Rites of Passage: Spring Equinox Rituals Around the World

Spring ain’t just for breaking.

If it felt a little warmer yesterday (well, depending where in the world you find yourself), it’s because spring finally came to save us all. Whew.

Most of the US and Europe dealt with an extremely frigid winter (though according to a extramarital dating website in the UK, they did their best to warm things up), and there seemed to be an earthquake-domino effect happening in other parts of the world.

We need a fresh season.

Cool thing about the official day where light and dark are balanced is not only the fact that we are heading into those longer days of light (at least up here in the northern hemisphere), but that there are a lot of cool traditions steeped in this rite of passage.

Here are just a few:

Put that egg to work. The spring, or “vernal”, equinox is the day that you can supposedly balance an egg on its end. People try and blame the Chinese for this myth, but according to the BBC, it was the Americans who purported the idea this was the only day to make the egg pull a Cirque de Soleil. Good luck, then.

Those crazy Mayans. Did the ancient Mayans think the god Kukulkán, the feathered serpent, was showing himself at the El Castillo pyramid? Well, since we’ve already pinned the whole 2012 thing on them and their calendar, maybe we should let this one be. Nonetheless, it sounds pretty cool that in both fall and spring, “as the equinox sun sets, a play of light and shadow creates the appearance of a snake that gradually undulates down the stairway of the pyramid” at Chichén Itzá.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s rebirth time for all you pagans, tree huggers, and earth dwellers. The predecessor to Easter, Ostara is Wicca’s call to action to renew life after the long and cold winter. Although we like to conveniently forget the connection between Wicca and Christianity, as Dr. Leo Ruickbie notes:

In mythology [Ostara] is often characterized by the rejoining of the goddess and her lover-brother-son, who spent the winter months in death. This is an interesting parallel to the biblical story in which Jesus is resurrected (the reason Christians celebrate Easter), pointing to another appropriation of pre-Christian religious figures, symbols and myths by early Christianity.

For some more cool stories and myths of what the spring equinox means in different cultures, check out Welcoming Spring Around the World.

Hopefully no matter what hemisphere you’re currently blazing through – or sitting in – it’s a gorgeous day outside.

Do you have a personal or cultural tradition to celebrate spring? Share it below!

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  • http://globbler.com/2010/02/episode6-the-temple-of-kukulcan-the-calendar-of-cosmic-wisdom/ Pres

    Great article, Christine! You mentioned the ancient Mayas and the Temple of Kukulcan. Their great civilization has to show us that we can learn so much from the ancient cultures. In fact, I believe that the more we look into one another’s cultures, the closer we come to world peace.

  • http://www.greenygrey.co.uk Marc Latham

    Nice article Christine, and Happy Spring!

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/visual-stories Visual Stories

    You write, “Did the ancient Mayans think the god Kukulkán, the feathered serpent, was showing himself at the El Castillo pyramid?” I understand the Mayan feathered serpent to be Quetzlacoatl… I wonder if they are the same diety.

    Your quote from Dr. Leo Ruickbie about “the goddess and her lover-brother-son” reminds me of a similar Christo-Pagan tale in which King Arthur sires a son from his sister.

    It is interesting that “modern” cultures continue to re-use and re-package the stories and rituals of past and/or more indigenous people to express their world views.

  • Steve

    As cultures transcend one another, history becomes myth and myth becomes religion. Symbols acquire depths of archetypical proportion that survive dogmatic fluxuations such as new religions.  Here and now, a look beyond the apparent, too often in conflict with natural essence, a slight drawing of the curtain… to look at where traditions blend into one shared understanding, can shed light on answers to our deepest questions. With so many being totally disconnected to Nature, it would do us well to become aware of some very natural cycles, the equinoxes and solstices for example, as they mark the changes in seasons. Traditions vary, the essence is one: every three months a specific instant or moment markes a particular position of our planet with respect to our sun. Yes, the antagonism of night and day, heaven and hell, good and evil, et-all, have inspired many views and ways of conmemorating them: symbols retain their transcendental meanings, traditions are kept or adapted, thery’re even forgotten. They are also renewed, please take note of a fantastic fact.
    The Otomí (oh-toh-mé) native community, (Tapalpa municipality, State of Jalisco, Mexico) is having its first equinox celebration in 485 years, this vernal equinox! Their ceremony was inherited from the Aztecs, who settled there temporarily during therir mythical search for their new capital and whose cultural influence remains. Those mystical Aztecs named the community “Atlaco”, the place amongst waters (it is surrounded by natural springs). 485 years after collonization, we are connecting to Nature again. Perhaps it’ll help a little to bring us back into contact with Nature, her cycles and ours. The Mayan people and most pre-columbian nations were totally in contact with Nature, her cycles and an all-encompasing “Great Spirit”. Time invested in serious study of these peoples can offer lots.
    Nice to get to know you… thanks for the page and, to all, for the commentary.