Saturday, 21 March 2009

Vernal equinox

Friday, 21st March, was the vernal equinox - the first of two times in a year that day and night are of equal length (the second, autumn equinox, falls on 22nd September).

To people today, this means a couple of things. Firstly - as you've probably noticed - days are getting longer; the sun is setting later in the evening. The light of daytime will increase until summer solstice, when lots of pagan folk will head for Stonehenge and watch the sun rise on the longest day of the year.

The vernal equinox also means the beginning of spring and the countdown to summer. In three months, midsummer's day will knock on the door. Three months later, we'll pass the tipping point of light to dark, where winter and Christmas will seem imminent (this is also due to Tesco, who start Christmas around summer solstice).

But what about the moon?

As I've mentioned before, the dates of Easter rely on the full-moon. Christians celebrate this period as the time of rebirth, due to Jesus Christ and his unfortunate run-in with the Romans - and subsequent resurrection. Paganism, as the forerunner to Christianity, likes to think of this time as Nature's rebirth: spring, the rejuvenation of the earth, wildlife, insects, flowers, rivers, trees; and the triumph of the light of summer over the darkness of winter, of the sun god over the skies.

Pagans worship the moon as a goddess and see the time of the full-moon as one of "abundance, ripening and completeness - fertile and shining with the full power of feminine secrets and mysteries" (new-age.co.uk). The full-moon and the spring equinox are entwined by nature's rebirth. This relationship lives on in what we see around us but also in the major religions of the world and their celebrations. Whether it's Christ rising from the empty tomb or a daffodil rising from the soil, spring sparks life from lifelessness and death.

Here's a little piece of history. At school, I created the polystyrene cut-outs of the sun and moon you can see here. These were set to create the molds and then a long, complicated process took place before one day this marble-effect floor pattern appeared in the Abbey Gardens of Waltham Abbey. You can see how I depicted the moon as lunate, sharing space equally with the sun. Of course at the time I imagined in ten years I'd be writing a blog about the vernal equinox. First, I had to imagine 'blogging', name it and understand its potential to reinvent the diary. Then I cut out the mold.

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