Healthy Living

The Vernal Equinox

The Vernal Equinox

Key Takeaways

  • Human beings have observed the vernal equinox for eons.
  • The name Ostara is among the words used for the vernal equinox celebration on the 21st of March.
  • There are many ways you can celebrate and enjoy the vernal equinox depending on your customs, though it is done to signify the approach of spring and fertility. 

As the Earth goes around the Sun, two moments happen annually whenever the Sun is precisely over the equator. The moments are referred to as equinoxes, and they take place on 20th or 21st of March and the 22nd or 23rd of September. In a literal sense, "equinox" stands for “equal night," because the duration of day and night is about equal throughout the equinoxes.

The vernal equinox occurs as the Northern Hemisphere begins to incline towards the sun, leading to longer and sunnier days. In North Hemisphere, the equinox is referred to as the vernal equinox, since it indicates the start of spring (vernal stands for new or fresh like the spring). The equinox that occurs in September is known as the autumnal equinox, as it indicates the beginning of fall or autumn.

As the hemisphere in the northern part of the Earth starts to incline towards the sun in the spring, the region in the southern part begins to bend off the sun, signifying the beginning of fall. Therefore, the vernal equinox is known as the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere, whereas the September equinox is referred to as the vernal equinox.

Human beings have observed the vernal equinox for many years. The vernal equinox signified to the ancients that food supply would soon return. The Egyptians also made the Great Sphinx face straight towards the Sun at sunrise of the vernal equinox. To the Christians, the vernal equinox is important, since Easter comes on the first Sunday following the first full moon.

If you are observant and a good listener during the vernal equinox, you will probably hear or view individuals discussing the supernatural phenomena that traditionally takes place only on that day. According to legend, the exceptional astronomical attributes of the vernal equinox enable one to balance an egg on one end.

Is there truth to this? No. It is possible to balance eggs on end at any time of the year. It only takes lots of determination and patience. There is no magic involved in the vernal equinox that enables one to balancing an egg on its end.

You may womder how such a widespread myth started. Nobody is certain, but some think that some people from China may have begun the trick of egg balancing on end during the March equinox. 

The celebration of the Vernal Equinox around the World

The arrival of spring has been celebrated globally in many different places for eons. Traditions differ to a large extent from one nation to another. The following are various ways that people in some parts of the globe have observed the vernal season.

-          EGYPT

The festival of Isis festival in ancient Egypt celebrated the spring and new birth. Isis features conspicuously in the resurrection story of her lover, Osiris. Even though the major Isis festival was practiced in the autumn, the folklorist Sir James Frazer states that the people of Egypt also had a festival honoring Isis when the Nile started to rise. The female deity was then grieving for the helpless Osiris, and her tears caused the river to swell.

-          IRAN

In Iran, the No Ruz festival starts briefly ahead of the March equinox. "No Ruz" means "a new day", and it is the time of hope and rebirth. In general, a lot of cleaning is carried out, old, broken objects are fixed, home repainting is done, and new flowers are picked and exhibited within a building. The New Year in Iran starts on the equinoctial day, and people usually celebrate by going for a picnic or doing something with the people they love. No Ruz is rooted deeply in the Zoroastrianism faith, which was the dominant religion in old Persia before Islam came.

-          IRELAND

St. Patrick's Day is annually celebrated on March 17 in Ireland. Patrick is acknowledged as Ireland’s symbol, especially around March. Among the grounds as to why he is widely known is simply that he cleared the snakes from Ireland, and was also accredited with a miracle due to this. Many people do not understand that the snake was in reality a metaphor for the former pagan beliefs of Ireland.

St. Patrick introduced Christianity to the Emerald Isle and performed so well that he got rid of almost all of pagan religion from the nation.

-          ITALY

The Cybele feast was important to the ancient Romans. The mother goddess Cybele was at the center of the Phrygian fertility cult, and the eunuch priests executed mystical rituals in her honor.

She fell in love with the mortal Attis (who was also her grandson) and, out of her insane jealousy over his love for another mortal woman, drove him to commit suicide after castrating himself. The first violets were a result of his blood, and Zeus intervened and helped Cybele resurrect Attis. Today, some areas still hold a yearly celebration of Cybele's power and the rebirth of Attis. It is referred to as the Hilaria and celebrated from the 15th to the 28th of March.

-          JUDAISM

One of the biggest festivals of Judaism is Passover, which starts on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It is a festival that marks the pilgrim’s journey and the Jews' exodus from Egypt after many years of slavery. A feast, named the Seder, is shared, and it is ended with the Jews’ story of coming out from Egypt, and recitations from an extraordinary prayer book. An element of the Passover tradition involves a thorough spring cleaning, going through the household from top to bottom.

-          RUSSIA

In Russia, the celebration of Maslenitsa honors the return of light and the time of warmth. The folk festival is observed approximately seven weeks ahead of Easter. During the Lenten period, fish, meat, and dairy products are not allowed. Maslenitsa is the final opportunity for anybody to enjoy those for some time. So, it is a famous festival held ahead of the somber, introspective Lenten season.

A straw effigy of the lady of Maslenitsa is burnt in a bonfire. The leftover pancakes and blintzes are also thrown in, and the ashes are dispersed in the flatlands to enrich the crops of that year.

-          SCOTLAND (LANARK)

In Lanark, Scotland, the season of spring is received with Whuppity Scoorie, done on the 1st of March. Children gather at a local church for the sunrise, and they run around the church as the sun rises, swinging paper balls over their heads. During the closing of the third and last lap, the kids collect the coins cast by the Community Council, which hosts the event. There is a narrative that this phenomenon started many years ago in the river of Clyde as a form of punishment for the mischief-makers. It seems to be unique to Lanark and does not appear to be celebrated in any other place in Scotland.

Various way of celebrating the Vernal Equinox

1.    Balance an Egg on End

Eggs are frequently linked to the Vernal Equinox due to their representation of fertility and birth, and the traditional story that an egg can be balanced on its end only on that day. If you are too busy that day to try it, don't worry: It takes exercise, but eggs can be balanced just as easily on any day of the year.

2.    Honour the Greek God Dionysus

Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility, theater, wine, poetry, and flowering plants is frequently linked to phalluses and bread (due to the ritual foods which entail bread and wine consumption). To observe the approach of spring, contemporary pagans lay out tables loaded with wine, blossoms, and phallic symbols made of food.

3.   Have a New Year Celebration

Countries such as Iran, Turkey, and India among a number of Asian nations that celebrate the dawn of the New Year on the March equinox, normally in observance of Nowruz (which stands for "a new day" in Iranian). Religions such as the Bahá'í faith adhere to the holy day as well.

4.   Take an excursion to Mexico

In Mexico, you will get ChichénItzá (one of the world’s seven wonders) and the old Mayan pyramid, known as El Castillo, where the unique Sun Serpent return takes place on the northerly balustrade on each equinox.

5.    Hold a Family Reunion

This is referred to as Shunbun no hi in Japanese. Most people in Japan celebrate the vernal equinox week by visiting their towns, spending time with the family members, and looking after their ancestors' graves.

6.    Narrate a Story

World Storytelling Day is marked on the 20th of March in the north hemisphere (the southern one observes the day for the autumn equinox); this is the perfect opportunity to share great stories of your childhood, family, or about that year’s particular theme.

7.    Offer some love to your Mother

Most of the Middle Eastern nations such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria observe Mother’s Day on the same day as the equinox. Regardless of whether you stay somewhere else, your mother would surely be very happy to hear from you on this day.

8.    You may want to visit Stonehenge

During the summer and winter solstices as well as autumn and spring equinoxes, visitors who want to watch the sun rise over the stones are allowed to visit the Stonehenge.

9.    Comprehend the reason behind the Easter Bunny Laying Eggs

It results from the tale of the ancient Saxons concerning their lunar deity, Eostre. One narrative broadly states that Eostre encountered a bruised bird and changed her form into a rabbit to preserve its life. The transformation did not end there, and in appreciation for delivering her, the rabbit laid eggs and embellished them as presents to Eostre (or alternatively, the hare discovered the egg and adorned it for the deity). Most probably, the rabbit and eggs were both viewed as fertility symbols, and Eostre was symbolizing spring and fertility. Parts of the myth were assimilated into modern Easter festivities since both festivals took place in the same period.

The History of Ostara - The Vernal Equinox

Many holidays and many names

The name Ostara is among the words used for the Vernal equinox celebration on the 21st of March. The Venerable Bede stated that the name comes from Eostre, spring’s Germanic goddess. It is as well the same period as the Easter celebration of the Christians, and in the Jewish faith, Passover also happens. For pagans in the Germanic nations, it was the moment to observe planting and the recent crop season of the year.

The Celtic people did not celebrate Ostara as a holiday, though they were in harmony with the season’s transition.

The beginning of a new day

The Persian king's dynasty referred to as the Achaemenians observed the March equinox with the No Ruz – a festival whose name simply means "new day." During this time, people celebrated renewal and hope. It is still celebrated nowadays in most of the Persian nations. It originated from Zoroastrianism. A festival that is known as the Chahar-Shanbeh Suri in Iran happens right before the beginning of the No Ruz, and individuals sanctify their homesteads and jump over fires to start off the No Ruz celebration, which takes place for 13 days.

Fertility and seeding

The March equinox is the season for fertility and seeding and therefore, nature's productivity is heightened. In Europe, ancient societies viewed the March Hare as a great fertility symbol -- this is a rabbit species that is active at night for most of the year, although when the copulating season starts, bunnies are everywhere the whole day.

The Mithras legends

The Roman god’s story, Mithras, is the same as the narrative of Jesus Christ and the resurrection. Mithras was brought into existence during the winter solstice and rose in the spring, and assisted his followers to rise to the kingdom of light following death. According to one fable, Mithras, who was perceived with huge favor among the Roman military members, was ordained by the Sun to bring forward a white bull as sacrifice. He obeyed with reluctance, but a miracle happened when he inserted his knife into the creature's body. The bull became a moon, and the cloak of Mithras became the night sky. The place where the blood of the bull fell grew flowers, and the grain stalks germinated from the tail.

Modern celebrations

It is the best time of the year to begin planting your seeds. If you want to grow a garden of herbs, start preparing the soil for later spring farming. Observe the balance of light and dark as the reappearance of new growth approaches.

Most modern pagans celebrate Ostara as the period of reclamation and rebirth. Rest for some time from modern life and observe all that happens around you in nature – go to a park, lie on the grass, walk through a forest. While doing so, celebrate every new thing you see happening around you – the appearance of flowers, plants, insects, and birds. Reflect on the ever-proceeding wheel of the year, and observe the season's changes.

Rituals and Ceremonies

There are many ways you can celebrate and enjoy the vernal equinox depending on your customs, though it is done to signify the approach of spring and fertility. By viewing the changes in agriculture such as the warming of the ground and the growth of plants you can think of your own personal ways to welcome spring.