Photo by Wilfried Santer on Unsplash
Spring has sprung and it's official.
The equal hours of daylight and night time hours of the equinox occurs biannually and in the early part of the year it marks the onset of longer days, warmer weather and flowers blooming in the northern hemisphere with the converse south of the equator.
This year also sees a rare alignment with a full moon occurring on the same day as the equinox for the first time in 38 years. Classed as a ‘Super Moon’, by whoever gets to determine these things, this particular version is to be known as the Full Worm Moon.
LF Day Magnolia Crêpe de Chine Scarf
The cultural significance of the equinox, also referred to as the vernal equinox, has existed for thousands of years as the sun exalts in the astrological sign of Aries, the cardinal fire sign and the 1st sign of the Zodiac and the earth responds with growth and signs of rebirth in the seasonal cycle.
The ruling planet of the house of Aries is Mars, and perhaps indicates the naming of this month in the English language, and although it is the 3rd month of the Gregorian calendar in the early Roman calendar it was the first.
Celebrations at ancient sights continue all around the world with the significance of the solar body and fertilisation of mother earth at their centre.
El Castillo or The Temple of Kulkalkan at Chichen Itza
The Aztecs celebrated as flowers began to bloom by making an offering to Tlaloc, a rain God, signifying the arrival of the first new life to return from the earth. To this day at the ancient site of Chichen Itza, on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, where the Mayans erected a pyramid temple complex in honour of Kukulkan, the plumed serpent, a deity that is closely aligned to the Aztec equivalent, Quetzalcoatl people gather in their many hundreds.
Those who attend witness the movement of the sun as it casts a shadow on the pyramid that resembles a serpent descending the steps of the structure, which itself has the carved head of the snake god at the point where it meets the earth.
Aztec Cuff Links
In Japan cherry blossom festivals take place nationwide from late February to May, but the Spring Equinox is a public holiday in adherence to a fundamental principle of Shinto, that every natural object is possessed of a spiritual force and that this is evident by the onset of growth in nature during Spring.
Such is the significance to human culture of marking the return of life to the earth after the desolation of winter that in some parts of the world it marks the beginning of the year.
One such example is the Persian festival of Nowruz which is celebrated across a vast area from the Balkans in the West to the border with Mongolia in the East.
A traditional preparation for Nowruz involves the growing of Wheatgrass.
With origins in Zoroastrianism, the festival marks the Sun’s crossing of the celestial equator and although it is marked in the Iranian calendar as the 1st day of that nations year, the festival is observed by communities in Russia, Pakistan, India, Israel, Albania, Ukraine, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Iraq, China, Georgia and more as well as by a diaspora of central Asian peoples across the world.
At the ancient site of Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, the Spring Equinox is observed by those adherents to Druidic practice, and others who identify with honouring the divine through natural occurrences and is marked with a sunrise ritual. This is one of the few times that open access is granted to the site for visitors, the others being during similar times such as the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox.
Celtic Cross Silk Tie
Unlike the famous Albion henge which has no specific structural alignment to the suns path, across the Irish sea at Loughcrew in County Meath, at the 5,000 year old site of one of the four main passage tombs in Ireland, there exists a bi-annual solar event worthy of any Indiana Jones discovery.
In fact, it was at around the time of the shooting of the first episode of that movie franchise starring Harrison Ford, when in 1980, Irish-American Martin Brennan established that the Carin T in Carnbane East is aligned to receive the beams of the sun as it rises at the equinox illuminating the passage and the pictograms detailed on the backstone therein.
A similar phenomena can be observed at Brú na Bóinne, also in County Meath and known more commonly as Newgrange, with the sun’s light being cast down the passage at the time of the Winter solstice.
The Passage Tomb at Brú na Bóinne or Newgrange
And finally, in India Sikhs, Jains, Hindus and Newar Buddhists celebrate the festival of Holi.
The festival not only celebrates the purification offered by the returning life to the earth in evidence by the blooming of flowers and budding of trees, but offers the cleansing to those who practice rituals at the Holika Dahan, a bonfire the night prior to Holi where the devil is ritually burned and with him the adherents sin.
Also known as the festival of love, festival of spring and festival of colours, celebrants of Holi the following day will cover each other with brightly coloured powders and dyes and spray one another with water with no one, however low or lofty their status, out of bounds.
Photo by Tom Watkins on Unsplash
As such, Holi is an opportunity to mend broken relationships, to find love, begin new friendships and to let bygones be bygones.