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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 3, Number 2
January 31, 2005
Eve of Imbolc


  • Welcome
  • My Season: Waking Up from Hibernation
  • Update: February Calendar Up
  • Slow Time Class: Second Chance
  • Living in Season: Groundhog’s Day
  • 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: Waking Up from Hibernation
Ever Several readers wrote to me with questions about the missing months (of January and February) in the Roman calendar. My source was the Phenomenon Book of Calendars, a book first published in England in 1973 (I have the 1979 version published by Simon & Schuster and written by Giuseppe Maria Sesti, AT Mann IV, Mary Flanagan and Plainton Cowen). They write that there were there were originally ten lunar months in the Roman calendar, beginning with March, and that "the period from mid-winter to spring when nature is dormant and the labours of the husbandman cease was considered a "dark time" and was not counted as part of the calendar."

According to tradition, January and February were added to the original 10-month (lunar) calendar by Numa Pompilius in 700 BC, in other words, a long time ago. Unfortunately the authors don’t list their sources. But I did find the same information at this web site, which seems credible but also does not list sources:

I’m beginning to come out of my hibernation, like the Groundhog, with new enthusiasm for my novel and new ideas for School of the Seasons.

May the spring begin in your life,
Waverly Fitzgerald

Update: February Calendar
The February calendar is up at my website and rich with holidays including Candlemas, Imbolc, Mardi Gras, Chinese New Year, Lupercalia, the holidays of several grain goddesses and the Festival of the Stupid (February 17). View the calendar here.

Slow Time Class: Second Chance
Because of family illness and computer problems, two of the students in the current Slow Time class were unable to continue, so I have room for two more students. This twelve week online course is designed to help you develop a more satisfying relationship with time. The course consists of twelve weekly lessons and homework assignments you can use to explore the concepts in your own life, plus enrollment in a private email list on which you can post your homework and your questions for discussion and feedback.

Since the class is already in progress (we're in the middle of the third week of twelve), I’ll offer you a rebate of $30 after you register. Click here for more information or to register.

Living in Season: Groundhogs Day
Candlemas is one of my favorite holidays of the year with its promise of a new beginning. Poised at the start of early spring, when buds and bare green stems are poking through the soil in some more temperate parts of the country, like the Pacific Northwest where I live, it renews my belief that I can make my life better, shed the old skins of past beliefs and bad habits and launch into a new bloom.

The promises of the return of the light and the renewal of life made at the winter solstice are now becoming manifest. It's the dawn of the year. It's time to creep out of the hibernation of winter, cautiously like the Ground Hog who supposedly emerges on this day to check his shadow. In fact, I first celebrated this early spring holy day as Groundhog’s Day. One of my favorite high school teachers, Mrs. Schiffrin (she was my debate coach) had a special fondness for Groundhog’s Day and in honor of her, Georgette, my debate partner, and I made a papier mache ground hog which we presented to her with great ceremony. She was delighted. I suspect there was probably some Pennsylvania Dutch in her background for they celebrate this holiday with great enthusiasm and silliness.

Last year I read an entire book written by Don Yoder about how the Pennsylvania Dutch celebrate Groundhog’s Day. It’s fascinating to me to see how the ancient themes of the holiday — emergence, weather prediction, protection and fertility — converge in this tradition.

In German folklore, the animal associated with Candlemas was the Badger. In fact Candlemas is sometimes called Badger Day in Germany. If the badger saw his shadow (if it was sunny), then he would crawl back in for four more weeks of winter weather.

The Badger is a shy animal (like the Groundhog), who lives in the woods. Badger fat was used for healing wounds, illnesses and bad feelings between friends and neighbors (now we know why the badger was hiding!). A badger’s tooth was protection from sickness, hail and storms, while badger paws could be worn as amulets to ward off danger. Protection is another theme of this holiday: in Celtic countries, Brigid’s crosses were hung for protection while the candles blessed in the Catholic church on Candlemas could protect one from evil all year around.

In some places, the bear was the animal to watch on Candlemas. If the bear “could see over the mountain,” that is, if the weather was clear, he would go back into hibernation for six weeks. Yoder speculates that the song “The Bear Went over the Mountain” might be derived from this belief. The bear is a true hibernator; it sleeps through the winter with a slower heart rate and a lower body temperature, without eating or urinating or defecating. Many other mammals that seem to hibernate, like raccoons, skunks, woodchucks (groundhogs), chipmunks, hamsters and hedgehogs, actually go into dormancy, rather than true hibernation, and wake up occasionally to move around and eat. According to Stan Zervanos, a professor of biology, groundhogs are anti-social, even hostile, when they encounter each other during most of the year. But as they are beginning to wake up from hibernation in early February, male groundhogs explore their territory and pay preliminary trips to the female groundhogs in the area. Mating won’t take place until early March but this is definitely a time of courtship for groundhogs, recalling Valentine’s Day folklore about the courting of the birds at this time of the year.

In Pennsylvania Dutch country, the Groundhog has become a symbol around which to rally for light-hearted celebration. In the 1930’s, Groundhog Lodges were founded with the members gathering to celebrate the Groundhog with banquets, programs and song. Yoder publishes many of these songs in his book. I’ll just reproduce one so you can celebrate Groundhog’s Day with song:

February Second,
sung to the tune of "John Brown’s Body"
This song comes from the Quarryville Slumbering Groundhog Lodge

Let the scientific fakirs gnash their teeth and stomp with rage—
Let astrologers with crystals wipe such nonsense from the page—
We hail the King of Prophets, who’s the world’s outstanding Sage—
Today the Groundhog comes!

Let the makers of the almanac from Dr. Miles to Hicks—
Let the goosebones and the woolyworms resort to all their tricks—
Let the Bureau of the Weather do its part by throwing bricks—
Today the Groundhog comes!

And while his human neighbors have to guess when the winter goes,
The Groundhog with his triflin’ labor, measures, calculates and knows
If spring will soon be with us, or we’ll still have ice and snows—
Today the Groundhog comes!

His findings are most accurate, authentic and exact,
On February (second day) he states the simple fact
And none from his decision can a single point detract—
Today the Groundhog comes!

Glory! Glory! To the Groundhog,
Glory! Glory! To the Groundhog,
Glory! Glory! To the Groundhog,
Today the Prophet comes!

Yoder, Don, Groundhog’s Day, Stackpole Books 2003

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.

In Person: 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
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
This is an interesting time of the year, the pivot point between winter and spring.

Many of my readers are still in winter. Alyss writes about the thick fog in the southern Oregon valley where she lives. She says, “I love it when I have to move around the valley in the morning and get to leave the fog and enter the brilliant winter sun when going uphill, and then back into the dark pea soup fog going downhill. Later in the mornings the fog will just be in the very bottom of the valley and from town it looks like a river of smoke where the creek should be.” Whereas Cate had to bundle up in every scrap of warm clothing she possessed to go out and look at the full moon last week. In eastern Ontario where she lives “there is a great deal of snow, and we are enjoying deep freeze temperatures in the minus thirties with an ever present wind-chill.”

Others are experiencing the first signs of spring. Casey in Vancouver, British Columbia says that every February her cats bring “gifts of deliciously scented sticky leaf buds home on their fur and on their footpads, leaving them around the room we share or still stuck to themselves. You will soon find me happily peeling off the fur-covered Black Cottonwood bracts, inhaling deeply and keeping them around until they lose their scent.” Tammra in Irvine, California writes that her camellias are trying to bloom but the weather is too soggy (that was a week back — they may be blooming now), while Sherry in Portland reports that after the last few days of warm weather she heard the frogs singing at night. Here in Seattle, we have blossoms on some of the cherry trees, buds on the quince bush and purple and yellow crocuses about to burst into bloom.

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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