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March 20 spring equinox

by Pat Hacker | March 13, 1998

You have already discovered, as the days grow longer, that we are approaching the balance point between the longest night and the longest day of the year. Nature’s beautifully balanced process of cycles and change is moving us from the celebration of death and rebirth (begun at the winter solstice) toward the summer solstice. At this mid-point of equal day and night, we see the end of winter giving way to the beginning of spring.

In the Christian calendar, Easter is coming. The shops are filled already, in March, with chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks and chocolate eggs. In the Christian church, Easter represents the resurrection of the son, the light of the earth who was born at Christmas, the time of the winter solstice. In Pagan tradition, the spring represents the goddess in her maiden aspect; the earth budding [forsythia], eggs hatching, new life being born. Eggs and rabbits are traditional fertility symbols for the season of spring.

The word Easter, Oestre, Esther, Astarte, Ishtar – all powerful Biblical figures or ancient earth goddesses from Greek, Roman, Anglo Saxon anda Middle Eastern antiquity take their names from the common root word for “womb,” or “estrus.” These goddess names and legends are synonymous with those events of the earth that occur at the time of the spring, vernal, equinox, when the earth gives birth.

In very practical terms, in the northern hemisphere, March and April are the earliest times of the year when eggs could hatch and young birds, chicks and ducklings could survive; it is the earliest time when young animals could be born after the winter of gestation and survive the weather conditions and availability of food.

It is the time when Persephone returns from the underworld to be reunited with her mother, Demeter, and her sisters, and the promise of the return of growing herbs and grains is fulfilled.

Easter is calculated from the first Sunday following the first full moon following the spring equinox. This is why Easter is on a different date each year. Passover is celebrated in Jewish tradition. The Jews celebrate Passover with bitter herbs and hard cooked eggs in salt water, representing the return of security and passage through darkness and fear.

ritual for the spring equinox
  1. An outdoor ritual location is ideal, but weather conditions and access to a private and safe outdoor site may make indoor ritual celebration more practical. Creating ritual is the important part, a sacred space can be established any place if there are women with will and divine intent.
  2. Wear pastel-coloured robes or clothing and light pastel-coloured candles. Before the ritual, meet for an hour to colour and decorate hard-boiled eggs and to fill the altar space with symbols of spring.
  3. Place a cauldron in the centre of your circle, or use a deep bowl, and mix some water and salt saying: “Salt of Earth, Water of Life, As we are, Blessed be.” If flowers are available, place some around the cauldron. This celebration is about re-birth, light and change.
  4. When everyone is ready to begin, and the space in which the ritual is to take place has been prepared, including the centre of the circle or the altar, ask one of the women, preferably the oldest in the group, if willing, to lead the group in making the circle. She, as convenor, will symbolically sweep with a besom (witch’s broom) or any broom you have, gently passing it back and forth in front of her, symbolizing the purification of the circle and the elimination of any negative energy. While sweeping, the leader may say: “With this besom tool I draw, The sacred circle round, Time and space contained within, Will not to now be bound.”
  5. Once the circle is formed, the convenor or priestess will cast the circle and call in the four elements of earth, fire, water and air, remembering the manner in which each element is special to Spring: the sun’s warmth is the fire that heats the earth, the water makes the soil ready for seeds that may be cast by the wind. The priestess may then consecrate each woman by dipping a flower into the cauldron and marking, with a few drops of salt water, the top of each woman’s head, saying, “Thou art Goddess, Blessed be.”
  6. Someone in the group may have been designated to prepare, in advance, to tell the story of Persephone and Demeter. Encourage group members, each to her own degree of comfort, to speak about the change she anticipates and looks forward to with the arrival of Spring, or the awareness of the balance of light and dark and how that feels different, or any feelings of renewal and re-birth that may be particularly strong at this time of year.
  7. The convenor opens the circle and thanks and releases the elements. A feast featuring eggs and green salads, soda bread and butter, cheesecake and spring water, served with lots of laughter, would be the perfect welcome to the first day of spring.

Blessed be!

resources for this story

National Film Board of Canada films directed by Donna Reed

  • Goddess Remembered
  • The Burning Times
  • Full Circle

books

  • Book of Greek Myths, byINGRI and EDGAR PARIN D’AVLAIRE, Doubleday. Includes the story of Persephone and Demeter. | 1962
  • Drawing Down the Moon, by MARGOT ADLER, Beacon Press, Boston | 1992
  • A Woman’s Book Of Rituals and Celebrations, by Ardinger, Barbara, New World Library, San Rafael, CA, Second edition | 1995
  • The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, by ZSUZSANNA BUDAPEST, Winghbow Press, Berkeley, CA
  • Rites of Passage, The Pagan Wheel of Life, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN | 1994
  • Wheel of the Year, Living the Magical Life, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, fifth printing | 1995
  • Ancient Ways, Reclaiming Pagan Traditions, by PAULINE CAMPANELLI, Llewellyn Publications, fourth printing | 1993
  • Wicca, A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner, by SCOTT CUNNINGHAM, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN | 1993
  • FThe Goddess Workbook,by JILL FAIRCHILD and REGINA SCHAARE, The Great Goddess Press, Portland, Maine | 1993
  • The Great Cosmic Mother, by BARBARA MOR and MONICA SJOO, Harper Row | 1989
  • Arladne’s Thread A Workbook of Goddess Magic, by SHEKHINAH MOUNTAINWATER, The Crossing Press, Freedom CA | 1991
  • Women-Church, by ROSEMARY RADFORD RUETHER, Harper and Row, San Francisco, CA | 1990.
  • Encyclopedia of White Magic, by PADDY SLADE, Hamlyn Press, London | 1990
  • The Spiral Dance, by STARHAWK, Harper Collins, San Francisco, CA | 1991
  • The Women’s Spirituality Book, by DIANE STEIN, Llewellyn Publications
  • Jambalaya, by LULSAH TELSH Harper Collins, San Francisco, CA | 1990
  • Women’s Rituals, by BARBARA WALKER, Harper and Row, New York, NY | 1990
  • The Women’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, by BARBARA WALKER, Harper and Row, San Francisco | 1990
  • Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows, by MARION WEINSTEIN, Phoenix Publishing Inc., Custer, WA | 1980

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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