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Living in Season Newsletter

Living in Season
The official newsletter of the School of the Seasons
Volume 1, number 10
July 19, 2003, the Adonia begins


  • Welcome
  • Update: Star Gazing Sites
  • Living in Season: Gardens of Adonis
  • Flower of the Month: the Lotus
  • In My Library: Folklore Bibles
  • Current Offerings: Autumn Course
  • Lammas Packet
  • Copyright
  • Subscribe - Unsubscribe

Welcome to my semi-monthly newsletter featuring ideas for bringing the beauty of the current season into your life. Please forward this newsletter if you enjoy it.

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Update on Star Gazing
Thanks Thanks to Erin for pointing out the error in the date given for the start of Leo in the last newsletter. From an astrological point of view, the Sun rises in Leo starting on July 22 (not August 18); it exits Leo on August 22.

Also thanks to Melanie who sent me this link to her favorite site for information on the stars:

Melanie also sent this great quote, appropriate for the Dog Days:

...And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines…

— Shakespeare

Living in Season: Gardens of Adonis
YJuly 19 is the fixed date for the start of the Greek festival of Adonia, sixteen days of celebration of the short but lusty life of Adonis. Originally it was tied to the cycle of the moon-beginning on the ninth day of Hecatombion (July 7, this year) and spanning that beautiful full moon we just enjoyed on July 13.

During this festival, women, especially loose women, prostitutes and mistresses, entertained their lovers on rooftops, burning spices in honor of Adonis and Aphrodite, dancing, feasting, drinking and singing.

One of the features of the holiday was the creation of Gardens of Adonis, by sowing seeds of wheat, barley, lettuce, fennel and sometimes flowers in shallow silver baskets, bowls or even shards of clay. Tended by the women, who watered them daily, the plants grew rapidly but had shallow root systems. Images on Greek vases show the women carrying these little gardens up ladders to the rooftops for the Adonia celebration. At the end of eight days the pots of greenery were thrown into the ocean or a stream, sometimes along with an image of the dead Adonis.

Frazer, the great folklorist, believed that Gardens of Adonis symbolized fertility and growth. But, Marcel Detienne, the author of Gardens of Adonis, a structuralist analysis of the practice, has a different view. He points out that the plants in a Garden of Adonis quickly wither under the heat of the sun. The Greeks have a proverb--"You are more sterile than the gardens of Adonis"-and also use the phrase to indicate something superficial, immature or lightweight. In fact, Plato in Phaedrus contrasts the sensible farmer, who would sow his seeds when it is suitable and be content to wait eight months for them to mature, with a person who sows plants during the summer in a Garden of Adonis. One is a serious act, the other playful; one will come to maturity, the other is strictly for transitory amusement.

If you want to make your own Garden of Adonis, buy wheat berries at your local health food store. Soak them overnight, then plant them in shallow pots or wicker baskets, lined with a thin layer of potting soil. Sprinkle the wheat berries over the top of the soil and keep watered. To speed up the germination, you can cover them loosely with plastic for a few days, but at this time of year they should do fine on a sunny windowsill.

The wheat grows rapidly and is a beautiful vibrant green. These make great decorations for your home — Martha Stewart would approve. Of course, you can eat the wheat grass-cut it off near the roots and add to salads, etc. Your cat and dog will love it too, if you set out a pot of wheat grass they can graze.

If you'd like a faster and perhaps more decadent transitory pleasure, I suggest celebrating one of my favorite festivals, with no ancient roots: Ice Cream Day on July 23.

Detienne, Marcel, The Gardens of Adonis, translated by Janet Lloyd, Harvester Press 1977
Frazer, Sir James, The New Golden Bough, abridged by Theodor H Gaster, New American Library 1959

Flower of the Month
Celebrate the Birthday of the Lotus, on July 22nd, by reading the latest addition to my website: the flower of the month article featuring the lotus
or water-lily, the flower of July.

You'll learn about the spiritual interpretations of the flower, associations with gods & goddesses, myths about its origins, natural facts, medicinal uses and a recipe for pond lily popcorn.

You can read the Lotus article by clicking here.

In my Library: Folklore Bibles
When I was an unhappy sophomore transfer student at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, I spent my lonely evenings in the library, taking notes from Funk &Wagnalls Encyclopedia of Folklore and Mythology. I was fascinated by the articles about obscure holiday customs, the symbolism of flowers, magical stones and strange deities. I still have my notes from those days, written in green ink fountain pen ink.

But today I don't have to go to the library. I have my own copy of Funk & Wagnalls, inherited from my mentor, Helen Farias, and full of her penciled margin notes. I keep it right beside my desk. It's still the single best place to turn for folklore. After spending hours researching the lotus in various flower books, I finally turned to F&W and found both three times the qualityand quantity of information. Reliable, user-friendly and now available in paperback.

The other richest source of folklore in my collection is the great compendium (12 volumes when first published in 1890) by the great Scottish folklorist, Sir James George Frazer. Like many other brilliant scholars (Robert Graves and Barbara Walker come to mind), he had an agenda and managed to make the data he collected fit the patterns he discerned.

I am skeptical of his theories about the annual ritual killing of the sacred King (perhaps because it's not a tradition I wish to perpetuate) but I'm Ok with his lumping together Jesus, Adonis, and Osiris as reborn and dying vegetation gods (some scholars don't agree). Also Frazer, in his 19th century way, assumed that "primitive" peoples did things like make love in the fields or light bonfires at summer solstice because they believed that through sympathetic magic these acts would encourage the plants to grow and the sun to rise. It seems just as likely they understood the value of a symbolic act, the same way we do.

Autumn in the School of the Seasons
A quick reminder that, although it still feels like summer, in the School of the Seasons, Autumn begins with Lammas, on August 1. Order your correspondence course now if you want to get started on Autumn studies.

Last Chance for Lammas
Of course, you can order the holiday packets any time of the year. But if you want to get the Lammas packet in time for Lammas, you should order now. This illustrated, 31 page portfolio includes:

  • Ancient Celtic and Anglo-Saxon traditions of Lughnasad and Lammas
  • Transformation mysteries of beer and bread
  • Recipes for mead & methlegyn, medicinal & fermented honey beverages
  • Instructions for creating wheat weavings and lavender wands
  • Lyrics for Lammas songs, including Brigg Fair and John Barleycorn
  • And much more

The packet is available in two versions: sent email as a Word attachment or as printed pages sent via regular mail in a portfolio. To order a Lammas packet go to our Store. $9 +$2 shipping for the print version, $7 for email.

Copyright ©Waverly Fitzgerald 2003.
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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