• Christine Dorman

Balance and Rebirth: The Spring Equinox

To the Celts, the Spring Equinox was the transition into the light half of the year.

Welcome to Spring! Yesterday, March 19th, was the Spring Equinox. Day and night were of equal length. On the Western calendar, this marks the first day of Spring. On the Celtic calendar, it is the middle of Spring (which started February 1st with the feast of Imbolc). For the Celts, the vernal equinox also was the transition to the light half of the year (the dark half began on Samhain). And it was a time of balance, not only of light and dark but of masculine and feminine. Finally, Spring is a time of rebirth, renewal, and growth.

Some scholars believe the dating of Saint Patrick’s Day comes from the pagan celebration of the equinox. While the Catholic Church states that March 17th is the anniversary of the saint’s death, the feast day wasn’t put on the liturgical calendar until the 17thcentury. The Spring celebration in mid-March, however, had been observed for more than a century in Ireland. In addition to the date of the holiday, the association of the color green with it indicates a celebration of Spring. Even in the Catholic Church, green represents hope based on the concepts of resurrection and renewal, and Lent (during which St. Paddy’s Day occurs) comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “Spring.” Of course many Americans wear green on St. Patrick’s Day as a symbol of the Emerald Isle but, until very recently, the Irish associated Saint Patrick with the color blue. Green had to do with nature and, most especially, with The Good People. Irish folklore warns parents never to dress their children in green as that’s basically an invitation to the faeries to steal away the child.

The Easter Bunny and decorated eggs, Easter staples, seem to have their roots in the worship of the Spring fertility goddess, Ostara.

Some claim that the Christian celebration of Easter as well grew out of the celebration of the Spring Equinox. Bunny rabbits, eggs, and even the name “Easter” can be linked to a Spring celebration of the fertility goddess Ēostre aka Ostara. Eggs are symbolic of rebirth (and of the resurrection, in the Christian religion). The Hare, associated with fertility and immortality, was the animal representation of Ostara. Of course, dyed eggs and the Easter Bunny are a traditional part of the Christian holiday.

The goddess is from Anglo-Saxon mythology rather than Celtic but there is evidence that the ancient Celts included a reverence for the equinox in their spirituality. The cairn temples at Knowth and Loughcrew were built by Neolithic Celts in such a way that the sun, on the morning of both the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes, floods a passageway, making it glow with light.

The Spring Equinox is a threshold into a new time, the time of light, of renewal and new growth. Since it is a threshold, it is an in-between place. In Celtic spirituality and folklore, ‘tween places are powerful. So this is a perfect time for reflection and change (especially since growth only comes with change). Here are some thoughts to consider:

1) The equinox is a time of balance. Is anything in your life or inside you out of balance? If so, what adjustments can you make to bring about equilibrium?

2) What needs reborn or renewed in your life right now?

3) In this time of increased light, what in you needs brought out of the shadows and into sunlight either to grow in the warmth or to be shared with others?

Passageway in the Knowth, Ireland cairn temple floods with light at sunrise at the Spring ad Autumnal Equinoxes.

4) This is a time of fertility and creation. Have you been nurturing or ignoring your creativity? How can you use it to help yourself or others?

5) How does nature impact your life (positively or negatively)? What is your relationship with the rest of creation? Have you been respecting it? Ignoring it? Taking it for granted?

6) Spring is a time of hope. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, in what ways can the rebirth and renewal of Spring give you hope for the future?

7) What reflections / insights do you have about the equinox and Spring? Please share them in the comment section.

What do you want to bloom this Spring?

Next week’s post will be about the Celtic Tree sign of the Alder and its companion animal sign, the Fox, both of which started their influence this week. And coming soon: Irish ghosts!

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