Today, March 20, 2012, is the official first day of Spring. Actually the Vernal Equinox centers around a specific time...a moment. As I write this, the moment has already passed. The time of the Equinox was 1:14 AM/EST.
The Vernal, or Spring, Equinox marks a point of the year when Earth experiences a day and a night that are the closest to being of equal length. The term 'Equinox' is derived from the Latin, "aequus nox", which translates to "equal night".
A wide spread belief that is more Chinese folk lore than fact, deals with the positioning of the Sun and the planets during an Equinox. It is said that incredible feats of balance are possible, the more popular items for the balancing act being eggs and brooms. The truth is that it is possible to stand an egg on it's end with the required finesse, but it is just as difficult or easy to do it during an Equinox as any other day.
The first day of Spring is also known as 'Ostara', so named for the pagan goddess, Eostre (the Teutonic goddess of New Life). The day may see a balance between dark and light, but it acknowledges the lengthening of days. Longer days means more light. What was dormant during the Winter months is now starting to grow and thrive again. It is a time of a new cycle and new fire. A season of growth and fertility. Of rebirth.
This Equinox also marks the beginning of the Sun God's journey across the sky. The energy filled light he brings with him dispels the dark chill of Winter. The warm light grows until it's peak meets the Summer Solstice at Midsummer in June.
Early pagans celebrated the new crop seasons, and the accompanying planting. During the month of April, the feasts held by pagan Anglo-Saxon's were to honor Eostre. Rabbits are sacred to her, and it was believed that Eostre would take the form of a white rabbit. It is easy to see where Easter got its name.
Whenever 'Spring' is mentioned, I immediately think of one of my favorite paintings, "Spring", by Dutch painter, Lawrence Alma-Tadema c. 1894. The picture of it to the left doesn't do it justice. One of the paintings hanging in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, I always had to spend some time studying it whenever I visited there (I used to live in L.A.). The detail is exquisite. There is so much life in the faces of the celebrants. They look as if they could just step out of the painting. There are some accompanying paintings that focus on different angles of the balcony areas, but this is my absolute favorite.
Here on Georgia's southern coast, Winter never really paid us a visit. For the most part it has felt like Spring got here some time ago. I am glad that it has officially arrived though. The azalea bushes started to bloom a few weeks ago. I look forward to the other seasonal flowering plants joining in.
Wishing all a happy and blessed Ostara!