Celebration of the Vernal Equinox
The Vernal Equinox is the first day of spring, when night and day are of equal length. Alban Eiler, or the “Light of the Earth,” is celebrated at the Vernal Equinox as the light of the Sun returns to Mother Earth. As another spring begins, life is renewed for another cycle. Ostara is a holiday to the Goddess of Fertility, often associated with Easter. It is from this tradition that we get the Easter habit of coloring eggs and eating chocolate bunnies. Eggs and bunnies are both symbols of the Goddess of Fertility.
The Vernal Equinox is a time for blessing the fields and for celebrating renewal and fertility. It is a time of balance and harmony. On this occasion night and day are of equal length, but the days will increase from this day forward until the autumnal equinox. So it is a time of balance before a period of increase. Just as early seeds may be planted in your home garden at this time, so may magical and spiritual seeds be planted for harvest later in the year.
Many Pagan rituals for this holiday include ideas of birth and rebirth, growth and fruition. It is a time for blessing newborn babies and manifesting dreams and visions. The most powerful time to hold rites and rituals on this day is at dawn, where the Sun is balanced between night and day. Eggs are used for decoration on altars and feast tables. These eggs may also be ritually eaten as part of your rite for the Vernal Equinox. The white of the egg is associated with the purity of the Goddess Ostara, and the yellow of the egg is associated with the Sun, which in turn represents the God. So the balance between male and female, God and Goddess, is represented within the egg itself. The egg as a whole is a symbol of rebirth.
Spiritual Significance of the Vernal Equinox
At the Vernal Equinox the day and night are in perfect balance, and from this day forward until the autumnal equinox, the light shall continue to grow. This equinox is a time for balance and rest before beginning a period of new growth. It is a time to contemplate achieving balance within you. Are your mind, body, spirit and emotion in balance? If not, what is keeping you from achieving that balance? What would that balance look like if it were already here?
As you contemplate these questions, use the gathering energy of the coming brighter days to make the changes within yourself that you would like to bring to fruition. It’s a time to set aside the slumber of the winter. It’s a time to awaken from hibernation and to start to move, grow and learn again. It is also a time to celebrate your own personal growth in the past while looking forward to new growth in the future.
Symbols of the Vernal Equinox
As symbols of fertility, the egg and rabbits or hares are often seen at his holiday. Any other symbols of fertility would also be appropriate at this time of year. Lit candles, representing the return of the Sun, are also used. Any local flowers that bloom at this time of the year would be symbols of the new birth and growth of this season, so they would be appropriate decorations. This is also a time for decorations that indicate balance, such as graphic portrayals of the imbas or awen. Since this holiday celebrates the return of the Sun in addition to fertility, depictions of the Sun are also common festive decorations for the Vernal Equinox.
Gods and Goddesses of the Vernal Equinox
The Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre, known to the Germans as Ostara, gives this holiday its more common Pagan name. It is also where we get the name of the Christian holiday of Easter. Ostara is a Goddess of fertility. Her feast is celebrated on the Vernal Equinox at a time when new life is springing forth throughout the land. Eggs and rabbits or hares are this Goddess’s symbols of fertility.
Cernunnos, the Horned God, is also associated with this holiday. Cernunnos is in many ways the male counterpart to Ostara, being the God of the Hunt and a fertility God. He is associated strongly with the seasons of the year and the cycles of life, death and rebirth. It is his rebirth aspect that is honored at this time of the year.
Colors of the Vernal Equinox
As spring begins anew and flora and fauna spring to new life, one of the colors associated with the Vernal Equinox is the color green. Green represents the new plants that begin another season of growth at this time of year. Ostara is also a Dawn Goddess, so the color orange, representing the rising Sun, is also a color associated with this holiday.
Traditions of Alban Eiler
Many of the rituals and traditions associated with Easter actually have their origins in Ostara. We’re all familiar with the tradition of dyeing and painting eggs to be hidden on Easter morn. This practice goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, where eggs were painted and eaten at the festival of Isis. These painted eggs were exchanged as gifts on the vernal equinox. Chocolate bunnies given at Easter have their origins in the hare. As a symbol of fertility, hares and rabbits were also venerated at this time of year.
More recent traditions for the Vernal Equinox include planting seeds or creating herb gardens. This is a great time of the year for healing rituals; especially those rituals having to do with fertility, growth, and increase. It’s a time for cleaning cobwebs out of the corners of the house, and out of the corners of your mind as well. Many Groves also make the connection between the protective power of the Druid’s Egg meditation and the association between eggs and this holiday. In doing so, many Groves add a Druid’s Egg meditation to their celebration of the Vernal Equinox.
Traditional foods included at feasts for this season are leafy green vegetables, dairy products, and dishes made from flowering plants and sprouts. These dishes are served on tables adorned with the first flowers of the season. Many Druid Groves have sunrise rituals, greeting the first day of spring, followed by a breakfast feast of eggs, fruits and vegetables.
|DATE||HIGH DAY||COMMON PAGAN NAME||MEANING|
|Winter Solstice||Alban Arthan||Yule||Rebirth|
|Vernal Equinox||Alban Eiler||Ostara||Youth|
|May 1||Beltane||Beltane||Young Adulthood|
|Summer Solstice||Alban Heruin||Litha or Midsummer||Adulthood|
|August 1||Lughnasadh||Lughnasadh or Lammas||Maturity|
|Autumnal Equinox||Alban Elved||Mabon||Old Age|