Vernal Equinox and Celtic Rituals
Happy first day of spring!
We’ve had little snow all winter. Yet on the first day of spring, it’s coming down like it’s making up for lost time. This morning, I walked along the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and listened to the purring trill of Sandhill cranes. The lake was mirror-still, and two Canada geese waited at the shoreline while the cranes made their plans. The clouds, pregnant with this afternoon’s snow, were keeping to themselves over the mountains. As the day increased, so did the clouds. On one great gust of wind, they descended, and now we’re experiencing a whiteout. Perhaps the vernal equinox is about more than light. Perhaps it is equal moments of blowing snow and cold landscapes and flowers and color, bunnies and eggs.
Celtic origins of Easter symbols
Have you ever wondered where the idea of Easter bunnies and Easter eggs comes from? They’re both symbols of Ostara, AKA Eostre, the Celtic goddess of rebirth and fertility. Her totem is the hare. Eggs symbolize her aspects of rebirth and new life. Druids would bury eggs in fields as a way of inviting abundance to the harvest. Early Christians took these symbols and incorporated them into their traditions as a way of reaching out to the pagans they wished to convert. Thus, in modern times we have an Easter Bunny delivering Easter eggs. The Scots call this equinox, Alban Eiler—the day that day and night stood equal. Supposedly, on the vernal equinox, it’s possible to stack eggs since the earth is exactly tilted straight up and down with the equator exactly in the middle of it. Perhaps you will try to stack them and report back on your success?
Ostara is sometimes associated with serpent or dragon energy. She is the goddess of awakening, bringing warmth to the earth. When Ostara returns, she brings with her renewed energy and light, which is often symbolized with a bonfire on the morning of March 21. The fire drives out winter and greets the sun and spring. Though I actually have a bonfire pit filled with all sorts of garden refuse ready to light, I doubt it will catch after today’s snowfall. Instead, I will light candles on my Ostara alter.
What is an Ostara alter? For the Celts, it is a place of light. It has a candle, or if you want to honor the three aspects of the goddess—virgin, mother, and old woman—it has three candles. It also includes spring flowers such as daffodils, primroses, crocuses, and pussy willow. The alter colors should include bright green, yellow, and purple, the colors also associated with Mardi Gras and Lent. Additionally, you can include seeds and feathers. I usually opt for yellow and bright green daffodils and purple candles.
Ostara is often associated with the Horned God Cernunnos. Like the goddess, Cernunnos is a god of fertility. Like his Greek associate, Pan, he is a god of hunting, dancing, and going a little wild. At this time of year when spring is in the air and energy is surging, it’s not uncommon to “get a little wild.” 😉 As Tennyson said, “in the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Since I’m a romance writer, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I find this time of year with all its fertility rituals and general springtime shenanigans quite appealing.
Speaking of romance and shenanigans, today is the book birthday of Warrior, Book Two in my paranormal romance Talisman Series. This story takes place in the Highlands of Scotland between two people who begin as enemies and end as lovers. There are nasty goddesses and a few mythological monsters involved, and an interfering old druid who is a great favorite among readers of the series. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s on sale now for $.99 only on my website, https://www.tamderudderjackson.com. And yes, for those of you wondering, the timing of this release was intentional. Writing about modern-day Celtic warriors required me to release this book on a low feast day on the Celtic calendar because I could. 😉
In the spirit of trying something new
Those of you who have read earlier entries on this blog know that I’m all about trying thirty new things. While trying out new recipes is a one-time deal—you can’t try 30 new recipes a year and expect to exponentially increase your luck—trying new foods occasionally should still count. So here are a couple of vernal equinox recipes for you to try:
3 C white flour
2 C buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground almonds (optional)
3 T golden syrup
Juice of 2 lemons
1 small beaten egg for glazing
Soft brown sugar for sprinkling
Blend the ground almonds and flour together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk/lemon juice/ golden syrup. Mix together with a wooden spoon or with your hands—whichever you prefer. As you do so, think of the emerging life we celebrate at this time of year and add the hopes, ideas, and wishes you have for the year to come. Repeat three times:
“Out of Earth toward the Light, New Beginnings taking Flight.”
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat into a circle. With a sharp knife, lightly score the bread into two halves to represent the Equinox. Glaze with beaten egg and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for about 20-25 minutes. When sharing this bread with friends or family, you can invite them to add their own wishes to the loaf before it is divided up for all to share.
Here’s another recipe for the equinox
4 eggs, separated
½ tsp Cream of Tartar
3 T cold water
12 oz. caster sugar
A smidgeon under ¼ pint boiling water
¾ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
8 oz. sifted white flour
Few drops of vanilla
The grated rind of ½ lemon
Grease and line a DEEP 8 inch cake pan and preheat the oven to 300.
Beat the egg white with the Cream of Tartar until they are stiff and set them to one side.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and cold water for at least five minutes. As you do this part, think and talk of all the things that spring and the vernal equinox mean to you. Gradually beat in the sugar and then the boiling water. Your yolks should be getting whiter and whiter.
Next, beat in the salt, baking powder, and flour, beating and concentrating all the time. Stir in the lemon zest and vanilla and gradually slow down until you are able to gently fold in the egg whites and turn the mixture directly into the cake pan.
Bake the cake for 1 ½ hours. Do not peek for at least 45 minutes. This cake rises high and should be very light and white—a breath of fresh spring air.
Here’s to a beautiful and vibrant spring full of life.
Yours in trying something new,
Tam DeRudder Jackson
Love is worth the risk.