Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Spring Equinox

The vernal (or spring) equinox falls on March 20th this year. On this day the rays of the sun touch directly over the equator. The sun hits perpendicular to the earth’s surface, and this even exposure of sunlight makes the night and the day the same length everywhere. On every other day of the year (except the autumn equinox!) the sun hits the earth at an angle, and this causes the deflection of light to the north or to the south. After the spring equinox, the sun will continue its journey north to the Tropic of Cancer. It will be June Solstice when the suns’ rays touch this invisible line and the start of summer for us northerners.

In the northern hemisphere, March 20th brings spring.

Spring and the spring equinox have long been celebrated as a time of life, renewal, and rebirth. Many religious holidays falling in March and April are associated with the onset of spring. The connotations of spring inspire authors and artists. The title of Rachel Carson’s classic, Silent Spring, hints at the misuse of our planet and the interference with nature’s death/life cycles. Stravinsky’s ballet, Rite of Spring, subtitled Pictures of Pagan Russia, literally caused a riot at its premier in Paris on May 29, 1913 with its unconventional and edgy themes- a celebration of pagan rituals ultimately leading to the sacrifice of a virgin to appease the gods of spring.

Consider the following:
  • Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox.
  • Early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the spring equinox.
  • The rocks of Stonehenge mark the position of the rising sun on the spring equinox.
  • The spring equinox marks the beginning of Nowruz, the Persian New Year
  • Pagans celebrate Ostara, the rites of spring.
  • The ancient Greeks have a deity of spring rites and flowering plants- the god-man Dionysus.

Spring is also a good time for cleaning up. Having a neat house or office area is a great way to create room for spring’s renewing properties. Plus cleaning is an even greater way to find out where you set your tax forms, which is another thing associated with spring. So whether you are looking forward to coloring eggs, planting flowers, figuring out your deductions, or musing over the many meanings of spring, have a wonderful equinox (just, please, don't sacrifice anything).

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