Spring Equinox and Religious Myths

In astronomy (the scientific study of the universe beyond the Earth) the point in Aries (about March 21-22 in the Northern Hemisphere) at which the ecliptic intersects the celestial equator, and the length of day and night are approximately equal all around Earth, is known as the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox.  This is one of four times of year that terrestrial position relative to the universe have been commemorated since most remote prehistory times.

The remote but documented Time Frame c. 3000-2000 BCE:  The  ancient Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Persians, etc. customarily celebrated their New Year at the time of the Vernal Equinox, and the custom remains in Iran to this day.  The Chaldeans also recognized the period  following the Spring Equinox, which lapsed over into Taurus, as the harbinger of spring.  Their festivity echoed the earlier Sumerians’ reference to Taurus as the “Bull of Light,” the charging force that maintained the cycle of the seasons.  Out of this understanding the Bull constellation came to symbolize the renewal of the world after winter’s “death,” and its appearance was honored with annual resurrection rites.  In ancient Egypt on the occurence of the full moon at the Vernal Equinox (the point in Aries) the nation celebrated in joy the domination of the Ram.  The Egyptian holiday Sham El Nessim, can be traced back to at least 2700 BCE, and it is still one of Egypt’s holidays.

Time Frame c. 1500-1200 BCE:  A pre-Mosaic festival marking the advent of Spring was celebrated among the nomadic Hebrew people.  This early observance recognized the Ram (Aries) as symbolic of the spring period, as in Egypt, and this symbolism is echoed in the Genesis myth where Abraham is told to sacrifice his “only begotten son” to God, but at the last moment a ram is miraculously provided by God as a substitute.  The son Isaac thus equals the lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.”  What this and other similar prehistory literary subterfuges refer to is the creation process in which the first elements are given up to allow prototype formation to begin—the developmental process when elementary particles are activated so they may pass-over into matter development.

Time  Frame c.25 BCE:  Mystery cults that were  popular in Greece began to influence the Roman culture in this period, and by 200 Before our Common Era the cult of Cybele, a Phrygian/Greek nature goddess, was ensconced on what was later to became known as Vatican Hill.  The cult also honored Cybele’s consort Attis (nearly identical to older cultures’ gods such as Tammuz,  Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus).  Her festival began on “Black Friday,” so-called because of bloodletting that took place  during the self-emasculation ceremony of aspiring priests, known as Corybantes.  Attis, Cybele’s consort, was presented as having been born of a virgin (Nana), and was meant to be a sacrificial victim and savior of mankind.  The celebration in his honor was on March 25—or exactly nine months before his annual rebirth (December 25).  Curiously, in Roman Catholicism the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is held on March 25, and celebrated the alleged time when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she had been made pregnant (Luke 1:26-38).

Time Frame c. 100+ CE:   Ancient Saxons, a Germanic people who first appeared in history in the writings of Ptolemy in the second century CE, held a feast day for the goddess Ostara (the Saxon version of the German lunar goddess Eostre) on the full moon following the Spring Equinox.  It is from this Pagan goddess that Christianity absorbed its name Easter, which is celebrated in near-identical season calculation to the Saxon festival.

At the Vernal Equinox, due to the Earth’s movements, the Sun seemingly remains suspended in one position for three days where the ecliptic and equator cross.  This is the “cross” upon which the Sun is figuratively crucified every year.  This  apparent lack of motion accounts for the three days following the alleged crucifixion of Jesus after which he is said to have risen from the dead to appear to Mary Magdalene and some disciples.  From this part of the account we could conclude that Jesus performed his “Second Coming” at that time.

These brief (and far from complete) times-gone-by anecdotes are meant to show how disguised Pagan awe for nature and the wonder workings of the universe have subtly colored the rites and ceremonies of every organized western religion of today.  The honesty at the heart of Pagan respect for the interrelated elements at work  throughout the universe has been tramped down to pulp in the stampede of building hierarchical-style “faith” systems.  That loss has not been exactly for the betterment of anyones personal spiritual understanding or guidance.

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