We have, now, a clearly portrayed seasonal pattern, detailed in twelve stages by the Chinese, validated in four by the Celtic tradition, further illuminated in experiential fashion by the historical annotation of the Jewish calendar. It remains only to consider how this pattern relates to elements of personal life in contemporary society -- whether it can be used as a template by which to understand our lives better -- and to look for instances of pattern correlation with indigenous groups in the ethnographic literature.
Preliminary to such a survey, it will serve us to consider that the seasonal or ripening cycle is properly an archetypal form, for it can be as well applied to the round of a day's twenty-four hours, and to a complete lifetime, as to the passage of an astronomical year. The evidence for this will be forthcoming in what is to follow in this section; but some of it can be briefly highlighted, here, with illustrative elements that hardly need any documentary confirmation.
As to the lifetime parallel: There is no question of it being a ripening cycle; but it is not just an indiscriminately long and constant ripening. There is a distinct "nodule," in the human life-cycle, at the mid-40's -- a bit beyond the halfway mark -- variously known as a "midlife crisis" or reassessment, or for women the onset of menopause, the "change of life," which clearly demonstrates a psycho-physiological identity, beyond anything that can be called cultural, with the difficult portion of the annual passage around August that is so well annotated in our seasonal calendars.
It is quite important to see the archetypal aspect of this cycle, for the realization removes it, once and for all, from our ready tendency to see the annual pattern as a climatological construct. This does not diminish its close identity with an agricultural pattern, but it serves to distinguish the agricultural from the climatological -- or to suggest that all three of these cyclic perspectives (climate, agriculture, and generalized "ripening") may be circumstantially related but independent manifestations of a cosmic archetypal pattern.
The archetypal form can be characterized in four clear stages:1. Quietude, or inner nurturance and development.
2. Swift and energetic growth.
3. Maturity and creative crescendo, to a focal-point of intensity.
4. Decline of energy, with generative transformation.
It can also be characterized by four clearly defined nodal points at which the energy process moves from one stage into its next. In the schematized form of calendar construction, these stages and their nodal points are given fixated spans and moments of occurrence, but we need only see these as elements in an idealized structure, not necessarily conforming to such rigid placement. The pattern is what is of importance here, the constancy of sequence and its inviolability.
Two of the "nodes" effectuate rather sharp shifts in the energy pattern, and in terms of experience can oftentimes be sensed with some precisional certitude. The moment of awakening in the morning is a prime instance, though rather mundane and given little thought as to its cyclic connotations. What is of greater interest for us, now, will be to seek these points in the annual cycle and realize their implications and consequence, relevant to the ripening structure of a year's process.
It is worth noting, in this respect, that the writer's exploration of these matters was initiated by the unusually "coincidental" recurrence of a personal crisis in early August, during three successive years -- long before any discovery was made, of a relational identity between Tisha B'Av in the Jewish calendar, Lughnasa in the Celtic, and the hexagramatic index of "confusion and disorder" in the Chinese temporal notation.
In subsequent years -- realizing the "hazard potential" of this situational moment -- I paid particular attention to the elements of development that took place around it and finally learned how to cope with it.
To return once more to the conceptual terminology of the I Ching -- for it most adequately expresses what is taking place at this point on the cycle -- the destabilization of Yang energy by an inner resurgence of its Yin counterpart is the most prominently visible occasion of the cycle's manifestation.
This is no more esoteric or obscure than referencing the growing inner urge to be done with burdensome labors, that comes along about midafternoon, or that strange self-alienation that seems to overwhelm us in the fifth decade of life itself.
It is experienced quite suddenly, during the weeks of July moving into August, as a time of gathering intensity -- a crescendo of often conflictual demands that becomes a moment of real instability. But it only explodes into crisis when the intensity of a particular development is resisted or fled from. In other words, the crisis potential of the moment can be defused by nothing more radical than becoming aware of its cyclic nature, and then responding appropriately.
There is much to be said for free will and self-determination, but there is at least as much to be said for the prudence of realizing the potency of a cyclic imperative, and moving with it instead of in opposition to it. This is a very well-known principle in the oriental martial arts, and one of the basic motifs in the philosophy conveyed by the I Ching. It expresses, perhaps as well as anything might, the relevance of an understanding of the calendar cycle to everyday life.
We seem to have begun this review of the ripening format at the mid-summer point, and in a subjective mode, so it may as well continue on that plan. Here is another evocation of August, from a book review now several years old, of a novel titled, simply, August:
"For many patients of psychoanalysis, August is the cruelest month. This is the month psychiatrists pack their bags and go on vacation, leaving dust to gather on their office couches while their patients' neuroses mount with summer temperatures." (From book review by Amy Lippman, San Francisco Chronicle, 1983)
Without being cued to the archetypal implications of the July/August period, a time that has traditionally been characterized as the "long, hot days of summer," and often of inner-city unrest, we experience it simply as a chaotic turbulence of too many things going on at once. The repetitive universality of this midsummer madness -- it happens every year, and to all of us -- should have brought it under examination as a cyclic phenomenon long ago; but instead it is "too ordinary," and typically seen only in relation to the warmer weather of summer...the longer days...the vacation-time...or the absence of our psychiatrist, and so forth.
As we move into September and beyond, there is a pre-Autumn effect easily characterized as sobering, mellowing, often reflective -- and this, too, is "ordinary," referenced as the "end of summer" phenomenon, sometimes as Indian Summer which identifies a certain lingering effect: the afterglow of summer without its intensities. And maybe a kind of sweet refrain, a touch-and-go farewell, as it were.
The metaphor of farewell, however, and of sadness, is much more than a superficial goodbye to summer. A recent column in the Seattle Times talks about a best-selling handbook on divorce, sixteen years in print:
"...every month something like 700 copies of his book are sold, although sometimes around September or October sales jump to 1,000. Daniel Giboney doesn't like to speculate why people think more about divorce during the fall months... Leave to others the speculation about how relationships sour as the weather turns lousy." (Erik Lacitis column, The Seattle Times, 5/20/90)
But weatherwise, this part of the calendar is one of the loveliest times of the year -- this has no causative influence in the matter. Still, comment of this nature is everywhere, even in newspaper editorials...
"A word often useful during the dog days is doldrum...a spell of listlessness, a state of bafflement, a condition of inactivity, retardation or stagnation, a downswing, slump or slack period, a low ebb... We do know, for a fact, that it is in the dog days, when much of the world lies becalmed in the doldrums, that oddities become commonplace..." (San Francisco Chronicle editorial, September 1980)
Or here is Elise White, a sensitive naturalist writing of her emotional impressions of September, in Berkeley:
"You've been told, as I have, that there are no seasons in California. I understand...but there are seasons here as surely as there are in Maine or Colorado... I find it interesting that here, in this usually gentle country, the same emotions stir in us with the coming of autumn that I would expect to feel in a harsher land. I wonder whether this is some deep ancestral human recollection that lives in all of us, or whether this is something that we have been taught... my emotion on considering autumn is poignant, closer to sadness and melancholy than the reality seems to call for... why this bittersweet response?"(Elise White, Berkeley Monthly, undated clipping)
Or this more medically oriented appraisal, from one of the early reports on the SAD syndrome research (before it had even acquired its acronym):
"...they assumed they were dealing with a rare disorder. They were surprised, however, to receive thousands of responses from people claiming to suffer from depression every winter. They were equally surprised by the uniformity of symptoms these people described: They became lethargic as autumn turned to winter; they didn't want to go out or talk to people; they were unmotivated at work, lacking ideas and finding it difficult to concentrate." (W. Herbert, "New Light on the Winter Blues" in This World section of S.F. Chronicle, 4/25/82)
The account would seem to be talking about a winter syndrome, but it's a bit misleading. In the most recent collection of papers about Seasonal Affective Disorder, Thomas Wehr presents graph-summaries of his own season-specific 50 cases, and for comparison a similar evaluation of five other long-term studies covering more than 2500 patients subject to depressive episodes, the distinction of this latter group being that these did not originate as season-specific studies. (Thomas A. Wehr, "Seasonal Affective Disorders: a historical overview" in Rosenthal & Blehar, Seasonal Affective Disorders & Phototherapy, pp.11-12)
The text is not readable in this reproduction, but what is important to note are the year-long patterns.The indications of the data are contradictory in several respects to what has come to be generally believed about the SAD syndrome.
Firstly -- and to the immediate point -- Wehr's own cases (in the upper left corner) rise sharply in October and reach a peak in November. They are down significantly in December and thereafter. In all but one of the other five studies (which were not focused on a seasonal relationship) a sharp annual peak is present in either October or September. This is very clearly a fall syndrome, not a winter one!
The second thing to note is that there is generally an indication of biennial occurrence in all six studies. This may not mean biennial for each individual patient, but across the board there is about as high an incidence of springtime episodes of affective disorder as occur in the fall. This does rather critical damage to the theory that the problem originates in the winter deprivation of light, notwithstanding the fact that phototherapy may improve the situation. It tends, rather, to support a supposition that the switch of Yin/Yang energies may somehow contribute to the problem.
These near-equinoctial shifts of energy are highlighted by prominent nodes in the archetypal pattern, occasions generally happening in early August and early February. Looking at the graphic comparison of the studies that Wehr presents us with, once more, we can observe that the sharp upswing in depressive episodes begins right after August in three of the six studies, and after September in two others. On the springtime side, it's more diffuse, but generally begins to climb after February or March.
The February node is not so prominent in popular seasonal lore, except for the well-known index of the further course of winter that is ascribed to the meteorological wisdom of the groundhog. This is a folk tradition that seems puzzling at first glance -- that a bright and sunny day of Imbolc should be predictive of six more weeks of winter. But there is a possible rationale to be found in some comparative relationships for that moment on the cycle.
Awakening in the morning -- if natural and not by the forced-rising of an alarm clock -- is not followed by an immediate burst of activity but by a lingering process of fully awakening. Similarly, there is a period after the birth of an infant (or of anything), of relative dormancy while the energies of growth are "assembled."
In terms of the writer's actual experience of this cyclic node, it is marked by some clear and sudden "presentment" of a course of action, or direction, though it is often many weeks before the development of it is clearly underway (and perhaps clearly perceived). Thus, the metaphor of Groundhog Day might simply be stated as, "Hooray for sunshine! (or awakening, or fresh start, or new bearings...) -- wake me again when it's time to get to work." It certifies that an awakening has really taken place.
It was noted earlier that this moment, along with the midsummer time of Lughnasa in early August, is one of the more prominent cyclic nodes, the presumed reason being because it's a time of energy turnaround (Yin to Yang in this instance). It does not arrive, this time, in the form of crisis, and thus is not quite so noticeable.
In fact -- and again, in this writer's experience -- it passes for "everyday affairs," except that it is always a fresh development in one's affairs. This is its signal quality, in every sense of the word. It very often displaces other activity thought to be important -- or will shortly do so as its consequence is seen and the year's energy pattern gets fully underway.
As the year moves into spring and summer, the involvement with what opened in the time of "sprouting" will become a major focus of activity. It will likely become part of the intensified activity of the midsummer period. This, of course, is an accounting from the writer's own experience, and from the perspective of having deliberately chosen to follow such indications -- a practice which, it is allowed, may have some formative consequences.
An accounting of the archetypal pattern in the ordinary working lives of individuals not so disposed can be found in a chart prepared by Ellsworth Huntington, delineating piecework done by cottage industrial workers in Connecticut, in the period 1910-1940. Huntington observes, pertinently, that these particular workers were chosen for representation because "their hourly earnings depended almost completely on their own inclination and capacity. They were free to earn as much in January as in October or November." (Ellsworth Huntington, Mainsprings of civilization, pp.322-3)
The graph (below), adapted from Huntington, indicates a productive low-point (92% of the year's average monthly production) in January, from which it rises steadily until mid-June, from which point it slumps down-ward until mid-August, when it again begins to climb unsteadily toward a final year's high in early November, then slopes downward, and into a sharp drop after Christmas -- a drop that Huntington suggests would be sharper yet were it not for the commercial stimulus of Christmas.
It is a graphic portrayal of the pattern -- not entirely what one would expect from the cyclic format herein presented, but correlating very closely. The nodal points of both February and August are clearly present in the two upward turns, and the downturn in late October may be an expression of the nodal point not yet touched on in the detailing of this section -- the Samhain point of early November. The contrary indication is the late year's high level of production, exceeding the midyear level, which the common stereotype would expect to be the most prominent. It is possible that here, too, the occasion of Christmas, and its economic promise, warps the process. The productivity slump of midsummer that would characterize heavy going, however, is clearly present.
Huntington's research on seasonal fluctuations took him into another area that adds confirmation of an entirely different sort to our survey. By working backward from the 1935-1937 birth records of six million children in this country, he was able to document the fact that "children who are conceived in October, November and December are decidedly more free from congenital defects than those conceived at any other season..." (Ibid., pp322, 324. Attributed source is Metropolitan Life Insurance Bulletin)
This suggests a naturally "proper" season for conception, and it falls right in the period of seeding and nurturance, according to our archetypal pattern. Huntington, himself, of course, evaluates this seasonal data in terms of climate and weather, in the usual fashion. But his conclusions are general enough to support our thesis:
"The fact that variations in vigor, longevity, and achievement are so closely tied up with the season of reproduction seems to indicate that man inherits as definite a reproductive response to the seasons as do birds or other animals. The same principle governs all life from plants through animals, to man. The only difference is that with man the power to think and reason adds a great series of further complications." (Ibid., pp.329-30)
Huntington's work on season of birth, presented in a full text, of that name, turned up another interesting piece of seasonal relationship to human affairs that took him to the borderline of astrology: that human achievement, of a recognitional nature, comes more readily to those born in the earliest months of the year, and centrally in February.
Employing a variety of reference sources for his database, including the Dictionary of American Biography, Encyclopædia Britannica, American Men of Science, and A Woman of the Century, among others, the pattern of an early spring high and an early summer low was clearly established. The biographical reference works validated one another, and resulted in further interesting refinements to the general conclusion: The correlation was significantly stronger according to the number of columns of text (i.e., the degree of prominence) accorded to the individual; and it was significantly greater for people of intellectual attainment, than those in the arts or in business. (Ellsworth Huntington, Season of birth, chapts. XVIII, XIV)
This accords reasonably well with our view of the seasonal cycle -- or, more correctly, it adds an interesting dimension to it by validating the post-solsticial version of the New Year, the one followed by the Chinese, in that it carries the suggestion that those born at this time of year may be more "in tune" with the year's basic developmental energy pattern.
A fascinating sidelight to Huntington's work, however, is his insistence that these patterns are attributable to the weather! "This lends weight to an idea which has already been suggested, namely that the conception of highly intellectual and strong-willed types of people is peculiarly sensitive to the weather." Peculiarly, indeed! This is a surmise every bit as shaky as astrology. But common-sense, in service to the rational, apparently had to go with the only physical causative possibility that presented itself.
The only other notable work done with birth records has been that of Michel Gauquelin, whose analysis and conclusions went in quite different directions than Huntington's, though they very much validated his findings in terms of seasonal distinctions occasioned by date of birth. Gauquelin, working much later in the century, has made exhaustive computer analyses of literally hundreds of thousands of birth records, notable and otherwise, that could be correlated with subsequent occupational field of activity.
A fully accredited French statistician and psychophysiologist, Gauquelin began his work with the original intent of discrediting astrology, but shortly discovered that there actually were some correlations present between occupational field and certain astral configurations. What's more, the indications seemed to validate some traditional astrological concepts:
"In our research we found Mars prominent at the birth of military men and sports champions, Jupiter prominent for actors, Saturn for scientists and the Moon for poets." (Francoise Gauquelin, Psychology of the planets. The quote is from the foreword by Michel Gauquelin)
Unwilling to concede a legitimacy to astrology, as such, he finally came up with an ingeniously devised theory that makes a kind of end-run around astrology without quite doing away with its concepts. It is not, he tells us, that the planetary configuration itself determines the statistically likely course of a new-born infant's career life, but that fetuses already genetically so inclined, as a result of certain hereditary factors, are born at a time when the planets "move into" a given position, relative to the earth. Here again, it would seem, we have logic driven by rationalism driven by a pre-conceived bias, manipulating evidence so as to make it doctrinally acceptable.
Gauquelin's work is not being cited as a validation of our understanding of the seasonal pattern -- for it cannot easily be related -- but as a kind of counterpoint to Huntington's work -- validating in scientific terms, as it does, that there is more to our universe than meets the rational eye. And cited, furthermore, to indicate that astrology, itself, has been too lightly and easily dismissed.
Astrology is not entirely the bailiwick of superstition and irrationalism, but constitutes a kind of cosmological psychology which, in the hands of its more thoughtful practitioners, is cogently insightful as to our relationship with life's deeper concerns.
One of these practitioners, Dane Rudhyar, has registered a possible explanation for why the cross-quarter days of the Celts should be such potent "energy nodes" as they appear to be from our inquiry.
In seeking to account for the quaternary division of the zodiac, as it may be applied to the geophysical planet, Rudhyar provides a quote from T.O. McGrath (Timing Business Activity and the Sun) to the effect that "in any magnetic body having two poles [such as the earth itself], the magnetic currents circulate from the north to the south pole, become neutral at each 90 degrees, and reach a maximum intensity at each 45 degrees."
Rudhyar then goes on to note that this suggests not only geographic points of "maximum energy release," but also -- in terms of the zodiacal round -- "the four 'avataric' points [in the cycle of the year which] occur approximately on May 6; August 8; November 8; February 5." (Dane Rudhyar, The astrology of personality, pp.208-9) It is a bit esoteric, but worthy of mention in the context of our concerns.
Returning again to the acceptably rational, there is one more item of interesting documentation, to confirm the pattern, before we move on to examine the record on indigenous cultures. In 1972, researcher Michel Siffre spent more than a half year -- 205 solitary days -- living underground in a Texas cave, completely out of touch with the outer world. He was being monitored through the whole period, as to sleep/wake cycles, metabolic changes, and so forth, and a summary article was published in the March 1975 issue of National Geographic. (Michel Siffre, "Six months alone in a cave" National Geographic, v.147, no.3, March 1975, p.426)
Siffre's sleep/wake cycles actually varied considerably from the norm of 24 hours, so that by the end of his 205 days, his own log (without benefit of clock) indicated a passage of only 175 days, or an average "day" for him of about 27.5 hours -- but this average swung massively from 18 to as long as 52 hours, for any given round. Without stars, sun, moon or clock, he had no way of knowing what was actually happening.
A two-month segment of the daily "metering" is incorporated in this article as a bar chart, illustrating the time of each round that was given over to sleep and wakeful activity, and while it charts that variable it also indicates a fascinating "undercycle" that took place for the specific period from late March through mid-April.
Like a separate heart-beat, five distinct surges beginning exactly on the 21st of March, each except the first rising across three to five consecutive "days", are evident in the length of both his sleep (the dark bars) and the followup of his wide awake "day" (the lighter bars above). As each set peaks, it registers a length of Siffre's total "day" of more than 40 hours, in one case stretching actually to over 50! It is a clear evidence of some kind of energy surge immediately following the spring equinox.
Needless to say, this could not have been influenced by any consciousness of "spring weather;" nor even of the particular occasion of the equinox, for by Siffre's own reckoning he had not yet reached the time of equinox when it actually arrived.
AMONG INDIGENOUS CULTURES
Let us now turn to a body of documentary material that may provide confirming evidence of the present thesis from an entirely different perspective. We have examined the Human Relations Area File (HRAF), a microfiche collection of ethnographic reportage that classifies the literature first by area and then by a finely sub-divisional arrangement of subject classifications.
This has permitted a specific targeting on the subject category number 805, annotating cultural relationship to time. Because of the sheer volume of the material, a sampling approach was taken, which thoroughly reviewed the pertinent material for 109 separate cultural groups around the globe, a selection comprising perhaps 20% of the total.
Because the retrieved material is so amazingly diverse, it will be best to provide an analytical summary of it in the framework of the archetypal cycle that seems to be indicated from historical material, personal experience, and the supportive contemporary evidence that has already been cataloged. Let us see, then, how well the ethnographic material does or doesn't correlate with the pattern. We shall consider, first, the New Year pattern, and then the particular seasonal correlations.
It is quite likely that New Year is being observed somewhere, by some culture, at just about any time of the year -- with the possible exception of the month of May, which has not turned up among our sample group. The term "observed" is used in preference to "celebrated" because, while most cultures have some sense of a point of ending/beginning, during the year, it is only an occasion of major concern among the more developed cultures.
But the widespread variability of timing is a bit misleading. The first thing to be seen, in a tabular listing, is a strong clustering around two times of year, the spring equinox and...not the fall equinox, but the October-into-November range that centers on our Halloween time, or the cross-quarter Celtic observance of Samhain! Here is the pattern tabulation for 39 cultural groups for which an unequivocal time of new year was indicated:
- December to February (3-month span) 8
- March/April (almost entirely in March) 13
- May to September (5-month span) 7
- October/November (mainly October) 11
This can, of course, be rationalized in several ways. The two key points on the calendar generally define the growing season, one or the other end of which is characteristically a strong annual marker for cultures everywhere.
But if this were the only consideration there would be a stronger represen-tation on the list for the latter part of summer, the harvest time for many crops. There are only three observances in August and only one that falls in September. The Dogon of Africa, in fact, are supposedly observing the start of a harvest, with their mid-October New Year, not the finish of it. (Paul Parin, et al, The Whites think too much: psychoanalytic investigations among the Dogon in West Africa, p.28 in HRAF FA16:9)
A more acceptable "explanation" is the bracketing of winter that these two points of concentration annotate, although this is equally an expression of the archetypal cycle proposed, for the focus on winter as a point of division parallels the usage of sunrise or sunset as the choice of markers for the end and start of a day. And it certainly resonates with the focus that was apparent in the ancient calendars of the Chinese and Celtic peoples, which we looked at in Part 5.
Considering that this time of quietude and inner nurturance is integral to the entire archetypal cycle, it is reductionist and virtually meaningless to isolate it as simply a climatological characteristic. The fact that a significant proportion of small-scale cultures that function without the "benefit" of largely rational processes of determination, appear to "follow the pattern" is to be regarded as confirming evidence of its archetypal existence.
Not included among that group of 39 -- for the reason that a time of New Year cannot be specified -- but worth bringing into the picture, at this point, for the kind of supportive evidence it provides, is the Lolo people of China, who select their New Year by a divining process performed on an individual basis, so that the date observed can be different for different people. The divining process, however, has to take place in November! (Tzeng Chao-lun, An account of investigation trip to Liang Shan, p.26 in HRAF AE4:6)
When we turn to the other aspect of our comparison -- the seasonal correlations -- the evidence is far more diffuse and cannot be summarized in any tabular approach. If the attempt were made, however, it would indicate something curiously parallel to the writer's personal experience with "season-watching." The strongest evidence of annotation, for what may be referred to as the cross-quarter periods of passage, are to be found for the early August period. It is next most often rendered for the February period...and not at all in evidence for the one in May!
These annotations, however, are admittedly few and far between, considering the number of cultures surveyed. But they are impressive where they turn up, and some of the prominent ones are worth specific recital. It is also worth noting that ethnographic investigation is often keyed to the perceptions and anticipations of the investigator (just as this study is!), so that for perceptions outside the range of the norm, it might hardly be expected that very much in the way of confirmation would emerge. But there is certainly some confirmation, and enough to suggest that it may be a profitable realm for future study. We'll begin with the year's opening.
Traditional to Iranian culture is the notion that the earth actually breathes (an interesting parallel, in itself, to the Chinese division of the lunar year by 24 "breaths"), and that this breathing begins anew after the sleep of winter. In the region of Khorasan they say that the earth breathes for the first time sometime in the first few days of February, at the end of the "Big Forty" days of deep winter, and the start of the "Little Forty" (a period only 20 days long, actually).
This cross-over point between the Big Forty and Little Forty (which tallies identically with Imbolc and the Chinese New Year, as well as with Groundhog Day) appears to be a remnant from the Zoroastrian calendar of ancient Iran (Persia), according to our commentator, and the two "Forties" are said to be in conflict with each other, producing exceedingly bad weather at this time (a precise reversal of the Chinese perception of Harmony! And an interesting counterpoint to the Groundhog's involvement with weather patterns). The earth breathes "furtively" at this point, and the trees, too, breathe secretly from the tips of their branches. But at the end of the Little Forty, or toward the end of February, the earth breathes openly once again. (Bess D. Donaldson, The wild rue: a study of Muhammadan magic and folklore in Iran, p.95)
The Aztecs, too, marked their end and start of year at this point, according to George C. Vaillant. The last period of their 18-month calendar, which covered the time (our time) of January 18 to February 6, was called Resuscitation. This was halfway around the globe and a major ocean removed, presenting no known possibility of cultural linkage with either the Persians, the Celts or the Chinese. (George C. Vaillant, Aztecs of Mexico, pp.196-7)
There is nothing further of consequence, from our cross-cultural researches until we reach mid-year. As a note of preface, it is interesting to observe the wide variety of accounts and explanations for what seems, surely by now, to be a universal time of extreme unsettlement in the year's course.
Leading off with Iran... "the hottest part of summer, from the last of June through July and into August...is the time when gardens suffer, when gardeners steal water and when many fights occur over water rights." (Donaldson, ibid, p.96)
Leaping, once more, to the Western Hemisphere, to the Yucatec Maya, we read that a serious period of anxiety "...occurs between July and Septem-ber, when a few weeks of drought may ruin the whole crop. It is during this time that in order to relieve the general tension, the Okotbatam (or Supplication) ceremony is customarily held." Our observer had noted in a prior work that the people's lives are tied to the maize crop, and "the activities of the people, indeed their moods, change as the maize plant changes." (Villa Rojas, pp.77b, 82 in HRAF NV10:4)
Back around the globe, now, to the southern tip of India, and the Tamil Nadu country, we have H.B. Reynolds' report of the celebration on the 18th of Ati, which falls approximately on the 8th of August in our calendar, and observes the 18-day battle waged by the Pandavas in the Mahabharata, a legendary tale of great consequence for the Tamil people.Reynolds tells us that "Ati is a capricious month. [It] admits of an unleashing of forces which may or may not be beneficial to humans." (Reminiscent of this writer's analysis of the "crisis structure" that marks this period.) She continues, "Ati month is concerned with excesses and overflows that traverse bound-aries. Where there are breaks and interstices in integrity, potentialities abound, which potentialities can be either creative or destructive." (Holly B. Reynolds, To keep the tali strong: women's rituals in Tamilnad, India, pp.370-1 [U.of Wisconsin dissertation])
In western India, there is another tradition and a wholly different calendar, and we have an account by Margaret Stevenson, who details early August as"one of the most anxious periods of the year, for, if by the end of the [July part] of the month of Sravana no rain has fallen, there is every reason to fear a failure of the monsoon and consequent famine." (Margaret Stevenson, The rites of the twice-born, p.313)
The midsummer mood continues to build, notwithstanding the monsoonal circumstances, into the following period."The tenth month (Sravana) is accounted the most sacred month of the year, but the eleventh, Bhadrapada, is known to be the most solemn and dangerous. So often in western India do people fall ill and die during this unhealthy season that it is known in the vernacular as 'the jaws of the god of death'... The whole month is inauspicious...but the dark half [the last half] is the worst time of all, and far the most terrifying..." (Ibid, p.313)
For the country folk of Poland, Sula Benet annotates (under the indefinite heading of Summer, in a chapter on "Cycle of the Seasons")...
"The period just before the first crops are gathered in is called przednowek, 'before new.' This is the time when hunger can become most fierce. Supplies dwindle and sometimes give out before the first of the early crops are ready. So strong is the dread of 'before new,' that even prosperous peasants who have not actually suffered from it feel its shadow, and speak of it as if for them too its hardships were real." (Sula Benet, Song, dance and customs of peasant Poland, p.66)
And finally (for this season), in Korea, the time of discomfiture is given an interesting twist. The 15th day of their 7th moon, in early/mid August, is the day of the Hundred fruits Festival, "held to relieve the pain of unfortunate souls now in hell." (Knez, in HRAF AA1:55, pp.105-6). It is not specified if these souls are alive or dead.
We move, now, into what might be called the twilight or sunset time of the year -- and find, in fact, that our culture samples, while providing only the briefest mention of the point on the annual cycle, register a good deal of their attitude about this moment by analogous reference to other forms of it.
The African Zulus, for instance, who have one of the most fascinating styles of lunar-month identities to be found, have a most illuminating perspective on the sunset hour. It should be noted that they have no sense of counting the segments of the day, as we do with hours, but they have 22 terms that provide various expressive shades of meaning for the different times of day, mainly related to the degree of brightness.
But the time of sunset is called Hyæna's time, attributed to the fact that... "The hyæna is said to have had a disagreeable habit of preying on its own children. The Zulus somehow regarded it as a particularly ugly beast; and for any man or woman of exceptionally hideous countenance, they thought they could find no more appropriate epithet than that of 'hyæna.' Nevertheless they gave the name of that ugliest of beasts to one of the loveliest hours of the day -- elezi Mpisi, hyæna-time (when the setting sun begins to cast shadows on the hillsides)." (Alfred T. Bryant, The Zulu people as they were before the white man came, p.365)
Visually, the sunset time is quite as our informant, Bryant, portrays it. But the nature-sensitive sense of the moment may go much deeper. It can be a moment of reflection, or a moment of sadness, or even a moment of great loneliness and insecurity. (The writer has known all of these feelings.) It is certainly a moment of farewell -- to the day, in the sunset example, and to the active part of a year, in its parallel occasion. In the I Ching hexagram notation it is number 23, Splitting Apart, which says it well. For the Zulus, it is obviously a quite uncomfortable moment.
In fact, if we return, for a moment, to Margaret Stevenson and her observations on the Brahmin culture of western India, we find an interesting commentary on the day of the week that equates, in our archetypal cycle:
"It [Friday] is not considered unlucky in Kathiawar, as it is in some parts of India, and in Gujarat it is believed to be a day that removes anxieties; yet in both Kathiawar and Gujarat old people dislike and suspect the day, and advise the young...not to begin any new undertaking on so unreliable a day, since nothing done on Friday ever brings forth fruit." (Stevenson, ibid, p.256)
The week is a block of time that has no claim to a cyclic basis in nature. But the cycle as a psychological pattern is a relationship of consciousness to the world at large. It is instantiated in consciousness by an origin in nature, but then takes on a life of its own, as a pattern basis for any time-process that can be seen as a full round, in stages of development, followed by a return. How else may one explain the feeling, for various days of the week, that persist long after their external source of characterization (work, school, "weekends," etc.) has been left behind? Observe how Stevenson specifies the older ones of the community advising the younger, for it is only experience that makes this evident.
This is not to suggest -- as the passages just quoted might seem to -- that the cycle ends on a note of emptiness or impotence. Sufficiency might be a better term. It is precisely why the young and old do not see this moment in the same light: because sufficiency has not yet arrived for the young! We find this annotated in the Korean perspective on this "October stage" in the course of life. At the age of 60, in Korean tradition, a man finds "life at its best -- all through with the 'five lusts' -- destiny has been accomplished, and he knows for good if life has been success or failure." (Kang, in HRAF AA1:3, p.113)
Huston Smith writes about the comparable time of life -- and we are still talking about the archetypal cycle -- in the world of Hinduism:
"What a shock it would be if life had to come to a stop while work and desire were in full swing. It is not so ordained. If we follow the seasons as they come, we shall notice a time when sex and the delights of the sense (pleasure) as well as achievement in the game of life (success) no longer yield any novel and surprising turns; when, further, the responsible discharge of the tasks of a respectable human career (duty) begins to pall, having become repetitious and stale. When this season arrives, it is time for the individual to move on to a third stage in life's passage." (Huston Smith, The Religions of man, p.62)
And Smith goes on to detail the ultimate freedom that this stage of life takes one toward.
In a way, it is appropriate beyond expectations, to end this paper on such an observation -- one which annotates, in accord with the cycle itself, the different levels of vision and perception that are occasioned by its separate stages. For the course of our challenge to the established way of knowing Time has brought forth, for discussion, many contested areas of perception.
There is certainly no question, either from popular lore or from established principles in the psychology of human development, that the later stages of life bring different attitudes, different motivations, different awareness to the fore. In other words, it is not a question of locating a "truth" about such things, but of annotating "variations on a theme" -- the theme being perceptions of reality.
In pursuit of such a "slippery beast" as reality, science has established a ground rule that it must be Singular. But the experience of life suggests -- nay, it demonstrates -- that it cannot be.
Fortunately, we are coming to our senses, in this regard -- and not just figuratively. Time is, after all, a matter of sense perception, something quite different from the pencil-noodlings of abstruse equation. And it may well turn out that the seasons oneday become something different than four sections on an annual calendar.
In keeping with the topic of the last part of this paper -- perceptions of indigenous cultures -- we can bring the thesis to a formal close by considering one more piece of evidence: the testimony of a Navajo informant, recorded in 1934.
"When they said 'a year'...and sometimes 'many years,' I wondered what a year was, and where it was. I used to think, 'it must be around here.' But I couldn't see it. I always thought a year must have arms and legs and a head. 'It must have a body like an animal.' I used to wish that I could see it when it came around again. But I never saw the year." (Dyk, in HRAF NT13:6, p.43)
It can't stand alone; it's only a quaint bit of ethnographic ephemera by itself. But let's illuminate it, and end this paper, with what Benjamin Whorf had to say about the Hopi relationship to the seasons.
"Such terms as 'summer, winter, September, morning, noon, sunset' are with us nouns, and have little formal linguistic difference from other nouns. They can be subjects or objects, and we say 'at sunset' or 'in winter' just as we say 'at a corner' or 'in an orchard.' They are pluralized and numerated like nouns of physical objects, as we have seen. Our thought about the referents of such words hence becomes objectified.
"Without objectification, it would be a subjective experience of real time, i.e. of the consciousness of 'becoming later and later' -- simply a cyclic phase similar to an earlier phase in that ever-later-becoming duration. Only by imagination can such a cyclic phase be set beside another and another in the manner of a spatial (i.e. visually perceived) configuration.
"But such is the power of linguistic analogy that we do so objectify cyclic phasing. We do it even by saying 'a phase' and 'phases' instead of, e.g. 'phasing.' And the pattern of individual and mass nouns, with the resulting binomial formula of formless item plus form, is so general that it is implicit for all nouns, and hence our very generalized formless items like 'substance, matter,' by which we can fill out the binomial for an enormously wide range of nouns.
"But even these are not quite generalized enough to take in our phase nouns. So for the phase nouns we have made a formless item, 'time.' We have made it by using 'a time,' i.e. an occasion or a phase, in the pattern of a mass noun, just as from 'a summer' we make 'summer' in the pattern of a mass noun. Thus with our binomial formula we can say and think 'a moment of time, a second of time, a year of time.' Let me again point out that the pattern is simply that of 'a bottle of milk' or 'a piece of cheese.' Thus we are assisted to imagine that 'a summer' actually contains or consists of such-and-such a quantity of 'time.'
"In Hopi however all phase terms, like 'summer, morning,' etc., are not nouns but a kind of adverb, to use the nearest [standard English] analogy. They are a formal part of speech by themselves, distinct from nouns, verbs, and even other Hopi 'adverbs.'
"Such a word is not a case form or a locative pattern... It means 'when it is morning' or 'while morning-phase is occurring.' These 'temporals' are not used as subjects or objects, or at all like nouns. One does not say 'it's a hot summer' or 'summer is hot'; summer is not hot, summer is only when conditions are hot, when heat occurs. One does not say 'this summer,' but 'summer now' or 'summer recently,'
"There is no objectification, as a region, an extent, a quantity, of the subjective duration-feeling. Nothing is suggested about time except the perpetual 'getting later' of it. And so there is no basis here for a formless item answering to our 'time'." (Benjamin Whorf, Language, thought, and Reality, pp.142-3)
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FOOTNOTES (linked from text)
"...most fascinating styles of lunar month identities..." For example, month names reported as "path invisible, must be felt for" (Nov/Dec) and "something out of the ordinary but repulsive, like copulating dogs" (Feb/Mar). Back to text.