Celtic culture fan Lauren Smith suggests things we can do other than scoff chocolate eggs.
Everyone loves the time of year when Spring arrives. The harsh Irish winter is coming to an end and the days grow longer and the air smells a little sweeter, the grass is greener and there’s a general feeling of good cheer and hope about the place.
I think back to memories of old scoffing Easter eggs in my grandmother’s kitchen in Co. Laois and gorging on vulgar amounts of chocolate and sweets with my friends. Each year we ate until our bellies were sick and we spent the evenings sitting by the Gills Pond chatting idly in the cool spring weather.
Indeed my memories of Easter and spring time are happy ones but as I grow older and wiser (to be debated). I’ve been learning more about the true meaning of Easter and where the tradition came from. Like Christmas and Halloween the season has largely fallen prey to the greeting card companies and used as yet another ploy for the big wigs to get their hands on our money. We’ve forgotten our heritage and the true meaning behind these celebrations. So this Easter while you’re munching on your chocolate Easter eggs and preparing for the annual Easter bunnies’ visit, spare a thought for our ancestors and what the true meaning of the season really is.
To the Celts, the Spring Equinox was a time for self-reflection and rebirth. The Celts recognised this time for the new balance in nature after a long Irish winter. It was a time for seeds to be sewn and for new life to hatch. The animals were at their most fertile and with the equal amount of day time and night time it was the perfect conditions for crops to grow and flourish.
It was a positive time where many possibilities were available, particularly for growth and courtship and the Celts were thankful and honoured this. In modern day Druidry Spring Equinox is known as Alban Eiler. If you’d like to honour this time in a more traditional way and look past the commercial aspect of the approaching season here’s how:
-Spring is the season of the daffodil. Wear more yellow clothing and plant some daffodils one sunny afternoon. The bright cheerful tones are uplifting and fresh and encourage us to do some spring cleaning. They add a bit of zest to your home.
-At this time, the sun moves into the astrological sign of Aries, a fire sign which is all about action. Aries motivates us and urges us to get rid of the old and work on the new. If there are any projects nagging at you in the back of your mind or a hobby or pursuit you’ve always wanted to do, now is the time to act. If there are any home improvements or diets you wish to try, do it now. Take charge of your life and make these changes that have been circulating in your mind all year.
-Another great way to prepare for the Spring Equinox is to take a meditative walk in a sacred place. This could be by a sacred chapel, a blessed monument or a place which is special to you in some personal kind of way. Undergoing a mini-pilgrimage during this time is a great opportunity to remind yourself of all the blessings in your life and the things you are most thankful for. A short walk in the afternoon in nature will bring you the peace and mental space we so often neglect to make time for. The Celts would go on these pilgrimages every year along with family in an act of prayer and worship, reflecting on all the beauty in their lives and putting aside their concerns and worries. In these times I can’t think of an activity more healthy or therapeutic.
-Instead of stuffing yourself with chocolate eggs and paying a fortune for the commercially made eggs, why not instead pay your respects to the German goddess Ostara. Ostara is the female goddess whose name comes from the female hormone oestrogen. We can remember her and honour this time of fertility and growth and new ideas by painting and decorating hardboiled eggs and displaying them in our homes. This is a particularly enjoyable activity for children who can be encouraged to embrace their creative sides this Easter.
– Another fun activity for children is the classic game of egg races. This is rolling your hardboiled eggs down a hill and seeing whose reaches the bottom the fastest, or of course the famous egg and spoon race. Your children will be fit and ready for summer with these creative outdoor pursuits rather than sitting around feasting on sugary foods. Simple changes like this bring us back to a more pure and authentic period in time. Even if all you do is spend one day in nature away from phones and laptops it will make a world of difference.
-If you want to go all out this Spring Equinox you can always gather the family and make a beautiful spring altar. This is simple and easy and will be a constant visual tool of reflection for everybody in your home to enjoy. To make the altar all you need is a green cloth draped over a table, with yellow flowers sprinkled over it and budding twigs cut from trees. Then place five candles of equal height in a circle on the table. Each candle should be a different colour to represent the elements; blue (Air), red (fire), blue/green (water), brown (earth) and violet (spirit). Then place a gold ribbon in a circle around the candles. This represents the solar cross of Celtic tradition and the five colours represent all natural elements coming into balance. When your altar is complete, have each member of your family write their concerns and worries on a card of piece of paper and place them under the altar and light the candles to send them to the Gods.
Remembering where we came from and why we celebrate the feast days as we do is so important. The Irish originate from a culture thick in spirituality and beautiful peaceful customs and traditions. I believe we have so much to learn from our ancestor’s way of life. Remembering how they lived and practicing some of their beliefs and reflecting on their wisdom may bring us much needed peace. I hope this inspires you to value and appreciate the beauty and sacredness of nature and the world around us.
Lauren Smith is studying media production at Ballyfermot College, and does community radio work. She is fascinated by Celtic traditions, spooky things, myths and the mystical side of the Irish culture.