Posts Tagged With: Easter

Celebrating Spring Equinox

Celebrating Spring Equinox

The spring equinox is one of the four great solar festivals of the year. Day and night are equal, poised and balanced, but about to tip over on the side of light. The spring equinox is sacred to dawn, youth, the morning star and the east. The Saxon goddess, Eostre (from whose name we get the direction East and the holiday Easter) is a dawn goddess, like Aurora and Eos. Just as the dawn is the time of new light, so the vernal equinox is the time of new life.

The Coming of the Spring

Although we saw the first promise of spring at Candlemas in the swelling buds, there were still nights of frost and darkness ahead. Now spring is manifest. Demeter is reunited with her daughter, Kore (the essence of spring), who has been in the Underworld for six months and the earth once again teems with life. The month of March contains holidays dedicated to all the great mother goddesses: Astarte, Isis, Aprhrodite, Cybele and the Virgin Mary. The goddess shows herself in the blossoms, the leaves on the trees, the sprouting of the crops, the mating of birds, the birth of young animals. In the agricultural cycle, it is time for planting. We are assured that life will continue.

Gilbert Murray in Five Stages of Greek Religion writes about the passion behind the Greek celebration of Easter:

Anyone who has been in Greece at Easter time, especially among the more remote peasants, must have been struck by the emotion of suspense and excitement, with which they wait for the announcement, “Christos aneste,” “Christ is risen!” and the response “Alethos aneste,” “He has really risen!” [An old peasant woman] explained her anxiety: “If Christ does not rise tomorrow we shall have no harvest this year.” We are evidently in the presence of an emotion and a fear which, beneath its Christian colouring and, so to speak, transfiguration, is in its essence — a relic from a very remote pre-Christian past.

Resurrection from the Dead

Murray then goes on to recount the myths of the Year Gods — Attis, Adonis, Osiris and Dionysus — who like Christ die and are reborn each year. These gods are always the son of a God and a mortal woman. The son is a savior who saves his people in some way, sometimes through sacrifice. He is the vegetation, dying each year (at harvest) to be reborn in the spring.

In ancient Rome, the 10-day rite in honor of Attis, son of the great goddess Cybele, began on March 15th. A pine tree, which represented Attis, was chopped down, wrapped in a linen shroud, decorated with violets and placed in a sepulchre in the temple. On the Day of Blood or Black Friday, the priests of the cult gashed themselves with knives as they danced ecstatically, sympathizing with Cybele in her grief and helping to restore Attis to life. Two days later, a priest opened the sepulchre at dawn, revealing that it was empty and announcing that the god was saved. This day was known as Hilaria or the Day of Joy, a time of feasting and merriment.

Sound familiar? Easter is the Christian version of the same myth. Even the name Easter is stolen. It comes from the Saxon dawn-goddess Eostre, whose festival was celebrated on spring equinox. The date of Easter is still determined by the old moon cycle. It is always the first Sunday on or after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

On Good Friday, Christ is crucified, a willing sacrifice. Altars are stripped, candles extinguished to represent the darkness of the grave. But on Easter, light springs from darkness, Christ rises from the tomb. If you’ve never attended an Easter vigil, I highly recommend it. (I usually go to a Russian or Greek Orthodox church, so I don’t know what the ceremony is like in other Christian churches.) Shortly before midnight all the lights are extinguished and the thronged church is dark and silent. Everyone is holding an unlit candle. The priest lights the Paschal candle, which has been ritually blessed and inscribed with the year. He then lights the candles of those nearby, who light the candles of their neighbors, until the church is ablaze with light and filled with song.

According to my Catholic missal, one of the prayers used during this part of the service (which is called the Service of the Light) goes like this:

We pray you, therefore, O Lord, that this candle, consecrated in honor of your name, may continue endlessly to scatter the darkness of this night. May it be received as a sweet fragrance and mingle with the lights of heaven. May the morning star find its flame burning, that Star which knows no setting, which came back from limbo. Christ is like the morning Star because he descended into Death (the Underworld) and emerged again, like Attis, like Kore, like Inanna and Ishtar.

Eggs and Seeds

Eggs are one of the symbols of this festival since they represent new life and potential. Folklore tells us (combining two themes of the season) (and Donna Henes has demonstrated in public egg-balancing ceremonies in New York City) that eggs balance on their ends most easily at equinox. Z Budapest in Grandmother of Time says that eggs were dyed red (the color of life) on the Festival of Astarte (Mar 17). The beautifully decorated eggs from the Ukraine (pysanky) are covered with magical symbols for protection, fertility, wisdom, strength and other qualities. They are given as gifts and used as charms.

Seeds are like eggs. While eggs contain the promise of new animal life, seeds hold the potential of a new plant. In ancient Italy in the spring, women planted gardens of Adonis. They filled urns with grain seeds, kept the in the dark and watered them every two days. This custom persists in Sicily. Women plant seeds of grains — lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers — in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the gardens are placed on graves on Good Friday. They symbolize the triumph of life over death.

Celebrating

Blend ideas from the many traditions described above to create your own ceremony to honor the spring. Decorate with budding twigs, flowers, willow catkins, sprouting bulbs. Red and green are the colors of this festival. Red represents blood, the blood of sacrifice and life. Green symbolizes the growth of the plants. Honor various spring deities with their flowers: Narcisus and Hyacinth with those blooms, the red anemone for Adonis, violets for Attis, roses and lilies for the goddesses.

This is the traditional time for a great spring feast and the decoration of the table is as important as the food. There are many traditions from which to choose: Nawruz, Passover, Easter, St Joseph’s Day, Maimuna — all are variations on the theme of the spring feast, in which every item is symbolic.

Helen Farias in her seasonal newsletter, Octava, points out that certain foods are associated with springtime festivals: cheese, butter, eggs, pancakes, wheaten cakes, hot cross buns. Since this is a time when young animals are being born, milk is now available for making cheese and butter. In Poland, according to Dorothy Spicer in The Book of Festivals, a little lamb made of butter or sugar is placed in the center of the Easter table, which is laden with food and decorated with eggs, red paper cut-outs and festoons of green. Eggs symbolize new life, of course, and wheaten cakes, grain. In Italy, colored eggs are baked in braided loaves of bread on Easter, combining the two symbols. Hot cross buns, a traditional Easter food, may be very ancient. A wheaten cake marked with a cross was found in Herculaneum, preserved since 79, and may have been used in the spring rites.

Decorating Eggs

This is one of my favorites ways to celebrate spring. I’ve decorated eggs with nail polish, with food coloring and vinegar, with commercial egg dyes and with natural dyes. Pauline Campanelli in The Wheel of the Year describes many natural substances that dye eggs. One of my favorites is boiling a single onion skin with a few eggs to get a soft orange. A handful of onion skins produces rust, a half teaspoon of turmeric gives a sunny yellow and beet juice and vinegar make pink. If you boil eggs with vinegar and several of the outer leaves of cabbage and allow them to cool overnight, the eggs will be a bright robin’s egg blue, but they must be handled carefully since the dye comes off easily.

A few years ago, I finally purchased the appropriate tool, a kitska (I got mine in the art supply department of our local university bookstore), and started making pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs). You place a bit of beeswax in the funnel of the kitska, then melt it over a candle flame and draw on the eggshell. It helps to have a lathe to hold the egg if you want absolutely even lines. Begin with a white egg and put wax on all the areas you want to stay white, then dye the egg yellow and cover all the areas with wax which you want to remain yellow, and so forth through orange, red and a dark color (brown, purple or black). When the egg is done, place it in a low temperature over for a few minutes to melt the wax, which is then rubbed off to reveal the intricate designs and glowing colors of your egg. I love the delicacy of the designs, the smell of the wax and the candle, and the trance-like quality of the whole process.

This is a great project for doing with a group. In the Ukraine, only women created these special eggs and they did so at night, when the children were asleep. If you want to use the eggs as talismans, they should be raw and whole (not blown out). Decorate them with symbols of the qualities you wish for yourself and your family and friends in the coming year. For example, draw sprouting leaves on an egg and bury it in your garden to help stimulate your plants.

Blessing and Planting Seeds

Several years ago, my family celebrated with a very simple but effective ritual, based on the ceremony suggested by Nancy Brady Cunningham in Feeding the Spirit. Each person chose a seed or bulb that was meaningful to them. We blessed the seeds with a prayer from Campanelli: Now is the dark half of the year passing Now do the days grow light and the Earth grows warm I summon the spirit of these seeds Which have slept in darkness Awaken, stir and swell Soon you will be planted in the earth To grow and bring froth new fruit Blessed be! We sat quietly and visualized our plants in full bloom. Then we invoked each of the four elements necessary for the plants’ growth. We placed the seed in a pot of soil and patted down the earth, poured water on it, breathed on it to represent air and held the pot over a candle (or up to the sun, if outside) to represent the element fire (the warmth of the sun).

Add another layer of meaning to this ceremony by choosing seeds which represent the things you want tog row during the new year- — wisdom, understanding, patience, etc. Visualize those qualities coming into full bloom in your life as you plant your seeds.

Sources
Budapest, Zsuzsanna E, The Grandmother of Time, Harper & Row 1989
Campanelli, Pauline, The Wheel of the Year, Llewellyn 1989
Cunningham, Nancy Brady, Feeding the Spirit, Resource Publications 1988 [I believe this is out of print]
Farias, Helen, Octava no longer exists but some of Helen’s writings on seasonal holidays can be found in back issues of The Beltane Papers.
Murray, Gilbert, Five Stages of Greek Religion, Doubleday 1955

Article Taken from

School of the Seasons by Waverly Fitzgerald

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Your Ancient Symbols Card for Feb. 11 is The Western Dragon

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

The Western Dragon

Unlike the beneficent Easter Dragon, The Western Dragon is a symbol of totally unleashed destructive power that is set upon anyone who crosses the Dragon’s path. The Western Dragon also hordes treasures that should rightfully be ours, and whose absence deprives us from being complete. The challenges set  before us by the Western Dragon are truly prodigious, because they denote a force whose sole intent is not simply to keep us from moving forward in our lives, but to usurp all that we have previously gained as well. What is even more disturbing about the force behind the Western Dragon is that it may well indicate primal forces in ourselves so powerful that they do in fact turn us into our own worst enemy.

As a daily card, The Western Dragon is a powerful negative force intent upon thwarting your progress. In such a short time frame it is most likely you’re being undermined by an external force–someone who wants what you have gained or gains your are near realizing. While formidable, this bellicose entity does have vulnerabilities. First, there is nothing subtle about the forces represented by The Western Dragon, so the source will be easy for you to identify. Secondly, The Western Dragon represents undisciplined, primal energies that aren’t easy to control, so they are susceptible to logical responses steeped in self control. In short, don’t panic, act deliberately and decisively, and you will weather this storm.

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Your Ancient Symbol Card for Jan. 16th is The Western Dragon

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

The Western Dragon

Unlike the beneficent Easter Dragon, The Western Dragon is a symbol of totally unleashed destructive power that is set upon anyone who crosses the Dragon’s path. The Western Dragon also hordes treasures that should rightfully be ours, and whose absence deprives us from being complete. The challenges set  before us by the Western Dragon are truly prodigious, because they denote a force whose sole intent is not simply to keep us from moving forward in our lives, but to usurp all that we have previously gained as well. What is even more disturbing about the force behind the Western Dragon is that it may well indicate primal forces in ourselves so powerful that they do in fact turn us into our own worst enemy.

As a daily card, The Western Dragon is a powerful negative force intent upon thwarting your progress. In such a short time frame it is most likely you’re being undermined by an external force–someone who wants what you have gained or gains your are near realizing. While formidable, this bellicose entity does have vulnerabilities. First, there is nothing subtle about the forces represented by The Western Dragon, so the source will be easy for you to identify. Secondly, The Western Dragon represents undisciplined, primal energies that aren’t easy to control, so they are susceptible to logical responses steeped in self control. In short, don’t panic, act deliberately and decisively, and you will weather this storm.

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Monday – The Day of the Moon

MONDAY

The Day of the Moon

monandaeg (Anglo-Saxon)
montag (Germanic)
dies lunae (Latin)
som-var (Hindu)
peer or somwar (Islamic)
lundi (French)
getsu youbi (Japanese

This is traditionally viewed as the second day of the week. Although known as ‘Monandaeg’ by the Angle-Saxons it was also known as ‘the day of the moon’. ‘Black Monday’ was the term given to 14 April 1360 which was an Easter Monday. King Edward III of England had laid siege to Paris but was plagued by the weather as it turned foul and dark.. As a result it is said that many men and their mounts were lost in battle. The fact that this event is said to have occurred on Easter Monday is disputed, being later said to have occurred on the Tuesday, but ever since the Monday after Easter has been given this name. On 25 February 1865 a terrifying wind rose up in Melbourne, Australia coming from the NNW. Devastation hit an immense area of land between Castlemaine and Sandhurst, known after by this name. According to tradition it was believed that there were three specific Mondays of the year that were considered to be unlucky. The first Monday in April, the second in August, and the last in the month of December. It is said that Cain was born on the first Monday in April, and that later it was upon this day that he killed his brother Abel. Sodom and Gommorah was said to be destroyed on the second Monday in August, and that it was upon this day in December that Judas Iscariot was born. According to the English historian Richard Grafton certain dates of the month were unlucky as published in the ‘Manual’ in 1565. Days throughout the year were identified and of course could have related to any day of the week. The date was the most important point to consider. The work was reputed to have some credence with support given by astronomers of the day.

(For more information see Mystical WWW Mystical Time : Mystical Months).

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Your Ancient Symbol Card for December 20 is The Hand

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

The Hand

Although the exact meaning may vary, The Hand is a symbol of some form of personal power in many cultures and religions. The presence of The Hand is an indication that your personal powers are at or near their zenith. The Hand suggest a time when you should leave your mark on the world.

As a daily card, The Hand suggest that now is a time for you to leave your mark on the world. Your unique strengths are heightened to a point where you can not only expect to make substantial progress towards your goals, but enjoy recognition for your efforts as well.

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The Lady’s Prayer

topperdivider

The Lady’s Prayer

Our Mother
Who art here present,
Honored be thy name.
Thy time is come
We shall be One
On Earth, which is our heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And love us in our imperfections
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
For thine is the spirit of the great transformation
Forever and ever.
Amen.

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Your Ancient Symbol Card for Nov. 12 is The Western Dragon

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

The Western Dragon

Unlike the beneficent Easter Dragon, The Western Dragon is a symbol of totally unleashed destructive power that is set upon anyone who crosses the Dragon’s path. The Western Dragon also hordes treasures that should rightfully be ours, and whose absence deprives us from being complete. The challenges set  before us by the Western Dragon are truly prodigious, because they denote a force whose sole intent is not simply to keep us from moving forward in our lives, but to usurp all that we have previously gained as well. What is even more disturbing about the force behind the Western Dragon is that it may well indicate primal forces in ourselves so powerful that they do in fact turn us into our own worst enemy.

As a daily card, The Western Dragon is a powerful negative force intent upon thwarting your progress. In such a short time frame it is most likely you’re being undermined by an external force–someone who wants what you have gained or gains your are near realizing. While formidable, this bellicose entity does have vulnerabilities. First, there is nothing subtle about the forces represented by The Western Dragon, so the source will be easy for you to identify. Secondly, The Western Dragon represents undisciplined, primal energies that aren’t easy to control, so they are susceptible to logical responses steeped in self control. In short, don’t panic, act deliberately and decisively, and you will weather this storm.

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Your Ancient Symbol Card for Nov. 10th is The Western Dragon

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

The Western Dragon

Unlike the beneficent Easter Dragon, The Western Dragon is a symbol of totally unleashed destructive power that is set upon anyone who crosses the Dragon’s path. The Western Dragon also hordes treasures that should rightfully be ours, and whose absence deprives us from being complete. The challenges set  before us by the Western Dragon are truly prodigious, because they denote a force whose sole intent is not simply to keep us from moving forward in our lives, but to usurp all that we have previously gained as well. What is even more disturbing about the force behind the Western Dragon is that it may well indicate primal forces in ourselves so powerful that they do in fact turn us into our own worst enemy.

As a daily card, The Western Dragon is a powerful negative force intent upon thwarting your progress. In such a short time frame it is most likely you’re being undermined by an external force–someone who wants what you have gained or gains your are near realizing. While formidable, this bellicose entity does have vulnerabilities. First, there is nothing subtle about the forces represented by The Western Dragon, so the source will be easy for you to identify. Secondly, The Western Dragon represents undisciplined, primal energies that aren’t easy to control, so they are susceptible to logical responses steeped in self control. In short, don’t panic, act deliberately and decisively, and you will weather this storm.

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