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Sacred Earth

Spring or vernal equinox has arrived! After a long winter in the Northern Hemisphere, there has been a slow stirring over the last month as the sap begins to flow and small green shoots tentatively appear, guarding themselves against the dramatic temperature and weather swings of March. In the Pacific Northwest of Canada, it is the time of year when the greenest of green appears after the torrential rains of winter coupled with the newly emerging growth. Each morning is a herald of migrating bird song and daring aerial acrobatics celebrating this seasonal turn and the renewal of life.


The Spring Maiden is out and about continuously calling to all the invertebrates, the sap, and the seed to rouse from their winter sleep and begin another life cycle. With the increasing light and warmth, a few brave bees and other insects have emerged, pollinating the earliest flowers. Each tree bud is carefully gauging its unfurling, constantly testing the changeable weather, arresting any further exposure during inclement conditions. Cherries then plums are bravest here, eager for an early start. Then pears and apples are followed by their more tender relatives, such as peaches. The insect and bird world are highly tuned to the plant world, ensuring they emerge or arrive when their primary food sources are available. This is part of the “self-regulation” that the planet community engages in, through a myriad of ways, keeping the web of life alive and vibrant.


Climate change is playing havoc with this as Canada has just experienced its warmest winter and now hottest early spring. These finely tuned plant and animal cycles are becoming out of sync creating further uncertainty in the biodiversity loss of species with summer drought looming. We are also being called by the Spring Maiden to understand these cycles and species so that we can bring ourselves back into harmony with these natural synchronicities. Only by understanding and sinking back into the magic of the green vitality around us can we begin to roll back some of the absurdities that our modern era has wrought – including thinking of plants and animals as living machines with no intelligence, communicative abilities, or sentience with the ability to feel and sense.


Yet, we know intuitively that the world IS alive around us. We can see their sensory apparatus in their leaves, roots, and pollen manifesting the drives for growth and reproduction. We often seek the solace of the living world when times are tough, as an antidote to our self-inflicted stresses, understanding that the energetic rhythms in the forest and garden can heal us. We take instruction from the self-renewal of the earth which it constantly generates, the essence of what a “regenerative” society means. Rather than the death-dealing dynamics that modernity has unwittingly unleashed in its drive to meet its own needs as primary, we can return to life-giving dynamics that fit human needs back into the needs of the whole community of life.


The illusion where we think of human needs as more important than the web of life is another absurdity, given our life completely depends on the countless processes of water flowing, decomposition and soil regeneration, pollination, sun shining in certain amounts, rain and snow falling in certain amounts, and the myriad of species that keep the web strong. We have thought we can manipulate and manage these countless processes, another sign of our modern arrogance. The Earth is not just a backdrop for human life, but what makes Life possible.


This equinox moment is also planetary, created by the tilt of the earth, bringing exactly 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. In the last 12 hours, the sun set at 7:30 pm and this morning rose at 7:30 am, unexpectedly gracing us with the most amazing sunsets. The lesson of the equinox, then, is one of balance. It is not the balance where elements stay the same or where elements are in the same amounts, but one of fluctuation and feedback loops that constantly correct each other, preventing runaway dynamics, such as unchecked population growth or disease spread.


Equinox is a time to think about the balancing of cosmic principles, particularly balancing the Feminine and the Masculine. Winter does not take over summer and summer does not take over winter, but each has its own distinctive energy and contribution to the balancing process that is wellness. During early spring and equinox, we feel the need to shake off winter energy, the subtle, pondering inside energy for outside, innovative, vigorous energy. The staleness that has built up is cleansed away in favour of another cycle of openness and growth. It is a time when we can realign with the life-force in the universe that also flows throughout the web of life on Earth. When we let this vigor flow through us, like a tidal force, we are realigned body and spirit. This is a more profound meaning of “empowerment” that is not based on taking or holding onto or gripping power or even as influencing others which is the typical definition. Rather power and thus empowerment is a flow of energy to which we can attune.


Many theorists and thinkers now say that the unchecked nature of the Masculine principle calls for a balancing with the Feminine principle. Traditionally, these principles have been described in the mythologies of each culture, expressing the values of each and the issues that arise when one is sacrificed for the other. Ancient stories also provide mythological models for individuals to follow – whether the Mother, Father, Hero/ine, Quester/Seeker, Virgin, Seer/Visionary, Teacher, or Healer, to name a few. Each archetype has certain qualities in a particular pattern that is unique. These archetypal stories help us find our way through life, following ever deeper threads of meaning as we experience life, addressing imbalances, and adjusting patterns of walking in the world for greater wholeness.  


Both the Masculine and Feminine principles are necessary to keep life going. While all qualities are available to each human, we tend to associate certain qualities with either principle, culturally shaped. There are now movements to break down these hardened categories and welcome back fluidity, as this fluidity is found throughout the living world.


While male and female are needed for sexual reproduction in the natural world, in particular the vernal equinox celebrates the virgin who eventually becomes mother, who carries the potential for and promise of fecundity, eventually her ripeness receiving seed which generates new life. Ēostre/Ostara in Germanic and Scandinavian mythology, Persephone with Demeter in Greek mythology, Vesna in Slavic mythology, Astarte in Near East mythology, and the Celtic Brigit are all spring maiden mythology.


A common practice throughout Europe is one of making a spring maiden of tree boughs and juniper/cedar, dressing her in white or red cloth, with flowers and other gifts. Rituals vary such as laying her in water, burning her in a sacred fire, or letting her decay as she watches over the seasonal life cycle is understood to respectfully honour and hasten spring. Just as the potentiality of the seed dies to give forth the sprout of the new plant, so the maiden gives way to motherhood in which life is regenerated on Earth.


In this way and through many other offerings, let us we give our gratitude to the fecundity of the Virgin Earth and the Earth Mother who bring forth, then nurtures and protects Life. Let us reroot ourselves back into this verdant energy, letting it flow through us into inspired and creative acts that rehonour the web of life that holds our lives.

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