by Hazel Anna Rogers
Readers of the blog know that we love celebrating the change of seasons. Today being the first day of Spring, Hazel gives us a roundup of some Spring folklore. Take it Hazel! For other takes on Spring see here and here.
(Chinese – Yin Dynasty)
Chien Ti and her sister are bathing together. It is March, and the sun is high in the sky, illuminating the tips of the forested hills and mountains around the Yuan river. The cool water is refreshing to the naked white bodies of the girls, and they sit together beneath the lapping water in silence, watching the light traverse o’er the landscape. The fronts of the peaks are eclipsed in shadow, and their umbra brings shade to sections of the river. There is a gentle breeze that shakes the blossom of the cherry tree (樱桃树), making sweet pink petals rain onto the banks of the Yuan.
Swallows are wheeling and chirping above the women. They have returned to China in time for the bounty of Spring (春). The birds’ flight is swift and agile, and they swoop to catch the insects swarming just above the river’s gleaming surface. The two sisters watch them as they feed.
One swallow is circling around the heads of the girls, and Chien Ti observes its graceful black body flitting before her. Its dance is heavier than the others, for, strangely enough, it is holding an egg in its beak. The women can see this is no ordinary egg. It is a remarkably beautiful egg, with a shell bearing five bright colors.
The Yuan River. Painting around the time of the Ming Dynasty.
All of a sudden, the swallow drops the egg, and it plops into the water in front of them.
The sisters begin to fight over the prize, both wishing to claim the egg and place it, covered, within the jade basket that sits upon the shore. They splash together in the water, their hands scrabbling to find the delicate object. Chien Ti finally clasps her hands around the dainty shell, and immediately brings the egg to her mouth and swallows it whole.
Within a few moments, Chien Ti’s stomach begins expanding. Her bellybutton pops out, and her breasts start growing and sagging with the weight of the milk within them. She becomes pregnant, and her virginal body holds the mark of child.
And, thus, spring is heralded to have arrived in the lands of China, and the festival of the mountains and rivers of the land is celebrated with bathing, purification, contests, and rites to bring fecundity to the people of the land.
(Celtic/German – Pagan/Christian)
Ostara walks upon meadows still laden with snow. Frost-bitten blades of grass crunch and flatten under her bare feet, and her white gown brushes the frozen ground behind her as she wanders the sleeping pastures. Her cheeks are pink from the chill of the wind, but she does not feel the cold. She has come to this place to bring spring to the winter-laden land, but she is late, so her gait is faster than usual.
She comes to a halt beside a leafless oak, whose branches are shuddering in the breeze. Beneath its bare, outstretched limbs, she sees a dove. Its body is heaving with strained breath, and its eyes are flickering open and shut as it wavers on the boundary between life and death. Ostara bends down and takes the bird into her arms, stroking its soft feathered head. With her hands around its wings, she holds the dove aloft, and closes her eyes. A gust brings her long blonde curls around her face, and when she opens her eyes again, the dove has become a white hare. Ostara can feel its heart pounding between her palms, and its ears are twitching with life anew. She places the hare before her, in the same spot where she had found the dying dove.
Ostara and the Hare. Image: Whispering Worlds.
Before scampering off into the fields of yonder, the hare looks up at Ostara. Their eyes meet, and when the hare turns and bounds into the distance on its elegant white legs, Ostara sees that it has lain an exquisitely coloured egg. The shell of the egg is a deep, turquoise blue, and around its circumference are three white bands holding images of the flowers of spring. She picks up the egg, and, as her fingers brush the soil, new life springs forth. Leaves unfurl on the branches of trees, daffodils rear their joyous yellow heads, purple and white and pink crocuses grace the grass, which has shaken free of its blanket of snow, and sprigs of lily of the valley release fragile white bells onto their stalks. The people of the land come out of their homes, and smile as the warmth of the sun reminds them of the brighter days to come.
A girl marches defiantly through the legs of her mother, who is standing at the door of her home. She turns and looks over the hills lain out in patchwork colors before her. She thinks she sees a woman disappearing over the crest of a mound in the distance, but she isn’t sure. She notices something glinting in the corner of her eye from the haystack beside the wall of her house. She walks over, and, reaching down, fastens her tiny fingers around the egg, which was nestled in the straw. She opens her palm and sees that the egg is of a wonderfully vibrant green-blue hue, with rings of flowers circling around its oval body.
And so, spring was come. And, so, the people of the valley would celebrate Easter, and paint their eggs with all the colors of the rainbow to celebrate the hare that bore eggs borne of Ostara’s mercy. In time, Christians all over the land would paint eggs during the Lenten season, then dine upon them at the end of their fast. The humble egg would come to represent the resurrection of their Lord Jesus Christ.
Spring. The sun is shining at my window, and I feel the heat of its rays hitting my cheek. There are warmer days afoot, days to be spent sitting in luscious gardens, or on pebbles heated from the hot of the day. There are days to come that will be spent whiling the hours away in the seas and rivers of England. I await those days with a hopeful heart, a heart that has awaited the end of this everlasting winter with bated breath.
Ah. Spring is come.