The Spring Equinox is almost upon us. It falls on 20th March this year, within a hair's breadth of the anniversary of the first lockdown here in the UK on 23rd March. Most of us would probably not have guessed back then that we'd be celebrating the Spring Equinox of 2021in another lockdown.
As in my previous posts on celebrating the festivals of the Wheel of the Year in lockdown (Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas and Samhain/Hallowe'en), I've grouped my suggestions in varying degrees of lockdown restrictions, so hopefully you can find something that suits the rules in your area.
If you're able to get out to the countryside/beach/park
- This is a great time of year to forage some early wild delicacies for a celebratory spring feast. If you're confident of your plant identifications skills, look for nettles, wild garlic, hairy bittercress, dandelion greens, tender young sorrel leaves, or violet and primrose flowers. Try my recipes for Nettle Soup or Spring Herb Salad, or Google other recipes such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Nettle Risotto with Sorrel.
- Take a walk in the woods - or in an area with plenty of trees. Notice the new leaves, the buds that have just opened or are just about to. See if you can identify trees by their shape, bark colour and texture or leaf buds, blossom or catkins rather than by their leaves. Look down as well as up - which spring flowers can you find? If you come across trees or flowers you don't recognise, use your phone to take a photo so you can identify it later using a guidebook or an online plant identification site.
- Connect with a tree. In Spring trees begin to re-awaken from their Winter dormancy, making it a good time to try to connect with them on an energetic level. Choose a tree that you feel drawn to, and that seems open and receptive to you. If you aren't sure if the tree welcomes connection, ask its permission to interact. You should be able to sense its response. When you are ready, either sitting or standing, lean your back against the trunk. Relax, breathing deeply and slowly. Focus your awareness on your breath, conscious of the fact that you are breathing in the oxygen produced by plants and trees, and breathing out the carbon dioxide that they breathe in. As you exhale, do it consciously as a gift to the tree. As you inhale, consciously give thanks to the tree for the gift of oxygen. Now open your senses to the tree. What do you see/feel/hear/smell/taste? Take note as you continue to lean against the tree, exchanging breaths with it. Now open your inner senses. Do you feel a particular energy or emotion from the tree? Remain open and aware for any communication or message from the tree - this may come in words, feelings, images or even colours or scents. Send back gratitude and friendship. When you are ready, thank the tree and bring back your awareness into your own body. Move away from the trunk. Thank the tree again, and leave it a small gift such as a libation of water on the roots or a sprinkling of compost. Don't leave anything non-biodegradable or damaging to the environment. If you'd like to continue and develop your relationship with the tree, commit to returning on a regular basis - each time bringing a suitable offering.
If you have access to a garden or small green space
- Cut twigs with leaf or blossom buds which are just about to burst open. Taking them into the warmth of your home will encourage them to open fully and they make a lovely Spring decoration for your altar. Treat them like cut flowers and put them in a vase of water, and they should last well.
- As the Spring Equinox marks that point in the year when day and night are of equal length, arrange to get up in time to watch the dawn and greet the Sun, congratulating it on its growing strength and welcoming in the light half of the year. Enjoy the dawn chorus of birdsong! At dusk, watch the setting sun and welcome the night and the darkness for the opportunity to rest. Thank the dark half of the year which is now passing away, for being a time of quietude and rest in which the land could slumber and heal itself. Listen as the birds sing the sun down into night.
- Find space in your garden to make a garden altar to the Green Man. Nestle it in amongst growing plants, or cluster pots of flowers and herbs around it. Find a Green Man plaque as its centrepiece, or create your own image of him from air-drying clay or paint Him on a smooth pebble or rock. Honour Him by making your own compost, planting trees, or sowing seeds. Listen quietly for His inner guidance on how to nurture your garden and develop green fingers.
If you're confined to your home/can't get outside
- Make Spring Equinox decorations for your altar and home. Salt dough is an excellent cheap way of doing this! To make salt dough mix 1 cup of flour with ½ cup of salt, then mix in ½ cup of water to create a mouldable dough. You can also add ½ tspn ground cloves or cinnamon, or a few drops of your favourite essential oil to scent your dough. This will make the house smell amazing while you're baking it in the oven, which you'll need to do to harden your creations. Sprinkle working surfaces with a little flour to stop the dough sticking and then get creating. If you're feeling ambitious you could make a Spring Goddess figurine or a simple Green Man, or perhaps a moongazing hare or spring leaves and flowers. Simple shapes are best. Making egg shapes is the simplest of all, and once they have been baked they can be painted all kinds of pretty colours and displayed in a bowl. When you've finished moulding your creations, line a baking tray with baking parchment and pop into an oven set at the lowest temperature. The dough will take a few hours to bake, depending how thick it is. Check it often and remove from the oven once it's done. You can now paint your creation. If you're doing this activity with small children remember that salt dough is not edible and supervise accordingly!
- Eggs are a perfect symbol for this time of year, symbolising new life, growth, fertility and possibility. Prepare your favourite egg dish - be that an egg sandwich, a quiche or eggs benedict! Bless the meal first and then as you eat, mindfully take in the energy of new growth, hope and possibility. Those who can't or choose not to eat eggs could do the same with a dish containing another symbol of new life, growth, fertility and possibility - seeds! A slice of seeded loaf, a poppy seed muffin or a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds on your salad or soup are all delicious and appropriate foodstuffs.
- One of the themes of the Equinoxes is balance. As day and night are in balance with each other at this time of year, it's a good time to check ourselves and our lives for balance. A good way to do this is to run a chakra check. If you're not already familiar with the chakras, they are a system of energy points in the body. Regularly checking in with, and if necessary adjusting the chakras is a good way of keeping your energies balanced. Imagine them like the pupil of an eye or the aperture of a camera that can be opened wider, or shut down to control what passes through. To run a chakra check, find somewhere you can sit or stand comfortably. Relax and let go of any tension in your body. Take some slow, deep breaths. (1) First focus your attention on your Base or Root Chakra which is located at the base of your spine. How does it feel? How is the energy flowing? This chakra controls your survival and keeps you grounded. If it was a thermostat, would it need turning up to improve your groundedness, or would it need turning down? Imagine adjusting it up or down as necessary until you have found the right setting for you right now. (2) Next turn your attention to your Sacral Chakra. This is located in your lower abdomen and is concerned with your sexuality and creativity. How does it feel? How is the energy flowing? As before, adjust it as you would a thermostat until you find the correct setting. (3) The next chakra is the Solar Plexus which is concerned with your self-confidence and will-force. How does it feel? How is the energy flowing? Adjust it as necessary. (4) The fourth chakra is the Heart Chakra, located in the centre of your chest. This chakra is the seat of love and compassion - love for yourself and others. How does it feel? How is the energy flowing? Take time to adjust it to the right level of openness. (5) Next move to the Throat Chakra, found at the base of the throat. This chakra is concerned with communication and self-expression. How does it feel? How is the energy flowing? If you feel stifled or blocked from speaking your truth it may need opening wider. If you speak too impulsively or lack a filter you may need to close it down a little. Find the right level for you. (6) The penultimate chakra is the Third Eye Chakra, located between your eyebrows. This is the centre of your intuition. How does it feel? How is the energy flowing? Do you need to increase your intuitive powers, or would it help you to quieten those senses? Adjust the level of openness accordingly. (7) Finally, the Crown Chakra is located on the crown of your head. It is the chakra which connects you to your spiritual consciousness. How does it feel? How is the energy flowing? Adjust it to a level which enables you to stay connected to your spiritual side whilst still able to negotiate the mundane world. Finally, quickly run through all seven chakras and ensure they are all well balanced, before returning to the ordinary world. This is a useful exercise to carry out periodically to keep you in balance.
May we all have a blessed and balanced Spring Equinox, and as we step forward together into the light half of the year may there be plenty of sunny days ahead.