Our long, uncertain winter that began prematurely last September 11 is at its end. At 11:17 PST, the vernal equinox will signal a balance of days and the arrival of a spring long awaited.
Throughout history the renewing power of spring has been celebrated at festivals which cluster around the vernal equinox. St. Patrick's Day and Easter are festivals that owe their significance to ancient rituals of spring's regeneration.
St. Patrick's day and its richly enchanting symbols bespeak the wonder of the vernal equinox, the Goddess and the Old Gods of the Tuatha de Dannan which are delivered to us in the guise of a Christian saint. The ever-increasing popularity of this celebration worldwide is owed to the universality of its symbols.
Myths of descent and return underlie the spring celebration of Easter. As Joseph Campbell writes "It is highly significant that the later festival of Passover, which was first celebrated 621 BC. in commemoration of the Exodus, occurs on the [spring] date of the annual resurrection of Adonis, which in the Christian cult became Easter."
Mythology tells us that these great cycles of underworld descent and rebirth are as old as humankind. Some of the best known are those of Ishtar (Astarte) and Tammuz, Cybele and Attis, Isis and Osiris, Aphrodite and Adonis, Demeter and Persephone and Dionysus and Semele.
All but the latter two are stories of resurrection of mankind through the love of the Goddess. Persephone is redeemed through the love of her mother Demeter and Semele travels from the underworld via the love of her son, Dionysus.
Dionysus himself, who is thought to have evolved into Jesus Christ, was celebrated for his rebirth in the spring when plant life brings forth new shoots. His followers believed that "death is not an end, the soul lives forever." The transforming element of resurrection is love - love for one's Self, one's fellow human and of Nature.
Eostre, the Goddess of the East and of Rebirth, can still be found in the sunrise services of Easter which is celebrated the first Sunday following the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. The timing of the holiday is tied not only to the equinox but the lunar theme of death and resurrection.
With the return of spring and the festivals that accompany, we are again grounded in the rebirth of life. We are delivered from our descent -- the chaos of winter, and hopefully, the madness of terrorism, to walk again on warm soil, to breathe deeply the scents of newly opened flowers and hear the music of returning birds. Behold the season of growing, welcome the vernal equinox.