As I write this, the Earth coasts in its slightly angled orbit towards the Ecliptic, the plane of rotation of the Sun. When we cross it, the days and nights will be of equal lengths (at the equator). It is the Vernal Equinox, the moment when the days begin to stretch longer than the nights in the Northern hemisphere.
There are many themes associated with this holiday for Pagans, as we frame our Wheels of the Year based on our local climate and ecologies and, in some cases, on the agricultural cycle and/or the life cycle of a person. But one we don’t talk about quite so often is this idea of balance suggested by the equally lengthy day and night.
The concept of balance is a funny thing in our world: in most of the world, the ideology of growth has supplanted it, but there are still places where equanamity, moderation and the paradox of opposites are still embraced. It is this I address today.
Paganism is not, generally speaking, a contemplative family of religious paths. Unlike, say, Buddhism, we do not place the highest value on calm and acceptance of the vagaries of life, but rather pursue the heights of ecstasy in our rites, dancing about leaping fires, singing joyously, pursuing the transformative experience through engagement with the world rather than withdrawing from it. We celebrate pleasure; so much so that in order to be responsible, we must have ethical principles ensuring we do not go overboard in its pursuit.
But there is something to be said for the reflective, dispassionate eye that contemplative traditions offer us. Mindfulness and self-examination are essential for us to do the work of growing to be healthier, more whole, and kinder human beings. They can ensure that healthy self-esteem does not cross into egoism, that we remain cognizant of our impacts on others, and that we continue to reflect so as to uncover assumptions, blind spots in our perceptions and behavior patterns we may want to change. They can help to calm anxiety and lead to self-discovery that helps us to heal and improve.
This time of year is a natural one for reflection on contradictions and paradoxes, as the light and dark of day and night come into balance.
What contradictory impulses or forces are you balancing?