In March, spring is official no matter what the weather report or calendar says, and it arrives in the form of the Vernal Equinox; the time that the sun crosses the Earth’s equator from south to north. Needless to say, it doesn’t fall on precisely the same day every year because the length of the calendar year doesn’t quite correspond with that of the solar year, so the first day of spring varies between 19th and 21st March.
Nearer to home, the English word Easter, which parallels the German word Ostern, is of uncertain origin but one view, expounded by the Venerable Bede in the 8th-century, was that it derived from Eostre, or Eostrae, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. According to Britannica, this view presumes - as does the view associating the origin of Christmas on 25th December with pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice - that Christians appropriated pagan names and holidays for their highest festivals. Because Easter, like Christmas, has accumulated a great many traditions that have little to do with any Christian celebration of the Resurrection but derive from European folk customs. There endeth the lesson … and perhaps it’s time to make a point of reclaiming our own calendar, holidays and celebrations as per our Principal’s Old Calendar, Old Year, Old Ways.
The Vernal Equinox is all about changes and transformations, rebirth and renewal, growth and initiative … and that means getting rid of any unwanted bits, bobs and baggage. And that can often mean people! We’ve all got them – family, friends or acquaintances whom it is impossible to get rid of, short of murder. They are toxic, malevolent creatures who impose themselves on us and never know when they’ve outstayed their welcome. When they do finally leave we can often feel so physically sick by the depleting effect they’ve had on us that we can barely rouse ourselves enough to carry out a cleansing of our home and psyche. This is another manifestation of our old friend – the psychic vampire – a malevolent presence that feeds on the misery and disharmonious atmosphere it causes whenever it comes near.
The first step to take when this person leaves is to complete a simple ritual of following its steps from the door, along the path to the gate, with a stiff yard broom saying over and over again ‘Name … get thee gone and never come back,’ while sprinkling sea-salt in your wake. It’s a trifle awkward to do both jobs at once but it usually works … especially if completed in tandem with a banishing/cleansing ritual inside the house where it’s been. For the cleansing we need an infusion spray of leaves (and flowers if in season) of sorcerer’s violet (periwinkle). It was believed that the plant could protect against evil spirits, and in some places, it was alleged that unwelcome guests could not enter a building where periwinkle hung above the entrance. The dried flowers may be added to any magical mixture to enhance the working and banish negative energy.
Or we could use woody nightshade, (bittersweet) - a pretty climbing plant from the hedgerows, which has purple flowers in the summer and deep ruby red berries in the autumn. Its magical uses are similar to those of deadly nightshade although any plant in the nightshade family can be used interchangeably for most workings. Woody nightshade adds power to any magic carried out at the Dark of the Moon and is great for spells involving protection. Hang a bunch upside down by the entrances of your home to protect it and yourself from harmful energies, negative magic, spirits and people. For its magic to work, however, no one must know where it has been placed. A useful plant to have growing about the place.
Water for an infusion spray is prepared in the same way as an infusion for drinking, but it is essential that the liquid be kept covered for 10-15 minutes before straining through a muslin sieve into a small spray bottle to ensure all the magical properties have been extracted. The ideal container is a small glass or pottery plant spray bottle that holds about a cup of water in order to cleanse or protect the home from negative energies left behind by our unwanted guest.
- Infuse the woody nightshade (leaves, berries and flowers) and/or sorcerer’s violet in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. If only using the woody part of the plant for extra strength, pouring boiling water over it is not sufficient to extract the active ingredient. Allow it to simmer for at least 20 minutes in a small saucepan and strain through a sieve while hot – let it cool before pouring into the spray bottle and adding a fresh flower or two, or a leaf to the liquid. This cleansing or purifying mist permits treatment of everything in the room.
- Discard any remaining liquid immediately and wash the bottle thoroughly by running clear water through the spray so that future magical workings aren’t compromised by any psychic residue. If we intend repeating the working over a period of, say, three days for a protective ritual, any remaining liquid can be kept in the fridge for the duration of the treatment but must be discarded on the third day or it could turn sour. Once the cleansing ritual has been completed, we suggest the added precaution of using lavender oil in an evaporator or burning lavender joss sticks for purification purposes.
And if the spectre of murder is still beckoning why not consider a nice bottling or binding. Many people confuse the two and, although similar in preparation, the long-term outcome is often employed for different purposes. Neither carry the finality or strength of a full-blown curse and, unlike the curse, both can be ‘undone’ should it become necessary to negate the spell for whatever reason. In truth, curses, in the long term, are often counter-productive and self-defeating, since few people who throw them bother to concern themselves with the far-reaching implications. Binding and bottling give a far greater ‘control’ over the outcome and if at the end of the day, you decide it’s really not worth the effort, then the bottling or binding can be undone … a curse cannot. [See By Spellbook & Candle for more information].
We always find that the Vernal Equinox is a turbulent time – and we are not alone in this belief. This means that both our Coven and solitary workings are going to reflect the disharmonious aspects of the season. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the old adage of March coming in like a lion … because it is definitely one of those turbulent months which are a vital part of each year, and it usually brings an enormous energy turning point. There are a lot of things which will happen during it, so the chances are that we will feel pulled and pushed in a lot of different directions. So, brace yourself …
The highest spring tides of the year occur after the equinoxes in March and September; during equinoxes the Sun exerts a stronger pull on the Earth than the rest of the year, because of the alignment between the sun and the equator. Consequently, the water surface is strongly attracted by the Sun, which accentuates tides, which are called ‘great tides’. If on top of that there is also an alignment of the Moon with the Earth and Sun, then tides will get even stronger as the water will be twice ‘pulled’ by these heavenly bodies. Therefore, the Coven working for the Vernal Equinox requires the joint powers of the Dame and Magister to harness this turbulent tide and draw down its energies to re-energise the group.
The Vernal Equinox is, as we’ve already said, a turbulent time and it is essential we get our timing right for this synchronized ritual – traditionally three hours after sunset – early evening. The brain is triggered by many things including the seasons but even the most dedicated of witches can sometimes feel a reluctance to get back into the Compass. Winter can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as seasonal depression or winter blues and, it is considered a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter months.
Then along comes the Spring - which triggers another set of symptoms in people and has been called ‘The Call of the Wild Syndrome’ or nature deficit disorder. This manifests in different ways, most of which involve detachment from things or situations that do not work or make the soul feel confined. It is an intense need for freedom, especially after the resting months of the autumn and winter. The soul needs to be outdoors - just like many an animal of the wild. There is an impulsive behaviour pattern, which seems to impact on the same people year after year as if instinctual.
Spring, in general, signals to the soul that new adventures and relationships will happen if changes are made - out with the old in with the new. This is when people leave relationships, families, jobs and responsibilities - needing to be free in the ‘jungle of life’ at least until the next resting season (autumn) when they will repeat the pattern once again! We call upon the Old Lass to enable us to make the right decisions and to knuckle down to our responsibilities before we make complete prats of ourselves. Even witches have commitments from which they cannot walk away as the fancy takes them, and we need the strength to stand firm until we are in the right frame of mind to act rationally and sensibly once again.
Consider carrying out an act of contemplation on the Great Bear constellation … or a Pathworking focussing on the bear … would be perfect for this time of year. Bears are powerful, smart, and yes, they can be downright dangerous - but we love them for many reasons. They are a part of our ecosystem as wilderness ambassadors, while on a mystical level they symbolize leadership, family, and lunar magic. At one time, bears were found everywhere and so it’s not surprising that they have a special place in the cultural histories of the planet. In the kingdom of spirit animals, the bear is emblematic of grounding forces and strength and has been worshiped throughout time as a powerful totem, inspiring those who need its courage to stand up against adversity. As a spirit animal in touch with the earth and the cycles of nature, the bear is a powerful guide to support physical and emotional healing. In heraldry, a bear is also a symbol of healing and personal health, strength and bravery. And how many of us still have the teddy bear from our childhood? So use your Pathworking skills and go out and meet one of these awesome creatures in the wild and see what it has to tell you …
Julie Dexter and James Rigel
Dame & Magister of Coven of the Scales