One of the ways I align myself with the earth’s cycles is by making note of and celebrating the seasonal equinoxes, solstices, and the midway days between them, known in the Celtic calendar as cross-quarter days. This year, the spring equinox in New York falls on March 20 at 6:28 AM. This is the time when there is a balance between daylight and darkness and a transitional moment between the dark, cold days of winter and the brighter, warmer days ahead.
In the Celtic calendar, around which I orient my practice, March is actually the second month of spring, with the light half of the year beginning on a holiday known as Imbolc, which is celebrated in early February, the midway point between winter and spring. In the Celtic tradition, Imbolc is the time for spring cleaning and ritual purification.
In many other traditions, though, it is the spring equinox that is the time to embark on a process of cleansing, purification, and preparation for new beginnings ahead.
Some practices that can be done as part of this spring cleaning process, whether you celebrate it on Imbolc or the spring equinox, include: organizing and cleaning your home; smudging with palo santo, or holy wood, a wood known for its purifying and healing properties; and opening up all the windows to let stagnant energy out and new energy in. You might also cleanse your body, using a salt scrub or taking a steam bath or sauna.
I also find it helpful at the seasonal transition to write down things in my life I am ready to let go of, such as thought patterns that no longer serve me, or habits that don’t help me on my path towards self expression and self actualization, and I set them on fire, committing to do the work in the year ahead to release myself of these hindrances.
This type of literal and figurative spring cleansing helps us start the spring with lightness, and with a sense of possibility.
Elson M. Haas writes, in Staying Healthy with the Seasons, “It is important to clear out the past to create spaces for the future to come into being now. If there is no room for it, the new energy will get all clogged up in the system.”
This process of reflection can be thought of as a spiritual tilling of the soil, a preparation to plant and the cultivate the seeds of our aspirations. Mara Freeman writes, in Kindling the Celtic Spirit, “A seed will remain forever dormant unless it is planted in earth that has been well prepared for it. What groundwork do you need to do before you can give expression to your soul?”
In addition to the spring cleaning and self work that can accompany this seasonal transition, it is also very beneficial to spend time connecting to nature and its rhythms. It can be a peaceful and energizing experience to rise before dawn on the spring equinox and watch the sun come up; for those interested in doing this, on the equinox, sunrise in New York is at 6:59 am. In fact, spring ushers in a time of year when it is especially beneficial to rise consistently before sunrise and begin the day enjoying the quiet energy of the early morning, so watching the sunrise on the equinox could be the start of a daily practice that can help cultivate wellness and vitality. Another uplifting way to celebrate the spring equinox is to take a nature walk and look for signs of spring.
Freeman, Mara. Kindling the Celtic Spirit. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001.
Haas, Elton M. Staying Healthy with the Seasons. New York: Celestial Arts, 2003.