Vernal Equinox: Welcome to Spring!


As of March 20th at precisely 4:30am Universal Time, Spring began here in the UK as the sun passed the imaginary line known as the celestial equator. This is a simple fact based on the astronomical event known as the Vernal Equinox. So why did Facebook insist on telling us all it was spring a day earlier? The answer to that will come a bit further on but of course its not simple, well none of this astronomical stuff ever is I guess.

The name ‘equinox’ is derived from the Latin translation meaning equal night. Its the significant point when the earths axis is not tilted away from or towards the sun but is perfectly aligned so that the equator is pointing directly at the suns rays.

For Pagans and Druids the world over the Spring Equinox is a time to mark the beginning of Spring, with spiritual events at sites like Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Hundreds of people will perform fertility rites as the sun starts to rise up over the horizon for Alban Eilir as they call the equinox. The Saxon goddess Eostre (root of the word that gave us the term “oestregen”) in particular is being worshipped, hence the Druid egg of life.

Alban Eilir is thought to be a time of balance, when light and dark join, and winter and spring meet. The Druids recognized, as we do today, that life began anew (or perhaps resumed) in spring. It is accepted by all that a growing plant is alive, but few religions ascribe consciousness to plants, and even rocks as the Druids do.

Now I could go into a lot of detail explaining what the equinox is exactly but Joe Hanson over at the “It’s OK to be Smart” YouTube channel does a much better job than I ever could:

The Spring Equinox is normally on the 21st of March so why is it early this year? Well the answer to this is fun. You see, this year is a leap year which screwed up the dates. In fact, this spring is the earliest since 1896!

So when are the different astronomical events? Well I just happen to have found a very useful chart over at Archaeoastronomy. Interestingly you will note that the Vernal Equinox in central US falls on the 19th March, which explains why Facebook insisted on telling everyone in the UK it was spring a day early! The explanation of this is that the point of equinox occurs at the exact same moment all over the world, however because of time zones it will be a different local time or even day depending on where you are. According to Facebook logic when any local time zone was March 19th it was spring without realising this would mean spring in the UK would actually be on the 20th, somebody point them here so they can face palm.

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