The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 22, 2013

Oh, go jump a bonfire

By David Christy, News Editor
Enid News and Eagle

— I always thought while growing up the term “spring fever” was just something made up by grown-ups to explain away the seeming tired experience I always felt this time of year.

You know, when you couldn’t get out of bed one fine spring morning to go to school, and your mom said it was just spring fever.

Since spring, or the vernal equinox, just passed us by brief days ago, it seems logical to look at spring in the context of history.

From everything I can find, spring fever is nothing more than a nebulous temporary mood, characterized by a tired feeling that comes over the body, with energy seeming to be in very short supply.

Since springtime in the Northern Hemisphere runs from mid-March into June, many of us seem more sensitive to changes in weather, accompanied by achy joints, irritability and headaches. Inevitably, allergies seem to hit with regularity.

There are many thoughts on this seeming unexplained miasma we are saddled with come March of every year.

The “happiness hormone” is serotonin, which depends on sunlight for brain release, and has been exhausted in our bodies over winter clouds and shorter days, and is said to make melatonin — the sleep hormone — have greater effect.

As the body adjusts to the change in temperature and sunlight levels, it makes sense we feel a little different at equinox — when day and night hours are roughly equal.

For anyone that travels from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere with any regularity, it must be most disconcerting to find you left at the start of spring, only to arrive below the Equator at the start of fall. Yikes!

Our long-ago forebears had a keen interest in the change in seasons, and noted them often in rituals and feasts and marginally religious observances.

In Russia, for example, they prepare for spring after the very hard and extreme Russian winter by having Maslenitsa — Pancake Week — marked by families gathering to eat pancakes, accompanied by sledding on snows that remain from winter, burning scarecrows and bonfire jumping.

Seems a little California to me, maybe without the snow.

Be that as it may, astrology is very much attuned to the changing seasons.

The Astrological New Year doesn’t begin Jan. 1 as with the rest of the Gregorian Calendar world.

The vernal equinox opens up the year for astrologers on March 20, when the sun changes into the fiery Aries and banishes winter’s chill.

Ancient people have been marking spring for many thousands of years — before the Easter bunny, before we had stores that put out bedding plants, before shovels, rakes and hoes began a spring store mark-up trumpeting an end to cold and snow.

The Giza Plateau’s Great Sphinx was constructed more than 4,500 years ago, and it faces due east on the vernal equinox.

While some in the Flat Earth Society still may call this a coincidence, I’m quite sure the ancients were much more attuned to changes in season than we are today.

I mean, they didn’t simply have a transition when they changed their thermostats from heat to air conditioning in the days of the pharaohs.

They actually paid attention to nature’s adjustments.

Monoliths like Stonehenge in England — at least 3,000 years old — mark the position of the rising sun on the vernal equinox.

In Central America, the ancient Mayan Caracol Tower and sun and moon temples all are aligned to coincide with the sun’s spring equinox position.

For them, it meant life and death. Not having a grocery or convenience store on every corner had to have been a bummer for the ancients.

They actually never took the changing seasons for granted as we do in our sterile, techno world.

Choosing times to plant crops was all they thought about. No crops meant no food for the many little Druids and Egyptians and Mayans running about in antiquity.

In Persia they celebrated Nowruz, which means “new day.”

In China, they observe Chunfen on the vernal equinox.

In ancient Europe, from whence the majority of Colonial Americans sprang, they celebrated the arrival of the goddess of spring — Ostara, or Eostre.

Some historians believe the name Easter actually gets its name from Eostre, the goddess who possessed an enchanted rabbit that could lay eggs. Thus Eostre eggs!

I doubt we will ever really know what went on in the minds of our ancient relatives.

Much of what they did and thought has been lost to time.

For me, as I battle spring fever and a forlorn attempt to get outside in the sun and break winter’s chill, I say “pass the pancakes!”

Observing this vernal equinox, I’m going to try bonfire jumping and maybe burning a couple of scarecrows.

By the way, any of you out there have a scarecrow I can borrow?



Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking