Yes, spring—and all its florid, hormonal charges—is in the air.
The vernal, or spring equinox, on March 20, is basically an astronomical phenomenon, occurring when the sun is at its zenith above the equator. At that instant, the tilt of Earth’s axis neither inclines away from nor toward the Sun. On the day of the equinox, the center of the Sun roughly spends an equal amount of time above and below the horizon, so that night and day are about the same length. The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus(equal) and nox (night).
Science aside, it’s also considered a powerful time of regrowth and renewal—and it has been since the dawn of recorded history. Many early peoples celebrated for the basic reason that their food supplies would soon be restored. The monoliths at Stonehenge mark the position of the rising sun on the vernal equinox. Early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it pointed directly toward the rising sun on that day. (Some view this transition as a victory of a god of light/life/rebirth/resurrection over the powers of darkness and death.)
Rituals honoring the equinox have varied from culture to culture, but all involved fertility and rebirth. In India, it was once believed that a fertile marriage would result if virgins were first deflowered by means of the lingam, a stone phallus symbolizing the god Shiva. In Rome, the equinox was marked by sacrifices to celebrate the death and rebirth of Attis, the god of vegetation. Goddesses of fertility—the Greeks’ Aphrodite, the Native Americans’ Spider Woman, Mexico’s Tonantizin, Africa’s Oshun, Northern Europe’s Freya, and Rome’s Flora—were all honored in the spring.
Rituals used in Europe of recent centuries to enhance a woman’s chances of conception included drinking potions of powdered hare’s womb, or sparrow’s brain, by wearing amulets of lodestone or quail’s heart, or by simply walking in the shadow of a “lusty” woman.
Spring fever indeed.
The vernal equinox is also significant in Christianity because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox. Amusingly, our Easter traditions were wrought from pagan rituals. The egg, rabbits, even egg coloring, were all ways of inviting fertility and renewal.
But the equinox is no longer recognized as an important celebration, save perhaps by Wiccans, who create altars, burn herbs, and chant to the Goddess. As E.B. White wrote in 1944, “The first day of spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for nature to follow. Now we just set the clocks an hour ahead and change the oil in the crankcase.”
And this is a loss, as the onset of spring can resonate powerfully on a spiritual level. It’s a time of renewal and rebirth, a time of transition when the soul lets go of the old and plants symbolic new seeds. The soul awakens from its sleepy (even depressed) state of winter and seeks nourishment on many levels. The warmth of the sun awakens something within us, and a new quest generally begins, as if by synchronicity. More hours of daylight propel most souls to move forward, to make needed changes.
Seattle-based progressive astrologer Steven Shroyer writes in his blog that the power of the spring equinox is the flipping of the dominance of darkness to the dominance of light. “One of the important aspects of light is that it supports individualised growth. Light illuminates so that each person can see their own path in the world.”
For many, the cosmic reboot of the spring equinox translates to a desire not only for new experience, but for love with a capital L. More than any other time in the year (other than, perhaps, New Year’s Eve) singles begin to feel restless to connect. According to a poll done by Sparkology.com, an online dating website for young professionals, 81 percent date more often in the spring. And given a cosmic climate that fosters new beginnings, make the most of it.
Consider writing down your wish list for love. Make a list of attributes your perfect lover would have. Meditate right at the moment of the equinox. Tell yourself you are worthy of unconditional love and your deepest desires. Let yourself feel this reality. And then watch and see if the “seeds” of your ideas sprout during the next three months, come into bloom during the summer solstice period, and are harvested in the fall.