Spring Equinox

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I’m so tempted to write a rant about the disastrous politics happening today, but no. I won’t.

Rather, let me wish you all a very happy Spring Equinox, however you celebrate it. I spent the weekend in the garden, planting new bulbs and flowers as well as all sorts of fruit and veg (strawberries, carrots, beetroots, radishes, spinach) and herbs.

No formal ritual for me this year, but a day digging in the earth and planting seeds was a pretty appropriate way to connect with the energies of the season, and get my practical Druidry on!

While today is pouring with rain where I am, the weekend was lovely and springlike. A reminder that whatever happens in the human world, nature persists and spring returns again.

Blessings of the season to you!

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Second High Day recap: Spring Equinox

Home shrine set up for the Spring Equinox. Photo by me

Home shrine set up for the Spring Equinox. Photo by me

The sky was too cloudy to see the Solar Eclipse, but as the day brightened up later it started to feel like Spring at last, as I celebrated the Equinox with a small Druid ritual. I had written a script for the rite, following the steps outlined in ADF’s Core order of ritual, and based on the rites suggested in Michael J. Dangler’s Crane Breviary and Guidebook.

My home shrine was decorated with daffodils and wildflowers from the garden, which brought nature indoors and gave it a real Spring feeling.

Possible depiction of Nemetona and her consort Mars at Bath.

Possible depiction of Nemetona and her consort Mars at Bath.

The rite was focused on Nemetona, the Celtic/Gaulish goddess of the Sacred Grove. Little is known of this goddess, who is thought to be the deity of the Nemetes tribe in what is now Germany. There is also evidence of her worship here in England at places such as Bath. Her name connects her to nemetons, sacred places, and she is often seen as a goddess of sanctuary. Dangler’s ritual honours Nemetona as she who “awakens the forest” at Spring as well as blessing any sacred place, including a small home-shrine.

As an agnostic and naturalist, I don’t believe in the literal existence of the Pagan deities, instead seeing them as mythic and archetypal representations of natural forces and aspects of human experience. So for me, Nemetona is the “essence” of any sacred place. In the rite, I offered grain to Nemetona, to represent the bounty of the land that feeds all creatures.

As well as this main offering, I offered oats to the Earth Mother and organic Golden Ale to the three Kindreds. The “working” section of the rite, as suggested by Dangler, was a blessing of tools. He writes that “in ancient days, the folk would bring their tools to the priests who would then charm them. This charming or blessing would keep those tools in working order throughout the year, and would thus sustain the lives of the folk through the always dangerous time from planting to harvest”.

Ogham reading for Spring Equinox. Photo by me

Ogham reading for Spring Equinox. Photo by me

For the omen, I drew three staves from my lovely new Ogham set (which I am using daily in my morning meditations, and which has been really helpful in giving me plenty to think about). I love the feeling of using these wooden staves, it just seems so much more tactile and “Druidic” than cards.

The symbols I drew were willow (liminality, intuition), reed (healing, cleansing tools), and hazel (wisdom). I’m far too sceptical to assign magical significance to divination, but the reading seemed very appropriate to a liminal, tool-blessing Equinox rite!

Second High Day: Spring Equinox

Fern frond. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Fern frond. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Spring Equinox occurs around 20/21 March and marks the point when day and night are of equal length. The word equinox comes from the Latin for “equal night”. From this day on, the days will be longer than the nights, making the Equinox the start of the light half of the year.

Astronomically, the Equinox occurs when the plane of Earth’s equator passes the centre of the Sun. At this moment, the Earth’s axis neither inclines towards nor away from the Sun, causing day and night to be exactly equal.

Equinoxes. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Equinoxes. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Equinox can be seen as the start of Spring, and signs of the new season are all around. Flowers are blooming, trees bursting into leaf and birds are singing louder to attract a mate. In many Pagan traditions, the Spring Equinox is celebrated as a festival of new life. Higginbotham states that “most of the Spring Equinox traditions that we observe today relate to fertility and renewal of the life force. The most familiar is the colouring of eggs”. Eggs are an ancient symbol of life, and their traditional meaning has been co-opted into the Christian celebration of Easter.

In some Druid traditions, the Spring Equinox is known as Alban Eiler, the Light of the Earth, while many Pagans refer to it as Ostara. This name, according to Bonewits, comes from the Germanic goddess, Eostre (also the source of the name Easter). This name is attested to by the monastic historian Bede, but does not appear in other sources. Hutton writes that Eostre may have been “a Germanic dawn-deity who was venerated, appropriately, at this season of opening and new beginnings”. It may also be the case, however that the name simply referred to the month itself.

Solar Eclipse. Image from The Guardian

Solar Eclipse. Image from The Guardian

This year, the Spring Equinox coincides with a Solar Eclipse, where the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and blocks (occults) the Sun. It was too cloudy where I am to see the Eclipse, but it did go noticeably darker and the birds fell silent. The combination of Equinox and Eclipse would no doubt be seen as significant, and auspicious, by ancient Pagans.

References:

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Bonewits, Isaac. Bonewits’s essential guide to Druidism. New York: Citadel, 2006.

Higginbotham, Joyce and River. Paganism: an introduction to earth-centered religions. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 2008.

Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the sun: a history of the ritual year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.