Today is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hempisphere, the day when the days are the same length as the nights. From this day on, until the fall equinox, the days will be longer than the nights. This is the bright time of the year.
Many Pagans call this day “Ostara”, which derives from the name of a Germanic goddess of the spring, Eostar or Eostre, the same word from which Christians get “Easter”, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the New Moon after the Spring Equinox. In the Christian tradition, this is the season of Christ’s resurrection. All around us nature is experiencing a resurrection as well.
In ancient pagan traditions, there are many stories of dying and rising gods and goddesses. This is the time when Neo-Pagans celebrate the triumph of the god of the sun over is dark twin and the powers of darkness and the return of the spring goddess from the underworld. Now is the time we celebrate green life surging upward from the dark earth, just as the goddess Persephone returned to the arms of her mother Demeter, from the underworld where she had been kidnapped by Hades, and just as the goddess Ishtar rose from the underworld with her lover Tammuz, whom she had rescued from her sister, the queen of death.
Pagan author and elder, Starhawk, writes about this time of the year:
“This is the time of spring’s return, the joyful time, the seed time, when life bursts forth from the earth and the chains of winter are broken. It is a time of balance, when light and dark are equal, when all the elements within must be brought into new harmony. The Prince of the Sun reaches out His hand, and the Maiden Goddess returns from the dark underworlds, cloaked in fresh rain. Where they dance, wild flowers appear, despair turns to hope, sorrow turns to joy, and scarcity turns to abundance.”
“The equinoxes represent the idea that balance is not static but flowing, especially when considered as a pair. The primary difference between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes is their valence, their charge, their spin. As the sun passes through the equatorial plane in March, the Northern Hemisphere moves into the light half of the year, while the Southern Hemisphere moves into the dark half. The equinoxes are not static dead-ends but transitional moments, tipping points. As such, the equinoxes provide an opportunity for making changes in one’s life.”
“Feel the balance in this moment — Earth as She is poised in relationship with the Sun. Feel for your own balance of light and dark within — this fertile balance of tensions. Breathe into it. Breathe in the light, swell with it, let your breath go into the dark, stay with it. Shift on your feet, from left to right, feel your centre … breathe it in.
“In our part of the Earth, the balance is about to tip into the light. Feel the shift within you, see in your mind’s eye the energy ahead, the light expanding. Feel the warmth of it. Breathe it in.”
“As I stand here on this celebration of Ostara, the vernal equinox, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn. As my ancestors did in times before and my descendants may do in time to come, I honour the old ways. As the dark half of the year comes to a close at this time and nature shifts, the day and night are of equal length and balanced. From now on the sun triumphs over the darkness, bringing warmth and energy as we head towards summer. This is the time of Alban Eiler, the Light of the Earth, a feast to celebrate the renewal of life. The birds return from the southern lands bearing spring time beneath their wings. Nature has awoken, seeds are sprouting, tree buds are bursting, daffodils and flowers are blossoming, and birds and animals are preparing to have their young. I rejoice in the renewal of life.”
For Jon Cleland Host, the spring equinox “corresponds to the energy and happiness of young children, when lives begin to take visible shape.” On the Naturalistic Paganism discussion group, he provides a method for coloring eggs with natural dyes, and suggests making equinox cookies – half dark, half light. (See the group’s files section for details.)