(Seasonal essay) Spring Equinox Southern Hemisphere September 2013 by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

As the new young light continues to grow after the transition of Early Spring/Imbolc, it comes into balance with the dark, at the Seasonal Moment of Spring Equinox or Eostar as it may be known.[1] This is one of two points in the year when the Sun is equidistant between North and South, creating a balance of dark and light, with the trend at Spring Equinox being toward longer hours of light as the Sun in my region moves further South on the horizon: Earth’s tilt creating this effect. I summarize the Poetics of this Moment as “stepping into the Joy and Power of Being”. At my place, Spring and Autumn Equinoxes are both celebrated in the tradition of the Demeter-Persephone Mysteries, and Spring is the joyful celebration of Persephone’s return from the underworld – Her return and re-union with her Mother who has waited and longed for Her: it may be understood generically as the Return of the Beloved One. Persephone, who is the Seed, emerges, unfolding all the beauty and potency that is within Her, manifesting it – Herself – virulently. As is said in the ceremony: “The Beloved One, the Lost One, returns with new Wisdom from the depths.”[2] Persephone, the Beloved Daughter – the Seed – has navigated the darkness successfully, has enriched it with Her presence and also gained its riches. Spring Equinox ceremony may celebrate the magic of the unexpected, yet long awaited, green emergence from under the ground or in the bare branch,  and then the flower: that may have lain dormant for months or longer – much like the magic of desert blooms after long periods of drought.

Spring Equinox sunrise September 2012 over the marker in MoonCourt
Spring Equinox sunrise September 2012 over the marker in MoonCourt

The story that our ceremony is based on is the version that we understand as pre-patriarchal, from Old Europe. It is the well researched version told by Charlene Spretnak, and now by others in some varied form, wherein Persephone voluntarily descends to the underworld – she is not forced.[3] In this “story of Old” Persephone is a courageous seeker of wisdom, a compassionate receiver of the dead, a shaman, a redeemer. She is the Seed of Life that never fades away: She carries within Her the sacred red thread of life which continues beneath the visible, and is renewed in the darkness. Spring Equinox may be a celebration of Her return, Life’s continual return, and also our own personal emergences/returns. We may contemplate the collective emergence/return also … perhaps a Return to the Mother – especially as it may be manifesting in our times, perhaps in the very midst of compost.

Mother-Daughter tulips Spring Equinox morning
Mother-Daughter tulips Spring Equinox morning

In the ceremony and on the PaGaian Wheel of the Year,[4] the Return of the Beloved One is identified as “Heraic”: since the word hera pre-dates the masculine form hero (who as Heracles was carrying out the bidding of his Goddess, Hera), Charlene Spretnak makes a case for using the term for any individual who acts courageously.[5] The ‘Olympic’ games were originally Hera’s races, with exclusively female runners: the winners were heraic it could be said. Spring Equinox emergence is a grand opportunity to re-store Hera to Her pre-Olympian integrity:[6] that of indigenous Queen Goddess, ‘origin of all things,’[7] Parthenos[8] – before She was married off to Zeus.  Invoking and naming the “Courageous One who has Journeyed and who Journeys” as the “Sacred Heraic Self” as is invited in the Spring Equinox ceremony, at once re-stores the participant’s native en-titlement, and appropriately re-contextualizes and re-members the trials of the lost journey of a patriarchal woman or man, who has been Returning.

‘Persephone’/’Hera’ in each of us, steps with new wisdom, into power – the Power that all beings must have, a creative potency from within: it is the heritage of all – ‘Gaian Power’, the Power of the Cosmos. We may identify ourselves with Her as Courageous Ones, rejoicing in how we have made it through, having faced our fears and our demise (in its various forms), had “close shaves” – perhaps physically as well as psychically and emotionally. It is a time to welcome back that which was lost, and step into strength of Being. Eostar is the time for enjoying the fruits of the descent, of the journey taken into the darkness. Demeter, the Mother, receives Persephone – each of us – joyously: and a new harmony appears, pervading all. The young tender Selves we celebrated and committed to at Imbolc, are received into communal relationship and empowerment.

Spring Equinox altar
Spring Equinox altar

This may be understood as an individual experience, but also as a collective experience – as we emerge into a new Era as a species. Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme speak of the ending of the 65 million year geological Era – the Cenozoic Era – in our times, and our possible emergence into an Ecozoic Era. They describe the Ecozoic Era as a time when “the curvature of the universe, the curvature of the earth, and the curvature of the human are once more in their proper relation.”[9] Joanna Macy speaks of the “Great Turning” of our times.[10]  Collectively we have been away from the Mother for some time – and there is a lot of pain. In ceremony, as we each take the lantern and the seed and wander into the ‘Underworld’ before returning, and coming to the ‘gate’ of emergence, we may contemplate not only our own individual lost wanderings, but also that of the human species. We are part of a much Bigger Return that is happening. The Beloved One is returning on a collective level as well: we may intentionally engage ourselves as part of making it happen. It is a return to the Mother in Self, Earth and Cosmos. Spring Equinox may be a celebration of a Cosmic Power of Emergence: we – as a species and as a planet – are in a Moment of Emergence … cosmologist Brian Swimme says that “in extreme states of heart and mind, there are openings … a deep activation of creativity”.[11] So, as we actively and inwardly attend to the fertile moment of these times, we may watch for the shoots of green that emerge, called forth in part by our resilient desire for Life, and participating in the desire of Earth Herself for never-ending renewal.

She rises up, emerges ...
She rises up, emerges …
Image created by Julie Cunningham 2005 for the cover of the book PaGaian Cosmology.

In praise of Her extant Creativity:

A cloud  of elements hovered, floated … far from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. …In our universe, the originating powers permeating every drop of existence drew forth ten thousand stars from this quiescent cloud. To varying degrees, these stellar beings manifested the universe’s urge toward differentiation, autopoiesis, and communion. And at least one of these, the Sun, managed to enter the deeper reaches of the universe creativity, a realm where the complexity, self-manifestation, and reciprocity at the very heart of the universe revealed themselves in a way transcending anything that had occurred for ten billion years – as an extravagant, magical, and living Earth burst into a new epoch of the universe story.[12]

May we sing and dance to and with Her again, in sacred ceremony.

Read more of Glenys’ work at Meet Mago Contributor, Glenys Livingstone.

REFERENCES:

Durdin-Robertson, Lawrence.  The Year of the Goddess. Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1990.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Language of the Goddess. NY: HarperCollins, 1991.

Edwards, Carolyn McVickar. The Storyteller’s Goddess. NY: HarperCollins, 1991.

Macy, Joanna and Brown, Molly Young. Coming Back to Life. Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 1998.

Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2008 (2005).

Rigoglioso, Marguerite. The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.

Spretnak, Charlene. Lost Goddesses of Early Greece.  Boston: Beacon Press, 1992 (1978).

Swimme, Brian. The Powers of the Universe. (DVD series). 2004.

Swimme, Brian and Berry, Thomas. The Universe Story. NY: HarperCollins, 1992.


[1] There is current popular debate about the origins of the naming of this Seasonal Moment as “Eostar”: http://www.religioustolerance.org/easter1.htm  but there is plenty of ancient evidence of Goddess connection to it to justify naming it thus. Also, the author of this site: http://gmarts.org/index.php?go=412 claims that the dating of the Christian Easter  festival is not related to Spring Equinox (which most understand that it is) – but  he then proceeds with a complex thread that ends up relating it back to Spring Equinox. Lawrence Durdin-Robertson associates the name “Easter” and the symbol of the egg with Astarte and Ishtar, in The Year of the Goddess, p.69-70.  Other names for the Moment may be used: the Welsh name for the Spring Equinox celebration is Eilir, meaning ‘regeneration’ or ‘spring’ – or ‘earth’. In Australia, the Christian festival of  Easter is celebrated in Autumn: so it has lost all relationship with Place.

[2] Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p.210. For the full current ceremonial script:, scroll to “Eostar” at http://pagaiancosmology.com/book/chapter-7/

[3] Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece,  pp.105-118. Also see Carolyn McVickar Edwards,The Storyteller’s Goddess, pp. 178-183.

[5] Charlene Spretnak, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, p.87.

[6] See Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece,  pp.87-93.

[7] Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, p.134.

[8] See Marguerite Rigoglioso, The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece, pp.117-138.

[9] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.261.

[10] Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life. p.17ff.

[11] Swimme, Brian. The Powers of the Universe. Program 3.

[12] Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.78-79.