Ostara: The Vernal Equinox

Ostara: The Vernal Equinox April 1, 2018


Tajikistani Girls celebrating Novruz with wheatgrass sprouts

Martin Luther noticed the connection: “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” Each tree, bush, and plant that looked dead all winter, has completed its hero’s journey and returns to the land of the living. Indeed, the whole earth is re-emerging from the harrowing adventure of winter.

All over the world, people are celebrating the transformation into spring. Naw-Rúz is an ancient Persian and modern Bahai festival which occurs on March 21st. It is celebrated with many symbols indicating re-growth and renewal. The purpose is to celebrate the messages that spiritual teachers, such as Mohamed and Jesus, proclaim. Messages which bring us spiritual springtime. Some celebrations of Naw-Ruz include floating new sprouts of plants down a stream and doing Spring cleaning.

Earth and Sky

Merlin and the earth-based traditions advise us to look to nature and the behavior of the wild creatures for insights into our own nature. How we can become our best selves. I hear that same message from those who look UP, beyond our earth as well.

Earth and sky. Both/And.

Neil Degrasse Tyson says “We are all connected, to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, to the Universe atomically.”

And Carl Sagan: “The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”

Beauty and love on the one hand, death on the other, skepticism on one side, openness on the other: an exquisite balance.

Kraslica is the art, in Slovakia, of painting eggs, more commonly known by the Ukrainian name: Pysanki. In memory of my Slovak grandma. Photo by Luba Petrusha

Translated literally, equinox means “equal night.” It is an astronomical term. Equal day and equal night. Both/And. We can’t have one without the other.

I imagine my grandparents on their farm in Upstate NY. Checking the root cellar and seeing that the jars and boxes of precious food are depleted… worrying. Checking the seeds stored and waiting… ready to plant to grow more food: the end, and the beginning, both together. Those seeds came from the death of the plants. Life can only return after the descent into death: Life and death. These opposites are both present at this time of year. Both/And.

 Balance and Harmony

If we practiced this embrace of both/and, perhaps things that seem to be irreconcilable could co-exist with one another. We would appreciate the value each side brings. Western and Eastern healing modalities, both Muslim and Christian wisdom, both activists and mystics, both Black kids facing death and proclaiming #blacklivesmatter and White kids putting shoes on the Capitol lawn to represent those killed in school shootings… both/and.

Taking up both/and as a spiritual practice means taking the time to pay attention to how our lives are in or out of balance. It means paying attention to what is present and what is absent. It means welcoming the fallow time, and then welcoming the green growing times as well.

Tauʻolunga – Own work

I invite you to breathe with me. Breath deep.

Feel the polarities in this moment – Earth as our home is poised in relationship with the Sun. Feel for your own embrace of day-light and night-dark within, your own balance of old and new – this fertile dynamic of tensions. Both/And. Reach out and wrap your arms around it.

Release your breath into it. Breathe in the light, swell with it. Breath out. Let your breath go into the dark, stay with it. Shift on your seat, from left to right, forward, back, feel your centre…breathe it in.

1st day of Falgun in Bangladesh Photo by Ibrahim Husain Meraj

In my part of the Earth, the cycle is about to tip into new growth, into the light. In the southern hemisphere the same balancing moment is about the tip toward dark. Feel the shift within you, see in your mind’s eye the energy ahead, the light expanding and contracting. Feel the warmth of it. Breathe it in.

Ahhhh. Spring: a heart full of hope and a shoe full of mud.

Come, Yet again, Come!

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