The Joy of Spring
Modern living causes us to overlook the obvious. Here’s how not to let that happen.
Illustration Credit: Spring by Michele Morin
Should you find yourself in Japan on any given March 15, be prepared to observe, amid beautiful scenery, shrines and marketplaces, a huge, erect penis parading down the street.
The Honen Matsuri, or Harvest Festival, celebrates fertility in all its forms—including human pregnancy. It is celebrated throughout the country, but is perhaps best known in the town of Komaki. Townspeople drink free sake, indulge in special phallus-shaped sweets, and join in a parade that ushers a wooden, 620-pound male member down the street. At the parade’s conclusion, the crowd is showered with rice cakes, symbolizing fertility. The festivities conclude at 4:00 p.m., presumably to give everyone in the fevered, sake-drunk crowd an early start on the evening’s private fertilization rituals.
Yes, spring—and all its florid, hormonal charges—is in the air.
The vernal, or spring equinox, on March 20, is basically an astronomical phenomenon, occurring when the sun is at its zenith above the equator. At that instant, the tilt of Earth’s axis neither inclines away from nor toward the Sun. On the day of the equinox, the center of the Sun roughly spends an equal amount of time above and below the horizon, so that night and day are about the same length. The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night).
Science aside, it’s also considered a powerful time of regrowth and renewal—and it has been since the dawn of recorded history. Many early peoples celebrated for the basic reason that their food supplies would soon be restored. The monoliths at Stonehenge mark the position of the rising sun on the vernal equinox. Early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it pointed directly toward the rising sun on that day. (Some view this transition as a victory of a god of light/life/rebirth/resurrection over the powers of darkness and death.)
Rituals honoring the equinox have varied from culture to culture, but all involved fertility and rebirth. In India, it was once believed that a fertile marriage would result if virgins were first deflowered by means of the lingam, a stone phallus symbolizing the god Shiva. In Rome, the equinox was marked by sacrifices to celebrate the death and rebirth of Attis, the god of vegetation. Goddesses of fertility—the Greeks’ Aphrodite, the Native Americans’ Spider Woman, Mexico’s Tonantizin, Africa’s Oshun, Northern Europe’s Freya, and Rome’s Flora—were all honored in the spring.
Rituals used in Europe of recent centuries to enhance a woman’s chances of conception included drinking potions of powdered hare’s womb, sparrow’s brain, or wolf’s penis, by wearing amulets of lodestone or quail’s heart, or by simply walking in the shadow of a “lusty” woman. And men were encouraged to increase their virility by ingesting spices like coriander and saffron, which would add heat to semen.
Spring fever indeed.
The vernal equinox is also significant in Christianity because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox. Amusingly, our Easter traditions were wrought from pagan rituals. The egg, rabbits, even egg coloring, were all ways of inviting fertility and renewal.
But the equinox is no longer recognized as an important celebration, save perhaps by Wiccans, who create altars, burn herbs, and chant to the Goddess. As E.B. White wrote in 1944, “The first day of spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for nature to follow. Now we just set the clocks an hour ahead and change the oil in the crankcase.”
And this is a loss, as the onset of spring can resonate powerfully on a spiritual level. It’s a time of renewal and rebirth, a time of transition when the soul lets go of the old and plants symbolic new seeds. The soul awakens from its sleepy (even depressed) state of winter and seeks nourishment on many levels. The warmth of the sun awakens something within us, and a new quest generally begins, as if by synchronicity. More hours of daylight propel most souls to move forward, to make needed changes.
Seattle-based progressive astrologer Steven Shroyer writes in his blog that the power of the spring equinox is the flipping of the dominance of darkness to the dominance of light. “One of the important aspects of light is that it supports individualized growth. Light illuminates so that each person can see their own path in the world.”
For many, the cosmic reboot of the spring equinox translates to a desire not only for new experience, but for love with a capital L. More than any other time in the year (other than, perhaps, New Year’s Eve) singles begin to feel restless to connect and mate. According to a poll done by Sparkology.com, an online dating website for young professionals, 81 percent date more often in the spring. And given a cosmic climate that fosters new beginnings, make the most of it.
Consider writing down your wish list for love. Make a list of attributes your perfect lover would have. Meditate right at the moment of the equinox. Tell yourself you are worthy of unconditional love and your deepest desires. Let yourself feel this reality. And then watch and see if the “seeds” of your ideas sprout during the next three months, come into bloom during the summer solstice period, and are harvested in the fall.
Singles are not the only ones who experience spring fever. Many married people—also hit with the thunderbolt of equinox power—may also question how satisfied they are with their love lives, and even chafe against the constraints of monogamy. Rather than become a statistic, consider how to channel that spring-fueled angst into rebooting your love life with your spouse. Tantric sex is a good place to start. No magic here, it’s all about mindfulness and reconnecting, and has saved a number of marriages I know. There are regular tantric workshops in many locations, but a basic knowledge of it can be had by an Internet search.
And if you still feel the need to spice up your life, there are ways to have some extramarital enjoyment that’s safe and that won’t jeopardize your relationship.
Take a dance class. Latin dance, tango, ballroom—any of them can give vent to the need for more passion and touching without leading to infidelity. If you want to really open your heart and be vulnerable, you could also try attending a cuddle party. Now in many states around the country, cuddle parties are for just that: cuddling. Strict rules are in place about not fondling or hitting on your fellow cuddlers. Or last but not least, take a challenging class in hot yoga or a long trail run and sweat out your spring fever. It won’t lead to sexual release or an offspring, but you’ll feel just as happy and spent.
Put Spring in Your Steps
- Visualize yourself in full bloom. Notice what parts of yourself you’d like to see changed or born. Write one list of things to release and another list of things you’d like to have more of in your life.
- Connect to natural light. In winter we are deprived of the sun’s healing energies and spend more time with bright screens that disrupt our natural rhythms. With the equinox, we turn the tide on the darkness. On at least one day, witness both sunrise and sunset.
- Reconnect to the earth. Put your bare feet, hands, and even body on the ground. Breathe in the newness in nature. Plant something.
- Reboot relationships—or let them go. There are always a few of these in our lives. Examine the source of the discord, and open your heart with compassion. Decide whether the relationship can be saved.
- Create your altar or shrine to spring. Use elements from nature that inspire you, and colors that resonate with you. Use this space to meditate.
- Arouse your sensual self. Cuddle, learn tantra, slather your lover and/or yourself in oil.
- Create your own equinox ritual. Whether it’s dancing, painting, hiking—anything that gives you a feeling of connection and rebirth. And get moving. Winter is over and it’s time to come alive.
Jane Ganahl is a frequent contributor to S&H.