The Spring equinox and the arrival of Spring have been widely celebrated by many cultures throughout the centuries: most of these festivals, some of which still take place in many countries of the north of Europe, originated from pagan rituals to ensure fertility and growth after the long and dark days of winter .
Many cultures had female goddesses to welcome spring. Here are a few of them:
– the ancient Saxons in Northern Europe worshipped the Goddess Oestre or Eostre, from the ancient word “eastre” that meant “spring”. She was celebrated at the Spring Equinox, when days get brighter and longer. Oestre represented sunrise, spring-time, and the renewal of life. She was also a fertility Goddess, and the full moon, eggs and rabbits were sacred to her. She gave her name to the Christian festival of Easter (we’ll talk about it next week).
– being close to the North Pole, Lapland is a cultural and geographical area (including north Finland, Norway and Sweden) which is characterized by long, dark winters. The Sami, an indigenous population that lives in that area, worship Beiwe, the goddess of spring and fertility. According to the Sami myth, she travels through the sky and brings back green plants to the earth. With her the season of light returns, together with reason to the people who had gone insane because of the long dark winter.
– in China Gou-Mang, the green dragon spirit, the messenger of the Sky-God Tai-yi, comes from the East and brings spring and happiness.
– in ancient Greece people celebrated two goddesses of spring and flowers: Maia, the most beautiful daughter of Atlas, and Chloris, wife of Zephirus.
– the Romans on the other hand celebrated the spring and flower goddess Flora as Chloris’s counterpart.
– in Serbia and Slovenia people celebrated Vesna, the goddess of spring and youth.