Fertility Rites

Eastra, the doll of the season, was telling me the other day that in ancient times the beginning of spring at or about the time of the vernal equinox was celebrated with fertility rites which were meant to encourage a general fecundity among all living things animal and vegetable.

Many cultures had gods and goddesses honored in these rites; there was Artemis in Greece, Cebele in Phrygia, Diana in Ephesus and Attis the god of ever-reviving vegetation who was believed to have been born of a virgin and who died and was reborn annually.

I was trying to imagine what these rites might have been like. They probably involved a lot of fertilizing of various seeds and things and to get everyone into the mood, to get their energy up, to really get into the re-generation mind set there probably was a bit of strong drink, wild dancing and singing.

I found out Cebele the Phrygian Earth goddess was honored with a procession involving wild, high pitched flute music and drumming, scattered rose petals and clouds of incense followed by priests and priestesses scourging themselves with sharp knives.

But that was mild compared to the cult of Ishtar that may have involved child sacrifice, ritual copulation and virginal girls dancing around large male genitalia.

Whatever the rites involved the celebrants must have thought it worked. Besides the great fun had by all (excepting the sacrificial victim) animals reproduced, babies were born and crops grew. It does seem pretty magical and I guess it was hard for most people to take for granted the resurrection of the dormant (or dead) without providing some sort of penitential assistance even though we all know Mother Earth is a gigantic incubator and really doesn’t need that kind of help.

I think I’ll celebrate Mother’s magic with a nice contemplative walk in the woods.

rite of spring 3

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