Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rites of Spring

Spring by Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha


Come, shell divine, be vocal now for me,
As when the Hebrus river and the sea
To Lesbos bore, on waves harmonious,
The head and golden lyre of Orpheus. Calliope, queen of the tuneful throng,
Descend and be the Muse of melic song;
For through my frame life's tides renewing bring The glad vein-warming vigor of the spring.
The skies that dome the earth with far blue fire
Make the wide land one temple of desire;—
Just now across my cheek I felt a God,
In the enraptured breeze, pass zephyr-shod.
Was that Pan's flute, O Atthis, that we heard,
Or the soft love-note of a woodland bird?
That flame a scarlet wing that skimmed the stream,
Or the red flash of our impassioned dream?
Ah, soon again we two shall gather fair
Garlands of dill and rose to deck our bare
White arms that cling, white breast that burns to breast,
When the long night of love shall banish rest.

~The Poems of Sappho by John Myers O'Hara (1910)

Boy, is this a busy week or what! St Paddy's Day & the first day of Spring! But, there's definitely no complaints from over here ;)

The birdies are finally making their pretty noises again; in the last 24 hours alone I have seen the cedar waxwings on my balcony (I am pretty sure that they're the same ones who nested in the hedges last year), a larger amount of crows, chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, and my raven and blue jay friends are back in full force. Yay!

So tomorrow is the Vernal Equinox, where we will have equal halves of daylight and night time (the only other time of year is during the Autumnal Equinox), sending Winter on her way out for us in the Northern Hemisphere. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the Equinox will officially start at 7:44 am EDT.

Tomorrow is also a holiday that is celebrated by Heathens, as well as Wiccans and some other neo-Pagans called Ostara.

I am sure many have already started their 'Spring cleaning', but if you are a talented procrastinator like me, then the Equinox might be a good day to begin. For some thrifty and eco-friendly household cleaning recipes, check out this post.

If one wanted to set up a shrine/altar in honour of Spring, some appropriate things that would be to put on it are seeds/seedlings, spring flowers (i.e. tulips, daffodils, and crocuses), painted eggs, nests, crystals (especially ones that are green, purple, pink, and yellow), artwork animals (such as lambs, rabbits, and chicks), or anything that reminds you of Spring.

Here are some photos of Spring shrines/altars to give you some inspiration:

Photo from Pip Wilson

Photos from On Bradstreet

Photo from Robbi Baba

Photo from sb poet

Photos from Lorelei Raveig

This is a day where I really like to start thinking about my garden. At this point I already have seeds and the like picked out for the growing season, and I may have even started some seedlings. The Spring Equinox is a great day to bless your garden for fertility and the like, if you are inclined to do so.

I like to use my own, but here is a neat blessings that I found online:

Garden Blessing for Ostara

The earth is cool and dark,
and far below, new life begins.
May the soil be blessed with fertility and abundance,
with rains of life-giving water,
with the heat of the sun,
with the energy of the raw earth.
May the soil be blessed
as the womb of the land becomes full and fruitful
to bring forth the garden anew.

~ by Patti Wigington

I bury moss agate tumbled stones in with my plants (one per pot) to promote a fertile and healthy garden. If you are planting in ground, you could always mix in moss agate chips, or tie one onto your hoe or a tree by your garden. Apparently Europeans did this in the Middle Ages to promote a bountiful harvest.

I have also heard of people burying eggs in their gardens for the same purpose. For a ritual involving this, and natural dye recipes for those eggs, click here.

Alexander Carmicheal in Carmina Gadelica (Volume 1, 1900) talks about farmers in Scotland consecrating seeds before planting. He says:

The ritual is picturesque, and is performed with great care and solemnity and, like many of these ceremonies, is a combination of Paganism and Christianity. The moistening of the seed has the effect of hastening its growth when committed to the ground, which is generally begun on a Friday, that day being auspicious for all operations not necessitating the use of iron.

And tomorrow happens to be a Friday!

Here is the English version of the ritual (to see the Gaelic one, click here)

I will go out to sow the seed,
In name of Him who gave it growth;
I will place my front in the wind,
And throw a gracious handful on high.
Should a grain fall on a bare rock,
It shall have no soil in which to grow;
As much as falls into the earth,
The dew will make it to be full.

Friday, day auspicious,
The dew will come down to welcome
Every seed that lay in sleep
Since the coming of cold without mercy;
Every seed will take root in the earth,
As the King of the elements desired,
The braird will come forth with the dew,
It will inhale life from the soft wind.

I will come round with my step,
I will go rightways with the sun,
In name of Ariel and the angels nine,
In name of Gabriel and the Apostles kind.

Father, Son, and Spirit Holy,
Be giving growth and kindly substance
To every thing that is in my ground,
Till the day of gladness shall come.

The Feast day of Michael, day beneficent,
I will put my sickle round about
The root of my corn as was wont;I will lift the first cut quickly;
I will put it three turns round
My head, saying my rune the while,
My back to the airt of the north;
My face to the fair sun of power.

I shall throw the handful far from me,
I shall close my two eyes twice,
Should it fall in one bunch
My stacks will be productive and lasting;
No Carlin will come with bad times

To ask a palm bannock from us,
What time rough storms come with frowns
Nor stint nor hardship shall be on us.

Foods such as leafy greens, asparagus, eggs, and edible flowers are certainly very appropriate for feasting on at this time of year. Below are links to some recipes for you to try:

Hot cross buns--these are often associated with the Christian holiday of Easter, and according to Leopold Wagner is his book Manners, Customs, and Observances (1894) are 'cakes which the pagan Saxons ate in honour of Eoster, the goddess of light, at the annual festival of Spring'.

Honey Cakes

Elderflower Cheesecake (Sambocade)

Asparagus Quiche

Chervil Vegetable Omlette

Stuffed Nasturtium Blossoms

Violet Salad

Dandelion Wine

Hyssop Tea




perma_culture said...

Great post, thanks! I love the idea of the garden blessing and those photographs of the shrines are sooooooo pretty =^)

Pyke said...

Interesting folk-lore as always. Those are some great photos that you found, too!

nefaeria said...

Hello folks! I hope that you both had a splendid first day of Spring, whatever you did. :)