THE TIME OF HARVEST IN THE HOKKU YEAR

In our busy modern world, particularly if we live in a heavily urbanized area, it is good to pause from time to time and reflect on where we are in the Wheel of the Year — the cycle of the seasons.

Astronomically, Midsummer’s Day is precisely that — the middle of summer, when the longest day of the year occurs.  We might think that is the most Yang time of the year, but  actually the real effects of these astronomical events are not felt until about a month later.  Remember that.

Strangely enough, this year near the end of July I began to get a very peculiar but obvious and persistent feeling of a “weakening” in the air, as though the high point of summer had already been passed.  I even mentioned it to a friend who said she had sensed the very same thing.  So for some reason — at least where I am —  the transition time when Yang reaches its maximum and a tiny bit of Yang begins to grow within it seemed this year to be very evident.  harvesters

If we look at the old Hokku Calendar as it manifests in the European-American tradition, we have just passed Lammas on August 1, also called Lugnasadh (pronounced “LOO-nuh-suh”).   In “farm speech” it is called Harvest Home, and it marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.  So it is very appropriate that the feeling of the presence of Yin energy  has already been in the air.

In the old days, Harvest Home was an important country festival celebrating the bringing in of the wheat from the fields, which provided bread, “the staff of life.”  It was the first of three harvest festivals.   The second, now commonly just called the “Harvest Festival” comes near the Autumn Equinox, and the third comes on Samhain, November 1st, the day after Halloween.

In the British Isles it was common in post-pagan times to celebrate the second harvest festival about a week after the Autumn Equinox (September 21/22), on the day called Michaelmas (pronounced MIK-uhl-muhs), which was the feast day of the Christian angel Michael, but it had pre-Christian significance.  The Autumn Equinox is the last day when the length of night and day are equal.  Then the darkness (Yin) begins to overwhelm the light (Yang) as the days grow shorter.  Given that Michael was a powerful symbol of the victory of light over darkness, it was no doubt a common hope that celebrating it on Michael’s day would help ordinary folk through the dark days of winter.

The celebration of the Harvest Festival close to the Autumn Equinox accounts for why the full moon closest to that equinox is called the Harvest Moon.

Well, all of this may or may not be interesting to you, but my point in mentioning it is that the Yang energies in Nature have begun to wane and the Yin energies are increasing.  That will continue and become ever more obvious as we move through August and into September, October, November, and December.  We will feel the changes in the air and in our bodies, and if we follow the old ways, we will adjust our behavior and our food accordingly.

Why our food and behavior?  Because in the time of year when Yin energies increase, our bodily energy, instead of moving outward in exuberance and activity (Yang), begins to move inward (Yin).  So traditionally, we gradually bring what we do and what we eat into correspondence with that inward tendency.  There is a whole system of dealing with the interaction of food and the seasons, which is best exemplified today in Chinese medical theory.  I won’t go into all of that now, but you have probably noticed that people who live close to Nature change their diet somewhat depending on the season and on what is naturally available.  It is good to keep that correspondence in mind as the Yang energies in Nature continue to wane with the season.

You will recall that I told you to remember that the effects of events in the astronomical calendar — the main four points on the old Hokku Calendar –tend to be felt a month later.  We can apply that to the differences in general between the old Hokku Calendar and the modern calendar.  Doing that, we would expect the common notion of the end of summer in our modern calendar to take place about a month after its Lammas or “Harvest Home” ending in the old calendar.  And that is just what happens.   We tend to commonly think of summer as ending with September 1st (or on Labor Day shortly after), a month after Harvest Home.  Of course technically, in the modern calendar, the end of summer is placed on the Autumn Equinox ( September 21/22).

David

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IT’S STILL THE SAME OLD STORY

Yesterday I discussed three “Western” calendar systems relevant to hokku — the traditional calendar, the meteorological calendar, and the “natural” calendar.  The first is astronomical, and depends on the relationship between the sun and the earth; the second shows us the times of the actual affects of the solar-earth relationship; and the third is based on observation of what is happening in Nature and when it is happening — the sprouting of things, their growth and maturing, their withering, their dying.

After reading that article, some of you may have found the astronomical traditional calendar interesting, but perhaps you thought it a bit irrelevant to hokku.  But it is not.  Let’s take a look for a moment at the calendar actually used by those who originally wrote hokku in old Japan, and simultaneously I shall show you how it relates to our old and traditional Western calendar with its “quarter days” and “cross-quarter” days.

On comparing our old traditional calendar with the old calendar of Japanese hokku, we find something very interesting.  They go together very well, like this:

SPRING:
Our calendar begins with  Candlemas on February 1/2; speaking more generally, spring begins the 1st week of February.
In the Japan of old hokku writers, spring similarly begins on February 4th, and these are its divisions:

Risshun, (立春): February 4 — Spring begins;
Usui (雨水): February 19—Rain water;
Keichitsu(啓蟄): March 5—Insects awake;

The spring Midpoint in our traditional calendar is the Spring Equinox:  March 21 /22.  In the Japanese hokku calendar it was similarly:
Shunbun (春分): March 20— the Spring Equinox, the middle of spring;
Seimei (清明): April 5—Clear and bright;
Kokuu (穀雨): April 20—Grain rain;

Our traditional spring Ends on the evening before May 1st; then comes May 1st, which is May Day (Bealtaine) and the first day of our summer:

SUMMER 
begins for us on:  May Day, May 1st, 1st week in May.  Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers, summer began thus:

Rikka (立夏): May 5—Summer begins;
Shōman (小満): May 21—Grain sprouts;
Bōshu (芒種): June 6—Grain in ear;

Our summer Midpoint happens on  Midsummer’s Day — the Summer Solstice, June 20 /21.
The old Japanese hokku Midpoint happened on:

Geshi (夏至): June 21—Summer Solstice, the middle of summer.
Shōsho (小暑): July 7—Small heat;
Taisho (大暑): July 23—Great heat;

The End of our summer happens on the Evening before Lammas; then comes Lammas — Harvest Home — Lughnasa, August 1st, 1st week in August.  On Lammas our autumn begins.

AUTUMN/FALL
For us it begins with Lammas — Harvest Home (Lughnasa), August 1st.  1st week in August.
Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers it took place thus:

Risshū (立秋): August 7—Autumn begins;
Shosho (処暑): August 23—Heat finishes;
Hakuro (白露): September 7—White dew;

Our Midpoint is the Autumn Equinox, September 21/22.
The old Japanese hokku Midpoint was:

Shūbun (秋分): September 23— the Autumn Equinox, the middle of autumn.
Kanro (寒露): October 8—Cold dew;
Sōkō (霜降): October 23—Frost descends;

Our autumn has its End at the Evening before Samhain, November 1st.  1st week in November.  Then on Samhain our winter begins.

WINTER:
Our winter begins with Samhain, November 1st, the 1st week in November.
Similarly, for old Japanese hokku writers, winter began thus:

Rittō (立冬): November 7—Winter begins.
Shōsetsu (小雪): November 22—Small snow;
Taisetsu (大雪): December 7—Great snow;

Our winter Midpoint is Midwinter’s Day — the Winter Solstice — Great Yule, December 21 / 22.
Similarly, the old Japanese Midpoint was:

Tōji (冬至): December, the Winter Solstice — the middle of winter.
Shōkan (小寒): January 5 — Small Cold—also called 寒の入り (Kan no iri) The Entrance of the Cold’
Daikan (大寒): January 20—Great Cold;

Our winter had its End on the evening before Candlemas, February 1st, 1st week in February.
Similarly, as we have seen, for the old Japanese hokku writers, winter ended on February 3rd.

And here for us the cycle begins again with Candlemas (Imbolc) February 1st.
For the old writers of Japanese hokku, it began again similarly with Risshun (Beginning of Spring) on February 4th.

Now, what does all this mean to us today?  It means simply that if we follow the old and traditional Western calendar, we shall essentially and with only slight variation be following the same old calendar by which hokku was written in Japan.  And incidentally, that old Japanese calendar was actually borrowed from the Chinese, so the Japanese hokku calendar was the same as the Calendar used by Chinese poets.

So when we use the old and traditional Western calendar, we are, with little variation, following the same general calendar as the ancient poets of China and Japan.  The names vary from place to place, but the times are essentially nearly the same.

David