SPRING is such a wonderful time. The natural world comes alive as the sun stretches the days longer and warmer. This ushers in an abundant fertility of the earth and fosters plant and animal life. This means a new beginning, renewal and rebirth. It is for this reason that different cultures around the world mark this start with celebrations and from these cultural celebrations spring rich stories.
Here are five fascinating stories related to the Spring Equinox:
The Goddess Easter
The word Easter originates from the name “Eostre” or “Ostara,” the a Germanic goddess of fertility and new life. Her symbols include the colorful eggs and her favored animal the rabbit.
There is this old story and it goes like this: the goddess arrived late during one vernal equinox causing a little bird’s wings to freeze and lie flightless on a stack of leaves.
Motivated with guilt and pity, the goddess turned the bird into an agile rabbit. As tribute to its previous life as a bird, she gave him the ability to lay eggs of vibrant colors.
That decision however turned sour when Ostara got too annoyed with the affair and mischief of the rabbit. As a punishment, she banished him to the sky as the Hare Constellation at the foot of the hunter, the Orion Constellation.
As an act of mercy, the goddess allows the hare to go down to the earth once a year to give rainbow-colored eggs to children participating in the spring equinox celebration.
The Resurrection of Christ
Considered one of the greatest and most famous stories of the world, the story of Jesus Christ is one that invokes fascination and solace for many people.
Ending in glorious resurrection and assumption, the story of Christ is one riddled with love, faith, loyalty and even betrayal. This story is celebrated solemnly every year and is marked as the Holy Week. It commemorates key and iconic events that lead to the death and resurrection of Christ. The last supper, the crucifixion and the resurrection are among the most notable ones.
Literature about this is extremely rich. One would be able to locate poems, prayers and events about the extraordinary life of Jesus. In the Philippines, some people literally get crucified to express their faith.
According to the Bible, Jesus Christ’s death coincided with the Passover. This is commemorated during the first full moon of the spring equinox. This is why the Holy Week and Easter is celebrated on different dates each year.
Persephone and the Four Seasons
Persephone is the Greek Goddess of Spring. Each year, her return to the earth ushers in new and lush life. Her departure, on the other hand, brings in the harsh seasons of winter and fall. Here is the story of how the four seasons came to rule this earth:
The story begins with Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, hiding her daughter Persephone from the gods to protect her from their treachery. On a beautiful day that Persephone and her friends spent flower-picking, Hades saw her. He instantly fell for her beauty and resolved to abduct and marry her.
When Demeter noticed her daughter’s absence, she began a tireless search. She swapped her flowery dresses with a cloak of black. In this pursuit, she neglected the crops. She was too brokenhearted to make anything grow. This caught the attention of the gods as without harvest, human society would crumble into mayhem.
This was when Zeus, with Hermes’ aid, persuaded Hades to let Persephone return to the face of the Earth. Hades agreed as long as Persephone had not eaten anything from the underworld.
Persephone had already eaten four seeds of a pomegranate as she was extremely thirsty. Hades took this to his advantage and said that the rules didn’t allow him to free Persephone.
Overcome with the sense of urgency and desperation, the gods brokered a deal to let Persephone stay with her mother half of the year. The other half must be spent with Hades in the underworld by virtue of the four seeds.
Thus the seasons came to be consistent with Demeter’s feelings: happiness and life during summer and spring and misery and longing during the harsh seasons of winter and fall.
The Roman God Mithras
Nothing says rebirth and renewal more than resurrection.
The Roman god Mithras’ tale is a story of just that.
His death and resurrection coincide with the Spring Equinox. It is believed that he assists his followers find the plane of light after death. Perhaps the most colorful and fascinating is the story of how Mithras helped create the world.
Coming from a stone inside a cave, Mithras started an epic journey. He was already in his youth and yielded a torch and a dagger when he was born during the winter solstice.
He was asked by the sun god to sacrifice a white bull. Although bewildered and hesitant with this request, Mithras followed. As his dagger pierced through the stomach of the bull, something majestic happened. The blood that spilled formed the first flowers and the first grains. The body of the bull became the moon and Mithras’ cloak flew up above and became the sky.
The Battle of “Tres de Abril”
This last story is not directly about Easter, per say. It is, however, a story of fighting for freedom and fighting for a new beginning all the same.
It was the start of the Holy Week in Cebu over 120 years ago. It was Palm Sunday, exactly a week before Easter Sunday when Cebuanos staged a rebellion against Spain. It was the only time in the history of the Katipuneros that they were able to successfully take back a major city. This feat was led by Leon Kilat, who was able to force Spanish forces to retreat to Fort San Pedro. The Cebuanos were able to hold the major city for four days. News of their success spread and inspired a series of rebellions in many towns in Cebu. Although short-lived, this rebellion showed the Cebuano people’s steadfast love for country, freedom and the rebirth of a Filipino society.