Friday, January 10, 2014

High Day Essay: Spring (Vernal) Equinox

To many neo-pagans the festivities associated with the spring equinox are related to the fertility and greening of the earth at this time of year.  In many neo-pagan circles this holiday is referred to as Ostara, in reference to an apocryphal Germanic goddess of spring and fertility.  During this holiday many neo-pagans prepare foods associated with fertility (such as eggs) and those few garden goods that may be harvested at the beginning of spring (such as mesclun and asparagus).  Many also chose to plant herbs or frost-hard vegetation on this date.

Like many Indo-European cultures, Slavic traditions around the vernal equinox focus on the ripening earth and the end of winter.  In Bulgaria, bracelets of red and white thread are woven and distributed to friends and family in early March; the bracelet is then transferred to the branch of a newly budded tree later in the month.  This practice most likely stems from similar practices in pre-Christian times.  In most Slavic countries the tradition of burning or drowning an effigy of Marzenna, the goddess of winter and death, remains popular to this day.  Special meals of cheese, butter and honey are common at this time - the later reflects the emergence of bears from hibernation.  Folk customs in many Slavic cultures held that it was forbidden to strike or plow the earth before this date.

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