Library Lady's Corner
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Saint Martin of Tours and Martinmas November 10 2021The feast of St. Martin coincides with Veterans' Day which is fitting since St. Martin of Tours started as a conscripted soldier in the Roman army and quickly rose to a leadership position. Legend has it that St. Martin was much beloved by the soldiers he commanded for he tended to ride behind his men to ensure that no
Book Review: Bare Hand Crafting - the sequel to Bare Hand Knitting November 01 2021
If you loved Bare Hand Knitting, here is Aleshanee Akin’s next volume, Bare Hand Crafting 2! It is filled with more advanced techniques using yarn, thread, and your own two beautiful hands! Many have asked about this upcoming treasure trove of creativity and now it is here! In addition to learning how to knit without needles, you can learn to hand knit in three dimensions, and to crochet, embroider, and combine all your skills to make lovely things to wear, to play with, and to enjoy.
Book Review: Form Drawing October 11 2021
Form Drawing is a book about a subject unique to Waldorf schools. This book offers the best introduction to form drawing this Library Lady has ever seen! Form Drawing is full-color and bursting-with-illustrations—it is a must-have for understanding this powerful and engaging artistic subject!
Beginning on the first day of first grade, form drawing helps artistically to develop in children a sense of space, movement, balance, proportion,
Now Available - Threefoldness in Humans and Mammals: Toward a Biology of Form March 29 2021Waldorf Publications is pleased to announce the inclusion of Wolfgang Schad’s new edition of his master work: Threefoldness in Humans and Mammals (original editions in English titled: Understanding Mammals or Man and Animal) in our offerings. Anyone teaching fourth grade or High School, anyone interested in strengthening the relationship to the animal world must have this two-volume set! The photographs are compelling, the information is comprehensive and compassionate, and the shared relationship between mammals and human beings is made crystal clear and movingly complete through this deep study. It is a necessarily expensive set, but the results are beyond ordinary value and you will treasure the books for a lifetime!
Saint Patrick and the Fading of Druid Culture on the British Isles March 16 2021Saint Patrick was an extraordinary man in the scheme of the history of Western and, particularly, Irish Civilization. A Roman aristocrat as a boy in Gaul, he was captured by Irish marauders and sold to an Irish chieftain. For years he tended the sheep herds and learned to read the elements of fire, air, earth and water, the basic magical vehicles from the Druid religion. He learned to speak and to love the ancient Irish Gaelic. After many years he escaped back to Gaul and entered the monastery of Martin of Tours.
Waldorf Grade 7 Book Recommendations February 25 2021Seventh graders are in the throes of the mighty force of puberty and the birth of the last of the “finer bodies” that some would call the “aura” of the human being. No births are quiet and the chatter in a classroom is the sound that begins in sixth grade and lasts through eighth and signals the arrival of a new birth, new capacities, and new challenges. The growth at this time in a young human being rivals the growth of a newborn and will not be repeated for the rest of life.
Waldorf Grade 6 Book Recommendations February 19 2021In sixth grade, the 11/12 year-old is usually beginning to experience the onset of puberty. Growth happens at an increasingly rapid rate and the child often goes through a time of alarm, not recognizing who he or she is anymore. Just as a single example, somewhere during the time of puberty a girl’s larynx grows to three times its original size and a boy’s, seven times its original size. This growth rate will never be repeated in the life span of human development.
Candlemas and Groundhog Day February 02 2021Today is one of those cross-quarter days. Some celebrate it as Ground hog day or the day when our hope of an end to winter might be divined by a groundhog. “Punxsutawney Phil,” from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has been the official weather groundhog, marking this day since 1887. 2016 marks his 130th year of predicting, with 100% accuracy, whether or not winter will be done in six weeks or will continue beyond that six weeks.
Waldorf Grade 4 Book Recommendations December 01 2020Youngsters in grade four are now ten years old and have past the nine-year-old shift in consciousness but are still smoothing this out in their understanding of the world. Their new independence means a bit of separation from parents and teachers and some cantankerousness as this adjustment settles. The curriculum brings...
Waldorf Grade 2 Book Recommendations November 02 2020Following Waldorf Grade 1 recommendations, here comes Waldorf Grade 2! Remember that books for general self-development and foundational work for teaching were offered in a previous writing. Also note that there are too many books in all these lists to presume that anyone should read them all, but knowing what books are available can help in deciding about the one or two or three books (or more!) that might prove useful as a guide both for teachers and students.
Waldorf Grade 1 Book Recommendations October 19 2020Books for general self-development and foundational work for teaching were offered in a previous writing. Now we will offer grade by grade book recommendations. There are too many books in all these lists, remember, to think that we are advising that anyone read them all.
Book Review - Tatatuck’s Journey to Crystal Mountain October 07 2020Finding a story that has authentic imagination is a true delight and this story of a small gnome hero has just that! Tatatuck is an ordinary root pulling gnome who wishes to become a crystal mining gnome. He is small and so his dream seems highly unlikely to be fulfilled. One day he is asked if he feels brave enough to travel over the seven mountains to Crystal Mountain to bring back an important jewel for the gnomes.
Finding Indoor Ways! April 06 2020
Guaranteed Cures for Cabin Fever
There’s something about being told you have to stay indoors that creates an immediate urgency to get outside! If you are at home with children of any age, this urgency can become almost frantic at times. It’s important to re-orient our thinking to something along the lines of, “Ah! We get to stay in! We don’t have to rush to be anywhere at all!” And we have some ideas about how to help you actually enjoy this time.
The Importance of Rhythm
To the extent possible, build a new daily rhythm and stick to it, not rigidly, but at least approximately. After a few days, you’ll see that the family looks forward to “the next thing” they anticipate even if it’s not their favorite thing. Rhythm solves many “cabin fever” issues, you will see!
Using Our Hands Has a Calming Effect March 25 2020Certainly, in these times of being housebound for preventing the spread of illness, the uncertainty and fearful anticipation can cause nervous restlessness, particularly in children whose rhythms are disrupted. Establishing new rhythms can be very helpful, and so can using our hands (after washing, of course) in constructive activities.
Book Review: Bare Hand Knitting October 01 2019
Bare Hand Knitting — Tool Free Knitting at It's Finest
Aleshanee Aikin does not think as ordinary people do. She is multi-lingual, interested in everything, and endlessly busy with her creative hands. In her new book, Bare Hand Knitting, Tool Free Knitting at Its Finest, she applies these remarkably different ways of thinking to teaching us a technique known mostly by Waldorf kindergarten teachers: finger knitting.
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