Passing Time: Spring Equinox

Guest Post, · Categories: Passing Time Rituals Series

Spring (Vernal) Equinox, Ostara, Eostre

Welcome to the second article in our rituals series. I went with the modern pagan wheel of the year calendar because several of us are familiar with it and it evenly breaks up the twelve months into manageable chunks of time. There will a mix of spiritual and secular practices and observations for each holiday–I can’t promise ahead of time if any will be weighted more one way or the other, but I’ll do my best to include something for everyone. I’ll post these the Wednesday before the holiday date. Thank you to the contributors! You are invaluable.

From meat_lord:

Happy impending Spring Equinox, Manka-ites! As the vernal equinox approaches on March 20th, I took a look at various holidays that are celebrated at this time of year in order to get inspiration for a secular ritual.

Fertility, new life, and/or renewal are major themes in the month of March, from the neopagan Ostara, to the ancient Roman Liberalia, to Purim’s joyful celebration of survival. The Hindu festival of Holi, Easter (which I admit is a stretch, as it only sometimes falls in March), and the Iranian new year, Nowruz (also spelled Norooz) also fall under this umbrella.

When you compare March equinox festivals around the globe, almost everybody seems to have responded to the sun crossing the equator and the days beginning to lengthen by lighting big-ass bonfires and indulging in desserts and booze. If that’s humanity’s favorite way of celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring in all its fecund glory, who am I to buck that trend? The ritual I’m proposing is intended to tap into that primal exuberance, and to celebrate and encourage abundance of all kinds for the coming twelve months. I recommend throwing a Spring Equinox Shindig.

Gather friends and/or family for a nice meal on the spring equinox. Egg dishes would be particularly appropriate and festive; so would rabbit or lamb. Spring veggies, such as asparagus, would also be great. It doesn’t have to be a fancy meal, but if you have the spoons, money, and cooking chops to prepare a gourmet spread, then so much the better. A potluck would be a fun, communal option as well.

Let the wine—or festive beverages of your choice—flow, and make sure to have plenty of sweet treats available. Consider offering sweet buns for dessert, because this Spring Equinox observance is about aBUNdance. EYYYYY. (In all seriousness, if you want to serve pun buns, more power to you.)

Decorate your party location! Deck your table out with real or faux flowers and greenery, and light some candles as a symbolic springtime bonfire. Or, if you can manage it, go have a real bonfire or campfire—just don’t burn anything down. Make some s’mores. Dance stupidly around your fire with your loved ones. Marvel that human beings ever figured out how to control this extraordinary stuff. Fire looks like magic, y’all.

If your Spring Equinox party attendees have a high tolerance for sincerity, perhaps you can all declare something in your life that you would like to have renewed or some area where you would like to grow. It’s that time of year, after all! (Or at least it is in the Northern Hemisphere.) After a period of dormancy, everything is growing. That includes you and your fellow celebrants.

Everyone who feels comfortable doing so should take turns making a Spring Equinox wish or resolution for renewal and growth, which the other party-goers should acknowledge and validate, perhaps with a toast. Naming the places and ways in which you would like to grow in front of others will feel more ritualistic, official and binding. If you’re setting yourself a goal, making it a group ritual can help keep you from backing out (something many of us probably need help with). Or you can simply wish for good luck in your chosen area, or if you’re religious, you can turn it into a prayer, asking your deity of choice for some help.

One of the things that defines a holiday and creates a sense of ritual importance, in my experience, is community. Group participation makes a special day feel more significant. But if you can’t round up a group of celebrants, here are some solo Spring Equinox options. Additionally, most of the Spring Equinox Shindig suggestions above can be done by yourself.

Wear white for renewal. Or if you’re like me and you destroy any white garment you touch, opt for bright spring colors or a floral print.

Go outside! If you have any chunks of nature available to you, go for a walk or hike, or possibly a picnic in the park. Even five minutes of ambling through some landscaping counts. Observe the signs of spring around you. Smell the air—is there freshly mown grass? The dampness of rain? Are you giving yourself an allergy attack by inhaling pollen? Please don’t do that—take your allergy meds first. Search for new growth. Feel the solidity of dirt under your bare feet, if possible. Give yourself bonus points for spotting any baby rabbits, birds’ nests, etc.  Remember that this—the return of spring—happens every year. The world is vast, incredible, and abundant. As it renews itself, so do you. You are never past the point at which you can change and grow.

From Doc_Paradise:

Today it is sunny and warm outside. Two days ago, it was −18 degrees Celsius. Yesterday, everything was covered in a sheet of slick ice and my mail delivery person was performing “I’m going to die!” pirouettes in my driveway. Today, there are rivers of meltwater in the streets and the smell of spring in the air. Tomorrow, for all I know, the six foot high pile of plowed snow in my front yard may turn into Frosty The Snowman and perform a musical number with the local squirrels dancing a chorus line can-can. (It might happen. I’ll take photos if it does.)

Spring is a weird time. It can’t make up its mind what it wants to be… or perhaps, it knows exactly what it wants to be (Fuck That Winter Shit), but it is a struggle to get there. (We know what that is like, don’t we?) There is no right way to do spring. It’s a transition period that happens whether we want it to hurry up and get to summer or whether we want winter to never end. Change happens. When I was on the east coast, spring was a slow easing into gentle change, green grass and purple crocuses peeping through fresh fallen snow. Here, in Ottawa, spring changes quickly into summer like a superhero answering the call by ripping their mundane clothing off in one sweeping flex of power to reveal candy coloured spandex underneath.

In any case, the transition from Winter to summer is going to happen as surely as the Sun crosses the Earth’s equator. The world outside will change. We will change. Grass will grow. Snow will fall. Sometimes, both at once. In the depth of winter, it can feel like everything is locked in place. I sit in front of my sunlamp, shoot back my vitamin D, and consider how unfortunate it is that humans get depressed instead of hibernating. Today, I went outside and marveled at the sun (not a lamp!), breathed in the blue skies, and considered jumping in a puddle or two (I regret that I didn’t, but I can fix that). I can feel it in my body… change is coming. Predictable and transient. Potentially optimistic. A little bit of weirdness. Worth celebrating.

There are many ways to celebrate (as I’m learning) and many reasons to celebrate (as I’m also learning). On the spring equinox we are celebrating the potential of the future. The potential of change. We can do this fast, or slow.

 The slow way draws on spring as a time of growth. The world is going from white to green, and you can help it along. Gather a few friends to plant seeds and share food. Plant something that produces edibles (like beans or herbs) or flowers (like sunflowers or crocuses). Think about an area in your life that you would like to experience growth. Write that on a small slip of paper. In the pot, along with the soil and seeds, plant the intention.  Seeds take time and care to produce, as do intentions. Care for it as it grows.

The fast way acknowledges spring as a time of potential. Embrace the ridiculous optimism of the season. Make a list of “Ridiculous Unicorn Fancies” that, given unlimited resources, you would want to do. They can be as meaningful or as superficial as you like… but they must be something you would want to do and larger than you could possibly do in a year. Decorate the list (if you want) and post it somewhere you can see it. This isn’t a list of New Year’s resolutions that will produce guilt every time you remember that you broke them. This isn’t about achievement. This is about the process of acknowledging and doing things that matter to us. This is a reminder of dreams, not goals. This list is meant to be too large, too absurd, too ridiculously expansive to complete. Since we aren’t expecting to complete anything on the list, everything we do towards any of the items (even just planning dream castles in the air) is a success. Gold star.

Doc Paradise’s List of Ridiculous Unicorn Fancies

  1. Read ALL the books I’ve collected that I haven’t read yet (but meant to).
  2. Paint a series of oil paintings based on incongruence of body postures and form. Have a showing.
  3. Build a world I can live in. Live in it.
  4. Write 12 book reviews for my site, 12 articles for Manka, AND 12 short stories. Publish them.
  5. Visit whales, up close and personal.
  6. Tattoo at least half of my body (that doesn’t yet have tattoos).
  7. Replace my mundane wardrobe selection with a tickle-trunk of costumes. Wear them.
  8. Create giant stone sculptures of deep sea creatures to lurk in my garden.
  9. Do meaningful work. Change the world.
  10. Build a secret lair.

From Manka:

Go clean your room. Doesn’t matter which room. Doesn’t even need to be an actual room. Got places in your brain that need aired out, too? Throw open those windows, locate your mental scrubbing rags, and get to work.

If you’re working on your physical dwelling, set your intentions and expectations before starting. This is especially important if you don’t regularly surface clean. That isn’t meant a judgement (I haven’t cleaned the downstairs bathroom in three weeks), simply a statement of fact. Have a reasonable expectation of yourself–acknowledge your capabilities and avoid setting an unrealistic goal. It’s perfectly fine to clean just the sink and toilet because you (I) know you (I) don’t have the stamina to tackle the shower. That’s fine! The important part is to clean out at least one thing in your living space. Just one!

Do whatever you can to make cleaning a more fun/less grueling chore. Pick out some good music, pour yourself a little drinkie, indulge in whatever Tom Sawyer-esqe trick you can to convince yourself this is a good time. I’m not asking you to lie to yourself so much as I’m encouraging you to see the situation from a different reality (I’m totally asking you to lie to yourself–fake it ’til you make it, people). Of course this is easier if you are a Monica Geller-type in which case call me please and let’s work something out. Once your house/room/sink is clean, don’t go flop on the couch just yet. Step back and admire it. As we know, cleaning (especially one’s own housecleaning) is undervalued, women’s work. Take some time to tilt things in the opposite direction by going overboard in appreciation of your efforts. Revel in how nice it is to have a clean sink. Congratulate yourself on being the person to improved the sink’s condition. You! You did that! You changed the state of your physical surroundings for the better! You are a god damn rock star.

Emotional/psychological spring cleaning can be a little fraught, so consider if you’re in a safe place to make internal change. If you’re not, be honest about that–don’t set yourself up for failure. If you want to simply meditate on the process of opening yourself up for emotional growth, that’s great! You have to turn up and prep soil before planting, so take advantage of the seasonal energy to open your attitude and start the process of preparing to change before you plant any goals. If you’re up for some mental renovations, though, there’s no time like the present. Is there a habit you’d like to break? A grief you need to process? A grudge that’s only harming you? Find one thing you’d like to clean out of your psyche and get to work. Do some research if necessary and find someone to support you, especially if you’re going to be doing some heavy lifting (like eating disorders, family issues, etc.).

Make any of the above More Witches by incorporating mindfulness/focus elements. Clean the room (scrub the sink) in a mostly widdershins direction. Light a candle (and perhaps some incense) for your clean area. Incorporate a flame, crystal, or water scrying for your meditation (or, if you’re feeling particularly motivated, pick a favorite Death card to focus on). Make a spell pouch with items representative of your mental/emotional goal.

If you’re in a place where any of the above is too taxing, that’s okay. Take some time to just clean yourself. It’s just fine if your spring cleaning can only go so far as your skin.

14 Responses to “Passing Time: Spring Equinox”

  1. jenavira says:

    These are fabulous guys, thank you so much.

  2. Heathered says:

    So good! I'm going to try to sneak some late-breaking intentions into the pot with my tiny nasturtiums-to-be.

  3. CleverManka says:

    I can't tell you how relieved I was that neither of the other contributors went with a spring cleaning theme. BLESS YOU TWO.

    • meat_lord says:

      You can always count on me to not clean/avoid the subject of cleaning 😛

      ETA: That said, I think a cleaning ritual is just what I need psychologically and materially. My apartment is disgusting.

      • CleverManka says:

        I was sad that I couldn't scrounge up the mental energy to create an actual ritual, like, with appropriately-colored candles and crystals and goddesses and all that stuff. I don't practice anymore, but building rituals was My Jam when I did. Maybe before the year's out I'll be able to do that…Positive Thinking.

    • Doc_Paradise says:

      No worries about *that*. 😛

      … And the bunny is adorable.

  4. Fancy_Pants says:

    Ooh I have a lot of feelings about Spring Equinox, so I'm gonna add to this post in a huge comment.

    The first feeling I have is cake. My mother always baked a cake on spring equinox, ostensibly to celebrate the first day of spring. But the deeper truth was that my grandmother's birthday was on the first day of spring, and baking a cake was my mom's way of celebrating her mother's birthday. It was an especially fitting tribute, since my grandmother had a notorious sweet tooth, one of several traits she faithfully passed down to all of her female descendents. I tend to find myself craving sweets on the first day of spring.

    In Nova Scotia, spring is the capricious trickster god of the seasons. We alternate gorgeous, mild sunny days with cold rain from early March to mid June. Spring is more of a roulette table than an actual state of being. But when we get those rare days of true spring, when it's sunny and the wind relents and the temperature edges above 10 degrees, we seize the opportunity. Students climb out their windows to drink beer on their roofs, people sit on their porches and strum acoustic guitars, green spaces are instantly colonized by frisbees, and everyone walks around in short sleeves. Being outside is mandatory–at the very least you have to open up all your windows.

    It's around Equinox that I start feeling like myself again after a long few months of seasonal depression. Everyone rails against daylight savings time, but I love it. Getting that extra hour of light in the evenings is usually a sharp demarcation point between my sad winter self and my happy summer self. It's about this time of year that I remember all the wild things I want to do and start to get frantic about it– I've just wasted MONTHS! Like Doc Paradise said, spring is a time for making list of big dreams.

  5. jennifer says:

    just want to say this post made me want to go home and clean and DO THINGS, and…! and and and also! felt comforting and warm and fuzzy in a weird but not so weird way, speaking as somebody who suddenly finds themselves with a cluttered house, cluttered life, and cluttered brain.

    I even learned a word and what it is.


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