Working with the Wheel: Spring Equinox, or Alban Eilir

Today is the Vernal Equinox, the astronomical start of Spring in the northern hemisphere. Thanks to the tilt of Earth’s axis this is the day when the sun crosses the celestial equator moving north giving the day roughly* equal amounts of day and night. It is a day of balance. We are standing on the threshold that separates one half of the year from the other, held in the stillness between the shift from dark to light. 

For me this is the time to stop for a moment. It’s when I pause, take a breath and, rather than focus on the past or the future, take stock of the now. 

I ask myself questions about my mental and physical health. I look at the shape and structure of my days. I look at what I’m eating, what exercise I’m getting, how much downtime I’m getting and what I’m doing with it. Where am I out of balance with myself? What has taken the lions share of my time? What is sapping my energy? What is making my life good? Am I content?

I am completely honest with myself (what would be the point otherwise) and I make sure that, for any issues I identify, the solutions I come with are entirely within my control. For example if I cannot change external deadlines that mean I’m spending more hours working than I normally do I will look at whether I can ask for help (if there is help available), and whether I can shift personal deadlines so that I’m not running myself ragged.

Alban Eilir is the druidic^ name for the spring equinox, which means The Light of the Earth, and I use this name for this spoke of the wheel because it is a reminder to also ask myself some questions about the foundations of my world. To look at the core things that I need in order to be the person I want to be, and ensure that they’re as strong and well-built as they can be. And if I find any damage to any of them I make sure I attend to the necessary repairs before I continue the work on the goals and aims I have for the year. 

If this sounds a bit like therapy that’s because it sort of is. Therapy has taught me, and continues to teach me, a great many useful methods and tools to make my world a calmer, more content place and I use what I’ve learnt in the best way I can. This means that therapy is worked into my witchcraft, or if you look at it a differnet way, witchcraft is worked into my therapy. Why wouldn’t it be? Nothing exists in a vacuum, everything is connected, each facet of my life being a different thread that weaves the tapestry of my world. Those threads have to entwine in order to become a full part of who I am and how I live. As such I do not see my witchcraft practice as somehow seperate from everything else but as an important part of the whole. 

Witchcraft, for me, is part of the everyday, one of the things I do in order to be myself and live to the fullest extent I can. I use small magics each and every day to help me in the moment, I use the wheel of the year to give my years shape, I use rituals to reinforce my links with others and the world around me, I write and cast spells to focus my attentions on specific things, and all of it is done within my life. For example if I want a new job I don’t just use candle magic, I also rework my CV and spend time applying for new roles. Witchcraft is woven through my everyday life, not merely spread over the top like a veneer to hide a crack. 

Once again I find myself away from home this year and I don’t have the day off. So I took myself for a sunrise walk in the woods this morning where I concentrated on being in the moment; hearing the bird song, smelling the air, feeling the bite of cold at my fingertips. I opened my senses and let my feet take me where they would. I brought three flowers home to put on my travelling altar and set it up before I got myself fed and ready for a morning of work.  

Two oracle cards (one showing a grey cloaked figure on a horse riding away down a road to the mountains with a full moon above them, the other with a hare sitting in a bramble thicket with a hill and standing stone behind her) stand against some dark green patterned paper. In front of them is a stone with a green man face painted on it, with rosemary, primroses and a vinca flower laid around the stone. There is a green three sided broach on the left and on the right are three rune blocks, stacked in a pyramid, showing Othala, Burkana and Ehwaz.

Don’t worry, I’ve already popped the primroses and vinca into a vase, they won’t dry out. 

I finished writing this in my lunch break and later, when the sun sets, I’ll be lighting some candles and spending a couple of hours journalling out the questions I mentioned above. I’ll take whatever comes out of that time of reflection and make adjustments to what I’m doing to ensure I’m as balanced in all aspects of my life as I can be. Then I’ll use a personal ritual (which I will not be sharing) to both help me make those day-to-day changes that are necessary to regain my balance and also use it to boost and re-engerise me for the work required to keep my plans for the year on track.

This year I will perform the ritual tomorrow. I don’t always do it the day after the equinox though, the timing of it is not just tied to the equinox but to the lunar cycle as well. Hares are not only a symbol of Spring, they represent the moon, fertility and balance. Tomorrow is the first new moon after the equinox and the start of the lunar month that will contain the full moon that, in the naming system I use, is called the birthing moon. Linking up the energy of spring with the energy of the new birthing moon means that I’m pulling some very specific and targetted energy into myself with the ritual, using what Mother Nature offers freely to my best advantage. I’ll be swapping out the lunar cycle card on my altar for the Birthing Moon card tomorrow, which looks like this:

Oracle card in shades of black and ready depicting a labyrinth in the centre of a stonework circle with a tree growing out of the top. Below is a full moon and there is a branch of cherry blossom at the bottom left and a bee at the bottom right. The card has a border containing a variety of Celtic inspired swirls and in the centre of the bottom is a caption saying "THE BIRTHING MOON"

I love Spring, season of my birth and the rush of light and life, and I love the liminality of the equinox, balance point between night and day and a tiny moment of calm before the explosion of growth and greenery. 

In this moment, half way between light and dark, may we find our own balance point and plant our feet there firmly.
And may we pull the energy of Spring up from the earth through our feet and into our souls,
so that we grow strong and joyful with the lengthening days. 

*There are exactly 12 hours between the centre point of the sun rising and setting on the day of an equinox (both spring and autumn). However sunrise and sunset times are measured, respectively, by when the first edge of the sun becomes visible above the horizon and when the last edge dissapears below it, meaning that on the day of the spring equinox there is already slightly more daylight than darkness (and conversely at the autumn equinox there will be still be more light than dark). The two days of the year where the amount of light and dark is truly in balance are called the equiluxes and occur a few days before the spring equinox and a few days after the autumn equinox. There is a good explanation here if you’re interested. 

^ Ten years ago I completed the Bardic course offered by OBOD, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, which is (I think) the largest of the formal druidic groups in the UK. This is the name they use today for the spring equinox and I like it. I am not, however, using it to make any sort of claims to ancient legitimacy for either their practice or my own. I don’t think age or tradition are necessary for something to be spiritual or hold meaning. 

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