Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Equinox

As mentioned in a list of the eight Sabbats, the Spring Equinox is today. There are many different ways to celebrate, depending on your religion.

Personally, if it's not still winter here in Montana, I take a walk and enjoy the smell of new life that is distinctive after a long, bitter winter. The days are getting noticeably longer (even without the irritating time change) and I'm even able to open a window and let some fresh air inside my apartment.

This is one of two days in the year when the amount of daylight is the same as the amount of darkness. Ancient people in the modern day countries of Germany, Poland, Russia, Norway, Sweden, etc. noticed this and made a special day for it.

The term Ostara is a modification of the name of the Goddess Eostar, who was a patron of spring. She is most often seen as an older maiden or young mother figure, wearing white. Bonfires were a frequent part of the celebration of this holiday.

Pagans share a celebration of the theme of death and rebirth with the Christian Easter (guess where they got that name, by the way). Ancient Pagans who worshiped Cybele held a ritual for her consort, Attis. He was believed to die and be reborn at this time during the spring.

Another ancient story is also a Greek one. Demeter, who was responsible for the harvest and the change of the seasons, never allowed a season of death (winter). Then her daughter, the personification of Spring itself, was kidnapped by Hades to be his wife. In her grief, she ignored her duties and the first winter arrived in Greece. Zeus was uncharacteristically worried about the mortals and animals, and forced Hades to return Persephone. But, before he returned Persephone to Demeter, Hades tricked the young Goddess into eating food of the afterlife. Eating this food meant she was forced to live with Hades. Hermes, however, found a loophole. Since Persephone only ate half of the fruit, she was only required to live with Hades six months out of the year. The Spring Equinox is when Persephone returns to Demeter, resulting in Demeter returning to her duties and bringing Spring back to the world.

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