Library Lady's Corner
Holi — The Hindu Festival of Colors, India March 08 2023
Water balloons, powders of vibrant colors, feasting, music, dancing; the festival of Holi is celebrated in March in the Hindu calendar during the full moon. It celebrates the coming of spring and the triumph of good over evil.
This festival, dating back to the 4th century CE, memorializes the story of Vishnu, the god who comes to earth in one of his several incarnations as a human being — this time as Narasimha— and is the celebration of his defeat of the demon twins, Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha.
Homework (or the lack of it) in Waldorf Schools March 05 2023Over the last decade or so homework has taken center stage in many child development debates and research projects.
Imbolc, Groundhog Day, St. Brigid’s Day, Candlemas Day and the Celtic Calendar of Celebrations February 01 2023
By the ancient Celtic calendar, the year was divided into four seasons. The mighty passage of the sun through these periods signaled the change of seasons—as it does for us today. These days and times vary slightly from year-to-year. For 2023 the dates for the Northern Hemisphere are:
The Summer Solstice (June 21) marks the longest day of the year when there is more daylight than on any other day of the year.
The Autumnal Equinox (September 22) marks the day in fall when there is an exact equality of daylight and darkness.
Yearning for Light in the Darkness: The Many Holidays Embracing the Winter Solstice December 19 2022Are you afraid of the dark? Many people are, and many children are. Children come from the light-filled world of the stars and must adjust to an earth-life that alternates between light and darkness: day and night; peace and turmoil; love and hatred. These are all the extremes that come with living a human life.
Saint Nicholas and Building a Capacity for Self-Reflection in the Young - A Waldorf Perspective December 05 2022
December 6 is the day marked to celebrate the legendary Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343)—the prototype for our North American Santa Claus. His feast day is often celebrated in Waldorf schools, though in some schools his celebration has been disapproved and removed for being too Eurocentric or too harsh for children. His legends are rooted in German lore and in Dutch stories (Sinterklaas* is his name in Dutch). But vestiges of this remarkable saint pop up in many places throughout Europe, Turkey, parts of Dutch-colonized African countries, North America and elsewhere.
Traditionally when Saint Nicholas appears to children, he wears the garb of an early Christian bishop* (so he wears a funny mitered hat, as some children would tell you) and he carries a large golden book. In this book are written all the good deeds children have done on one page, and on the opposing page, unfortunate deeds and challenges facing the child are written. Saint Nicholas addresses each child with these balancing facts of the little one’s life.
The Winter Garden in Waldorf Schools November 27 2022Many young children are afraid of the dark. Actually, many grown-ups are afraid of the dark, too. Late autumn and early winter, when the days grow short and the darkness dominates everything, festivals help mark the time until the light begins to fill the days again. The important message for children is that we each carry a light within that becomes important in wintertime.
Thanksgiving and Buy Nothing Day! November 25 2022Come along with Waldorf Publications on a determined stand against the frenzy of “Black Friday”!
Martinmas and Lantern Walks in Waldorf Schools November 09 2022Many Waldorf schools host a Lantern Walk in November and around Martinmas, the feast day for St. Martin of Tours — also Veterans’ Day in the United States. St. Martin, the patron saint of beggars and outcasts, was known for his unassuming nature and ability to bring light and warmth to the impoverished.
El Día de los Muertos - November 1 and 2 November 02 2022In Latin American cultures, and especially in Mexico, el Día de los Muertos is celebrated on November 1 & 2, coinciding with “All Saints and All Souls Days” in the US, which is, of course, preceded by Hallowe’en on October 31st.
The Christian Counterpart to Samhain or Hallowe’en: All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day November 01 2022Those who grew up going to a parochial school of any kind in the Christian streams of faith know that Hallowe’en is the contraction of Hallow’s Evening. The pagan practices of Samhain or harvest festivals that include the awareness of the thin veil that exists at this time of year between the dead and the living were deeply rooted in ancient cultures. The Day of the Dead in Spanish speaking cultures is another good example along with the Druid festival of Samhain.
Hallowe’en Part 2: Through a Waldorf Lens October 28 2022
Our Own Children Now on Hallowe’en - Through a Waldorf Lens
Hallowe’en is meant to be fun, of course, but it also holds opportunities for us to allow our children to experience that death, too, is a part of life. Skeletons, ghosts (Ireland for a century or two kept a census of ghosts as well as of the living), and the barren fields after the harvest all speak to the human heart of the end of life. Children are no different and they sense on a deep intuitive level that this is true. It isn’t necessary (or beneficial) to frighten children, especially under the age of nine or so. Young children will experience the feelings around Hallowe’en without undue prompting.
Hallowe’en Part I: Samhain –– The Celtic roots of Hallowe’en October 27 2022
It figures that the land of Banshees, fairies and Leprechauns would be the starting place for a holiday like Hallowe’en. The Celtic word “Samhain” is actually pronounced “Sow-in.” This word literally translates as “summer’s ending.” After the harvest was gathered and stored, livestock had been sorted for slaughter or breeding, and the earth was perceived to have exhausted herself, this festival of Samhain was one of four high festivals of the Druid religion.
Leftovers from the harvested fields were piled up and burned. The rituals surrounding this festival had much to do with clearing away the old to make way for the new –– purging the old field to prepare the fields for new crops. It was also the last day of the Druid year and the day when all departed souls would return to their homes and when malevolent spirits were released as the earth gave up her strength and could hold these spirits back no more.
The bonfires offered some protection from these released unresting souls. The momentary instability of the boundaries between death and life made all sorts of spirits free to roam and haunt and frighten people. Fairies and leprechauns were not believed to be sweet and endearing beings but were untrustworthy and tricky sprites who needed to be outsmarted and watched carefully. “Changeling” babies could be substituted for one’s own child if the cradle were not carefully tended. Children were often dressed in disguises so that the fairies wouldn’t know who they were to steal them away and leave the family with some strange substitute for a little brother or sister. At Samhain, disguises were very important. Unattractive disguises, including downright ugly masks, drove the sprightly thieves away.
The Irish left food and treats out on the table to both appease these potentially unkind spirits, hoping that a show of hospitality might deter them from doing any harm or stealing any children, and also to welcome in the ancestors who might find their way home on this dark, important night. Also, parsnips or turnips (grown to bigger sizes on the Emerald Isle than in the USA) were hollowed out, carved, and lit with candles to shine the beloved home to the houses of their births, lives, and deaths. The traditions of treats and hollowed and lighted produce can been seen as starting here.
Farm animals were anointed with holy water to protect them through the night of roaming spirits. And unmarried girls would go blindfolded into the almost empty fields searching for cabbages. If they pulled up the first cabbage they stumbled upon and it had a lot of clay on the roots, the girl’s future husband would be rich.
Apples were considered a symbol of fertility and a happy marriage. Bobbing for apples or attempting to eat an apple on a string informed a girl of her future. She would keep the apple she first bit into and put it under her pillow that night. Tradition held that she would then dream of her future husband. Other blindfold games of Samhain included a table filled with varying objects. Blindfolded people would reach out and touch something and this would foretell the future. James Joyce’s short story, “Clay,” well describes this practice. A bowl of water meant emigration. A ring meant an impending wedding. A lump of clay implied death.
Orange and black were considered the colors of death. Irish famine immigrants brought these Irish traditions with them to America in the middle of the nineteenth century.
A Deeper Look into the Days of Michaél September 29 2022
The season gives the signs now of the turning of summer to autumn. In the air, before the green of the leaves begin to blush, the air gives an occasional whisper of fresh chill to herald the changes that will come. Even in places in which there is not a dramatic change between seasons, reports of subtle changes as the earth turns and the parade of the seasons rolls onward come from those sensitive to expressions from the Earth.
The Perseid outburst or meteor shower in mid to late August each year marks the change in the stars.
Back to School! September 06 2022School is beginning again! Some schools in some regions are well into their second week of school and in other areas, teachers and parents are gearing up today for a post-Labor Day beginning.
Book Review: From Mechanism to Organism: Enlivening the Study of Human Biology August 16 2022At long last, a resource book for high school teachers, parents, and students that brings to life the experiential approach to the complex subject of human biology! Michael Holdrege’s decades of experience at the Chicago Waldorf School teaching middle and high school science and math shines on every page of this penetrating book. From Mechanism to Organism contains wonderful illustrations that demonstrate valuable ideas for teachers to use in bringing different aspects of the ninth-and tenth-grade science in a Waldorf curriculum to high school students.
Book Review: Waldorf Book of Blessings from Around the World June 07 2022
Waldorf Book of Blessings from Around the World is now available!
Gratitude! What an uplifting attitude of soul to cultivate and maintain! It can be difficult to find in today’s contentious world; yet here it is in abundance in this little book by Warren Lee Cohen. It is overflowing with gratitude for the food we eat and the friends and family with whom we share our meals. All around the world, families and friends ask for blessings on their meals with a spirit of quiet peace. So many different cultures and languages are represented in this powerhouse collection!
Book Review - Honey Bee Haven January 12 2022
Honey Bee Haven that is a real delight. Teaching ourselves and our children about the precious work done by pollinators, especially bees, has become a topic of some urgency in the last decades. With gloriously colorful pictures, done in watercolor paintings by the author, and the simple telling of how bees live and work, a penetrating story gets told in this little masterpiece of a book. It is about the significance of the work of honey bees, and about our part in making them feel appreciated, cared-for, and loved!
Overcoming Parental Fatigue: Tips for Parents of Special Needs Children January 10 2022While parenting is undeniably rewarding, it’s also incredibly exhausting. Most parents only have to face exhaustion for the first few years of childhood. But for parents of children with special needs, this sense of deep fatigue can seem never-ending. Between helping your child with dressing, feeding, and other basic needs, you also have to be your child’s advocate when dealing with doctors, insurance companies, teachers, and support staff.
Solstice and Holidays — Sun and Moon Still Turn Our Seasons December 24 2021
The cluster of holidays that surround the cosmic event of the turning of the sun on December 20 and/or 21 are an indication to the people of the world that this event is significant:
Saturnalia in Ancient Rome; Santa Lucia’s Day in Scandinavia; Dongzhi in China; Shab-e Yalda in Iran; Inti Raymi in Incan cultures; Shalako of the Pueblo Native American peoples Zuni?; Soyal of the Zunis, Hopis, Anasazi peoples; Toji in Japan; Kwanzaa for African-Americans; Chanukah for the Hebrews; Christmas for the Christians. All acknowledge the relief we all feel when the days begin to inch toward increasing hours of light!
After June 21 the hours of light in our days in the Western Hemisphere diminish slowly until this darkest of all days occurs at the winter solstice. December 20 marked this longest of nights possible, resplendent with the high, shining moon! This year, the moon was full at the solstice when it isn’t always. People of the earth got to experience more hours of moonlight than has been possible for decades. This “Cold Moon,” “Winter Moon,” or, “Oak Moon,” gave a “full moon weekend,” culminating on December 20.
Now we watch as day by day, the light increases toward the summer solstice on June 20 and/or 21. Hail to the light! And thanks to the dark, sacred night, lit by the moon! Christmas is the next solstice celebration to come: a celebration of the power of the Light!
Blessings on all families, friends, and adversaries, at this remarkable time of year!
Waldorf Festivals and Santa Lucia (St. Lucy's Day) December 13 2021Recently, we spoke to a Waldorf school-educated and recent college graduate about an experience she had had in second grade. She spoke of how this childhood event had helped get her through difficult times during her college years. The picture of this experience gave her more confidence in her studies and further underlined the importance of developing clear thinking. She held an image in her mind of the light shining good, pure thinking out into the world. She has cherished this picture and expressed her wish that all children could have this.
Book Review: The First Waldorf Teachers December 08 2021
Read of them in the NEW Waldorf Publications book: The First Waldorf Teachers: Twelve Biographical Vignettes of Leaders of the First School
Tomas Zdrazil has collected twelve biographical sketches of the twelve teachers and Emil Molt, the bold industrialist who started the whole idea of a new school, in one collection, wrapped in a single book by your friends at Waldorf Publications!
New Release - A Road to Sacred Creation December 08 2021
Gary Lamb's long-awaited compendium of Rudolf Steiner's reflection on technology has been published by Steiner Books. Given the dependence on technology, heightened by the recent pandemic necessities, the book promises to be a remarkable resource, especially for our Waldorf community. Waldorf Publications will carry this book and so it can be ordered through us or through Steiner Books.
Transforming technology into a completely humanized tool, fueled by etheric life forces, presents a wonderful counterpoint to bending humanity to fit technology! Don't miss this good book.
Saint Nicholas and the Chance to Reassure and Redeem a Child - The Waldorf Way December 08 2021
December 6th is the Festival of Saint Nicholas. Some countries celebrate this festival on December 5; however, whichever day, Saint Nicholas is held dear by many countries. Russia and Greece, where he was born (in the country now known as Turkey) count him as their patron saint. He lived in the late third and early fourth centuries in the Roman Empire. His fame earned him the envy of the Emperor Diocletian who had him imprisoned and killed because of this.
Many miracles have been attributed to this charismatic character. The ones that interest us in Waldorf communities are those connected to his compassion for children everywhere. He was known to have brought babies back to life. He fed poor children, found clothing and housing for orphans, and perhaps most
What is the Winter Garden or Advent Spiral in a Waldorf School? November 29 2021
Garden of Light
In a Winter Garden,
Dark the Earth below,
Earth is waiting, waiting, waiting
For her seeds to grow.
Many young children are afraid of the dark. Actually, many grown ups are afraid of the dark too. Late autumn and early winter, when the days grow short and the darkness dominates everything, festivals help mark the time until the light begins to fill the days again.
First there is Michaelmas or The Feast of St. Michael: This is at Autumn equinox when day is exactly as long as night. The stories at this time help us gather courage. This courage serves us when Halloween comes and the earth breathes out its last of the year’s efforts of growth and the harvest is done. The quiet is absolute and scary! Death is apparent in all the fields. The day of the Dead in Latin cultures is at this time. Next is followed, in the United States, with Thanksgiving. Our hearts relax and experience gratitude when we realize the abundance of the harvest and the good fortune we have to be alive. Gathering with family and close friends to prepare for the winter season gives us comfort.
During the month of December, the days grow their darkest. In Waldorf schools, just after Thanksgiving, there is a celebration called the Winter Garden, or the Advent Garden. Advent means “To Come” and aside from this term used in some religious celebrations, it is meant to announce the coming of the light.
Karl König, anthroposophical doctor in the early part of the twentieth century, invented this celebration for Camphill Villages, to give community members a way to picture the need for light in the darkness, a way to anticipate mindfully the return of the light. Many cultures and religions have celebrations at this December time of year: Hanukkah, Christmas, and Druid Solstice ceremonies to name a few..
For the Advent Spiral or Winter Garden, children come into a darkened room filled with a spiral of evergreens on the floor. Teachers carefully prepare this spiral of living greens. The evergreens make a path for children to walk in a spiral to the center. The evergreen spiral is dotted with crystals, flowering plants, and other treasures. In the center of the spiral is a candle. Into the dark room comes one child carrying a lighted taper. Often this child is dressed in white like an angel. Walking slowly around the spiral to show the watching children how to do it slowly and mindfully, the "angel" then lights the candle waiting at the center of the spiral.
Then, one by one each child goes to the start of the spiral, receives from a teacher an apple with a candle inserted into a carved hole in the apple. The child walks the spiral with the unlit candle, goes to the center and lights the candle on the central candle that was lighted by the “angel” of the Winter Garden, the first child. Once the candle is lit, the child walks carefully back through the spiral and finds a place on the spiral to set the apple with the now-lit candle down. Then the next child comes and does the same thing. Each child has a turn until all the children have had the chance to light a candle and place it on the spiral. Music plays and fills the room while the children walk the garden and light their candles one by one.
By the end of the ceremony, the spiral is bright with light, illuminated with all the children’s candles. This offers the children a powerful picture of light in the darkness, of one’s candle contributing to the great light with others in the dark world, of the coming of light from each of us. It offers a reminder of the reliable turning of the sun from weakness to strength each year at the Winter Solstice. Waiting quietly in the darkness for the return of the light, contributing a little bit from each person to make the world bright, are important lessons to learn for life.
Few words and powerful pictures offer the best kind of learning.
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