The Awakening of Spring

1912078_613193945436429_1943433691_oEaster is a day of seasonal splendor for me. Raised Catholic as many witches were, Easter has always held a special magic of memory, in that way children remember sensory impressions of seasonal rituals, rather than religious dogma: waking up to an Easter basket full of goodies prepared by my mom, putting on colorful outfits, planting flowers, and going to church where I heard and sang beautiful hymns I still remember to this day. Sometimes it was raining, or even snowing, but there would still be a nice dinner (usually baked ham) and a family gathering. This always felt like the point where spring was finally arriving.

As a child I didn’t understand fully the notion that a religious tradition could be honoring the seasons, as the Catholic liturgy didn’t really contain that imagery (though I realized much later that Christ’s rebirth was a metaphor of spring). But the trappings of holidays like Easter and Christmas were unmistakably pagan, and I feel lucky my family made these holidays feel connected to nature.
607px-Henry_Meynell_Rheam_-_The_Fairy_Wood_1903

Many years later, becoming a witch and learning more about the origins of seasonal festivals, I became more attuned to the shift of seasons and the signs of spring in particular. Spring in the Northeast United States is a particularly beautiful season, and one that signals hope and renewal as buds and flowers arrive after what can be long and cold winters. When I joined my coven in the 1990s, I began performing a series of season rites that were part of an original ritual cycle known as The Book of the Provider. The beginning of this cycle began with the first full moon following the Spring Equinox (often in April) known as The Day of the Awakening. The Awakening usually arrived when spring bulbs began to poke up and begin to flower: snowdrops, followed by crocuses and scilla, then daffodil, hyacinths and tulips. Birdsong begins to ring louder and more varied, rain is often followed by warm winds, the sun burns a bit brighter. Hope returns to the land.

Spirit of SpringThis year, as we avoid social gatherings in churches and covensteads, and as we witness death and sickness and difficulties of many kinds, we may feel bereft and without hope. We may feel fearful, sad, lonely, helpless. And we should not turn away from those feelings. But we must also look to nature for signs of renewal and resilience. We must look within us for strength and courage and compassion. This season of solitude and pain and loss will be a long one and the future is full of unsurety. But the trees blossoming and the bees buzzing after a season of snow and ice: this means something. It means change is constant, and often follows a reliable pattern. There may be upheaval, but there is also balance, and rest. There is worry; there is also comfort.

Thomas_Wilmer_Dewing_-_Spring_-_1890Let’s do our best to support others at this time. Let’s find ways to make this time of isolation one of replenishment. Weed the garden; fill a birdfeeder with seed; read books on nature; write poetry; do your spring cleaning; sew some face masks; make care packages for those in need, if you can. Take care with your own health and safety and help support others. There is no more profound act of magic than to sow seeds of compassion and kindness. On dark days, on troubling nights, open the window to the sun, to warm breezes, to the refreshing scent of rain. Let spring’s burgeoning growth renew your sense of purpose.

I wish I had words of deep wisdom to impart. I don’t. But I can share this passage, from my coven’s Rite of the Awakening, from a poem called “The Immortal” by Cale Young Rice (1911), to offer some comfort and hope and beauty.

Spring has come up from the South again,

With soft mists in Her hair,

And a warm wind in Her mouth again,

And budding everywhere.

Spring has come up from the South again,

And Her skies are azure fire,

And around Her is the awakening

Of all the world’s desire.

Spring has come up from the South again,

And dreams are in Her eyes,

And music is in her mouth again,

Of love, the never-wise.

Spring has come up from the South again,

And bird and flower and bee,

Know that She is their life and joy–

–and immortality!

 

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