SPRING EQUINOX: LIFE RETURNING
The Spring Equinox marks the day on which the hours of day and night are equal. The darkness and the light are balanced. As with the Earth, so goes it with us. Since we are affected by the cycles of the Earth, this time can become a time of psychic balance for us. The darkness and death of winter have disciplined us - hopefully, it has been a time of introversion and introspection, and now we are ready for a rebirth. The spiritual light born in the heart of the darkness of the Winter Solstice has grown steadily in the underworld and is now ready to emerge into the light of day. The spiritual seed created at Winter Solstice becomes a conscious impulse, a new life purpose, as individual and as diverse as the rainbow colours that will soon envelope the Earth. The festivals of Passover and Easter, as well as the more ancient rites of Cybele and Attis, celebrate this opportunity for rebirth of body, heart and soul.
In one ancient story, the Spring Equinox is the time when the goddess Demeter is reunited with her daughter Persephine, who has ruled the Underworld during the winter months as Queen of the Dead. Now She returns to the upper world, not as the Queen of the Dead but as the Spring Maiden, bringing with her new life and fertility.
Once upon a time, when there was still a bit of mystery and magic left in the world, a woman mourned. She was lost in a great darkness of spirit, inconsolable in her grief. Something horrible had happened to her, something that had ripped away her desire for life. In great despair, she wandered the earth, sorrowing so deeply and so long that eventually she lost sight of that thing which had wounded her. With time, it had been buried away so deeply within that she no longer remembered what was causing so much pain.
Finally, exhausted in body and spirit, the woman came to a forest and, finding no path into it, sank down on her knees and began to cry bitterly. The tears flowed down her cheeks and into her cupped hands, and fountain-like, once more flowed out of that living cup and onto the ground. The bitter salt of her tears and sorrows traced mysterious patterns on cheeks, hands and earth, and when the tears stopped, she REMEMBERED. She had cried herself down into the place where the wound was buried. She remembered her lost daughter.
She remembered a time of sunlight, a field of wildflowers and bright blue sky overhead, and her beautiful daughter dancing with her in the arms of the springtime winds. Now the winds would gently caress their cheeks and bodies as they swayed back and forth, now wildly tug at skirts and hair as they flew across the earth, now spiral them down until they both lay giggling amidst bright colored flowers of red and gold and green. As the woman knelt there at the edge of the forest, a wind came and sang through the bare treetops, and the woman, still laughing in her vision, smiled.
After a time, the woman stood up, and although the smile had only been fleeting, her face had settled into a resigned peacefulness, where before there had been only devastation. She quietly looked around her and, choosing a spot, walked into the forest. On the ground where she had remembered, she left behind a box.
She moved through the forest in a waking dream, often seeing herself with her child as they had been before; sometimes seeing herself as a child, walking and singing with her own mother. She was content to have it so, for it was one of the properties of that forest that a person could wander through it for many, many days and nights, awakening memories and reliving them. It was not life, but it was a memory of life.
After many days, the woman began to hear, amidst the sighing and rustling of the bare branches of the forest, a new sound. It was low and muffled and almost beyond hearing, but it vibrated in her body like a heartbeat, and she soon found herself listening for it rather than looking for her memories. Sometimes it was loud, as if someone were drumming out the whole life of the forest, for now the woman noticed that there was indeed life within the forest beyond her memories. Sometimes, however, the sound would stop altogether, and the woman would remember the pain and despair that had brought her to the wood.
One day, when the drumming was especially wild and passionate, and the life of the forest was all movement and chirpings and busyness, the woman followed the sounds to a small meadow, and saw there an ancient oak, spreading its branches to the sky, while curled within its roots was the source of the sound - a young man, broad-shouldered, slim-hipped and strong, with a beauty of face that caused the woman's breath to catch in her throat. Her slight movement must have broken his concentration, because the young man looked up at her and stopped playing.
"I wondered when you would find your way here!" The man's voice was smooth and silvery, deep and joyful, like moonlight on a brook in early spring. "I tried to speak to you when you first came to my forest, but you could not see me, for you were lost in your visions. So I played for you on my drum, and its sound finally caught you and brought you to me. Stay here with me for awhile, for although I have the earth and sky and waters, and the 4-leggeds and the winged ones for my companions, I have been lonely for the sight of another human. Stay here with me, and I will play my rhythms just for you."
"I will stay here and rest for a day or two and listen to your music," said the woman, "for I remember how much I love to dance and sing. I had forgotten that until just now." So the woman sat on a big root of the oak tree that curved itself into a mighty chair, with moss growing in the middle to make a comfortable seat, and looking into the young man's dark eyes, felt herself wrapped 'round in warmth and comfort, and she knew his name even as he spoke it. VANH. For his part, as he looked into the woman's clear eyes, which were brown and grey and piercing green, he felt a love and desire that he had forgotten, and he and she both remembered her name, and it was MARA.
Mara continued to roam the forest, but now she would return and stay near Vanh's tree while he played. At first, she was content to sit and listen, watching his hands beat out rhythms of great intricacy, until she began to hear the patterns he was playing. As her ear began to understand the patterns, her eyes beheld those same patterns in the flight and songs of the birds, in the movements of the foxes and hares, in the swelling buds on the trees. It seemed as if the whole forest was coming alive to the beat of Vanh's drumming! Finally, one day Mara found that her feet were making patterns to the sounds as well. With a great sigh and a small smile, Mara leapt to her feet and began to dance. The graceful movement his music evoked in her body awoke something slumbering within him, and his drumming took on a deeper power – the power of love and desire.
After that, things changed. Each day now, while Vanh beat out sounds and rhythms on his drums, Mara danced. And then both of them began to dream; not the memory dreaming that the forest bestowed as a gift, but a deeper dreaming that opened upon a Mystery. The first night they dreamt, they knew themselves in the dream and discovered many things about each other that they could not share in the waking world of the forest. When they awoke, they searched each other's eyes and knew that they had truly seen each other's souls. They never spoke of it, content to keep it for themselves.
Then they went their separate ways for the first time in many days.
The days were quickly getting longer; the darkness was slowly giving way to it. So that afternoon, it was still light when Vanh returned from the journey he had made to the edge of the forest. Mara was already seated beneath the oak, quickly hiding her hands behind her back as he approached. She waited for Vanh to approach, although it took control to hold back a flood of words that were waiting to bubble out. "Where have you been all this long day, my lord Vanh?" she teased as he came to stand in front of her. "I have been waiting for you many hours!" Vanh smiled at eagerness in her voice. Something new there! So he smiled playfully and said most sweetly, "My Lady Mara, I have journeyed to the edge of the forest to bring you a gift. I imagine it is something precious to you, and that you have mourned its loss." And he pulled a carved wooden box out of his traveling cape, and Mara saw the box she had carried with her on her long journeying and which she had left behind at the edge of the forest.
Her heart leapt at the sight of it, and with trembling hands she took it and set it on a twisted oak root, slowly opening it. Inside it were the most beautiful colored threads that Vanh had ever seen, with three silver needles. For the first time since she had lost her child, a smile lit up her face.
In the face of her joy, Vanh's heart opened in love. Before he could speak, however, Mara reached behind her back and brought out her own gift. She handed Vanh a beautiful old dagger, its hilt covered with swirls of silver and inset with moonstones and rubies. "For you," she said, "to carve your drums, because I have felt the beauty of their rhythms. Carve the sacred symbols of life on them, for they have given me hope of life where there was none before." And Mara told him how she had come upon the dagger long ago in the woods, dropped there perchance by some other wanderer. She took it for its beauty and hidden it away for a future need. That morning, after the dream and after looking in Vanh's eyes, she had known what the dagger was for.
After that, their days were full indeed. Now, as Mara roamed through the forest, her eyes saw the life there and fed her heart with the wisdom of her seeing. She began to return early to the meadow and there take out her sewing box. Carefully choosing threads that matched the vision of her days, she began to embroider the returning life of the forest in pictures on her robe. Swiftly, under her skillful fingers, trees, birds, flowers, the animals that she had learned to entice into her arms, the meandering streams, the bright sky and the rain-ladened clouds, were re-created there. Then one day, she put down her needle and threads and putting on her robe, stood before Vanh dressed in the beauty of life itself.
While Mara worked in colors and threads, Vanh was busy carving the patterns of his rhythms on his drums. The sweeping curves that the winds traced through the treetops, the strong beat of hawk wings soaring above, the pounding energy of stags racing through the forest, moved his hand in patterns his music had echoed and which now he made concrete. When he was done, the truth and wisdom of the patterns etched there spoke to heart and mind and spirit, and added a deeper quality to Vanh's music.
That day, when they saw the beauty they had created, their hearts rejoiced. Vanh took up his drums and Mara began to dance, and as they gave themselves over to the rhythms, the forest spirits themselves were surprised by joy and came and danced and made music with them until far into the night. When Vanh and Mara finally lay down to sleep in the arms of the sheltering oak tree, the spirits of the woods continued to sing songs of the wonder of life, the beauty of the earth and the shining glory of the heavens. Then as the dawn approached, they came and stood over the sleepers beneath the tree, and blessed them before departing.
As for Vahn and Mara, even their delight with their visitors could not keep their eyes from finally closing in sleep, and they soon walked in dreams again. This dream was different, however, for instead of being aware of each other, they each saw the same Mystery. What Vanh felt Mara never knew, but Mara stood in a womb-like cave, and saw a beautiful young woman laying on a stone bed, bathed in a golden shimmer of light. Mara tried to step up to the maiden but was kept beyond the sphere of golden light. She suddenly became aware of another presence in the cave, one of immense age and power, and out of the shadows on the other side of the stone bed came a woman, tall and queenly, dressed and draped in black, whether young or old, Mara could not say. She walked over and stood behind the still figure of the maiden, and cradled her head in her hands.
Then in a voice that seemed to come from the depths of the earth, the dark woman cried out, "Awaken, daughter! I, Persephine, Queen of the Dead, call on you to awaken to your life!" At the sound of that cry, Mara's breath caught in her throat, and then her vision started to blur as, through sudden tears, she saw the young woman's eyes slowly and painfully open into the light.
Then the Dark Mother was bending over the still reclining figure, massaging life back into limbs that had turned as cold as the stone slab supporting them. All the while, as Mara watched and listened, the Mother spoke to her daughter in words that became a chant that kept time with the rhythmic stroking of limbs.
REMEMBER YOUR HERITAGE, MY DAUGHTER
REMEMBER THE WISDOM OF THE MOTHERS
REMEMBER THE TEMPLE OF THE BODY.
IF YOU GO WITHIN, OUR VOICES WILL BE THERE
TO HELP YOU FIND THE WAY.
REMEMBER TO FEEL, MY DAUGHTER
TO SENSE THE INVISIBLE IN ALL THAT IS
TO TRACE THE SPIDER-WEBS OF ENERGY
TO FEEL THE LIFE FORCE OF ALL THAT IS
TO KNOW WHAT IS TRULY BEFORE YOU
TO STAND BACK BEFORE ITS BEAUTY
AND WORSHIP THE SPIRIT AT WORK IN ALL LIFE.
REMEMBER TO TRUST, MY DAUGHTER
THE LIGHT OF YOUR OWN CREATIVITY
IT BELONGS TO YOU
A SPARK AND A FLAME OF MY OWN SACRED FIRE.
APPROACH IT WITH REVERANCE, BUT NEVER FEAR
ALTHOUGH IT CONSUMES, HOLY FIRE ALSO
BE CO-CREATOR OF LIFE WITH ME
ALWAYS REMEMBERING THAT IT IS I WHO AM THE
POWER OF CREATION.
THEN ALL YOUR WORKS WILL BE BLESSED WITH MY
REMEMBER TO LISTEN, MY DAUGHTER
LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF YOUR OWN ORIGINAL
I SEND THEM TO YOU AS GIFTS FROM YOUR FATHER
AS LIGHTNING BOLTS FROM THE HEAVENS.
DO NOT LET THEM TURN AGAINST YOURSELF
FOR THEN THEY BECOME FALSE VOICES
WHICH LEAVE YOU WEAK AND POWERLESS.
LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THE VOICES
REMEMBERING THE WISDOM AND LOVE IN MY VOICE
SO THE SWORD OF ITS LIGHT CAN DISPEL UNTRUTH.
THEN YOU WILL SEPARATE OUT YOUR OWN
BY ITS LIGHT YOU WILL SEE THE TRUE MYSTERY
AND WITH POWER SPEAK ITS NAME
SO MY WISDOM MAY BE SHARED WITH ALL MY
REMEMBER, MY DAUGHTER
REMEMBER THE WISDOM OF THE MOTHERS
REMEMBER THE CYCLES THAT FORM AND SHAPE YOUR
LIFE HERE ON EARTH
REMEMBER THAT LIFE AND DEATH ARE BUT ONE
REMEMBER MY MYSTERIES AND MY GIFTS AND MY
When she had finished, the Dark Queen stood back, giving her hand to her daughter and helping her to sit, and finally stand up. The daughter was as golden as the mother was dark, and yet when they embraced, Mara saw that they flowed in and out of each other just as the light and the darkness intermingled. Then suddenly, the daughter turned and looked into Mara's eyes, and it was her own sweet girl's eyes that gazed into her own.
Then with a cry of delight at her freedom, the young woman leapt out of the circle of golden light and disappeared into the darkness, and Mara knew no more.
Meanwhile, Vanh dreamed he wandered through caves veined with the flashing brilliance of metals, jewels and crystals. A flashing movement caught his eye, and he stopped at seeing a young maiden run through the other end of the cavern, catching only a brief glimpse of golden hair and long smooth limbs. The sight enticed him to quicken his pace and follow. Soon he was running lightly through the corridors of the earth, never close enough to see clearly, but never so far behind that he lost her trail. Soon, the rhythm of their running synchronized so that they began to sense each other's feelings and share each other's impressions. He experienced her wonder at the beauty of the treasures encased in the very roots of the earth, the joy of the water making its way through the very bones of the rocks, the surprise at the sudden vast expanses where before there had been only small enclosed tracks. She, for her part, began to sense him - very different from the cold, harsh beauty of this underworld realm. She sensed his warmth, his strength, his feelings as he followed her. Through him, she began to sense the movement of life up on the surface - the freedom of wings soaring with the winds, the sensuous stroke of a tail fin through liquid light, the steadiness of the grasping limbs as they moved over and through the growing things of the earth. As she moved, she sensed life awakening on the surface, sensed the natural attraction of life seeking life, and suddenly felt HIM in a new way. She felt all the shapes and stirring of life within him, blending, changing, desiring, until passion swept through her and left her stunned in its wake!
Coming to her senses, she found herself looking into light, and as she came up to the mouth of the cave, she looked out into a world that was both strange and familiar. As this new beauty swept over her, the new-born passion welled up again, and with a cry of great gladness, she ran into the light and was gone.
Both Mara and Vanh awoke with the vision of the night still shimmering before their eyes. They searched the meadow eagerly, seeing it, and each other, with renewed sight. They looked into each other's eyes with love and gratitude then turned to look outward to the edge of the forest where the sun was slowly rising over the treetops. There, where they knew they would find her, stood the young maiden, golden in the dawn. She raised her hand and beckoned.
Mara turned to Vanh and laughed. "How will I ever keep up with her?" "I will play for you, so your feet will know their stride," Vanh whispered. "I will play the patterns for you to speed you on your way. Only, remember me." "With your music beating in my heart, how could you ever be far from me." Then Mara kissed Vanh, and turning, ran to the still figure waiting in the morning light. Vanh watched them embrace then turning, picked up his drums and began to play as the two women walked away into the blossoming forest.