A blessed spring equinox

The Wild Hunt —  March 19, 2017 — 6 Comments

This week marks the celebration of the vernal (spring) equinox and the astronomical beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. The actual equinox occurs Mar. 20 at 6:29 am EDT (10:29 UTC). At the same time in the southern hemisphere, it will be the autumnal equinox, and the beginning of the fall season.

Spring flowers. [Photo: Jason Thomas Pitzl]

[Photo: J. Pitzl.]

Many Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists celebrate the spring equinox as Ostara, Lady Day, Shubun-sai, or simply the coming of spring. Within their own varied and diverse traditions, they find ways to honor or recognize the warming days and renewed growth, as winter makes its slow departure.

In addition, Apr. 1 brings the celebration, so to speak, of April’s Fools Day, which reportedly has roots dating back to the 1500s in Europe. In 1957, the BBC published its famous spoof video documenting Switzerland’s early Spring spaghetti crop. The video reportedly garnered mixed reactions. If nothing else, the video demonstrates the levity that the season can bring.

While the exact roots of April Fool’s Day are unknown, there is some speculation that the tradition is tied to the spring equinox with the season’s changeable weather and unpredictable weather patterns. In addition the day has also been linked to the story of life’s journey found in the progression of the major arcana of traditional tarot. April corresponds to the first card, the Fool, which is considered the point of life’s beginnings.

Other early springtime festivals and holidays celebrated include Holi or the Hindu festival of color, Higan in Japan, the Naw-Rúz or New Year in the Baha’i faith, the Christian Easter, and Purim and then Passover in the Jewish tradition. There are many others both secular and religious.

The spring equinox also marks the beginning of the U.S. Pagan festival season with the opening of Equinox in the Oaks held in Florida. While much of the country is still shaking off winter and even experiencing snow, Florida’s early spring weather is ideal for an outdoor camping and ritual event. Equinox in the Oaks, now in its third year, launches the festival season, which then expands north across the country as temperatures rise and winter recedes completely.

Here are some quotes celebrating the seasonal holiday….

“However March manifests, it’s one of my favorite months of the year. The Earth feels like she is taking a long, languid stretch after the cold winter. Life begins to stir. It’s time to till the soil, to plant seeds, to make ready for the growing season.” – Susan Harper in Energizing Ostara!

“There’s no way to know how the ancient Anglo-Saxons would have felt about [Eostre], but to me she strongly retains the dawn goddess imagery. Crowned by the light of the rising sun, she ushers in the day. And what is spring but dawn writ large? As Pagans and Heathens, much of our concept of time runs in circles rather than in a straight line. Straddling the gap between day and night, summer and winter, Eostre is the goddess who turns the wheel from dark to light.” – Molly Khan in Eostre, Most Popular Goddess in the Pantheon.

“To start with, I need to remember that my relationships with the natural world are as important as my relationships with the spiritual beings who share it with me. Animism is one of the key foundations of the religion I practice. Everything has a spirit – or perhaps, is a spirit. Everything is properly understood as a person to whom we can relate, not as an object for us to exploit as we see fit.” – John Beckett in Reimagining Ostara

“With kids, employment, the house, and so much more, celebrations in my family need to be thought of well in advance if they are going to happen, […] There are several things I’ll do leading up to any of our holidays, reminding me on a daily basis of the turning Wheel of the Year, and the ongoing life we enjoy. For many of them (including Ostara), changes to the house décor (usually some decorations) and to the family altar presage a coming holiday. I also change my computer background to something related to the coming holiday as well – mostly because it is something I see often in my day to day life.” – Humanistic Paganism from The Spring Equinox Approaches

“A large part of the work at Druid College is teaching our apprentices how to re-weave the connection to the land each and every day. We cover a wide-range of topics in doing so, from conscious consumerism, political, and environmental activism, daily and seasonal ritual celebrations and more. Our focus from our last weekend was on daily connection, how we can bring everyday actions into our practice, to make the mundane sacred; indeed, to highlight the fact that there is no such thing as the mundane. It’s only in our perception.” –  Joanna van der Hoeven in Re-weaving the Connection Every Day

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[Photo Credit: H. Greene.]

However you celebrate or honor this seasonal change, happy holidays to you from our family to yours!

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  • An alternative interpretation.

    The Summer Solstice is called Midsummer and the Winter Solstice is called Midwinter. By that measurement the Spring Equinox is the middle of spring and the Autumnal Equinox is the middle of autumn. Look at a wheel of the year.

    That would put the seasonal transitions between the equinox and solstice and between the solstice and equinox. Or the High Holidays.

    This fits with the old almanacs.

    Over the years Mike Nichols has done a marvelous writeup on the sabbats that includes this idea. He has a book but much of the core material is available online as well.

    • Tauri1

      Interesting.

    • Ceri

      Your interpretation is how I learnt it NeoWayland. Its not a new idea!

      Bear in mind that Beltane means ‘beginning of Summer’ and Samhain means ‘Summers End’. If we have 4 seasons, each of equal length, and keep to these meanings, and as you say the old description of the Solstices as midwinter and midsummer (and here in the UK will still have a calendar Midsummers Day on the 25th June in the same way that Christmas is no longer on the Midwinter Solstice but on the 25th Dec) then Imbolc is the beginnings of Spring, and Vernal Equinox the height of it. I am British and previously saw the version in the article as an American thing, as I noticed it was dominant in books and websites by Americans. However I have noticed over the last 20 years what I think if as the American version as becoming more and more prevalent and dominant in Pagan circles.

      At the end of the day, there is huge difference as to when it feels like Spring depending on your Latitude and local climate. But here, its cold at Imbolc, but Spring flowers are coming up. So Imbolc to Equinox feels like a transition time, with Winter and Spring both present. But Equinox is not the beginning of Spring to me. Its already here! We’ve had snowdrops come and go, the crocuses are up and the daffodils open, the trees are in bud, the Cherry trees have been in blossom a while now, the wild garlic is beginning.

      • No, it’s not a new idea and as you pointed out, it is an American thing. We have an artificial “official” first day of spring, and that’s what we like to start with.

        I live in the high Arizona desert, and most desert dwellers will tell you that the real hot part of the day is not noon but late afternoon. So if you treat the WOY as a bigger version of a day, that’s going to put the hot part in late August and early September.

        I’m a bit of a calendar nut. To me it was so obvious the first time I saw the sabbats set out in a wheel and I didn’t understand why everyone didn’t see it like that.

        These days I just point out the alternative when it’s appropriate and let folks work it out for themselves.

        In my garden the daffodils are all up and the tulips are coming up. The wild cherry tree and the wild plum tree are both beginning to bloom. None of those plants would have been my choice, but what do you do when your mother comes by and says, “Here. You need these in your garden.”

        • Ceri

          My partner disagrees with me because to him its about the temperatures and weather of different seasons first and foremost. I understand that point of view, thats why you get the English saying “Only got 3 days of Summer this year!” Or ‘One weekend of Spring and its back to Winter again!”. But I can’t see it like that – our weather is temperamental all year round! To me its much more about the light – the journey of the sun – and the way that nature responds to that, plants, trees, animals, including our own human patterns.

          I guess it also depends how close your practice is to the Celtic and particularly Irish origins of many of the festivals as we know them in Wicca and Modern Paganism.

          • At first I um, insisted that it was obviously this way and everyone else needed to change.

            It was a hard lesson for me to learn. There isn’t a one way. The details aren’t important. The recognizing and celebrating are.

            Thank you for sharing your perception.