The Pomegranate by Sara Wright

It is mid November and shiny crimson Pomegranates catch the discerning eye in food markets; even Walmart carries them!

Why do these beautiful and very ancient fruits appear during this dark time of the year?

One answer to this question is that in the northern hemisphere the fruit of this deciduous shrub ripens anywhere from September to February. The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere when the fruits ripen during March, April and May. It is important to remember that in the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed, so in both northern and southern parts of the globe these fruits appear in the fall, during the darkest months of the year.

Pomegranates are native from Iran to northern India and have been cultivated throughout the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean region for millennia. (Today they are also grown in California and Arizona, so they no longer need to be imported). The shrub was domesticated as early as the 5th millennium BC. Pomegranates were the first trees to be domesticated in the Mediterranean.

Continue reading “The Pomegranate by Sara Wright”

Persephone’s Return and the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne QuarrieMany of us are quite familiar with the story of Persephone and Demeter, the Greek myth behind the changing of seasons each year.

“The story basically goes that Zeus arranges a marriage for Hades, the God of the Underworld and the Dead. Zeus gives Persephone to him. Persephone is gathering flowers in a field when she is tempted by the sight of a narcissus. The flower, however, is a trap set by Gaia, acting on the instructions of Zeus, and when Persephone picks the flower the earth opens and the god of the underworld, Hades, also known as Pluto, kidnaps her and rapes her. Only Hecate, a daughter of Rhea, and Helios, the sun god, hear Persephone’s cries.

For nine days, Demeter wanders throughout the world searching for her daughter, carrying blazing torches and neither eating, drinking or washing. No one, god or mortal, comes to aid her.

On the 10th day, Hecate and Helios finally tell her what has happened. Demeter flees Olympus in anger and wanders the earth unrecognized until She comes to Eleusis.” (excerpt from Eleusinian Mysteries, Charles River Editors) Continue reading “Persephone’s Return and the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries by Deanne Quarrie”

Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Barbara Ardinger

Even though Jesus was born during the reign of Augustus, first Roman emperor, the empire didn’t celebrate that birth until three centuries later when his birth date was moved to mid-winter to match the birth date of the sun god Mithra. The Romans already had a long tradition of celebrating the winter solstice. This celebration was called the Saturnalia. Here are three days in December, taken from my daybook, Pagan Every Day. (When I wrote this book in 2003, I wrote longer days. The publisher demanded that I reduce every day to 300 words. I edited them all down to 301 words.)

December 17: Saturnalia begins

Saturn, who was conflated with the Greek Titan, Cronus, was an ancient Latin agricultural god whose name may derive from satur, “stuffed,” or sator, “a sower”; in either case he stands for abundance. He was a working god who oversaw viniculture and farming, the king of Italy during the golden age. When Jupiter conquered him, he hid himself (latuit) in the region that came to be called Latium. The Romans said Saturn’s body lay beneath the Capitol in Rome. Because his reign brought prosperity to the city, the state treasury and the standards of the Roman legions were kept in his temple when the army was at home. Saturn’s statue was bound in woolen strips to keep him from leaving Rome.

Continue reading “Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Barbara Ardinger”

The Coming of Spring: Reflections on Pesach and Judaism by Ivy Helman

meandminiIt is, I think, quite common knowledge that most Jewish holidays relate to the seasonal cycles of the Earth.  Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest.  Chanukah sheds light on the winter darkness.  Tu B’Shevat marks the end of the dry season and so begin the prayers for rain in Israel.  For Purim, we throw off our winter doldrums and let off a little steam to settle our cabin fever.  Pesach is no exception: welcome spring: birth, renewal and even creation.  The leaves return to the trees, baby animals are born, flowers bloom, warmer weather arrives and somehow the possibilities of the coming summer are endless.

In fact, the associations between Pesach and spring are many.  Arthur Waskow in Seasons of Our Joy explains the origins of the connections (pages 133-139).  There were probably two different seasonal celebrations – one of shepherds and one of farmers – that came together around the time of the Babylonian exile into one festival which we can see in Exodus 12 – 13: Pesach.  Farmers in preparation for the harvest of spring wheat cleared out the old crumbs and fermentations of the last year to make room for the new.  Shepherds celebrated the arrival of baby sheep and their flock’s fertility in general by slaughtering a sheep, putting its blood on their tents and dancing around a fire.   Continue reading “The Coming of Spring: Reflections on Pesach and Judaism by Ivy Helman”

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