We continue from last week the theme of nature as we approach a significant point in her cycle, that of the spring equinox. This is the point at which Spring, astronomically speaking, begins. We have arrived at an equal balance between the length of days and nights. This means that the days don't just grow longer as they have been doing in recent weeks but that they will now grow longer than the nights. We are moving out of the darker seasons into the light.
It was no accident that the timing of Easter was set at this time of the year to coincide with the pre-Christian festival of Ostara which was a great celebration held at the Spring Equinox to celebrate the coming of light after darkness, the newness of life and the great message that joy wins out. All of which of course are the reasons why we Christians also celebrate this time of the year. Placing Easter closer to this date was intended to be an appeal to the pre Christian spiritual tradition so that assimilating this new story about the man who died on a cross and was raised again to new life, would be easier. The date of Easter, which was set by Constantine in 324 at the council of Nicea, was set to fall on the first Sunday after the full moon that follows the spring equinox.
For pre Christian culture nature was vitally important. There were 8 festivals each year which were designed to celebrate, give thanks, to work together, pray together and to offer gratitude for the provision of nature. There was a divine energy observed in nature, feminine in principle (because of its cyclical, nourishing, nurturing qualities) who was to be praised, cared for and feared in equal measures. There was a deep respect for this divine principle which led to a culture of protecting and preserving nature.
The new, patriarchal religion, developing in the context of a misogynistic culture, and a misguided world view that human ‘progress’ relied on turning nature into a commodity meant that the wisdom of these early nature loving cultures who praised the feminine divine, was lost. Is it any wonder that we have arrived at a place when the very survival of our planet is now the biggest threat that we face.
If we are to set things straight at all then we must first recapture a sense of the awe, wonder and celebration of the goodness of nature, not as a commodity but as a beloved creation in who the nurturing, caring and mothering aspect of God is at work. There is nothing heretical about this as some would suppose, often due to patriarchal induced subliminal fear that this might be a nod in the direction of pre Christian culture.
Back in The 11th century the Christian visionary and mystic Hildegard of Bingen was even then reminding us of the damage we humans were inflicting upon Our earth if we did not develop a loving relationship for our earth. Here are her words
"Now in the people that were meant to be green there is no more life of any kind. There is only shriveled barrenness. The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on. Thunderstorms menace. The air belches out the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples. The earth should not be injured! The earth must not be destroyed!
So at this spring equinox, this time of newness of life, of joy, hope and transformation may this be a time for us to rethink and renew our relationship with the earth!
Because reducing our carbon footprint and cutting out the use of disposable plastics is one thing - but developing a compassionate heart for nature, to intimately seek her ways, hear her voice and align with her cycles is something else. This was a baby that got thrown out with the bath water when the Christian religion asserted its authority over the nature based traditions.
These two world views are not mutually exclusive. It is not a heresy to seek an intimate understanding of nature, on the contrary it is nothing more than to draw ever closer to the author of all creation.
As Robert Boyle said in 17th century
‘The two great books of nature and scripture have the same author, so the latter does not hinder at all an inquisitive man's delight in the study of the former.’
And a final quote from William Wordsworth from 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern'
“And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused, whose dwelling is the light of the setting suns, and the round ocean, and the living air, and the blue sky, and in the mind of man…”