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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Happy Spring, Time of Rebirth and Renewal

by Barbara Bettis

It’s Spring!
The Vernal (March) Equinox has come (Monday, March 20, this year).
Most of us usually want to dance and celebrate the end of winter and the promise of sun, warmth, birth and renewal. It feels like a new year. In fact, March 25 was once considered the beginning of the year. But it wasn’t just the earth’s renewal.
In Christian tradition March 25 is Annunciation Day, when the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she was to bear a son,(to which she gave birth nine months later, to the day.) March 25 came to be known as Lady Day.
Christians were not the first to observe this beginning of new life. The celebration stretches back so far, it’s mythical. Before Christ’s birth, the renewal of the earth after a long, hard winter was a joyous time. Plants now would grow, animals give birth, and the period of hunger and discomfort would come to an end for another seven or eight months.
The coming of spring, then, was vigorously celebrated. People rejoiced, worshipping the gods and/or goddesses associated with fertility and life. One such was Eostre (Ostara). Eostre was a Saxon/Germanic goddess of fertility. Her symbols were said to have been the egg and the rabbit.
If that goddess sounds vaguely familiar, she should. Easter comes from her name (or as one source says, the Old Norse word “Eostur, meaning the time when the sun began to grow warmer”). (http://rosaliegibert.com/holidays.html) 
Now about that date, March 25. Under the old Julian calendar, the beginning of spring, AKA the Vernal Equinox, fell on March 25. In medieval Britain, that day also marked the beginning of the calendar year (although sources say the Romans brought with them their tradition of celebrating the new year in January that continued in the Middle Ages.) Not only did the calendar year start on March 25, Lady Day is one of the four quarter days of the medieval year when taxes were collected. (Yep, the medieval April 15 J )

But Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582, revised the calendar, dropping ten days. The Gregorian Calendar became common in most European Catholic countries, but Protestant England didn’t adopt it until 1752. Oh, and that English Calendar Act in 1752 also moved the beginning of the year from March 25 to Jan. 1. That’s why some dates seem ‘flexible’ when reported in historical documents. 
The Gregorian calendar was an attempt to make sure church holiday fell at the right times of the year. The determination of Easter continued to fluctuate, however,  because “Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. If the first full moon occurs on the equinox, Easter is the following Sunday.”  That was established in 325 by the Council of Nicaea. (https://www.catholic.com/index.php/qa/how-is-the-date-for-easter-determined)
The exact date of the equinox can be a bit nebulous. In fact, it can occur March 19, 20, or 21.
What are equinoxes? They occur twice a year (spring and autumn) when days and nights are exactly the same number of hours all over the world. “[A]t the precise moment…(that it occurs) exactly one-half of the earth is illuminated by the sun’s rays while the other half is in darkness, producing a day and night that are both twelve hours long.” (www.encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com)
In the old belief, according to www.heartoscotland.com, they “were considered a time of balance, not only between dark and light, but between worlds as well and, therefore, a time of high magical potential. More mundanely, the festival signified the time for spring planting and fertility rituals.” 
Balance, yes. But magic? Contradictory? Not for Spring, with its rebirth and regeneration and its promise for a new, bright season. I don’t know about you, but when I see trees budding and daffodils and tulips winking brightly around the lawn, I feel a bit of magic in the air.

Happy Vernal Equinox. Happy Lady Day. Happy Spring.
Sources:






http://blog.metmuseum.org/cloistersgardens/2011/03/25/lady-day/




Barbara Bettis is the author of medieval romance and Heroes to Live For. Her latest, The Lady of the Forest, is currently on sale for 99 cents.
Here: AMAZON;   TWRP;  B&N

Here’s a peek at the blurb:
He must pursue his enemy; she must protect her people. Can their love survive the duties that drive them apart?

When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry isn’t an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.
Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate's past catches her.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.










8 comments:

Barbara Bettis said...

I didn't realize how much happens with just a few short weeks in the spring--and how symbol-laden each thing is. I loved being your guest today.

Katherine Bone said...

Thanks for joining us today, Lady Barbara! What a great post. Loved the symbolism! ;)

Julia Ergane said...

Of course only the astronomers know for sure. In Ancient Athens -- just to throw more stuff into the fire -- the new year did not start until the day after the first new moon after the summer solstice. All the other societies in the ancient Med had their days when they began their years as well. So what that a Northern society happened to celebrate their's at the beginning of spring. I really am a student of ancient practices and I get extremely upset when modern people misuse a little information about ancient peoples and then proceed to claim their amalgamation ancient. I look up to Diogenes.

Charlotte O'Shay said...

Beautiful post Barbara! It combines a little of all things I enjoy reading and learning about.

K.K. Weil said...

Very interesting post and great blurb. Thanks for sharing!

Lane McFarland said...

What a wonderful post, Barbara! I am definitely ready to dance and celebrate the end of winter. :-)

DeeDee Lane said...

Enjoyed your post Barbara. I am fascinated by how we have measured time over the years and still fascinated by day light savings time. I've always wanted to live in one of those places where if you're on the east side of town it's 10:00 a.m. and on the west side of town it's 9:00 a.m.
GOOD luck with your writing!

Susabelle said...

Being non-Christian, I have always found it amusing that Christians pick the date of Easter based on science (equinox) and magic (phases of the moon). Good post!