Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Arose...

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant"

*Sigh*... Spring. So many things to experience and look forward to during this cheerful season.

The sun comes out of hiding and begins to warm our faces once again. The first official day of Spring (also known as the Vernal Equinox) is on March 20. It is the point at which the sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north. This signals the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It has long been a significant event in the lives of agricultural peoples as it symbolizes nature's regeneration, fertility, growth and bounty. The word equinox comes from Latin and means "equal night". On this day, night and day each last twelve hours.
To pagans it's a time for joy called forth by the resurrection of the "Light of the World" (sun god) from the underworld of the winter, from where he arose to join his goddess Eostre. 

Eggs begin to hatch. Eggs play an important role in festivities throughout the world. According to folklore, the vernal equinox is the one time of the year that eggs can be stood on end. Earth and nature are said to be in harmony if an egg can be balanced on its end during the equinox, at the very point in time, when day and night are also in balance. People are preparing for Easter (be prepared for a post on this holiday next month) and part of the celebration includes dyeing and decorating eggs.They even color eggs in Iran to celebrate the Spring. Z Budapest in Grandmother of Time says that eggs were dyed red (the color of life) on the Festival of Astarte (March 17). The beautifully decorated eggs from the Ukraine (pysanky) are covered with magical symbols for protection, fertility, wisdom, strength and other qualities. They are given as gifts and used as charms.

Flowers begin to bloom. Seeds are like eggs: while eggs contain the promise of new animal life, seeds hold the potential of a new plant. In ancient Italy during the Spring, women planted gardens of Adonis. They filled urns with grain seeds, kept the in the dark and watered them every two days. This custom persists in Sicily. Women plant seeds of grains — lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers — in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the gardens are placed on graves on Good Friday. They symbolize the triumph of life over death. In England, a superstition connected with flowers relied upon finding the first bloom of the season. If one found the first flower of Spring on a Monday, it was good fortune. If found on a Tuesday, one's greatest attempts would be successful. On Wednesday, it denoted marriage, Thursday, a warning of small profits, Friday, wealth, Saturday misfortune and Sunday indicated luck for many weeks to come. The type of flower found also determined the outcome. Once the species of flower was determined--daisy, buttercup, lily, etc.--one used the initial of that flower to see who would be interested in them in the coming year. Thus, if a young lady found a Daisy, someone whose name started with a 'D' would soon begin to court her. 

People are preparing for Easter (be prepared for a post on this holiday next month). Lent is observed. Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. In its early days, meat, butter and eggs were stricken from the diet, a carryover from medieval times. Before improved food storage, a pantry's stores were often lean after a long winter. Thus, what had been a necessary fast of sorts, became church law. With Lent being a time of fast, other things are forbidden also. Sexual relations and wedding ceremonies were taboo before the Reformation, thus resulting in a superstition that carried well into the 19th century that it was bad luck to marry during Lent.

Spring is also a time for Spring Cleaning. It has been suggested that the origins of spring cleaning date back to the Iranian Norouz, the Persian New Year, which falls on the first day of Spring. Iranians continue the practice of "khooneh tekouni" which literally means "shaking the house" just before the new year. Another possibility of the origin of spring cleaning can be traced to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the spring-time holiday of Passover. In remembrance of the Jews' escape from Egypt following their captivity there, the eight-day holiday consists of a strict prohibition against eating anything which may have been leavened. Jews are not only supposed to refrain from leavened foodstuffs but they are also expressly commanded to rid their homes of even small remnants of chametz for the length of the holiday. For the past 3,500 years, observant Jews have conducted a thorough "spring cleaning" of the house, followed by a traditional hunt for chametz crumbs by candlelight on the evening before the holiday begins. During the 19th century in America, prior to the advent of the vacuum cleaner, March was often the best time for dusting because it was getting warm enough to open windows and doors (but not warm enough for insects to be a problem), and the high winds could carry the dust out of the house. For the same reason, modern rural households often use the month of March for cleaning projects involving the use of chemical products which generate fumes. 

In many traditions, Spring is the start of the New Year. The Roman year began on the ides of March (15th). The astrological year begins on the equinox when the moon moves into the first sign of the Zodiac, Aries, the Ram. The Vernal Equinox used to be considered the beginning of the Pagan New Year. The Greek God Ares is equivalent to the Roman Mars for whom the month of March is named. Between the 12th century and 1752, March 25th was the day the year changed in England and Ireland. In China, the Spring Festival is also known as Chinese New Year. 

I leave you today with I a bit of Springtime inspiration from some of the contributors at Tiny Treasures. Hopefully they inspire you to venture outside and smell the freshly cut grass, feel the warm sunshine on your face, and look at all the beauty Spring has to offer.