Why the Spring Equinox Isn’t the Start of Spring
As I write this, the green shoots of Spring are already showing themselves as we fast approach the Spring Equinox on March 21st. This date actually marks the middle of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, not its beginning as some mistakenly believe. The actual start of Spring is February 1st. Many make the same mistake with Summer, with most of us wrongly classing June 21st as the beginning of summer. William Shakespeare, who was a close follower of the Earth’s natural cycles, got it right in his play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which he sets on June 23rd—right next to the solstice, June 21, or the middle of summer!
Hopefully, for most of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the cold weather of winter has retreated and we’re all able to look forward to the warmth of summer. The Spring Equinox (also known as the Vernal Equinox, Ostara, Oestre or Eostar) marks the day in the year when the sun crosses the Earth’s equator and we get 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. From here on until the Autumn Equinox in September, the days get longer. Mother Earth is pregnant, so it’s the ideal time to sow crops and enjoy the birth of a new generation of animals and plant life.
The alternative name for this seasonal quarter-day, Ostara, derives from a Goddess of that name, who is often depicted standing amid the flowers of Spring, holding an egg in one hand, with birds flying all about her and a rabbit hopping around her feet. Ostara is a Northern European name for Astarte, which means “womb,” and is another name for Venus, the Goddess of love, passion, and creativity. As I detail in my book, Sacred Ceremony:
“In its archetypal form, the festival of Ostara is the resurrection of the Light, the triumph of the Sun over winter. So this festival is the time of renewal and rebirth, of saying a clear and definite farewell to the hibernation that was a central theme of winter and welcoming the increasing light.”
As well as seeing distinct changes in Mother Earth at this time, Spring is a season many of us feel. We sense the weather warming-up outside, and if our work keeps us inside for long periods, we can become restless, eager to get into the air and enjoy the day. It’s why the simplest and best way to honor the Spring Equinox is to get outdoors as often as you can. Start planting as many seeds as you can as a way to connect with the earth. You can even create a ceremony around the planting process:
“Pray, meditate, and communicate with the earth spirits (or if you prefer, the faeries and plant devas), and ask their help in growing your flowers or your vegetables. Plant a tree, whether in your own back yard or somewhere in the woods. Toss the seeds from any fruit or vegetables you eat, along the roadside, in your backyard, or anywhere this would be appropriate and environmentally compatible.”
Of course, it’s not quite yet summer, so the weather on some days may force you to remain indoors. This still gives you a chance to celebrate the joys of spring. Decorate your altar and your home with flowers, colored eggs, and anything else that reminds you of the season. Do a spring house clean and throw out old and unwanted items.
This is one of the best seasonal holidays to do an Earth Renewal Ceremony, an event that friends and family can join in with. You’ll need to get outside at night, somewhere away from city lights, and look up at the stars. Discover more about the Springtime constellations, and the movement of the planets at this time of year. Soak up the night-time coolness that tells you it’s not summer just yet, but look forward to the next seasonal celebration which will herald the beginning of the warmest season of the year.
Much of the content of this article is adapted from material in my book Sacred Ceremony which you can purchase here.