OK. You’ve had enough snow already. You are pining for fair weather. Your bones ache with the thought of another day of Winter. Well, guess what!? Wait no longer. Spring knocks on your hearth and will be here anon! Enjoy!
Monday, March 20, 2017 at 6:28 AM EDT is the official beginning of Spring. The beginning of Spring is marked by the “vernal equinox.” “Equinox” derives from latin meaning “equal night” - one of two days in the year when the length of time the center of the sun is above the horizon is equal to the length of time the sun is below the horizon -- hence day is equal in duration to night – almost. The equinox is not exactly the same as the day when period of daytime and night are of equal length for two reasons. Firstly, sunrise is determined when the top of the Sun's disk rises above the eastern horizon. Secondly, Earth’s atmosphere refracts, or “bends,” sunlight. As a result, you see daylight before the first glimpse of the Sun’s disk above the horizon. If you measured sunrise and sunset from the point the equator of the sun crossed the horizon you would be more accurate on the day/night distinction.
A number of news articles recently have been talking about how “spring” is coming earlier in response to climate change. This concept is not astronomically correct. The beginning of “Spring” has not – and will not – change from an astronomical perspective. The beginning of the flowering of plants and other responses of Mom Nature to the seasonal warming of the earth does change. That is what these articles should be saying.
Persephone was a beautiful young woman and everyone loved her, even Hades wanted her for himself. One day, when she was collecting flowers on the plain of Enna, the earth suddenly opened and Hades rose up from the gap and abducted her. None but Zeus, and the all-seeing sun, Helios, had noticed it.
Broken-hearted, Demeter wandered the earth, looking for her daughter until Helios revealed what had happened. Demeter was so angry that she withdrew herself in loneliness, and the earth ceased to be fertile. Knowing this could not continue much longer, Zeus sent Hermes down to Hades to make him release Persephone. Hades grudgingly agreed, but before she went back he gave Persephone a pomegranate (or the seeds of a pomegranate, according to some sources). When she later ate of it, it bound her to underworld forever and she had to stay there one-third of the year. The other months she stayed with her mother. When Persephone was in Hades, Demeter refused to let anything grow and winter began. This myth is a symbol of the budding and dying of nature.
The Druids celebrate a festival of the Spring Equinox called “Alban Eilir”, which means 'The Light of the Earth'. As the Sun grows warmer, so life begins to show through the soil. Small signs at first - the daffodils and crocuses - then more green as the bluebells and wood anemones spread through the woodland. So it is the return of life to the Earth that is celebrated at Alban Eilir, the time of balance. One of the inner mysteries of Druidry is the Druid's egg. Life-giving, it is the egg protected by the hare, which is the symbol of Alban Eilir - still celebrated by the giving of Easter eggs by the Easter bunny.
Check out these informative web sites for more about the science and traditions of the equinox:
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac: First Day of Spring–Vernal Equinox
- Scienceworld.wolfram.com: Vernal Equinox
- Montana.edu: The Sun in the Sky during the Spring and Fall Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere
- infoplease.com: The Rite of Spring
Article by: W. Jerrold Samford, Environmental Compliance Specialist, Troutman Sanders