea of the fullness of the moon translating into culmination and fulfillment was something I grew up with." 
Claudia Thompson, whose website Moonsurfing, I recommend below, believes this particular full moon (in Pisces) is a special time for making wishes. She suggests going outside, raising up your arms and welcoming the moon's light into your body (this is sometimes called "drawing down the moon"). Then ask for what you really want, feel what it would be like to receive that and expand that energy back out into the world, imagining that the world supports your vision. Claudia writer: "this Full Moon is so powerful that when you do this, it's highly likely that you'll get what you want."
Z Budapest writes in her book, Grandmother Moon, that full moon energy is best used for three activities: ritual, making love and dancing. So consider this your homework assignment.
Let me close with this lovely quote from Donna Henes which captures the flavor of the lunar cycle using a metaphor so appropriate for the Harvest Moon:

"The new moon is the arbor, the full moon is the grape, and the waning moon is the wine (stored in the dark moon cellar)."

Budapest, Z, Grandmother Moon: Lunar Magic in Our Lives — Spells, Rituals, Goddesses, Legends & Emotions Under the Moon, Harper SanFrancisco 1991
Dewdney, Christopher, Acquainted with the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark, Bloomsbury 2004
Henes, Donna, The Moon Watcher's Companion, Donna Henes 2002
Thomas, Pat, Under the Weather: How the Weather and Climate Affect Our Health, Fusion Press 2004
Thompson, Claudia, www.moonsurfing.com

My Favorite Moon Books
Budapest, Z, Grandmother Moon: Lunar Magic in Our Lives — Spells, Rituals, Goddesses, Legends & Emotions Under the Moon, Harper SanFrancisco 1991

This book contains moon festivals, stories and lore, all organized by the 13 moons of each year. That's my only quibble — the structure is a bit confusing (like the moon) as the third lunation shifts dramatically from year to year.
George, Demetra, Dark Moon Mysteries: The Healing Power of the Dark Goddess, Harper San Francisco 1992

A look at the moon, especially the dark phase, from an astrological point of view. Demetra provides a comprehensive look at the phases of the moon, an intriguing theory about why Goddess spirituality surfaced in the late twentieth century (She is emerging from her own dark moon phase), and a thorough exploration of the goddesses associated with the Dark Moon: Lilith, Kali, Hecate and Morgana.
Henes, Donna, Moon Watcher's Companion, Donna Henes 2003

This is a lovely self-published book which you can order from Amazon.com or from Donna's web site at
It takes a comprehensive look at the moon and includes moon names, moon myths, moon magic, moon goddesses and even scientific data from various missions to the Moon. I especially appreciate her collection of wonderful moon quotations.
Rush, Anne Kent, Moon, Moon, Random House 1976

This was my first moon book and still the one I consult first when I'm looking for moon lore (although Donna Henes has managed to achieve the same sort of comprehensive overview in her much smaller and more modern volume). This book is a charming jumble of lore, quotations, moon names, poems, myths, etc. This was the first book in which I found lists of moon names and it's still the most comprehensive (except for the web sites mentioned below).
My Favorite Moon Links
Cooley, Keith, Keith's Moon Page
A list of links on all aspects of the moon:
Here's a list of moon names from the same site:
Thompson, Clauda, Moonsurfing
For about five months now I've been ordering Claudia's reasonably priced Lunar Journal which comes as a PDF file. Beautifully laid out, it provides a page of information for each moon phase, telling me what to expect in terms of emotional and physical issues that might arise, and then on another page provides room to journal about my expectations and experiences. I've found it a lovely way to align myself with the rhythm of the moon.

Holiday Packet: Harvest
If you order by email you will get the Harvest packet in time for Autumn Equinox (Sep 22). If you order my mail you will get it in time for Michaelmas (Sep 29). This 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.

The email version costs $9. It will be sent to you as an attached Word file within 24 hours of your order. The print version is $14.  Please allow ten days for delivery. You can order a packet by clicking here.

Goodies to Add to Your Harvest Basket

Harvest Song: We Plough the Fields and Scatter
Tricia, one of the students in my Autumn Online class who lives in England , told me about this song which she sang as a child at harvest festivals. If you are interested in adding a new song to your harvest repertoire here's a link that explain the origins of the song

and a version complete with music at:

If you don't find the God terminology appropriate for your celebration, simply substitute the appropriate deity, for instance, Demeter or Mother Earth.
Harvest Dinner: Earth Dinner Cards
The good folks at Organic Valley created these cards to be used to celebrate Earth Day but I think they would be equally appropriate at a Harvest Banquet or Thanksgiving Dinner. The cards come in different categories like Storytelling (Describe your kitchen table; what kinds of events happen there?), Inspiration (A quote from Frances Moore Lapper followed by the question about what food most reminds you of a place or environment), Imagination (If your favorite food won an Oscar, what would it say in its acceptance speech, who would it thank?) and Fun Facts (do you know how long it takes a hen to lay an egg?). The cards are designed to be distributed at the table to spark conversations about the connections between ourselves, our food and the earth. Click on the link below to see a sample of the cards which you can also download from the web site:

Autumn Correspondence Course
If you're interested in studying in the School of the Seasons, take a look at the correspondence course which offers ideas for aligning with the season. (Of course, you can also order any season out of season, if you like). For a list of topics and the subjects covered in Autumn, click here.
For an overview of the correspondence course, click here.

Calendar Companion: Leaves from the Tree of Time
It’s not too late to order the Calendar Companion, the latest offering from School of the Seasons. 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, you will receive the introduction and the current week's topic. September's topics included La Rentree, Being a Contribution, Attitude of Abundance, Harvest Feast and Hunting Your Power Animal.

$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.

Signs of Autumn
I was especially moved by an email from Kristen in Jackson, Mississippi, which fortunately was not directly in Katrina's path but did experience major winds, trees down, power outages, etc. Kristen wrote: "If this had happened in June before I had found this site I don't think I would have enjoyed my nights without power as much. It was a wonderful diversion from the reality that would hit when the televisions came back on."
Furan from upstate New York sent me her sign of autumn on Sept 8: fat hummingbirds, a sign they are ready to being their fall migration, having stored the calories they need to get through the long flight.

Send me your signs of the season and I’ll post them on my website.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2005
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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