Spring Equinox

Melusine Draco

The Elders of the Coven of the Scales and myself always view the Spring Equinox with a degree of trepidation since it usually brings with it the onset of personal turmoil and upheaval.  As the year begins to change we prepare to batten down the hatches until the storm of uncertainty has passed.  And, as we all appreciate, uncertainty is often centered on worries about the future and all the bad things we can anticipate happening. It can leave us feeling hopeless and depressed about the days ahead, exaggerate the scope of the problems we face, and even prevent us from taking action to overcome any problems until the Vernal Equinox has gone.

Canadian wellness coach, Kelly Spencer, observes that the Vernal Equinox is a time of rebirth for all life. “As winter places us in a life of more darkness, we rejoice more sunlight. With all of life dependent upon the sun, you can imagine the energy of celebration this time of year for all living species. Birds sing, flowers bloom, bees dance, and babies of all species are born. In ancient times, rituals were performed at the Spring Equinox and people would cleanse old energy. This is where our tradition of ‘spring cleaning’ came from! We feel more energized and want to plant seeds of vision in our lives or for our gardens. We may feel the urge to open the windows, clean and prepare for a new, warmer and brighter season. We might make plans to get outside more, develop a health plan for ourselves, or set some new goals to achieve, both personally and professionally.”

We also understand that there is a real ‘seasonal science’ concerning the varied affects on our body and mind so that we can all be more mindful of when transition from season to season wreaks its affects on us. In fact, it can affect all living creatures. Seasonal changes, including the increase in the amount of light is a signal to animals, plants and people, of the changing seasons. For some, changes of season can trigger a change in mood. During the winter many develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD), with some experts believing the shorter days, with less sunlight, upset the body’s internal clock causing loss of energy and lack of luster for life.

With the increase in light, as it hits the retina and enters the pineal gland and slows the production of melatonin, we may notice a change in the way we feel and the energy we have. As the melatonin recedes and the light begins to affect the brain, we can get a lighter ‘spring’ in our step, we become more alert and experience increase feelings of happiness. The fresh air, scents and visual displays of bloom and birth, feel good as we consume them with our senses.

But what can account for those feelings of apprehension that some monumental upheaval is about to occur – and it will invariably happen around the Equinox!?  There’s never been a satisfactory answer to this situation but a gentle read through Professor E O James’s Seasonal Feasts & Festivals (1961) provided another train of thought …

This related to the tradition custom of seasonal contests that had been an integral element for promoting fertility and conquering the malign forces of evil, especially at the approach of spring.  According to Professor James, this is apparent in the many ball games that had survived throughout the ages which originally had a ritual significance – not to mention local hostility.  Not infrequently these have occurred in the opening of the year, and have persisted in association with the carnival, revelries and merry-making.  The rites, however, belong to the Spring Festival rather than that of the Winter Solstice – Shrovetide customs looking forward to Easter, not backwards towards Yule.

In England it became the custom for parishes to divide themselves into two opposing groups at this season of the year, which usually coincided with Shrove Tuesday, to engage in ‘rough and rumbles’ such as those recorded in forty-two towns or districts,  and in which they have survived to within recent memory.  ‘Broken shins, broken heads, torn coats and lost hats’, we are told were ‘among the minor accidents of this fearful contest’.  A Frenchman who witnessed the scene remarked that ‘if Englishmen called this playing, it would be impossible to say what they would call fighting’.

According to one local tradition this violent event celebrated the driving out and slaying of a cohort of Roman soldiers marching through the town by unarmed Britons.  And to suppress the observance in 1846 ‘it required two troops of Dragoons, a large levy of special constables and the reading of the Riot Act to secure the desired result’. These regional ‘needle-matches’ or bitterly fought contests between two teams who bear each other a grudge,  aroused exceptional personal antagonism between the contestants.

Seasonal games and contests of this nature were almost universal in England and elsewhere in Europe at the approach or beginning of spring, until they were prohibited on the ground that they were dangerous to life and limb, and property, as indeed they were.  Is the astral turbulence surrounding the Spring Equinox a throw-back to the ‘good old days’ enshrined in our racial memory?  Because the mere presence of such violence in the astral realm is already acutely burdensome, and to be physically exposed to it is exhausting and debilitating

Uncertain times create waves in the astral realm: When the human mind doesn’t know what the future will hold, its natural tendency is to seek out some narrative to grasp on to, to make sense of, and identify with that narrative. Without meditative training, simply remaining in a blank, unknowable present is not how most of us cope with uncertainty. When understood in the context of a society (and, in general, all rules that apply to individuals apply to groups; as above, so below), this means that an uncertain material world (like say, the Covid pandemic) creates even more uncertainty in our collective heads, and all members of society feel a sense of change, and often of unease, like we know something is coming but aren’t sure what. This is what is meant by ‘something in the air;’ a collective consciousness comes to reflect this uncertainty, this sense of foreboding. It is like the calm before a storm. [Astral Harmony]

Both Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes universally represent a time when earth energies as well as our own bio-energetic systems are dramatically shifting gears, so our emotional and physical health can be quite sensitive, and we need extra rest and care to protect our life force and to help us stay steady.

During equinoxes, the Sun also exerts a stronger pull on the Earth than at the rest of the year, because of the alignment between the sun and the equator. Consequently, the water surface is strongly attracted by the Sun, which accentuates what we call ‘great tides’. To the meteorologists, spring is from March to May, and it is seen as a period of instability.  This is because the ground is warming up but the air is still quite cold, producing a bitter-sweet mixture of squally showers, fine spells and cold, frosty nights.  Just when the days appear to be improving, a deep depression can whip moisture-laden air down from the polar seas, hurling it across the countryside as sleet and snow.  After warm March days, when the blackthorn comes into bloom, there is often a sting in the tail of the month – the blackthorn winter!

In fact, the countryman’s observation for this time of year is ‘Beware the Blackthorn Winter’ – because although the blackthorn is in full bloom by now, its pale, softly fragrant blossoms are often matched by frost-whitened grass or snow-covered hills. The blackthorn flowers before its leaves grow, so we get a real contrast of white flower against black bark; blackthorn has a reputation as being one of the ‘witch-trees’ of the countryside, not least because we have to be very careful of its long (and very sharp!) spikes which can puncture skin very easily and the wounds have a tendency to turn septic. The blackthorn is depicted in many fairytales throughout Europe as a tree of ill omen but it along with the alder it is the totem tree of traditional British Old Craft.

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