Seasonal Feasts and Festivals

Seasonal Feasts and Festivals

Seasonal Feasts and Festivals

Seasonal Feasts and Festivals

Excerpt

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the rhythm of nature reflected in the seasonal sequence has arrested the attention of mankind throughout the ages more intensively than any other phenomenon in the natural order. It is not surprising that this should be so when it is remembered how long subsistence depended almost entirely upon the products of the chase, and on such edible roots and fruits as could be gathered, or under later conditions on the flocks and herds kept on the grasslands, and the crops cultivated in the oases and fertile alluvial river valleys. Then the food supply and the means of livelihood were so dependent upon the vagaries of the environment and its climatic conditions, that every human group lived in a perpetual state of anxiety and uncertainty lest the breeding and the hunting seasons, or seed-time and harvest, should fail. And when in due course an urban civilization arose in the Fertile Crescent in the Ancient Near East in and after the third millennium B.C., the basic needs remained fundamentally the same, since the rapidly increasing population in the towns still had to be fed from the surrounding soil, making more and more demands upon its resources.

From the beginning it would seem that man did not rely wholly upon his own initiative and ingenuity to ensure that all his needs were met. Therefore, when nature appeared to be in the balance at the crucial and critical seasons, he performed the rites prescribed for the control of the growth of the crops, or the increase of the flocks and herds, at regular intervals. In the Fertile Crescent these were timed by the rise and fall of the Nile, or by the more erratic behaviour of the Tigris and Euphrates, and after the introduction of the calendar, often . . .

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