A Little History – The Vernal Equinox

March Hare

A Little History

The Vernal Equinox

In some magickal traditions, this is the start of the new year. The Roman year, for example, began the fifteenth of March (the Ides of March). Also, the astrological year begins on the vernal equinox, when the sun enters the astrological sign of Aries the Ram.

The word vernal is Latin and means “spring,” while the word equinox actually comes from the Latin word aequinoctium, which means “equal night.” Once again, our daylight and nighttime hours are fairly equal. When the sun crosses over the earth’s equator, this moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. At the spring equinox we celebrate the midpoint of winter changeably. The Anglo-Saxons hailed Eostre as the Maiden Goddess of spring. Some say that her name means “moving with the waxing sun.” Eostre (Old English) and Ostara (Old High German) are both the names of this goddess of the dawn and spring.

Her name was taken for the Christian celebration of Easter, probably due to the fact that in Germanic traditions, the month of April is called Eostur monath (Eostre’s month). Back in 1882, Jacob Grimm had this to say about the goddess Ostara. Check out this interesting quote from his book Teutonic Mythology:

This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.

Eostre, the goddess of spring, was once offered cakes and colored eggs at the equinox. The hare was sacred to her, as is the white rabbit. In many other mythologies, a white animal such as a deer or a horse is often considered a sign of divinity, and it is sacred. Some scholars consider Eostre to be a Maiden Goddess of the east and the dawn, similar to the goddess Eos, who is the Greek Maiden Goddess of the sunrise. Isn’t it interesting how these different deities from different cultures have so many similarities? Also, in my opinion, having Eostre associated with both the spring and the sunrise makes sense, as on the day of the vernal equinox the sun rises at true east.

This sabbat honors the fecundity of the land, the sprouting of the seeds within the earth, and the coming of spring’s warmth and light from the sun. This time of year is all about balance, renewal, and rebirth. It’s a fantastic occasion for new beginnings, starting new projects, clearing out the old to make room for the new, and embracing a fresh start.

Eventually the snow and ice will thaw and melt, and things will be muddy and sloppy for a while. This, too, passes as nature puts all that moisture to good use and it nourishes the plants. To survive the thaw and reblooming of spring, all plants and wildlife have to be hardy and strong. Spring is a season of dramatic change. Even though folks like to romanticize it and say how soft and pretty it is, often the fiercest winter storms happen now. Spring is a brutal season. Only the hardiest of early spring plants endure the wild weather, temperature swings, and severe storms. It is both a challenge and a test of faith to thrive in this season, but spring is all about faith, strength, birth, and growth.


–Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch
Ellen Dugan