Pentecost: Whitsunday

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Messages from Your Angels 2015 wall calendar. An Angel’s Prayer © Donna Pope.

I think of Pentecost as a transcendental holiday, a holiday when the familiar Christian story of Christ’s birth at Christmas and resurrection on Easter moves in another direction entirely (into the realm of pure spirit), as Christ appears to his apostles in a locked room, shining like the sun, and they begin speaking in tongues. It’s often pictured in religious art with little flames burning over the heads of the apostles. They are inspired, burning with new fervor. It’s a moment that breaks through the barriers of mundane reality.

In his book about the agrarian cults of Europe, Carlos Ginzburg says that Pentecost was a time when the women in certain villages in Rumania and Bulgaria gathered to communicate with those who had died. They would sprinkle themselves with water and certain herbs and fall into a trance. When they returned they spoke for the dead whom they had visited. This association of Pentecost with death is echoed in other countries where the day before Pentecost is set aside for visiting family graves. It seems to be a time when the walls between this world and the next are particularly thin.

Pentecost is also the Christian equivalent of May Day, falling as it does seven weeks after Easter (which is tied to Spring Equinox). So many customs associated with Pentecost (which also goes by the name of Whitsunday for the white color of the robes worn during the services) will seem familiar to those who celebrate May Day: decorating churches with greenery, church ales, and the election of a Whitsun King and Queen.


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald is a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who has studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shares her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. She is currently working on a series of essays about looking for nature in the city and blogs for the Seattle PI as the “Urban Naturalist.”

 

 


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Ascension

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Be Still greeting card from the Celtic Blessings card series featuring artwork by Michael J. Green.

Despite being raised Catholic, I don’t remember ever celebrating Ascension, the day when Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, which falls on the 39th day after Easter Sunday (May 14 this year). Yet it’s one of the oldest ecumenical holidays, as it has been celebrated since 68 CE. And the folklore that surrounds it seems even more ancient.

In Armenia, Ascension is a time for girls to tell their fortunes from tokens thrown into a bowl of water drawn from seven springs. All brooks and springs are said to be filled with healing power at midnight. If you don’t want to visit your local body of water at midnight, you might just put out a container and hope it rains since any water that falls from the skies on this day can also heal. Apparently this is because the earth is open to heaven on this day to allow for Christ to ascend. Continue reading

Dirt Makes Us Happy

Plant the Seeds & They Will Grow journal featuring artwork by Leslie Gignilliat-Day. Perfect for all your gardening notes.

Plant the Seeds & They Will Grow journal featuring artwork by Leslie Gignilliat-Day. Perfect for all your gardening notes!

From the A Year of Healthy Living 2015 wall calendar by Ann Lovejoy — Gardeners often seem to be happy people, and now we know why. Recent research indicates that getting our hands “dirty” gives our brains a boost of serotonin. Mycobacterium vaccae is a soil dweller that offers humans who dabble in dirt a lovely lift. Like so many health advances, the first recognition of mood elevating effects from M. vaccae came about accidentally, when a dose intended to boost immune response serendipitously created an antidepressant effect in advanced cancer patients. Continue reading

May Eve, May Day: The Merry Month of May

Awaken Your Dreams greeting card featuring artwork by Kinuko Y. Craft. See the series and sampler packs on our website.

Awaken Your Dreams greeting card featuring artwork by Kinuko Y. Craft. See the series and sampler packs on our website.

One of the great seasonal holidays approaches: May Eve, which ushers in the merry month of May.

It is known by various names in various cultures and countries, such as Walpurgisnacht in Germany and Beltane in Ireland. This turning point of the year, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, has long been a time for gathering around bonfires and frolicking in the green wood. Like Halloween, its sister holiday on the opposite side of the wheel of the year, there’s a sense that the veil between the worlds is thin. But on May Day, rather than ghosts, it’s the fairies you have to worry about. The Queen of the Fairies rides out on a snow-white horse, looking for mortals to take back to Fairyland with her for seven years. It is said that if you sit beneath a tree on May Eve, you might see her ride by or hear the bells of her horse as she passes. But hide your face, or she might choose you! Continue reading