Harshness vanished. A sudden softness
has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey.
Little rivulets of water changed
their singing accents.
Tendernesses, hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
The snow is still cold and icy on the ground where I live, yet spring is on her way. How do I know? Not because the calendar tells me so, and not only because of the changing light. I know spring is coming because the silent winter forest is now a vaulting cathedral of bird song. My dogs run farther, noses low to the ground, chasing the scent trail of the small animals now awakened from their hibernation. Even I, with a sense of smell much weaker in comparison to my four-legged friends, am dizzied by the smell of leaf rot, loamy earth, and green moss slowly being revealed from beneath its blanket of white. Torrents of water now pour over the mountainside in a hundred new streams. They make a lively sound as they rush their way down to the swollen river that sits below my house, like the sound of children in the schoolyard on a bright and windy day. We are just a few days away from the Spring Equinox, and though it may not be apparent in the still empty tree limbs, the fire of spring has been lit.
Ostara is the name that pre-Christian Anglo –Saxon peoples gave to the festival of Spring, celebrated on the equinox in March. Ostara is the name for the goddess of the dawn and derives from the Germanic word for east, the direction of the rising sun. I consider the season of late winter to be reminiscent of our sleep cycle just prior to the dawn time. You know that time when your dreams become vivid, mixing with the sounds and sensations of our waking life? Now, as we come to the cross-quarter festival of the equinox the year has truly dawned and we begin to awaken from our slumber. We cross the threshold, with winter behind us, and move forward into the next creative cycle, which will take us all the way to Samhain or Halloween, the final harvest feast of the year.
How did our ancient ancestors celebrate Ostara? We don’t truly know as few of those rites and rituals were passed down whole. However, it is said that one practice was to drink water from fresh springs as the sun rises, while another was to clean and bless the gardens. I used to live in a coastal town and my personal equinox practice was to plant the first spring violas in a pot on my deck, their velvety purple and bright yellow flowers heralding the beauty of the season to come. Living in the mountains now this is not possible. I’d love to get into the garden and clear away the debris to prepare the earth for the first spring planting but that is still a few weeks away.
Many people feel the spring tide rising as an urge to clean their living spaces, another practice I love, and of course, this can extend into a spring cleanse for our bodies, in which we reduce the heavier foods that nourished us so well through the winter season and take in more of the spring harvest. This might mean adding dandelion greens to your meals, drinking bitter herbal infusions, and switching to lighter protein sources. All of these changes will help to reduce liver stagnation and cleanse the blood. I tend to make more clear broth soups, full of ginger and spring greens, leaving behind the richer stews that were a staple through the colder months. From a yogic perspective, this can be an ideal time to do a “mental cleanse”, so that we can reduce distraction and bring more potency to our practices. This might look like reducing the use of technology (television, social media, etc) and making more space for stillness and observation.
From an astrological perspective, spring is governed by the element of fire, as it is ushered in with the cardinal sign of Aries. Ruled by the fiery planet Mars, Aries brings us fresh new energy, the type that inspires us to action and helps us to burn up the dross of the winter season. We can stoke this fire by revisiting our intentions for the year (remember those New Year’s resolutions?) and checking in to see which still feel true. I often plant many seeds of desire in the late autumn season, and by this time of the year I know which ones I am meant to breathe life into, and which ones to release.
While winter visioning required deep rest and plenty of quiet space, spring manifestation asks for greater physicality. I am called to awaken my body again, bringing more heat and movement into my physical practices of yoga, in the same way I am called to take tangible steps towards bringing my creative projects into reality. Aries energy is the energy of re-birth, calling us out of the dream space of Pisces. We may find that in some spring seasons we would rather pull the covers up over our ears and go back to sleep. Don’t escape under the covers. We are wise to catch this rising tide of vital energy and allow it to support us in waking up for the year.
The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
How do you celebrate spring? What does it mean to you? What are the signs of spring where you live? Are there certain rituals or practices that help you to align with the energy of this season?
I believe that tapping into the energy signature of each season can offer us so much in the way of inner wisdom, physical health, and creative potency. I do not think that our practices and rituals need to be elaborate or complex, nor do they need to be deeply religious or even spiritual in nature. They simply need to reflect our own experience of each season. The practices are a recognition of our intimate relationship to the world around us and an honouring of earth’s rhythms as an intrinsic part of our lives. The magic is in the fact that the more we pay attention to these rhythms, the more they come alive in our own bodies, hearts, and minds.
If you want more seasonal wisdom inspiration please join me for my Thirteen Moons Circle which begins on March 21st, the vernal equinox. In this program I guide you through a full wheel of the year, tracking each astrological season with tools for working with home herbalism and personal reflection practices like the tarot. This program only opens up once per year and offers an inspired learning approach to connecting with natural cycles. Whether you choose to take part or not, I hope that this spring season brings you bright blessings of renewal and rebirth, and I offer you my Spring Tonic Tea recipe to nourish you in good health.
Spring Tonic Tea Blend
A soothing and mineral rich blend that will support gentle detoxification. You can buy all of these herbs at Harmonic Arts Herbal Dispensary, or your local herb shop. I used parts as a measurement so you can choose how large a batch you want. I often make in large batches so the measurement would be in cups (1 cup, 1/2 cup & 1/4 cup), but you could choose a much smaller amount, to begin with.
- 1 part Nettle Leaf
- 1 part Red Clover Flowers
- .5 parts Dandelion Leaf
- .5 parts Skullcap
- .5 parts Chamomile
- .25 parts Ginger Root
- .25 parts Orange Peel
- .25 parts Spearmint Leaf
Make as an infusion by pouring boiling water over the tea and allowing it to steep for 5-10 minutes. On average about 1 cup water for every 2 tsps tea blend. Enjoy!