Lu Garner shares her love of Spring and takes a look at the Spring Equinox, a festival of balance and potential.
Ever find yourself swamped by the minutiae of daily life and wishing you were lighter, angelic even? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to skip this phase and just become an angel right now? I have always fancied floating around in the ether lending a helping hand here and there. But then I have long been obsessed with the concept of angels. So many of the books and films I have seen about angels seem to suggest that they might actually envy us; specifically, the human ability to feel.
We are sensual beings – we would do well to remember the enormous gift that embodiment is. What better time to honour the joy of our senses than at spring time, as the world around us is overtly shifting from resting quiet to burgeoning growth.
Spring Equinox (around March twentieth to twenty-third depending on the year; it is on the twentieth in 2005) is the Celtic earth festival marking the moment when the day and night are of equal length. Ever since the Winter Solstice in December, the power of the sun has gradually been growing through the long dark winter until the Spring Equinox when light and dark are evenly balanced. From Spring Equinox onwards the light will continue to grow until we reach Summer Solstice which marks the longest day of the year. After this the sun’s power will wane through to the Autumnal Equinox where once again day and night are of exactly equal length. The sun then tracks its’ descent as winter bites hard, and light is at its’ weakest, with the days growing shorter and the nights longer, until once more we arrive at Winter Solstice, heralding the beginning of the return of the sun.
And so the cycle wraps itself around the earth again and again through the years. Marking the old pagan festivals can give us a moment to take stock in our own lives, to link into the energy present on the earth at this time and find ways to align with that energy to enhance our lives, our goals and our dreams. As a busy woman – mother, partner, worker, writer, dancer, dreamer – I deeply appreciate these moments in the calendar which prod me into stillness and contemplation of my life.
Before I sat down to write this today, I took a walk in the field and wood where my home sits. This is where the inspiration for the theme of this piece came from. I was overwhelmed by my senses as I walked, as I smelt, as I touched, as I tasted, as I heard and as I saw the marvels of spring appearing all around me. The first thing to awaken my sense of awe was the first buttercup I’d seen this year. Bright, brave yellow thing, waving, “Hello – wake up, look at me !” And awaken I did, to taste the lightening energies on the air, and the fresh sparkling smell on that sharp easterly breeze with its promise of the warmth to come. What other delights were in store for me? With a new spring in my step I ventured into the wood where leaves were unfurling from tight buds before my very eyes, birds chattering busily to each other as they went about their home-building.
I greeted a number of trees individually; we have a Celtic wheel of the year with thirteen trees, each representing a lunar month. Paying special attention to the alder, which is linked to Spring Equinox, I was in awe at the fullness of its catkins – some red, some yellow. As I reached to touch them, I realised the yellow was its load of pollen ready to release its procreative energies to the wind – or my hand! Precious substance indeed, I took the chance to anoint each of my chakras and give thanks for the abundance of nature all around me.
Lucky enough to spot a spring bubbling, I marvelled at the sheer power emerging from the ground and cascading forth down the bank. I made sure to take my gloves off to greet this earth wonder fully, with a sip to complete the communion. Eager now to seek out further evidence of the burgeoning of the earth, I found the first signs of wild garlic poking sharp blades through and three tiny, palest yellow primroses. But it was the daisy and its brother dandelion that made me laugh aloud at their audacity. I brought them home to grace an altar – to remind me in the dark of a cold evening, what miracle abounds on the ground.
Working as a celebrant, crafting ceremonies with groups of people all over the country, I am always carrying the message that ceremony is whatever we want it to be – once we find or make ourselves a sacred space, anything goes. My thirty minute walk today became a ritual to celebrate spring and my place within it – effortlessly, with the only prerequisite being my willingness to be open to the moment and whatever it might bring to me. I didn’t set out with the intention to create a spontaneous ritual – I just wanted to exercise my body before engaging my mind – but that bright cheeky buttercup awakened my senses to the magic unfolding from the very earth on which I was walking. Awe arrived and I was undone, thank the goddess.
Allow your own ritual to unfold: wherever, whenever; alone, with the children, with a lover, with dozens of family or friends. All that matters is the intention to truly connect to the time and place we find ourselves in today, paying attention to the natural energies surrounding us and reflecting on where that energy sits in our own selves.
Spring Equinox is a festival of balance and potential; we can look at what we want to release from the long dark time, along with the plans we want to bring alive in the coming of the light. Honour the counterpoint between light and dark, male and female, inner and outer, receptive and active, and conscious and unconscious. Bring forth wholeness into right action, felt deep in the heart. Emerge from the time of hibernation and inner focus to celebrate together the swelling forces in our lives. Eostre, ancient goddess of fertility, is an icon for this time (ever wondered where the word Easter comes from?) What do you want to gestate this season? What seeds do you want to germinate into life?
Buying chocolate eggs at Easter time is our modern version of an ancient tradition to celebrate fertility, and give thanks for the gifts our lives have given birth to. Reclaim your right to celebrate old style, shrug off the materialistic urge and try some of the ideas for the Spring Equinox/Aostara time this year.
- Dye hard-boiled eggs and roll in races down a slope.
- Take a picnic to the top of a hill and fly kites.
- Paint prayer flags or draw messages of hope on ribbons. Dance a dragon procession and plant your prayers somewhere special.
- Make well dressings. Press wet clay onto boards, mark your design with berries, stones, petals, lentils and sticks. Bestow your blessing on some water – a stream, a spring, a well, even your outside tap!
- Plant some seeds or bulbs or trees with that special intention you hold dear and watch them grow as your dreams come true.
- Process to a local alder tree, banging drums and ringing bells to announce the arrival of spring. Greet the catkins gently and anoint each other with the pollen, speaking out wishes as you go.
- Sing the chant, “She changes everything she touches, And everything she touches, changes”.
- Run wild like Mad March Hares.
- Build an obstacle course to reflect the metaphorical journey of overcoming challenges to meet our true potential.
- Use green and yellow on your altars.
- Stand in a circle and make a sound bath. All breathe slowly and deeply and let your own personal sound emerge, keep breathing into it, getting louder and bolder until the cone of power has been raised (you can feel it buzzing all around you), then allow the sounds to gradually quieten. Share a cup of punch/water/wine as you speak out your goals.
- Sew flower fairies. Weave simple bodies out of pipe cleaners,twist on a large wooden bead for the head, fashion clothing from pieces of felt (sew or glue) using the right colours for snowdrops, crocus, daffodil and violet.
- Play on a seesaw.
- Write your intention on a scroll. Use beautiful paper, decorate it with petals or glitter and tie with a special ribbon. If you are with a group, put all the scrolls together in the centre in a cauldron to energise them.
- Take a dead leaf, imbue it with what you want to release, and burn it on the fire.
- Take a walk and witness the world around you with your five senses. Anoint yourself with each piece of nature that speaks to you on your journey.
Lu Garner lives in a rural community in Derbyshire. She has two daughters aged 10 and 14. She works freelance as a celebrant nationwide, helping people to make their own ceremonies.
Illustration by Glennie Kindred
This feature is published in JUNO Spring 2005. Find out more about JUNO Magazine back issues here.