Well, the vernal equinox, and the pagan festival of Ostara or Eostre, has come and gone, and according to the media, we’re now officially in spring.
Which is nice.
Although it does raise the question of what’s been going on since Imbolc, when winter ended.
Still, it’s heartening to see that the Telegraph treated the subject reasonably. Reporting, as the papers fitfully do, on the observance of the equinox at Stonehenge by “[d]ruids, pagans and revellers”, it manages not to jeer, as Certain Papers would generally do, but simply explains the significance of the astronomical event and how it forms the root of numerous cultures’ springtime rites “including Easter, Passover and Nowruz, the Persian New Year”, as well as that of modern British pagans, druids and related communities.
Although, speaking of Certain Papers, the Daily Mail – usually an unfailing source of scorn when pagan festivals come round – has thankfully chosen to remain silent this time. Presumably it’s busy demonising other people at the moment. I’m sure normal service will be resumed by Midsummer.
Other news sources treated the equinox from different cultural angles. The Ilford Recorder reported on the activity of the Zoroastrian and Baha’i communities in Redbridge as they prepared for Nowruz, while the Guardian’s Iranian section covered some of the traditions observed in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Here in the UK, our Christian friends are preparing to celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion, which falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox. The Jewish faith celebrates Passover at around this time, and numerous other rituals and observances in cultures around the world serve to assure us that, despite how winter might have led us to doubt it, the wheel is still turning, and life will return to the world. Lengthening days and warmer weather (although not straight away, if the thickness of frost on my car this morning is anything to go by) mean we’re heading determinedly into the Light Half of the year. The long, cold nights retreat – at least for a while.
And what does all this mean? It means it’ll soon be time for holidays, festivals, events and camps and all manner of other awesomeness. Enjoy yourselves. And don’t forget: we want pictures (within reason).
PS: One interesting idea the Telegraph came up with in its article this time is the notion that “The goddess [Eostre or Ostara] is symbolised by eggs, representing new life, and rabbits or hares, for fertility. The name is also the root of the term given to the female hormone oestrogen.”[link]
It’s a lovely thought, but it’s not true: oestrogen literally means something that produces (-gen, as in ‘generate’) oestrus – the name given to the recurring fertility and, erm… how can we put it? The enthusiasm for mating, let’s say, in female mammals. And the word oestrus itself is Latin, and means ‘passion’. It does, strangely enough, share a root with ‘irate’ and ‘ire’ which we use to mean a ‘passion’ of anger. Eostre, on the other hand, is thought to come from the Proto-Indo-European root ‘aus-‘, which means ‘shining’, and may originally have referred to a goddess of dawn.