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Seasons, Cycles and Rhythms of Plants

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 11:24 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
Seasons, Cycles and Rhythms of Plants

by Anne-Marie Fryer Wiboltt




When I taught the natural sciences in the middle grades of the Waldorf School, I was given no formula or textbook to follow. Rather I was asked to develop the pedagogical curriculum out of an understanding of the human being as body, soul and spirit. Philosopher, scientist and artist Rudolf Steiner offered the guidelines for this understanding of the human being, called anthroposophy. It was my job as a teacher to develop lessons that I had worked through myself, lessons that would strengthen the students’ capacities for objectivity, enliven their thinking, deepen their interest in the world and be relevant and meaningful in life. I found great assistance in Goethe’s scientific works grounded in practicality. He suggested that reality can be grasped through clear imaginative thinking and accurate objective perception. Although not commonly known today, his methods led to completely new insights into nature and the world of plants. Goethe was the first scientist to suggest an archetypal life cycle of plants – what we have come to know as the development, gestures and forms typical of most plants.

Before we take a look at the growth processes of the archetypal plant let us place it in connection to the seasonal rhythms. In the temperate regions the entire plant covering of the earth breathes rhythmically between the summer activity of growth and blossoming and the winter activity of decaying and rest. This activity resembles the waking and sleeping activity of animals and human beings, except that the plant covering is always awake one half of the year in one hemisphere and asleep the other half. The conditions of ‘waking and sleeping’ move around the earth spatially.  Just as the sun at daybreak calls us away from sleep, so does the sun lure out the plant covering of the earth in the spring and summer. Although each plant awakens at different times throughout the year and has a definite rhythm of its own, we can through keen observation, experience a clear life cycle universal for all plants related to the cycle of the year.

When we plant a tiny seed of leaf lettuce in the moist soil we can observe how the leaves slowly begin to grow. They spiral outward and up, ascending, and at the same time reach horizontally towards the light. The plant is all growth and expansion until the forming of the buds from where the delicate, white or yellow blossoms appear. Within the flowering blossoms begin the condensing, descending forces and inward growth processes of reproduction. The fruits develop in the heart of the flowers protecting the very condensed mature seeds. The plant withers and the seeds drop to the ground for the cycle to start over.

Such a life cycle of expansion and contraction, known as the life cycle of the archetypal plant, is typical of most plants. It is like an idea or a spiritual reality or 'being' that manifests in a plant through growth and decay. Much like an idea – that begins as a thought and then later is realized in the physical world – the spiritual reality or 'being' expresses itself in physical matter and becomes perceptible to our senses. As the plant withers and fades away, leaving nothing but the seeds, this spiritual reality, or 'being' of the plant withdraws into the cosmic realm….

The part of the world where I live is covered by snow. The growth forces are visible only on the frost bitten windows revealing beautiful ice pictures, a hidden promise of Spring follows winter. This year I am experimenting with growing an 'indoor garden' on my window sill. Not really 'in season'  but wonderful to eat something really fresh as a complement to a hardy soup.


Venison and Vegetable Soup with Sage

The cold weather in the north calls for warming soups. Venison can be substituted with any meat, fish or fried tempeh/tofu. This soup is light compared to bean soups and stews. It complements the more substantial grains or wholesome bread accompanying the soup.

2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 pound of venison thinly sliced
1 leek cut in fine diagonals
2 cloves garlic minced
1 carrot diced
1 celery stalk diced
1/2 tablespoon dried sage
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 quart soup stock/broth
1/2 - 1 tablespoon sea salt
Dashes of pepper
2 tablespoons parsley chopped fine for garnish


Heat a large soup pot, and then add oil to sauté meat until lightly browned. Add leeks and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Then add carrots and celery and sauté for 1 minute.

Place the sage, thyme and bay leaf in cheesecloth, or cotton tea bag. Add bag to vegetables with the soup stock. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 6-10 minutes.

Remove the herbal sachet. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Simmer for a few minutes.

Serve hot, garnished with parsley.



Anne-Marie Fryer Wiboltt is a Waldorf class and kindergarten teacher, biodynamic farmer, author and nutritional counselor. She has taught nutritional cooking and counseled for 25 years in her homeland Denmark, Europe and the United States.

She trained as a macrobiotic cooking teacher and counselor and studied the principles of oriental medicine and the research of Dr. Weston A. Price before embracing the anthroposophical approach to nutrition, food and cooking.





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