Saturday, 20 March 2010

Spring has sprung!

The Spring Equinox falls on March 20th/21st this year in the UK, and is one of the four fire or solar festivals. It’s the time of year when days and nights are of equal length, when light and darkness are in balance. The daffodils are flowering at last, bringing a splash of colour to the pots on the north-facing front drive. The birds have started nesting and toad-patrols are out each evening escorting toads to their spawning ponds across the busy commuter roads.

On one of my first commuter train journeys to the London school in which I worked, in March 1981, I watched two hares 'boxing' in a field just outside the town. It was the first time I felt I really did live in rural England.

Some call the festival of the Vernal Equinox Ostara or Eostre, after an ancient fertility goddess of spring. The hare was regarded as the sacred animal of the lunar goddess, because of its fertility and activity at this time. At the time of the vernal equinox (March or April) hares are famed for going ‘mad’ and it was at this time of the year that, out of character for its species, one of Eostre’s hares laid an egg. Not just any old egg, but the Egg of New Life - the Easter Egg.

Now rabbits have become one of the symbols of Easter - they are more prolific and common these days than the graceful hare. I have never seen hares boxing since that early morning train journey in 1981 and I doubt I ever shall. Hares are just one native species in decline as our greenbelts and farmland are lost to yet more 'affordable housing' that no-one seems to be able to afford at the moment.