“Spring is coming, spring is coming
birdies build your nest.
weave together straw and feather
doing each your best.
spring is coming, spring is coming
flowers are waking, too.
daisies, lilies, and daffodils
now are coming through.
spring is coming, spring is coming
all around is fair.
shimmer, glimmer on the meadow,
joy is everywhere.”
Equinox means “equal night” when the sun is positioned above the equator & day and night are about equal in length all over the world. This is the start of the Astrological year. Many ancient cultures built structures to point directly toward the rising Sun on this day every year. The celebration of the Vernal Equinox is about new life & hope, the planting of seeds & the activation of the fertility cycle.
A look into the ancient Mystery Schools honoring The Vernal Equinox: The Spring Equinox is also called: Alban Eilir, Eostar, Eostre, Feast of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Festival of Trees, Lady Day, NawRuz, No Ruz, Ostara, Ostra, Rites of Spring. The Old Testament heroine of Spring was the goddess Ishtar- Persian for ‘star'(Esther is the Aramaic word for Ishtar). So Ishtar was the goddess of the morning & evening star, as well as being the Great Mother, Shining One, Lady of Visions, Priestess of Priestess’, she was the source of the Oracles of Prophesy, & Possessor of the Tablets of Life’s Records.Her symbols were the eight pointed star, the pentagram, dove, serpents, & the double axe. Her planet was Venus. She wore a rainbow necklace. The Persians converted this necklace (the rainbow) into a razor-sharp bridge that led to the Mount of Paradise. In ancient Sumeria, she had 180 shrines where women gathered daily for prayer, meditation, & socializing. The night of the full moon, known as Shapatu, saw joyous celebrations in her temples.
In Ireland, the spring equinox was celebrated long before the arrival of the Celtic tribes. The best known of the ancient Irish equinox temples is Knowth, which is near to Newgrange (Brú na Boinne). Knowth has a 100-foot long passage that accepts the Sun on the morning of the Spring & Autumn Equinox. A second & older stone cairn equinox temple is found at Longhcrew & is given the name Cairn T. Both Knowth & Cairn follow a sunbeam on the morning of the Equinoxs to enter a passageway lighting up the sacred geometry on a back stone inside the temple. This precise timing from a period of over 6 thousand years ago still works today.
The German fertility Goddess was Ostara, who was associated with fertility. Ostara mated with the solar god on the Spring Equinox & nine months later she gave birth to a child at the Winter Solstice.
The Saxon name for the Germanic lunar goddess Ostara was Eostre. Her festival was held at the full moon after the Spring Equinox just like our Easter celebrations.
The Mayans of Central American have also honoured the spring equinox. For ten centuries they have held their unique celebration using their ancient knowledge of the Sunbeam. El Castillo is the name of their great pyramid of the Equinox & as the sunsets on its western face light & dark compliment each other creating a very special pattern of a diamond backed snake descending the pyramid. This solar magic has always been known as the “The Return of the Sun Serpent”.
For the Greeks the god-man of the Spring Equinox was Dionysus. He was associated with flowering plants & fruitful vines & he was always in pain during winter, symbolizing hibernation & the cessation of growth. He returned triumphant on the Spring Equinox & many researchers see direct parallels with the story of Jesus Christ.
Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Babylonia, Elam (5000 years ago) celebrated the start of their new year at the time of the spring equinox. Zoroastrianism was the religion of Ancient Persia until the advent of Islam 1400 years ago. “Nooruz,” their ‘new day’ or New Year was celebrated on the Spring Equinox. Many religious historians connect Judeo-Christian concepts to Zoroastrianism.
In Rome, about 200 years before the birth of Christ there was a wide range of what are today called “mystery cults”. Attis & Cybele held their Spring Equinox rituals at the location of today’s St. Peter’s on Vatican hill. Attis was also known under various names such as Osiris, Dionysus, Tammuz & Orpheus. The Attis & Cybele festival had a death or day of blood & three days of semi-death & then a return to life for the deceased. Attis‘s mother was called Nana & she was a virgin. Attis was crucified on a pine tree. His blood was spilled to redeem the earth. Attis was both a sacrificial victim & a savior, his death & re-birth was intended to bring salvation to mankind. Most researchers will say that Attis is clearly a prefiguring prototype for The Christ.
In Judaism we can see that the Passover dinner was their spring fertility festival. It records the escape of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt – its main meal was of unleavened bread & lamb.
In America the native Indians honoured the Spring Equinox in landscape-sized temples such as Mystery Hill in Salem NH. Five standing stones & one recumbent stone are set in a linear alignment that connects the sunrise on both the Spring & Autumn Equinoxes.
March 20-23, is the mid-point of the Waxing Year. The spark of light that was born at Winter Solstice has reached maturity, & from this point forward, the days grow longer than the nights. This is the time of full Dawn, 6:00 a.m. on the Year Clock, & so was the time of the festivals of the Grecian Goddess, Eostre, & the Germanic Ostara, both Goddesses of Dawn. (It is from these Bright Ladies that the modern Easter holiday takes its name). This is the time that is often seen as the time of Kore’s return from the Underworld, where She (as Persephone) has ruled throughout the Winter. It is also the time of the celebration of the rebirth of Adonis the Beautiful.
Spring is the time for a celebration of planting & of the greening of the Earth. Folks start to talk about having ‘Spring Fever’ & doing ‘Spring cleaning’, as the brighter sunshine provides a needed morale boost.
Many traditions associated with Spring Equinox have been retained over the years & grafted onto the Easter celebration. Even today, people arise early on Easter morning to attend ‘Sunrise Service’. (Remember Eostre, the Dawn Goddess?)
Decorated eggs have always been symbols of fertility.
In 17th century France, gifts of decorated eggs were given to new brides, in hopes they would bear many children. In Germany, bowls full of eggs were given to the field-workers by the farmer’s wife, to insure a rich harvest. Many cultures see the egg as a symbol of Life, or the actual home of the soul. The egg is the symbol of all good fortune in Russia and decorated eggs are still given as gifts to loved ones and buried in graves to insure rebirth. These elaborate and ornate treasures are sometimes even set with precious stones. (Note Faberge’ and Tiffany eggs.) Each color applied to the decorated eggs had meaning to villagers in the Ukraine. Eggs, given as gifts, conveyed particular wishes. Meanings varied from village to village, but here are some examples:
Yellow Wisdom, a successful Harvest, or Spirituality
Green Spring, rebirth, wealth, youth, growth, happiness
Blue Good health, clear skies
Orange Power, endurance, ambition
Red Happiness, hope, passion, nobility, bravery, enthusiasm, love
Brown Enrichment, good Harvest, happiness
Purple Faith, trust, power
Decorating these eggs, called Pysansky, was a women’s ritual. The eggs were gathered only from hens who lived near a rooster, as a non-fertile egg meant there would be no fertility in the home. No one was allowed to watch the women work as they transferred the goodness of the household to the designs on the eggs and thus kept evil away. Secret family recipes were use for mixing the dyes and the women placed special blessings on each egg.
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It’s a Spring Thing: EARTHDAY: Tuesday April 22, 2011, 1-3pm @ Albion beach
The labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It is a tool of Mystery, which is anchored in the Earth. Combining the imagery of the circle & the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path, it represents a journey to our own center & back again out into the world; much like the seed in spring.
Labyrinths have long been used as meditation & prayer tools. It is an archetype with which we can have a direct experience. Walking the labyrinth can be considered an initiation, awakening the Divine knowledge encoded within our DNA; a sacred geometry revealing the presence of a cosmic order connecting us with the deeply rooted urge to honor the Sacredness of All Life. The labyrinth experience is a potent practice of Self-Integration as it encapsulates the spiraling journey in & out of incarnation.
“Solvitur Ambulando… it is solved by walking”
Besides being a body prayer, a walking meditation, & a potential spiritual experience, another dimension of the Labyrinth for schools (according to educational kinesiology reports) is to provide a balancing for the student, leading to improved concentration in the classroom.
Labyrinths date back to early Egypt, Peru, India, Maya, and Native American. The Hopi medicine wheel is a labyrinth, http://www.labyrinthos.net/photo04.htm and ancient labyrinths are found in Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Iceland, North Africa and Southeast Asia.
The historical diversity of labyrinths is reflected in their varied uses, from representing special cities, such as Troy, to keeping time (Chinese incense labyrinths), protecting fishermen and shepherds (over 500 stone labyrinths along the Scandinavian coastline), and representing the spiritual path to the holy center (House of Iitoi and Chemin de Jerusalem).
Walking the labyrinth is another way of tapping into forces beyond our normal conscious mind. It takes us to some ancient part of ourselves, as old as the turning of the planets and stars, as old as the goddess and earth energies, back when night was dark, when people knew the sky and nature was a part of us and we of it. This is something lost in our modern world, and the imbalance that it causes cries out for resolution. That’s why the labyrinth touches so many people so forcefully.
With this simple yet potent honoring of the Spring impulse, we ring the bells of hope; giving our community the opportunity to experience the balance & fullness of all the seasonal energies.
Spring-Tide Labyrinth Chant:
Balance for the Earth
Light taking form
Rising to Rebirth
Spirit seed Reborn
Sun & Moon dancing in the Springtime
Sun & Moon dancing in the Springtime
Flower Stars Return
Flower Stars Return…
(The Baltic labyrinth – found throughout Scandinavia & also in northern Germany, but principally around the shorelines of the Baltic Sea. A relatively simple reconnection of the upper part of the classical seed pattern produces a double spiral at the centre with separate entrance & exit paths. These labyrinths are ideal for continuous processions & games where many walkers may enter the labyrinth. This purpose is often reflected in associated traditions & folklore.
Inspiration for the ‘Spring Labyrinth song’ –
“Offspring of all the worlds
thou form of light
firm framed by Sun
with Luna’s might…”
~Rudolf Steiner’s Easter poem