To mark the arrival of Spring, at first light this morning, the Druids gathered at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise as they performed fertility rites. Quite what these rights entail I don't really want too much detail on, thank you very much, but it's mostly to do with celebrating the Saxon goddess Eostre, who is symbolised by eggs.
March 20 is the Spring Equinox, also called the Vernal Equinox. Folklore would have it that a few minutes before the Vernal Equinox you can stand a raw egg on its end. What purpose you would have for doing this beats me, but that's folklore for you. I forgot to try it so I can't tell you if it's true or not. Some regard the elements of including eggs in the Christian celebration of Easter as having derived from this ancient ritual. There's probably a colony of rabbits in and around Stonehenge too, so maybe that's where the Easter Bunny comes from.
The word equinox is derived from Latin, meaning equal day and night, when the earth's axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun. In reality however is doesn't feel like we have equal amounts of day and night, probably because the suns rays are bent round the earth when it is below the horizon.
By now we should be seeing ladybirds flitting about and buds appearing on trees and shrubs. I haven't seen any ladybirds yet, but the bushes and trees in my garden are definitely in bud. The birds seem to be chirping louder and longer, especially at dawn, mostly likely in attempts to attract a mate. The other day I spotted a sparrow carrying nesting material up into the eves of a nearby apartment, so someone's got lucky early. Not the only species getting loved up either, as the toads I spotted last week with Pauline clearly proved, on their way to a love fest in a nearby pond.
On Sunday, travellers from Spain visited the garden, as a number of Goldfinches arrived back (photo courtesy of the British Trust for Ornithology), though not all Goldfinches are migratory. For those budding Twitchers out there, did you know that the collective name for a group of Goldfinches is a Charm. Appropriate name I feel as the sight of them certainly charmed me.
The crocuses and snowdrops have now had their brief life of colour, which always brings me great pleasure to see, and they have given way to the taller, bright yellow of the daffodils.
There is even some warmth in the sun once again. Don't be fooled though. Snow can still fall in Scotland at this time of year. I recall at the end of March last year I was encountering a blizzard in Glen Tilt, near Blair Atholl, whilst cycling, and we still had snow into May.
I don't know about worshipping Saxon goddesses of fertility at 5am, clothed or unclothed, but if it's anything to do with eggs, I'll have mine covered in milk chocolate with a creamy centre, thank you very much, the wonder of which is immortalised here by my friend Andrew.