As I sit in my doorway thinking, “if I roll down my ramp right now, without stopping I could literally be buried by the amount of snow that has fallen in the last week in my yard,” a small bird chirps from a tree, the sun appears, briefly, reminding me that the Vernal Equinox, VE, known as the first day of spring is here! Yes, in the Northern Hemisphere spring officially sprang on March 21st. The VE is one of the illuminating solar events, vernal and autumnal equinox and winter and summer solstice, marking our seasons though the course of each year. Honestly, from where I sit, it doesn’t look much like spring. My guess is somewhere spring is in swing and there’s a celebration going on. So what better way to find out where and when, then with some 411 on the VE.
VE 101. The word Equinox is derived from the Latin word aequus (equal) and nox (night) meaning equal parts day and night.
On the VE the Sun is directly above the Earth’s equator. The history or should I say her-story of the VE I found is over flowing with Greek, Roman, Saxon, Germanic, Mayan Goddesses called Eostre, Cybele, Ostara, mother nature ramping up new earthly growth, births, crazy March Hares and eggs everywhere. It’s time for a New Year, a new astrological year, a new calendar and traditions looking like Thanksgiving and Christmas amalgamated into SPRING!!!!
There is so much to report about the VE, I couldn’t get it all into one blog and besides I do want to keep you coming back for more, so part one VE is the calendar metamorphous and the Persian New Year celebration, Nowruz. Part two VE will be the Ides of March and the Goddesses and Gods that preceded and influenced Easter celebrations.
Each day I check my calendar for possible birthdays, meetings, events or holidays. Never once have I thought my calendar might have been very different from what it is, now. I always assumed that all new years and all calendars including the astrological calendar started in January with Aquarius. Wrong, the astrological calendar begins with the VE in March, in the sign of Aries. I’m learning it’s not a good idea to assume anything.
The first calendar marking days was in alignment with the seasons and the year began on the VE. It was of Zarathushtrian origin some 15,000 years ago. Called a tropical or seasonal calendar, this Indo-Iranian calendar relied on the astronomical-astrological, lunar-solar influences to set the year. FYI, no need for a leap year. Along came Julius Caesar and the Julian calendar that began counting days until 1500 when the VE fell back as far as March 11. With Easter getting dangerously close to mid-winter using the Julian calendar actions needed taking to keep the resurrection in the spring. In 1582 courtesy of Pope Gregory XIII a leap year and the Gregorian calendar were established. Most of the world, including me, currently uses the Gregorian calendar beginning with a January 1 a New Year.
Ah, but I said most, not all. Staying in alignment with the seasonal calendar and the VE, the Persian kings celebrated the festival of Nowruz (pronounced NO-ROOZ) which means "New-day" or New Year, dating back to that 15,000 year mark. Central and South Asia, Crimea, Northwestern China and Persia all celebrate the VE as the New Year.
The preparations of this New Year celebration of renewal begins 10 days before the VE by sprouting grains, legumes and herbs to symbolize new life, creativity and productivity. These and other articles are displayed on the Haft-seen or Haft Sin table. The Haft-seen table includes a copy of the Gathas, a picture of Zarathushtra or a Saint, a mirror to reflect on the past and the present, candles for light, warmth and energy, an incense burner for prayer and meditation, a bowl of water with live gold fish symbolizing a happy life, full of activity and movement and painted eggs for fertility.
Seven food articles beginning with the letter "S" (seen) in the Persian language are also prominently displayed on the table. I found the lists of articles varied but that each article has symbolizism. For example the seven I’ll list are sib-apple symbolizing, health, beauty and the fruits of our world. Serkeh-vinegar, patience and sumac-somâgh, sunrise and sîr-garlic, medicine and samanu-sweet pudding, affluence and senjed-sorb, love and sabzeb-herbs and grains sprouted for rebirth.
As the day dawns, the home is filled with the scent of hyacinth, family members get dressed in their best sitting around the table eagerly awaiting the announcement of the exact time of VE. As the VE arrives the head of the family recites Nowruz prayers, everyone kisses wishing a Happy Nowruz (New Year), games are played like jumping over fire (sounds dangerous to me), elders give youngsters gifts, eating commences and rounds of visiting with relatives and neighbors begins, sound familiar? Now this is the party I’m talking about.
I like this idea of the New Year in spring! Celebrating the New Year and creating resolutions in the middle of all the darkness and cold of winter always seemed so daunting to me. It seemed that everyone was doing their best just to stay warm, it's no wonder resolutions are so hard to keep. I like to reevaluate my habits and actions from time to time, making sure they are still serving my purpose in life. A New Year in the spring, hummm, maybe I’ll try it next year. But I'll leave the jumping over fire to someone else.
Check out http://www.zoroastrian.org/articles/nowruz.htm
Happy New Year!!!! Blessings to All.
In Joy, Candace
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