In the rhythm of nature’s heartbeat, when the earth awakens from her glacial slumber shedding the cloak of winter’s embrace, the convergence of hibernal darkness and vernal light marks a moment of rebirth—the Spring Equinox. This is a shift defined by the confluence of cosmic energy and earthly vitality, holding sway over both physical and spiritual realms for absolute renewal. The warmth of our kind sun returns to kiss us on the cheek at dawn, the days become prolonged and our nights turn sultry, fields of flower petals unfurl towards a bluer and brighter sky. From the viridescent emerald jungles of Sri Lanka to the golden shores of the Ottoman world, civilisations looked to this time as more than just the shift in seasons. It was a time when humanity stood at the threshold of transformation; the ‘true’ new year for Gaia and her children. Through the lens of myth, ritual, and celestial wisdom, we can unravel the timeless secrets held within this sacred transition, and discover how the echoes of ancient celebrations continue to resonate in our modern world.

Historical perspectives

The celestial bodies and our night sky have always served as humanity’s most ancient time clock, orchestrating the pattern of our days and nights with the dance of the sun and the shadows it casts. The lunar phases dictate our months, while the solstices and equinoxes bring forth each new season. Welcoming the rebirth of life, the spring equinox emerges as the keeper of spring, a symphony of balance where day and night share an embrace of equal length. Etymologically, ‘equinox’ encapsulates this equilibrium, derived from the Latin roots ‘equi’, meaning ‘equal’ and ‘nox’, being the essence of ‘night’. The spring equinox is a woven thread that intricately binds the pages of divergent ancient civilisations; each culture infuses this celestial event with its unique flavours and traditions. From the mystical forests of Celtic pagans where ‘Ostara’ marks a time of harvest, to the lush landscapes of Sri Lanka where it is honoured as the Tamil Hindu New Year known as ‘Puthandu,’ the equinox resonates deeply with the inextricable rhythms between humans and nature. In the opulent courts of the Ottoman Empire, the Equinox signalled the onset of ‘Nowruz’, the Persian New Year, celebrated with vibrant festivities symbolising the triumph of light over darkness. Meanwhile in the sun-kissed deserts of ancient Egypt, it marked the beginning of the agricultural season, intertwined with the mythos of Isis, the lunar goddess of resurrection and fertility. Each civilisation in its own way has recognised the Equinox as a time of transition, a cosmic juncture where the old gives way to the new and the promise of rebirth hangs palpable in the air. These diverse cultures forged a collective reverence for the Equinox—a testament to humanity’s innate connection to the pulse of the cosmos and its eternal cycles of life.

Goddesses of the dawn

Dawn is to the day what spring is to the year — and so our pantheon of dawn goddesses represent this coming of new life into the world with new creative impulses. Romantic representations of these pagan deities like the Celtic goddess Ostara in 18th century art depict her as the goddess of fertility, riding in from the East on a cushion of air with her hair held aloft by tweeting birds, gazing at the land erupting into blossom around her, with rabbits gambling around her feet and deer frolicking. As the land bursts forth with flowers and the air hums with the song of returning birds, the Celtic, Indo-European, Egyptian, Vedic and Native peoples all came together during this time to honour the arrival of their respective goddesses. From the gathering of flowers to the laying of offerings on stones in wild places, from the lighting of fires and general cavorting and dancing around, each custom reflects the reverence and awe inspired by fertility and new life.

We might look at the Greek goddess Eos—or Aurora to the Romans—who shares a similar mythology, riding across the sky from East to West with a chariot drawing the sun behind her, bringing dawn to any land she graces. Equally, we have Ishtar, the Vedic goddess of fertility, who is another trope in the myth of the dawn goddess, remaining imprisoned in the earth only to be released on the advent of spring. From the Irish goddess Brigid to the Norse goddess Freya, these archetypal images of the dawn goddess acknowledge the fertile and abundant nature of the divine feminine. If the universe is born out of a cosmic snake egg, then so too are our goddesses. These deities as powerful anthropomorphic personifications of the spring equinox, and could also explain the popularisation of the ancient egg and the fertile rabbit as imagery for this time of year, as seen in the Christian festival of Easter.

In Vedic tradition, Ishtar is championed as the Venusian goddess of the dawn and the new year, her presence bringing forth the awakening of nature from its hypnos. Vedic celebrations at this time are marked by rituals such as Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colours, where crowds come together to throw and smear coloured powder and water on one another, feasting on the vibrancy of life and a world saturated with effulgent colours and fresh perfumes. The ancient Egyptians certainly knew this feeling and celebrated it too. In his essay ‘On Isis and Osiris,’ the Greek Platonist philosopher Plutarch mentions an Egyptian festival that he says marked the beginning of spring, called ‘The Entry of Osiris Into the Moon.’ He elucidates how ‘it is the beginning of spring. Thus they locate the power of Osiris in the moon and say that Isis, as the creative principle, has intercourse with him. For this reason they also call the moon the mother of the world and they believe her nature to be both male and female since she is filled and made pregnant by the sun while she herself in turn projects and disseminates procreative elements in the air.’ {Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, 43}. Opet, the annual festival celebrated in ancient Egypt, indeed holds significance in honouring the deities Isis and Osiris, among others. While Osiris was primarily associated with the sun—agriculture, death, and resurrection, Isis was celebrated as the goddess of the moon—motherhood, magic, and fertility. Ultimately, our goddesses of the dawn hang as exquisite and enchanting human projections of the spring equinox, embodying the beauty and etheric energy that graces all corners of the earth as the new year unfolds.

The Cusp of rebirth in Astrology

At the ethereal crossroads of ancient astrology lies the notion of the astrological cusp, a mystical boundary that encloses the sun’s passage from one zodiac sign to the next—ultimately intersecting their energies and qualities into its own unique colour. It is no coincidence that the spring equinox falls during the Cusp of ‘Rebirth’, between March 19th and 25th, where the tender essence of the fleshy Pisces fish merges with the fiery spirit of dauntless Aries ram. Here, winter’s icy grip begins to loosen, yielding to the embrace of a sunlit spring. In astrology, the spring equinox coincides with the dawn of the new zodiac year, with Pisces as the final sign ushering in the last days of winter’s introspective depths. As the symbol of this cycle’s culmination, Pisces invites reflection and introspection, preparing the soul for the transformative journey ahead. As the sun crosses into Aries— the first sign of the zodiac—at the threshold of spring, the landscape shifts, and the promise of new beginnings unwinds like a vibrant rose bursting forth from the bare earth. Greek Neoplatonist philosopher Proclus writes about the essence of this shift in his Chaldean Oracles; ‘and now the great Sea-born sign draws to its close, that it may give birth to Ares, a god like to himself, and of equal valour’. Here, he emphasises the cyclical nature of the cosmos and the transition from one sign to the next, focusing on the idea of the watery, elusive and subconscious Pisces as a precursor to the fiery, cardinal and very present Aries—therefore Pisces is to Aries as winter is to spring.

Is it not deeply incongruous that we in our modern world start the new year in the dead of winter? What a disjointed time to set new intentions and begin afresh when the early days of January are perhaps the darkest and coldest of the year. Most earthly creatures are in deep hibernation, Gaia’s fauna remain asleep and the skies are barren. Even our ancestors knew to remain attuned to the unmistakable rhythm of the seasons and the stars for centuries. Ancient astrological traditions latently knew that the equinox was a threshold—a liminal space where the old dissolves and the new emerges. For the metaphorical qualities associated with the Cusp Rebirth [Pisces—endings & Aries—beginnings] to so seamlessly intertwine reveals how inherent this transition is to the fabric of our existence on this planet. Cultures across the globe integrated astronomical observations into their calendars and religious practices, honouring the equinox as a sacred moment of initiation and renewal.

At the heart of Mayan cosmology was the reverence for the Snake Sun God, Kukulkan, a powerful deity associated with the cycles of time and the transformative power of nature. As the sun journeyed across the sky, Kukulkan embodied the energy of renewal and rebirth, shedding its skin like a serpent to usher in a new cycle of growth and abundance. The Maya possessed an advanced understanding of astronomy and celestial cycles, allowing them to precisely determine the arrival of spring and other significant events. Central to their astronomical observations was the tracking of the movement of celestial bodies, particularly the sun, which played a pivotal role in their calendar system. Through meticulous observation and complex mathematical calculations, Maya astronomers developed calendars that accurately predicted the timing of equinoxes, solstices, and other celestial phenomena.

During the spring equinox, the Maya observed a remarkable alignment between the sun and the temple pyramids at sites such as Chichen Itza and El Castillo. This alignment cast a shadow along the staircase of the pyramid, creating the illusion of a serpent descending from the heavens. This phenomenon was interpreted as the descent of Kukulkan, symbolising the renewal of life and the onset of spring. The appearance of Kukulkan during the equinox served as a potent symbol of cosmic harmony and the interconnectedness of the earthly and celestial realms. Rituals and ceremonies dedicated to Kukulkan during the spring equinox honoured this divine connection and sought blessings for bountiful harvests and prosperity in the year ahead. Through their profound understanding of astronomy and their reverence for celestial deities, the Maya cultivated a deep spiritual connection to the cosmos, enriching their lives with a sense of awe and divine purpose.

Final words

Ultimately, the Spring Equinox emerges as a celestial symphony of rebirth, echoing across the ancient world and resonating in the depths of the human soul. From the goddesses of pagan Europe to the vibrant festivals of the Vedics and Egyptians, and the astrological teachings of Greek scholars and Mesoamerican peoples, the ‘true’ new year is revealed in the whispers of Mother Gaia. As she awakens in a kaleidoscope of colour and music, we are reminded of the universal nature of resurrection and life after death. These ancient traditions serve as timeless reminders of our interconnectedness with the cosmos and the enduring power of transformation.

Do you feel it? Even now? Even today, as difficult as things may be? I hope you do. I wish for you that you do, just as we humans always have…