The Rites of Spring

Spring Catkins by PL Miller

Photo: “Spring Catkins” by P.L. Miller

Compiled by Erin Abernethy & Hunter MacKenzie

The Spring Equinox is also called the Vernal Equinox. The word “vernal” comes from the Latin word “verno” which means “to burgeon, break into bloom” or “to be young.” Accordingly, spring traditions and rituals have historically emphasized fertility, cleansing, renewal and regeneration; many revolve around the “dying god” legends. The following are some of the more interesting ones we have found in our research.

In some of the villages of Germany, it was the custom for young people to gather and make a straw man. This was then carried out into the open fields; during the procession, they would sing a song about carrying Death away. Upon reaching the chosen spot, they would dance in a circle around the straw man, then tear it to pieces with much shouting. When torn apart, the straw man was then burned in a bonfire as the young people danced around it. After this, the young people would then return to the village and go from house to house begging for eggs, explaining that they had just carried Death away from the village to make way for Spring.

(Sort of a mixing of the modern traditions of Easter eggs and Halloween trick-or-treating.)

The ancient Romans celebrated the spring equinox on the 25th of March rather than on the 21st as is customary now. Part of their celebration centered around the resurrection of Attis, a god of vegetation who was considered to be dead or sleeping during the winter. Interestingly, when Christianity as a religion was still in its early stages, the widespread belief was that Christ’s crucifixion had been on the 25th of March, and accordingly, Easter was initially celebrated on this date.

March 25 was also at one time considered to be the date upon which the world was created.

(One wonders what was going on from January 1st through March 24th of that year… planning, perhaps? Waiting for project approval? Supplies on backorder?)

The word “Easter” comes from Eostre, the name of an Old German dawn goddess.

April Fools’ Day has its roots in the tradition of the Norse god Loki, a notorious trickster. The trickster archetype is not exclusive to Norse culture and mythology, of course. Many societies have had specific allotted times when it was permissible to engage in behaviors that were usually frowned upon.

In certain areas of France, bonfires are lit on the first Sunday of Lent. When the fires have died down, the young people take turns and compete in jumping over the embers; those who can do this without getting their clothes singed are supposed to be married within the year.

(Perhaps this is the origin of that phrase “better to marry than to burn.” Or perhaps not.)

Among some of the early tribes in China, an annual celebration was held to destroy all the evils of the past twelve months. It was carried out by burying a large clay vessel filled with gunpowder, stones, bits of iron, and so on; a match was set to a trail of gunpowder and the clay pot was blown up. Doing so was supposed to disperse all the ills of the previous year.

(Don’t try this one at home without safety glasses.)

Human sacrifice was reportedly not uncommon among the Aztecs of ancient Mexico, but it was also an annual spring event occurring around the last week of April. For this purpose, a person was chosen to symbolize a god for an entire year; he was treated as the embodiment of the god for that year, receiving all due attention and reverence. At the time of the festival, he was then killed and eaten by the people.

Parilia was a Roman festival held in April to honor the deity Pales. It included decorating sheepfolds with green branches, offering milk and cakes to the divinity, and driving farm animals through the smoke of fires in the belief that this would protect them from illness during the coming year.

(Smoke inhalation was evidently of no concern.)

April 24th is a traditional night of divination in regard to romance. A young woman who wished to see a vision of a future lover was supposed to fast from sunset, making a barley cake during the night. If she left her door open, her future lover was supposed to come inside for the cake. Floralia was a Roman festival to honor Flora, goddess of flowers and youth. Beginning on April 28th, it was known for its encouragement of sexual license. Medallions depicting various sexual acts were handed out, and seeds were thrown into the crowds as a symbol of fertility. In many places this time began the May festivals which featured the phallic Maypole and other fertility symbols; the traditions corresponded closely to the Roman Saturnalia (in December) and still survive in some form in many parts of Europe.

(Today we just have the annual Spring Break beer bashes on the beaches.)

© Copyright 1999 by Erin Abernethy & Hunter MacKenzie. Republished 2013, 2014, 2015.

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This Week at Gatewood: August 30–September 5, 2015

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by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

This week we have a question for you, and we’d like to ask you to cast a vote to tell us what you think. But before you do, I should assure you that Dr Nicholas is not leaving Twitter. We’re just considering the possibility of adding a human presence, and would like your input.

 

Now, then, here are our features for the week of August 30–September 5:

Monday:Lunar Eclipse,” art by Eduardo Rodriguez Calzado

Tuesday:She Visits Her Beastmother’s Uncle,” poetry by F.X. MacKenzie

Wednesday:The Magic Door” photography by Hartwig Koppdelaney

Thursday:Musicophrenia,” short fiction by Patrick Redding

Friday:Perception and Memory,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from neurologist Oliver Sacks

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

docBe sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, literary opinions, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action.

pigeon1Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 30–September 5, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header photo via Stefan Schweihofer at Pixabay.

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Perception and Memory

SacksCreation

In memory of Oliver Sacks – neurologist, writer, explorer – who passed away earlier this week.

 

Photo by P.L. Miller.

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This Week at Gatewood: August 23–29, 2015

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by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

Before getting into our weekly wrap-up, I’d like to make a quick announcement. Freelance writer Robin Flanigan is working on an article for BP magazine, and would like to interview bipolar people over 50 years of age. Please email robin@thekineticpen.com to get in touch if you’re interested in this. Also, we’d appreciate it if you’d help spread the word for her, so feel free to pass the information along to other folks you know. If you want to check out some of her work, her website is The Kinetic Pen.

Here are our features for the week of August 23–29:

Monday:Peace Will Never Give Up,” art by Delawer-Omar

Tuesday:After the Races,” poetry by Erin Abernethy

Wednesday:Baseball in New York, 1950” artwork by Zengael

Thursday:The Psychology of Ritual” by D.V. Gray

Friday:In the Mystery,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from physicist Fred Alan Wolf

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

docBe sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, literary opinions, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action.

pigeon1Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 23–29, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header photo via Morguefile.

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In the Mystery

The Mystery

Photo by P.L. Miller.

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This Week at Gatewood: August 16–22, 2015

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by Frasier MacKenzie

Hello, and thanks for stopping in!

The kids are back to school here, summer’s winding down a bit, and we’re starting to see the squirrels very industriously gathering and hiding nuts among the trees. Most of us here look forward to fall; we know winter’s not far behind, but for now, we look forward to that very brief time of the cooler temperatures and that certain stillness in the air. Unless you’re a squirrel, and then it’s really all about the nuts.

Here are our features for the week of August 16–22:

Monday:Appalachian Postcard,” art by Zengael

Tuesday:Arcade Funeral,” poetry by R. Kane

Wednesday:Bathroom Crucifix” photography by Nez

Thursday:The Duckling Says…,” some humorous short fiction of the supernatural variety by Patrick Redding

Friday:Sea Walls,” photography by P.L. Miller with a quote from psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison

Remember, the Friday photo can be downloaded for free as a meditation card for your phone, tablet or computer. Share, print, ponder… enjoy!

Be sure to follow @docnicholas on Twitter for daily updates on Journal posts as well as humor, thoughts on books, animal pics and rescues, and all your behind-the-scenes Journal action (or lack thereof). It’s like getting all the extras that come with a DVD, plus cat hair!

Did you know you can subscribe to Gatewood Journal and receive a monthly newsletter with all our features for the month? Like a weekly wrap-up, only monthly, so your e-mail box won’t get cluttered. Like a magazine, only digital, because we love trees.

That’s it for the Gatewood Weekend Wrap-Up for the week of August 16–22, 2015. Enjoy your weekend, and visit us again soon!


Header photo via Pixabay.

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Sea Walls

Sea Walls

Photography © Copyright 2015 by P.L. Miller.

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