You can feel it in the air. In my neck of the woods in the north, it's this coming Wednesday March 20th, at 6:58pm, that we will astronomically cross the line: the sun will shine directly on the equator – at the moment of the spring equinox - before continuing its journey which shapes the cycles and the seasons of our lives.
The spring equinox is the time when day and night are equal.
We will rest – poised and balanced at that mid-point for a moment – before we cross the line, and the days will once again begin to get longer, and we step out of darkness into the time of the light.
While Imbolc, in early February marks the “beginning of the beginning of spring”- a time when the frozen ground begins to thaw, the sap of the trees begins to flow again, the equinox marks “mid-spring” as – here in the north – our lives, and our natural world, begin to come into bloom. South of the equator, the movement is the counter-balancing opposite pole: they will move inward as nights begin to grow longer.
This experience of changing and shifting and moving together, along with the cycles of the movement of the spheres, is among the most intimate and basic elements that joins us all together as members of a planetary community. This moment of transition, from darkness to light with the coming of spring, has been celebrated all over the world, in so many cultures, through countless generations of time.
The Saxon goddess Eostre will give her name to the direction “east” and the holiday “Easter”. She is a goddess of dawn, like Aurora.
Just like the dawn is the time of new light, the spring is the time of new life.
The Roman new year began on the Ides of March, March 15th. The astrological year begins on the equinox when the moon moves into the first sign of the zodiac, Aries, the Ram. The god Aries is a Greek god corresponding to the Roman god Mars, who will give his name to the month of March. Between the 12th century and the year 1752, March 25th was the day the calendar year changed in England and Ireland. March 25th, 1212 was the day that came after March 24th, 1211.
It's the season of Nawruz, the Persian new year, a time of feasting and celebration at this month of re-birth.
The month of March contains holidays associated with many of our cultures’ mother goddesses: Astarte, Isis, Aphrodite, Cybele. Their re-birthing of the year shows itself in the time of blossoms, leaves on the trees, the sprouting of crops, the mating of birds and birthing of young animals. We have made it through the time of darkness; we are assured that life will, indeed, continue anew.
Eostre is the Saxon version of a Germanic goddess whose name was Ostara. Her Feast Day was held on the full moon following the spring equinox, the time when the Christian Easter season is celebrated. There is a legend, that once Ostara found a bird that was wounded, on the ground in late winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a rabbit, but the transformation was not complete. The bird took the appearance of a rabbit, but it retained the ability to lay eggs. The rabbit would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre. So it is that today Easter is celebrated amid the feast of fertility symbolised by bunnies and eggs.
In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare or rabbit was considered a very strong fertility symbol. This species of rabbit is nocturnal most of the year. In March, when its mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is so fertile she can conceive as second litter even while still pregnant with the first: Easter eggs and rabbits, fertility and rebirth.
Attis, Adonis, Osiris and Dionysus: these are gods of the year who, in their own cultures, were believed to be the son born of a god and a mortal woman. They were believed to die each year at the harvest and be reborn again with the coming of spring.
Easter is the setting for the Christian celebration of the death and rebirth of Jesus. In Catholic tradition the Easter vigil service, the night preceding Easter Sunday, begins with what is called the “Service of Light”. It includes a passage saying: “We pray you, therefore, O Lord that this candle, consecrated in honor of your name, may continue endlessly to scatter the darkness of this night. May it be received as a sweet fragrance and mingle with the lights of heaven. May the morning star find its flame burning”.
Around the world, through countless generations, as part of a global culture, we have celebrated rebirth at the time of the spring equinox, when life comes again after darkness.
The spring equinox is a reminder that it's time to celebrate and plant seeds, metaphorically and physically, for what we want to bring to blossom in the upcoming season. It's a time to honor all the things we've achieved since the winter solstice. It’s time now to bloom, and breathe, create and procreate, and to reap the sweetness of what we've manifested as we're brought even further into the light. Flowers start to bloom. Baby animals are born. It's a time to plant the seeds whose growth will symbolize life beginning anew.
Is it time to make that change you've been thinking about all through the winter?
The symbol of the egg has in many cultures been part of the symbol for this potential of rebirth. Druids would bury eggs in fields in the spring to invite abundance to the land.
Colouring eggs, as symbols of new life, has long been part of the celebration. There are many ways to use natural substances to colour eggs. A single onion skin boiled with eggs will give a soft orange colour. A handful of onion skills will yield a dark rust colour. A half teaspoon of turmeric will give a sunny yellow colour. Beet juice and vinegar turn make them pink.
Seeds are, like eggs, symbols of this potential to be reborn again. In ancient Italy, in the spring, women planted gardens of Adonis. They filled urns with grain seeds kept in the dark and watered every two days. The custom is still followed in Sicily. Women plant seeds of grains, lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stocks are tied with red ribbons and the gardens are placed on graves. They symbolize the triumph over death.
It ties us with our ancestors of generations past to notice that we celebrate the triumph of life over death in many ways, and we always have.
It can also help us to notice that light does, indeed, return after darkness.
It is the nature of the flow of life on this planet that follows the pathway of the sun. After night comes the dawn. After winter, there is spring. From death, comes re-birth as light returns to the world.
Although there is a specific moment, when the sun is at the equator, when we cross that line from darkness into light – and while many people who are sensitive to the vibe of things can feel that shift - spring is a season.
You can choose your own time, and your own way, to celebrate.
Maybe it’s easier on a weekend: this weekend or next. It can feed us very deeply to connect with the rhythms of the cycles of the earth, and the rhythms of the cycle of the generations, by joining in that celebration.
Perhaps you can plan to spend time outside in nature: watch a sunrise, or a sunset, walk in the park or take a hike. Search and actively seek out signs of spring coming into the natural world. Observe all the new life beginning to sprout around you. Plant something, if you can. For me, this is the weekend when I will begin to plant the seeds - inside the house under grow lights – for the annuals that I will transplant out in the garden later in the season when the soil has warmed. Are there seeds – of any kind - that you would like to plant this weekend or next? Plant a seed – of any kind – that will begin to grow. If it feels closer to hand, perhaps you can bring some flowers into the house or otherwise into your world.
It can be a time for feasting and paying attention to foods that honor the spring: eggs, or spring greens and sprouts, local bread or wine. If you're able, consider making a bonfire to celebrate the return of the sun. At the time of the spring equinox itself, I take my winter wreath off the front door and replace it with a spring wreath, to symbolically mark the change in the cycle of the year: it is time for the seeds in our lives to root, for buds to form and bulbs to blossom!
Are there ways that you wish to actively or symbolically do a final letting go of what needs to be left behind from the winter's rest? As we come out of that winter cocoon, what are the seeds that gathered inside of yourself through the winter that you will summon out of that darkness, having held them underground and get ready to plant in your life?
If you can, consider beginning something new in your life.
Perhaps you would like to add a fresh element to yourself care routine. For me, it's a time when my body begins to ask for freshly squeezed juices again, a time when it longs for fresh greens raw again…the time for kale in soup has passed.
Listen to yourself, and you will know what you need.
To celebrate, to connect with the cycle of the seasons, and the cyclical movement of the spheres, is to connect to our planet: all who live on her – and with her together - and all who ever have in the times that have come before. It is to connect to the cycle of the seasons of our lives, and prepare for new beginnings to sprout.
Copyright © 2019, Adela Sandness