Equanamity, Balance and the Equinox

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?

Brightening

It interests me that the new dawn in American politics comes at the same time that it has become evident (in the Northern Hemisphere) that the days are lengthening. We are no longer in the darkest of winter; the February Sabbath approaches, and the Sun, though young, is definitely returning.

A member of the Atheopagan Facebook group dubbed the February Sabbath (or, in the Southern Hemisphere, the August one) “Brightening”, and though in my region I celebrate this as Riverain, the Festival of Water, I like that characterization a lot, as it is so universal. And who knows? It might even share a word root with Brighid, the Irish goddess celebrated at this time.

Brightening is a time to gather tools and energy, just as infants do in their rapid acquisition of knowledge and skills. Historically, it was a time when agricultural tools were sharpened and repaired, and plantings planned. Not quite time to break ground yet, as there is still freezing in the near future, but planning and dreaming are definitely in the mix.

So the symbols I see associated with this holiday are the infants/toddler phase of life, planning and tool preparation, rain and all things water. Some of that is consistent with modern Pagan imagery, some of it not: the building of a tiny, cozy cradle for a corn dolly, or a Brighid’s triskele (the original design before the four-pointed Christian cross supplanted it), or hammering out some metal on an anvil are all very appropriate seasonal symbols.

I’ll make a triskele this year, soaking the reeds in rain water first to soften them. I’ll make a corn dolly too: a Rain Baby. I have a small anvil and sledge, and maybe I’ll make her a miniature key for her belt: a key to unlock the future. There is nothing quite like the sound of the ringing of a hammer on an anvil, a magical harbinger of something new being created where once there were only raw materials.

It’s a new day, and a new year’s cycle of the Wheel. My life is going well. As the adults who have thankfully retaken control of my government steadily erode the worst of their predecessors’ policies and turn to actual public service, as the light grows, I find myself feeling an unfamiliar, pleasant sensation that hasn’t been with me for four years: hope.

I wish you the joys of the season, and a returning of the light in your personal world.