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Alan speaks in a very symbolic and esoteric manner in some parts of his books. Although they can be read anthroposophically, passages speaking of Atlantis, archangels, gods, etc. do not need to be taken literarily to be meaningful. The more you read, the more you will realize he uses many different religions to express ideas in a symbolic manner and not in a religious manner. His writings are not religious. In some places his writings are meant to refer to religious events in a historical way. In some places he is using religious figures (from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism, Ancient Roman and Greek Religions, etc.) in a symbolic manner. However, at no point is he promoting a specific religion or speaking from a religious point of view.
I have kept the writing as close to one-hundred percent original so you will also find that he speaks of Australia often and some spelling or manners of speaking may be cultural. Any words I have changed are presented like this: <word>.
Also keep in mind that these books are written by a Waldorf teacher with decades of experience who also studied with a Steiner student himself, so he speaks to an audience that is dedicating their lives to the Waldorf method without exception.
Because of this, all of his views are not reflected in the Earthschooling curriculum and not all of them may be ones you want to embrace or are able to use. In all of Alan Whitehead’s writings the opinions are his own and may not align with Earthschooling or Waldorf Books. In some cases, we will be updating some of these chapters in the future with additional and/or updated information.
Ultimately, however, as I read through these passages I find I can distill wisdom from even those paragraphs that do not resonate with me.
We invite you to read with an open mind and heart and with eagerness to learn and discuss…
<This is March 20 in the Western Hemisphere>
Australia seems to stand alone globally in its designations of the four seasons. All other traditions have, for example, Spring beginning on the vernal equinox, in Australia this is September 21. So why does our spring nominally begin on September 1?
This shift actually began shortly after settlement in the late 18th century. The marines sent to guard the convicts on the First Fleet were clad in their heavy, woolen winter uniforms for three seasons out of four. The Sydney Spring, normally quite hot quite early, wore on the soldiers’ patience for a change to summer attire.
So the governor fiddled with the rules, allowing his men to enjoy their lighter garb from September 1, three weeks early. In a gesture to consistency, this day was thereafter designated, right around Australia, as the beginning of spring.
This ‘governor’ year, rather than the mere cosmic year, then extended throughout the next three seasons, with the following Summer beginning December 1, rather than on the Summer Solstice on December 21, and on to Autumn, March 1, not March 21 (Autumn Equinox), and finally Winter, June 1 rather than June 21, the Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice. And so it has stayed for the next two centuries.
So while on Spring; what do the following words have in common: Easter; Eastre; oestrous; Astarte; Asherah; Esther? All are companion words which have a common etymological origin. And, more esoterically, all are words which proclaim the age-old Feminine Mysteries.
On the 21st of September each year a great cosmic event, the Southern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox, yet again bequeaths its vivifying influence on all life. On this day the sun stands directly above the Equator, and the whole world hangs in the balance; the powers of light and dark being equal from Mandalay to McMurdo Sound. In Singapore, for instance, right on the Equator, the sun will be directly overheard at mid-day, a standing person casting virtually no shadow. In contrast, at the same time at the South Pole the sun will rise to only half its diameter.
This glowing hemi-disc will then roll 360 degrees round the horizon without change for 24 hours – a spectacle only few (if any?) have witnessed.
Traditionally, Spring has been the appropriate season for the enactment of the Christian festival of Easter – in the Northern Hemisphere at least. Alas, Easter is not really a Christian festival at all; Eastre being the ‘pagan’ Teutonic Goddess of Spring. As such, she has been worshipped for eons before the Spring based Crucifixion and Resurrection.
The Eastre festival of Muliebrity was always one of joyous feasting and gamboling – wantonness even! Today’s ubiquitous chickens, Easter eggs and proliferating bunnies stem from these ancient Spring fertility festivities. The Druids, and pagans generally, celebrated Eastre on the day of the Spring Equinox. The Christian Easter festival is however governed by the cyclic moon rather than the seasonal sun, taking place on the first Friday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
The moon, or ‘watery star’ as Shakespeare called it, is intimately connected to the whole water-borne cycle of oestrus. Moon and lovemaking are synonymous, as indeed is the moon and the fecundity of nature. Simple (and otherwise) farm folk, apart from sowing according to moon phases, would once a year formally acknowledge the· nature forces breathed out of the earth in Spring, exhaled from the prison · of Winter. There was a reality in the harmonizing of the happy Spring festivities with the invisible excitement in the ether of these liberated forces – a rejoicing of rebirth on both a physical and supersensible plane.
The ancient Maypole Festival was part of these blossom-bedecked celebrations; the linchpin, one might say! The Maypole, sad to say (according to today’s moral strictures, at least) is, in its most accurate interpretation, a thirty-foot phallus – a huge lingam strung with ribbons gaily wound round its proud erectness by pretty – mostly unsuspecting! – maids.
Alas, when the organizers of Sydney’s Spring Festival some years ago were apprised of this inconvenient truth, they cancelled the Maypole. Instead, they had young girls dancing down the streets carrying flower festooned horseshoes, another ancient tradition. Sadly, again unbeknown to the city fathers, this was yet another hoary Spring symbol, but one representing the Maypole’s female complement this time!
The Women’s Mysteries have always had it tough, due to the spiritual tyranny of patriarchal systems, especially the Judeo-Christian. Over the millennia, these ovations of joy, birth and rebirth have been ruthlessly edited from Western culture, and now lie on the cutting-room floor of our consciousness.
With its flamboyance The Way of Woman was regarded by the ponderous ‘elders’ as wayward – dangerous even.
In the presumed monotheistic Temple of Solomon, worship of Asherah, alleged consort of Jehovah, was conducted for hundreds of years, before being proscribed by scribe and Sanhedrin. As such, Asherah, or Esther, is the nearest thing to a goddess Judaism will allow. Esther was a beautiful queen in the Book of Esther, which is, against the tide of tradition, a strongly feminine document – in fact it doesn’t mention Jehovah at all! Esther’s Festival of Purim (Lot) is on the 13th day of Adar, sometime around the Northern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox. Sometime? Due to the Hebrew calendar being moon-based, Purim is, like Easter, a moveable feast. Hence the Eastre/Easter/Spring Festival is notionally of the feminine persuasion. In fact, the only members of Jesus’ followers to actually witness the Crucifixion in that northern Spring of AD33 were women:
” … among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James … and Salome: … and many other women which came up with him into Jerusalem”.
Where were the men? According to the Mark Gospel, quoted above, they were glaringly evident by their absence. This is compelling ammunition for women’s struggle for religious equality – to enter the priesthood, even; opposed, it might be noted, by the same gender that abandoned their Lord when He needed them most. And later from the same scripture:
“Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had brought sweet spices .. . to the rock-hewn tomb … at the rising of the sun. … Neither said they anything to any man (‘man’ appears mysteriously in italics in the King James version) for they were afraid. ”
Afraid of what? Afraid of Men? Mary Magdalene was even the first person to whom the risen Christ appeared on the first day of the week – Easter Sunday. She made the mistake of telling the disciples (who had apparently crept out from under their rocks) – and they didn’t believe her!
The Lord later castigated the abashed men for their hardness of heart. (What’s changed? Most spiritual gatherings even today comprise a higher-than-expected percentage of women.) It would seem that the Resurrection was a once-only event that women alone, with their purported greater sensitivity and moral rectitude, were permitted to witness.
There are uncanny similarities between the Book of Esther and the Crucifixion-Resurrection chapters of the Mark Gospel, including: two thieves were crucified in both accounts; pieces of silver were paid; there were two ‘suppers’; there was a procession in both Esther and Mark of a person wearing a king’s robes; the two male principals walked alone in anguish in a garden at night. The most compelling similarity of all, however, is that Purim means the ‘casting of lots’. This is also a moving image in the Mark Gospel, where on Golgotha:
” … they parted his garments, casting lots upon them … “.
At this wonderful time of the year, as we cast off our own Winter woolies, many of us: whether we are aware of it or not, will do obeisance to the Spirit of Spring, to the pulchritudinous Esther; no, that should be Eastre – Astarte? Asherah?
Flower-bedecked children celebrate Spring Festival, Shearwater School,
Mullumbimby, NSW. Teacher Stephen Whitehead.
The following is a song I wrote for my Class 1-2 for our Spring Festival, 1972:
SPRING IS NIGH
The swallows are returning
To their nests under the eaves.
Honeyeaters sip the nectar
From the blossoms among the leaves.
And the sandstone gives its bounty,
Wildflowers white and red.
With a wave of song and color
Rise cicadas from Winter’s bed.
The little gnomes are working
Pushing up the plants.
The water nixies help
With their dreamy, streamy dance.
And the airy fairies tumble
With the fantails in the sky.
Then a warm wind blows,
And the hot sun glows,
And we know that Spring is nigh.
There are babies all around us,
New-born babies: everywhere,
Fluffy ducklings, kittens; puppies,
And a baby koala bear.
Eggs are hatching, chickens scratching,
Baby birds call from the trees,
And the wattle blossoms shimmer,
To the humming of the bees.