The Vernal Equinox arrived last week. The Sun has entered the sign of Aries. Spring is here.
Depending on where you live, it might still feel like winter. That’s how it is was here, until today. Soon, with a fierce determination to live, yellow daffodils and purple crocus will force their way through soil that has been frozen solid for months. They have broken the bonds of winter. How will you break those bonds?
Here in New England, winter can blanket or bury us with snow. So when Spring arrives, we may still be bundled in boots and gloves and bed-head hats. Even so, in some ancestral, cellular way, we know that winter has lost its grip. To acknowledge the change of seasons, I created a ritual called “Breading the Bonds of Winter.”
This is a ritual for adults. You need to make a paper chain, the kind kids make in grade school. I use strips of plain white paper, 12 inches long, 2 inches wide, and ordinary tape.
A few years ago, I performed this ritual at Meg’s Inspirations, a spiritual boutique here in Manchester. I expected 18, maybe 20, people. We sat on chairs in a circle. The paper chain had to be long enough to loosely stretch from the first person to the last. That meant about 200 links (I estimated 10 links per person). There wouldn’t be time to make a chain that long during the ritual. So I made the chain in advance. I assembled it in 4 sections and packed each section into a giant, drawstring trash bag so the paper links wouldn’t get squashed. When I got to the boutique, I taped the sections together to make one, long chain.
I wanted people to write on the chain. Now, if you’re visualizing this, you’re probably wondering how are people going to hold a floppy paper chain on their laps and write on one of the links. They don’t! They write on white labels. I use the 1×4 inch address labels. They come 20 to a sheet. In advance, I had cut up several sheet of labels, keeping the paper backing for each label intact. As people arrived, each one received several blank labels.
Starting at one end of the room, I gave the first person the first link. She passed the chain to the person sitting next to her. On and on, the chain snaked its way around the circle. As we each held part of the chain, we talked about the hardships of winter, about whatever had burdened, confined or constricted us. For some it was poor heath. For one it was the loss of her job. For one, it was having to replace a furnace. For one, it was the death of a pet; for another, the death of a family member. Then we wrote our burdens on our labels and stuck them to the links.
For me, ritual is a visible act performed with invisible intent. The intent in this ritual is to release the worry, the disappointment, the loss, the pain, the sorrow that bound us through the winter. The visible act was give form to the burden by writing it down, and then to physically break it.
We stood up. Meg lowered the lights. While local musician Doug Yager played a hand drum and chimes, we passed the chain clockwise, the direction that builds energy. When the energy reached a peak, we each gripped the length of chain in front of us, silently read the message on the links…and ripped it apart! We kept ripping the links, making sure we broke all those that carried a written burden. Yes, it created a mess. Yes, it was worth it! Not only were our burdens symbolically broken, but they were broken with the help of everyone in the circle. There were a few fist pumps, a shout or two, and a few tears.
This is a solitary version of the ritual.While this ritual is particularly powerful when performed with a group, it’s also powerful as a ritual you can do for yourself. In a group, the energy builds quickly. If you’re doing the ritual alone, be sure to give yourself time to think about what you want to break. If you’re doing the ritual alone, you can write directly on each link before you tape the ends together. In the ideal world, write on the first link on the night of a new moon. Write on links for the next two weeks and break the chain on the night of the full moon.
Rituals for Spring
When we view the seasons like spokes on a wheel, we realize that there is no beginning, no end. When astrological symbols are applied, we can make a story that correlates the change of seasons with the turning of the wheel. We make spring the arbitrary starting point. Why? Because spring is about the resurrection of the earth, the celebration of life after death.
This is when Ostara, the Goddess of Spring wakes up. She’s a fertility goddess. Everywhere she walks, trees bud and flowers bloom. She is Spring at its most tender. Her symbols are bunnies, chicks, eggs, birds’ nests, sprays of bright forsythia and soft pussy willow, patches of purple crocus, bouquets of pink tulips and yellow daffodils. She is the Goddess Oestre, from whom we get the word estrogen and the word Easter.
Here’s an interesting side note. Up until the year 46 BCE, the calendar year began on March 25. There were 10 months. September, from the word meaning seven, was the 7th month. October, from the word meaning eight, was the 8th month. November for nine. December for ten. What happened in 46 BCE? That’s when Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar to replace the Roman calendar. Among other things, the Julian calendar added the months January and February to the beginning and pushed the other months down the list.
Astrologically, spring arrives when the Sun moves from the 29th degree of Pisces to zero degrees of Aries. Aries is symbolized by the ram with its big, curled horns, head down, ready to charge ahead, so eager for action and adventure. When the Sun is in Aries, he is physically powerful, testosterone-heavy. He can melt snow and thaw rivers. With all that testosterone, the Sun in Aries is eager to wake up the Goddess Ostara. She lives in the Earth, in the plants and the trees. She’s been sleeping.
A Spring Ritual for Children
Hold that image of a sleeping Goddess while I tell you about a spring ritual for children. I saw this performed years ago when a friend, Laura Wildman-Hanlon, led a Spring Equinox ritual that included a group of little children.
We had all gathered on the town green of a small, farming community in western Massachusetts. She gave each child a foot-long section cut from a slender branch of a tree. (Yes, there was plenty of adult supervision!) While the adults sang, played drums, rattles, and tambourines, the children walked to each tree and tapped on the trunk, shouting with unbridled joy, “Wake up, tree! Wake up! Spring is here!”
That’s an easy ritual to replicate. If you don’t want to use sticks, tell the children to tap on the trees with their hands. But first, give their actions context. Tell them the story of spring. Tell them how the princess of spring is called the Goddess Ostara, or simply the Maiden. Tell them how she has been sleeping underground in a cozy bed of tree roots, curled up in a fiddlehead frond, snuggled among the plant seeds and flower bulbs waiting to stretch and pop up into the sunlight. Tell them Spring is the time to hop around like bunnies, to sing like birds, to show off like flowers and dance like faeries.
Of course, the trees already know it’s spring. Their sap is rising. Here in New England, maple trees are tapped and buckets placed just-so to collect the sap that will be boiled and bottled and poured on pancakes.
I recently listened to episode 27 of the podcast, 5 Minute Feng Shui, Host Katie Weber talks about the element of wood, its association with growth and change, with helping us get unstuck and persevere. She talks about the “sheer force of will” we can see when a simple blade of grass pushes its way through cement. …I love that podcast for many reasons. In this episode, Katie painted a vivid image of the force of spring.
Want an easy way to connect with that force? Take off your shoes.
I’m reminded of the day my grandson and I went for a walk. He was about four, maybe five. I live near a nature center. We were walking along a trail and came to a grassy area. My grandson took off his shoes, plopped himself on the grass and stretched out on his back, arms out wide. I said, “Logan, what are you doing?” He responded, “I taking time to enjoy Mother Nature.” Well, I couldn’t argue with that. So I lay right down next to him.
In an article written by Arjun Walia, published in 2017 in Collective Evolution, Dr. James Oschman, a biologist from the University of Pittsburgh, talks about the reports that indicate walking barefoot on the Earth “enhances health and provides feelings of well-being.” Dr. Oschman is an expert in the field of energy medicine. He gives a scientific explanation for what my mother, my grandmother, and countless generations before them knew. Going barefoot, or “earthing” as it’s now called, is good for you!
The benefits of negative ions, antioxidants, and electrons that destroy free-radical aside, what do you feel when I say the title of Neil Simon’s romantic comedy, Barefoot in the Park? I think freedom. Fun. Or, as the Beach Boys would say, “Good Vibrations.”
Plant Seeds to Celebrate Spring
Here’s another simple Spring ritual. The visible action is to plant seeds. The invisible intent is to imbue the seed with some quality you want to grow in yourself.
If you have the space and the light, you can plant physical seeds for flowers or vegetables. Be sure you know the parameters of the planting season where you live.
Or, you can plant symbolic seeds. Find a pretty pot. Make sure it’s clean. Fill it with fresh potting soil. If you want to grow your finances, use a red pot, or wrap your pot with red foil. Spend some time visualizing not only how your life will change as your income grows but also envision the work you will do to cultivate that growth. Red is the color of desire, will power, and sweat equity. Then plant a bright, shiny new penny into the pot.
Or, you can plant metaphysical seeds. Maybe you want to grow wisdom, or patience, or confidence. This has been a hard winter for me and my family. I’m planting resilience. No pot. No soil. I’m using one of those little, rubber balls, the kind you’re supposed to squeeze when you feel stress. The visible act is squeezing the ball and watching how it absorbs the shock and always bounces back. The invisible intent is that I can be as flexible and resilient as that ball. This ritual is one that needs to be repeated often.
Know What You Leave Behind
As one season begins, another ends. The arrival of spring means the departure of winter. In the excitement of welcoming the new, we don’t always think about what we must leave behind. We should. The song of spring birds breaks months of silence. The heat of the sun breaks the cold. Just as dawn brings a new day, it breaks the dark of night. There is peace in silence, tranquility in the cold, beauty in the dark. Whenever you move forward, always be mindful of what you leave behind.
I hope you can use these rituals. Please don’t think you can do them on one day only. Spring is a season. You can celebrate it any time.
Of course, you can live your life without ritual. You can flip the pages on a calendar or watch the date change on your cell phone. You can feel like a hamster running inside a wheel and, a year later, wonder where the time went and why everything feels the same.
Or you can connect with the cycles of nature, honor the spirit of the ancestors, discover the patterns of your life, do something to add positive energy to the world. The world needs what you have to give.
Are you ready to live a relevant life? Add ritual. And, please, tell at least one person about the podcast Ritual Recipes. Thanks.