Spring is here!
This sun is coming! The sun is coming!! We made it out of the coldest winter in generations and have finally reached the first day of Spring. Saturday March 20th at 4:37 am CST is the Spring Equinox to be exact. At the time of this writing, in Houston, this thought brings tears of joy.
What is it
The Spring, or Vernal, equinox is the astronomical beginning of Spring. It is the tilting point between the cold darkness of winter and the hot sunny summer. From this day forward, for us in the Northern Hemisphere, the days get longer and the nights get shorter. It is our turn to get the lion's share of the sunshine.
The ancients kept track of the sun and its path much closer than we do today. To see this, head down to Mexico to visit the Mayan marvel Chichen Itza on the Vernal equinox to see the light show. During the spring equinox the sun shines on the pyramid and appears to be the Mayan god Kukulkan slithering back down to the Earth. Kukulkan is a feathered serpent god and may be the same deity as the Aztec Quetzalcoatl.
The Great Sphinx in Egypt is another monument built with the vernal equinox in mind. It faces the rising sun on the Spring Equinox.
But what about the Pagans?
You can’t talk about a solstice or equinox without having a conversation about the Pagans. To the Pagans the vernal equinox is Ostara. Ostara is one of eight neo-pagan sabbats that make up the Wheel of the Year. The main focus of Ostara is renewal and fertility.
Ostara is most likely an ancient Celtic holiday that honors Eostra. She is the goddess of dawn and fertility. Eostera is closely associated with the hare. I know you can see where this is going. True, the Easter Rabbit, and eggs associated with Easter come from the pagan celebrations of Eostra. That, however, is an article for another month. For now, let's stick to the spring equinox and what it means for us.
What it means for us
Mother nature is beginning to wake up after her winter hibernation. It is time to start your seeds, plant your plants, mulch your beds, and fill your bird feeders.
Start Your Seeds
Very early spring is a good time to start some plants from seeds. Vegetables are pretty agreeable. We have domesticated them for centuries after all. Starting herbs from seeds can be a little trickier. Many need additional coaxing to germinate. Make sure to follow any special instructions that come with these guys. The payoff is worth the extra effort.
Plant Your Plants
Most herbs are very happy going in the ground as seedlings or transplants in March. Basil, rosemary, oregano, sage, and thyme all do well in the warmer South during March. Vegetables that are good to plant now inclusive broccoli, cauliflower, summer squashes, and tomatoes. It is also melon planting time, so get your cantaloupe, and watermelons ready.
Fill Your Feeders
I know there has been an increase of activity from our feathered friends already. There have even been hummingbird sightings in Houston. Check out their migration path!
The best food for hummingbirds is nectar from flowering plants. Hummingbird feeders can provide supplemental nutrition to them during their migration. These feeders are very important this year. Many flowering plants may be behind their normal schedule due to the late hard freeze we had.
Six Springtime Trivia tidbits
1) The increasing sunlight is what causes birds to sing.
2) The March full moon is the Worm moon because this is the time worms and grubs begin to reappear.
3) Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
4) Every year in Poland, on the first day of spring, people burn an effigy and throw it in the river to bid winter farewell. An effigy sounds like a good call this spring!
5) Spring was first called Lent. After that it was springing-time in reference to plants springing from the ground.
6) Spring has come because Persephone returned from the underworld to her mother Demeter.
It has been a long, hard, winter in every sense of the word. Many people have experienced unprecedented darkness and loss this winter season. May this Ostera bring us all renewal, and warmth for mind, body, and soul.