This year, the spring equinox arrived on 20 March, marking the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Also known as the vernal equinox, it occurs when the Earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the Sun, resulting in an equal amount of daylight and darkness at all latitudes.
After this date, the Northern Hemisphere begins to be tilted more towards the Sun, which brings increasing daylight hours and warming temperatures. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s turned on its head. Known as the autumnal equinox, this period marks the beginning of autumn, as the Southern Hemisphere begins to be tilted away from the Sun.
For those in the Northern hemispheres, you’ll be seeing the first flowers emerging after a long, cold winter. Frost will be melting, and flowers such as daffodils, bluebells and marigolds will be in full bloom.
In the Southern hemispheres, you’ll be experiencing a shift into autumn, and leaves will be turning delicious red, yellow and maroon colours. The winds will start to blow cooler air, as the lands prepare for an upcoming winter season.
For people like me, who live on the Equator, the changes are much more subtle. Seeds fall in their millions onto the ground. Fruiting trees such as mangoes and papaya start to show-off their bounty. Squirrels and birds begin their courting rituals, chasing after each other in a dance as old as time.
Origins of Easter
This time of year, we see eggs and bunny rabbits adorning shelves of every shop we visit. It may surprise you to learn that these symbols of spring actually date back to pre-Christian pagan times, where they symbolized rebirth and new beginnings.
Today we know it as ‘Easter’, but this word actually comes from the Goddess of Spring, who was known as Eostre in pre-Christian or Pagan times. She made her first appearance in literature about thirteen hundred years ago in the workings of a British monk known as Venerable Bede, who was born in the year 672. In his Tempoorum Ratione, he tells us that April, which was known as Eostremonath, is named for a goddess that the Anglo-Saxons honoured in the spring:
“Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month.”
The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox.
Celebrating Ostara usually takes the theme of the coming of Spring and the fertility of the land. This year – due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has affected everybody in the world – the theme of hope is surfacing, and the new season ushers in a feeling of possibility.
How will you take a moment to celebrate Mother Nature and this joyous new season that’s upon us all? Here are some ideas:
Feast in honour of nature
Pagans would celebrate the fertility of the land by feasting. This Ostara, celebrate foods that honour the coming of spring, for instance early spring greens, shoots and sprouts, seeds, first harvest fruits and vegetables, figs, and eggs.
For those of you who follow a plant-based or vegan lifestyle, there are several alternatives to eating bird’s eggs, like Just Egg and OnlyEg. Made from plants such as mung beans, these ‘eggs’ are more sustainable, their ingredients requiring less land, water and carbon emissions. These plant-based eggs also have zero cholesterol and less saturated fat than conventional eggs.
Another idea is to bake a homemade loaf of bread with your favourite seeds for your family to enjoy together, fresh out of the oven. While enjoying your meal with your nearest and dearest, remember to be present for the food, enjoying every bite, giving thanks to the earth.
Connect with the earth in an outdoor meditation in a park, forest or under a tree. Give thanks and gratitude to the earth beneath you and the sky above in this powerful awareness exercise that connects you deeply to the land and the element of earth.
Plant seeds and start your own herb garden
The very act of planting, of beginning new life from seed, is a ritual and a magical act in itself. To cultivate something in the soil, see it sprout and then bloom, is to watch a magical working unfold before our very eyes.
This spring, I planted kale, spinach, chilli, papaya, avocado, and aubergine in my urban garden. Every morning I am in awe at the miracle of life and am filled with great joy and hope when I check to see how much the seedlings have grown.
Set up your Ostara altar
Incorporate elements or symbols of the equinox into your home and spiritual practice by adding them to your altar. Some ideas include fresh spring wild flowers, seeds and herbs, and crystals such as lapis lazuli, amazonite, agate, and clear and rose quartz.
Welcoming your new intentions
A beautiful tradition shared to me by spiritual teacher Danielle Van de Velde, is to write your intentions for the coming season on eggs, before burying them under a new plant you keep at your front door. Since I battle with moral issues around taking an animal’s eggs, an alternative is to write on paper or grains, ie. plant’s ‘eggs’ instead.
I hope you find joy and tranquillity in connecting with Mother Nature this season of rebirth, however you choose to celebrate!