Monday, March 19, 2012

The Spring Equinox

Today is the Spring Equinox.
A painting of a Nature Goddess by me
The Japanese call it 'Shunbun no hi' and it is a National Holiday here in Japan.
Banks, post offices, schools and many other businesses have the day off on this auspicious (saisaki ga ii) day. Some Japanese people visit the graves of loved ones on this day to observe "higan". During higan families remember those who have passed away and visit family graves bringing food and other items to give sustenance to their ancestors. Perhaps this is done because of the liminal nature of the Equinoxes. A feeling of "inbetween-ness", of standing on a threshold (shiki'i) between this world and the next. Special services are held at Buddhist temples and some Shinto shrines.

EQUINOX [Equi = equal, Nox = night] however you pronounce it means the same thing:
The time when day and night are equal. 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light. The day when we stand on the cusp (hajimari) of leaving the dark, cold phase of winter and entering (springing ?) into the season of light and warmth.

While the Autumn Equinox (mid to late September) carries a more somber (inki [na] , usugurai) feeling as it marks the entry to the winter season of darkness and death; the Spring Equinox has a brighter and more promising (yu-bo-) energy  as it is the dawn (yoake) of a new season of [re] birth. It's the birth of Spring!
Or, as we like to say, "Spring has sprung"!

In English the word "spring" has several meanings:

Jap. / Eng.
bane  (metal)
haru  (season)
izumi  (water)
tobiagaru  (jump); spring over ... o tobikoso ....; spring up = sho-jiru

Thus, the phrase "spring has sprung' carries with it an innuendo (iyami, atetsuke) of the season's passionate nature.

In the West, The Spring Equinox is also the time of the Goddess (Megami)  'Ostara' to the Pagans, from where we get the word 'Easter'.
The Goddess Ostara or Eostre is described as a beautiful young maiden (unmarried woman, or girl) as the personification of spring, the new growing season and fertility (hanshokuryoku). She is sometimes shown carrying a basket filled with eggs with a hare or rabbit as her companion. It is from the old European Pagan traditions that we get the customs of coloring eggs and bunny rabbit symbolism for the modern Easter traditions (in fact, just about every holiday is a modified Pagan one with Halloween and Christmas being obvious examples) , even though these have been adopted by Christians for centuries.

No comments: