(21st – 22nd March)
Primroses and violets stay with us from Imbolc and purple lupines line the mountains in the deserts of California. In the flowering seed sleeps the knowledge and promise of maturity. If the snow has gone we can see the fields greening and soon it will be time for the blackthorn to blossom and the delicate pinks and whites of the orchard blossoms to line our pathways. It is time to celebrate the equality of light and dark. In times gone by, as soon as the soil began to warm up and be workable the seed corn and barley would have been sown by hand. Among it would be the special ears of corn saved as the corn doll, symbol of the corn god sacrificed at harvest-tide.
This is the Vernal Equinox, and the season of spring reaches its apex, halfway through its journey from Imbolc to Beltaine. The Great Mother Goddess, who has returned to her virgin aspect at Imbolc, welcomes the young sun god’s embraces and conceives a child. The child will be born nine months from now, at the next Winter Solstice. (The old folk name for the Vernal Equinox is ‘Lady Day’).
With the lunar aspect of the Goddess we remember the descent of the Goddess into the Underworld for three days, the time when the moon is dark and hidden from our view. We can then celebrate the next full moon (the Eostar) when the Goddess returns from her sojourn into the Land of Death. For some this is the time to celebrate the Hand-fasting, a sacred marriage between Goddess and God, the ultimate Great Rite although the British custom is to transfer this to Beltaine, when the climate is more suited to outdoor celebrations! Though I have placed the telling of the Descent stories in Samhaine they also belong here with the ascent back to the Upper World at spring.
Easter was taken from the name of a Teutonic lunar Goddess, Eostre (from whom we also get the name of the female hormone, oestrogen). Eostar falls on the Vernal Equinox full moon. For some people there is confusion about dates at this time of year. Eostar is a lunar holiday, honouring a lunar Goddess, at the Vernal Full Moon. Eostar is reserved for the nearest festival. In our family we are not so specific and celebrate this season whenever we feel like enjoying some spring activities.
In her book ‘The Spiral Dance’ Starhawk talks of a basket of story eggs – each painted egg is taken out of the basket and a story is told. One of the eggs is painted half black and half gold to represent the balance of the equinox. In Ceisiwr Serith’s book ‘The Pagan Family’ he suggests the fun of an egg fight. Each person chooses an egg. Two people then face the small ends of their eggs towards each other. One of them hits the other’s egg with her own. When one person’s cracks, he turns his around and has another chance with the other side. (He does not say whether this is with raw eggs or hard-boiled!)
For several years my daughter and I (and any friends who had dropped in at the time) would take our bell sticks and go for a walk out along the wooded paths and as we went we would bang the ground with our sticks calling, “Wake up earth! Wake up earth!” and skip around to wake all the sleeping nature. It is a long time since we have felt able to pick the wild flowers that blossom at this time so we content ourselves with a wonderful spring walk and leave the flowers for others to enjoy. If we want to deck our home with primroses and violets and early daffodils we have to grow them ourselves.
We focus now on new life and the return of hope after a long winter and find ways to celebrate the emerging life. Following the cleaning of the home at Imbolc we like to invite friends round to batik eggs. This is a wonderful activity that we have done for several years. I was taught the traditional Ukrainian egg batik method from a friend, Helen, in Bedford nearly twenty years ago and for the last five years I have gathered together my friends, decorated eggs and shared food and gossip (the noble and much maligned art of news sharing).