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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) Seasons
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 03:10:11 


>First of all, the Feast occurs "in the fading of winter"; i.e., somewhere
>between Aug 1 and Sep 23.

    I think you're too early, and that the text bears me out. When Severian
says that the feast occurs "in the fading of winter", I believe that he is
referring to the "perceived seasons" you mention, not the "astronomical
seasons". Remember, Urth is already feeling the effects of the damaged sun.
Winter comes earlier and lasts longer than it used to. There is textual
support for the Feast of Holy Katharine taking place in the spring. Sometime
during the "under three weeks" between the feast at which Drotte and Roche
were elevated and the trip to the House Azure, Sev made his trip to Ultan's
library to fetch the four books for Thecla. While there:

    "I told Cyby that I was honored to meet him, and asked, somewhat
timidly, what the feast day of the curators was..."
    "It is now passed," Master Ultan said. He looked toward me as he spoke,
and in the candlelight I could see that his eyes were the color of watered
milk. "In early spring. It is a beautiful day. The trees put out their new
leaves then, in most years."

A little farther down the page Ultan adds, in part: "I suppose we are one of
the spring sights of Nessus, in our little way." (I, VI)

    Now, if the curators' feast is passed and it took place in early spring,
then the torturers' feast, just passed, also took place in spring. Indirect
evidence from the text is the fact that the actual feast--the meal--took
place outdoors, something not likely to be done in winter. The snowstorm on
the night of the trip to the House Azure was a fluke--nothing like it
occurred three weeks after the feast the following year when Sev was
elevated. Thecla's suicide took place two days after Sev's elevation to
journeyman. Eleven days after that he left the citadel to begin his exile.
Four nights later is when he and Dorcas met up with the thespians and Dr.
Talos was striking at wild flowers with his cane--spring growth, which was
even more apparent a week or so later when they were at the House Absolute
and the trees and flowers were in bloom.

    Sev met Dorcas the day after he left the citadel. In SWORD (page 7) he
laments: "While we had been journeying together (and we had been traveling
with greater or lesser expedition from the moment in the Garden of Endless
Sleep when Dorcas helped me clamber, half-drowned, onto the floating walkway
of the sedge) it had been as equals and companions, each of us walking every
league we covered on our feet or riding our own mount." Now Sev sees that
they are not equals and have drifted apart. On the next page he says:
"...we, who had been incessantly together throughout the latter part of the
spring, came now in summer to see each other hardly at all,...". (III, I)
Sev defines their journey as beginning when she pulled him from the water
and the time period as being late spring, which fits perfectly their meeting
*after* Nov 25, which is late spring.

>Catherine Alex. -- Nov 25
>Catherine Geno. -- Sep 15
>Catherine Sien. -- Apr 29/30
>Catherine Swed. -- Mar 24

>Comparing these numbers with the other numbers, it seems as though
>Catherine of Genoa has a feast day at the time closest to the target.

    In "The Feast of Saint Catherine" in OTTER, Wolfe specifies Catherine of
Alexandria. I don't think it is a moveable feast, like Easter. Maxentius, as
you know, was the main rival of Constantine the Great for control of the
western part of the Roman empire. The defeat of Maxentius at the battle of
the Milvian Bridge in 312 was the occasion for Constantine's famous vision,
which paved the way for Christianity to become the state religion. I'm sure
Wolfe appreciated Maxentius getting his comeuppance. Nov. 25, while two
months into the astronomical spring of the Commonwealth, may well be
described as "in the fading of winter", because of the longer winters of
Urth, which the fluke snowstorm that year was an indication of.

    So, how do you explain Cyriaca's claim that the years used to be longer?

    There is another temporal anomaly when Sev returns from the library. In
the closing paragraph of chapter VI he mentions that he had been "two
watches at least on a simple errand". He hurries back to his tower where it
is time to feed the prisoners. Drotte being occupied, he brought Thecla her
meal and the four books, meeting her for the first time . (chapter VII) He
then returns Drotte's keys. There is a break in the text, then:

"On the next day but one, I was summoned to Master Gurloes." In the very
next paragraph Gurloes says: "A week ago, or a little less, I sent you to
the archivist," he said. I nodded." Two days does not a week make. What is
going on here?


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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