In the Northern Hemisphere, the Vernal or Spring Equinox falls on or around the 20th March. For the Southern Hemisphere, the reverse is true – there it’s the Autumn Equinox on those same dates. But what is the Spring Equinox exactly and why should we care?
The word Equinox comes from the Latin, meaning equal night and it occurs somewhere between the 19th and 21st March. The exact date of the equinox differs from year to year as a direct consequence of astrological factors that change slightly every time. It occurs at the exact moment that the sun is directly over the equator and the earth’s celestial equator – ie the imaginary line from the equator into space – would go directly into the sun’s centre.
What Is the Spring Equinox – A Little History
I don’t think I would be able to find many people who could fail to get excited at the prospect that this date marks the first day of Spring. Warmer weather, longer days on the horizon, and a fist full of cheap chocolate to see us through the last remaining cold days of the season.
But for many people, this day (technically it’s an exact moment in time, but let’s not get too technical) is much more than a chance to tentatively get our flip flops on. (Not this year it seems….why is it still so cold?!) For pagans, Wiccans and other folk who consider themselves closely tied to the Earth and it’s seasonal changes, this is a sacred day and one of seven other festivals on the Wheel of the Year. The wheel is marked out into eight points, or sabbats: 2 solstices, one in the summer where the day is longest, and one in the winter where the day is at it’s shortest; 2 equinoxes, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn where day and night are of equal length; and 4 other points that mark the midpoints between all of the others. This is the calendar that farmers for hundreds (if not thousands) of years will have followed to observe the process from seeding to harvesting and is the one anyone who feels a deep connection to the earth and Mother Nature will feel led by.
This particular festival – the Spring or Vernal Equinox – is known as Ostara, possibly taking its name from the Germanic goddess of the same name (or sometimes Eostre). I say possibly because not a whole lot is known about this goddess except for that she was celebrated with festivals focusing on fertility and rebirth. However, what many people will tell you is that this festival was stolen by the Christians and turned into Easter. The theory is that as most people at the time would have celebrated Ostara, and the other festivals on the wheel of the year calendar, it was easier to twist and mould these festivities to suit Christian beliefs than it was to scrap them all and start again. However, the jury is out on this one. There is not much evidence to support its validity but hey – that’s not to say it definitely isn’t true.
Like most pagans, I celebrate this festival with as much vim and vigour as a Christian celebrates Christmas and Easter. For us, these eight sabbats represent points on our spiritual path and each of them should be treated with reverence and joy. This is the moment when day and night are of equal length, dark and light are in perfect balance and we can appreciate a sense of equilibrium. For this reason, now is a good time to work on balance in our own lives. For example, how can we create a better work/life balance so that we are gratified and nurtured by our daily lives rather than feeling like we are on an endless treadmill?
There are many lovely ways to celebrate this festival, below are some of my favourites.
Equal breath pranayama – brings balance to the nervous system
- Sit in your favoured meditation position, spine lengthened but not rigid. You should be comfortable but alert. Close your eyes or lower and soften your gaze.
- Take a moment to feel your connection to the earth, to feel the weight of your body. Become fully aware of your body as it starts to settle into position.
- Bring your conscious awareness now to your breath. Try not to change it. Just notice each inhale and each exhale as they come and go naturally.
- After a few rounds of breath, start to slowly increase the length of each breath. Do it gradually so that each round is slightly longer than the round before. After about 5/6 breaths, you will come to find a long deep breath that feels neither forced nor strained. This is the breath you will count.
- Continue to breathe, matching the length of the inhale to the length of the exhale.
- Sit with this breath for as long as you have time for, but preferably at least 12 minutes.
You may remember this one from your childhood and it’s a wonderful one to do with kids. You will need some eggs, a skewer or other tool to make a hole, and some paints (you can also use natural dyes by using different coloured foods.)
- Take an egg and make one small hole and the top, and another slightly bigger one at the bottom
- Carefully blow into the hole at the top until the egg starts to drip out of the bottom hole
- Wash and dry the egg
- Paint! This is a great meditative tool for those who feel like they ‘can’t’ meditate because they can’t sit still. Take your time, paint intuitively, and don’t worry too much what the finished product looks like. You can add letters, sigils, symbols, or anything else that is important to you. As you paint, think about any wishes that you would like to manifest for the coming year
- Use the eggs to decorate your home or altar if you have one
- After the festival is over you need to bury the egg. If you don’t have a garden, bury it in a plant pot, or even in your food waste bin.
Bring the outside in
I am a little obsessed with creating a space to live in that feels sacred and safe at all times. It’s filled with things that bring me joy, but never cluttered and the energy never feels stagnant. The sabbats are a great time to refresh your space, do a little cleansing – both energetic and physical – and decorate with items that represent the festival. For this one, you can bring in daffodils and other seasonal flowers, feathers, eggs, any foliage that is coming into leaf, and candles in pastel shades of yellow, purple and green.
Whatever you chose to do on this day, try to get outside even just for a little bit. It is, after all, a celebration of nature and Mother Earth, and to feel her wind in your hair – and more than likely, her rain in your face – is just another way to bring yourself closer to the earth.
You can learn more about the sabbats in my other blogs: