Medieval Spring Celebrations

Aoife is just in time this week, with an Aoife's Links edition devoted to Spring Equinox rituals and customs and other celebrations of the season.

Greetings, my Faithful Readers!

This Links List is in honor of the Spring Equinox (which falls tomorrow, March 20th 2005, as I write this), and in honor of Spring Holidays. Equinox actually means "Equal Night". I suppose that in the summer Equinox, the day and night are equal, but Spring is the promise that summer is just around the bend. In truth, I find myself more hopeful, cheerful and productive as the nights shorten and the sunlight stays with us more. Apparently that's a sentiment that's shared by many cultures and through many different times.

Below you will find links to a lot of different Spring celebrations from many differing religions. Unfortunately (and presented here since it's an important piece that related to Historical Easter celebrations), there is also a link to Constantine I's instructions about celebrating Easter. Constantine was a shockingly forthright bigot, and if anti-Semitism bothers you, please skip that link, as his words are sure offend you. You should note however that his sentiments, while not appreciated in this time, were somewhat the norm for his time and place. Thanks goodness we've come a long way since then.

You'll find not only spring celebration links, but also something very necessary to anyone who celebrates spring in ANY culture: recipes for eggs—especially hard-boiled eggs—those universal symbols of renewing life. Just for fun, there's a link at the very end containing silly Easter jokes to entertain the nieces and nephews on their big day. For instance:

Q: What do you get if you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole?
A: Hot, cross bunnies!

Cheers (and please share this wherever it will find a ready audience).

Aoife

Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
Riverouge
Endless Hills
Aethelmearc


Spring Equinox
http://www.bright.net/~jimsjems/spring.html
(Site Excerpt) In many cultures New Years Day was traditionally in late March. Most of the Roman republic and Medieval Europe celebrated New Years in March. It was not until 1582 and the institution of the Gregorian calendar that January 1st became the date to begin a New Year in the Western world. Festivals and rites, a time to celebrate the renewal of life, generally preceded by a period of fasting. The Babylonians celebrated Akitu at the spring equinox. Ostara, German Goddess of Fertility, and Eostre, Saxon Goddess of Fertility, both represent the awakening of the earth. Christians celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Christ.

Vernal Equinox
http://www.gurdjieffdominican.com/equinox_spring.htm
(Site Excerpt) Generations have recognized the vernal equinox for thousands of years. There are different rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of spring.For many, the basic reason was that their food supplies would soon be restored. In Christianity the date is significant because Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The Egyptians also built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the vernal equinox.

Muin Light
http://www.muinmound.org/nlarchive/ostara95.html
(Site Excerpt) Eostre, or Ostara is the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring who has given her name to the Spring festival, Easter. A Teutonic variant of Ishtar and Astarte, and ultimately Isis, the original feast of Eostre was celebrated in the Pagan calendar at the Vernal Equinox. Her sacred month was the third lunar month, the Moon of Eostre, which corresponds to the period from mid-February to mid-March solar; it is also called the Month of the Greening of the Earth...The Easter Bunny is much older than Christianity. It is the lunar hare, sacred to the Moon Goddess in both the Orient and in western countries...

Alice's Medieval Feasts and Fasts: Easter
http://mw.mcmaster.ca/scriptorium/alice_site/easter_more_end.html
(Site Excerpt) Though it was not uncommon for tenant farmers to still be required to put in their work on the lord's farm on most feast days, Easter was a notable exception. The feast was taken very seriously, and all work stopped, even that of kings, and judicial courts. This was to ensure that everyone would be in church - the one time of year when this was essential

Spring: Quickening and Rebirth
http://secondsightresearch.tripod.com/bodyandsoul/id4.html
(Site Excerpt) Gods and Godesses of Spring: Beiwe: The Goddess of Lapland who heralded the coming of Spring. Chalcihuitlicue: The Precious Jewel of the Aztecs, Goddess of gemstones and gemstone magick, Chalcihuitlicue was Goddess of the flowing water. She ruled storms, streams, and whirlpools. She was also the Goddess of love, magic, spirits, flowers, and Spring growth.

Tel Shemesh: Bud of Spring: Nisan
http://www.telshemesh.org/nisan/
(Site Excerpt) In the Jewish calendar, the first of the month of Nisan is the beginning to spring, and falls close to the spring equinox. It comes halfway between the playful holiday of Purim and the festival of Passover, when birds are beginning to sing and warmth and growth are beginning to take hold. The first of Nisan is one of the four new years of the Jewish calendar1, marking the "first of the months" (rosh chadashim)2, or the beginning of time itself.

Medieval Sourcebook: Constantine I: On the Keeping of Easter
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/const1-easter.html
(Site Excerpt: STRONG WARNING: Rampant but Genuinely Medieval Anti-Semitism, in Constantine's own words, translated and left out of this excerpt) "When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for what could be more beautiful and more desirable, than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality, celebrated by all with one accord, and in the same manner? ..."

Kabulian.net: Naw Ruz
http://www.angelfire.com/ak5/farda/nz.html
(Site Excerpt) Naw Ruz (NouRooz, NowRuz) is a Persian festival which celebrates the New Year. Naw Roz which means (New Day) is being celebrated by people in Afghanistan, Iran & Tajikistan also Muslims who belong to Shia't section celebrate this new year all over the world.

Chinese Holiday and Festival Calendar
http://www.expatsinchina.com/new/holifest.html
A variety of Spring Holidays are listed.

Easter Eggs-History and Tradition
(Note: I don't know if parts of this are true superstitions in medieval times, but it's entertaining!--Aoife)
http://www.theholidayspot.com/easter/history/icons/easter_egg.htm
(Site Excerpt) Later during the Christian period, it was believed that eggs laid on Good Friday, if kept for a hundred years, would have their yolks turn to diamond. If Good Friday eggs were cooked on Easter they would promote the fertility of the trees and crops and protect against sudden deaths. And, if you would find two yolks in an Easter egg, be sure, you're going to be rich soon....Eggs were said to be dyed and eaten at the spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

How the egg came to symbolize Easter
By Patricia Zacharias / The Detroit News
http://info.detnews.com/history/story/index.cfm?id=102&category=life
(Site Excerpt) Egyptians and Persians used to dye eggs in spring colors and give them to friends as a symbol of renewed life long before Christ was born. The myths of several Eastern and middle Eastern cultures maintain that the earth itself was hatched from a giant egg.

Medieval Egg Recipe: The making of Stuffed Eggs Gode Cookery, submitted by L J Spencer (know to SCA-cooks as "Ras"---Aoife)
http://www.godecookery.com/friends/frec107.htm
(Site Excerpt) Original recipe: Take as many eggs as thou wilt and boil them whole in hot water, put them in cold water and divide them in half with a thread. Take the yolks aside and crush cilantro, put in onion juice, pepper, .... Modern recipe: 12 Eggs, hard-boiled and peeled , 1 T. Cilantro, mashed ,1 tsp Onion juice...
SEE ALSO: Ova Farcata by Gaylin J Walli
http://www.godecookery.com/friends/frec71.htm
And many more at this page of Eggs, Cheese and Dairy recipes at Gode Cookery:
http://www.godecookery.com/allrec/allrec03.htm

History and symbolism of Ukranian Easter Eggs
http://eggs-files.tripod.com/pysanky_4.html
(Site Excerpt) Archeologists have discovered ceramic pysanky in Ukraine dating back to 1300 B.C. They have linked pysanky designs to those of Egyptian ceramics created in 1500 B.C., and to symbolism of the Trypilljan culture in Ukraine of 3000 B.C. 6000 years ago the Trypilljan culture flourished in Ukraine. The society existed 3000 years before biblical Abraham and long before Greek mythology and the Bronze Age.

Learn to Make your very own Pysanky Eggs
(Ukranian, Polish or Russian Easter Eggs, depending upon the origin of the person teaching you--- :)Aoife)
http://www.learnpysanky.com/

Russian Orthodox Easter Date Applet
http://members.aol.com/MHoll/AppletPage.html

Kid's Domain: Easter Riddles
http://www.kidsdomain.com/holiday/easter/games/jokes.html
(Site Excerpt (warning: an ad page comes up frst. Mine showed M&Ms Easter craft ideas---there's a click here to skip this page option)) Q:Why Did the Easter Egg Hide? A: He was a little chicken. Q: What's the best way to send a letter to the Easter Bunny? A: Hare Mail! Q: What do you get if you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole? A: Hot Cross Bunnies!

If you wish to correspond with Aoife directly, please send mail to: mtnlion at ptd dot net.