If the Winter Solstice signals the birth of the sun, then the Spring Equinox exclaims the birth of the earth -- the resurrection of nature from the dark death of winter. The life, which has stayed hidden, in exile or underground, during the long deep sleep of the cold season, now shifts and starts to stir. Poking and peeking, it seeks the surface. The space. The air. The light. Striving, stretching skyward, life breaks new ground. Bulbs, shoots and buds burst forth from the earth, exploding open, exposing their tender green growth. The sweet sap rises.
The birth waters break. The snow melts. The skies open. It rains, it pours, it mists, it drips fertilizing fluids from the heavens. The air is damp like a baby's bottom. The land is soaked. The mud, like mucous, like after-birth. The defrosting sodden soil is teeming, churning with every creepy crawly thing that ever slithered out of a swamp. Hordes of birds descend, drawn by the juicy feast. Animals awaken from their pregnant hibernations, skinny and starving and suckling their young. Birds and beasts, alike, set out on a concerted feeding frenzy, gorging themselves and their ravenous, insatiable, mouths-ever-open offspring.
It is as if the great egg of the whole world has hatched.
And so it has in the collective imagination and symbolism of many cultures. The myths of the peoples of Polynesia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Greece, Phoenicia, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Central and parts of South America and Africa all describe an original cosmic egg from which the universe is born. The Latin proverb, Omne vivum ex ovo, proclaims "All life comes from an egg." It is only natural and not so subtle to assign the birth of the world to a Great Mother Goddess who laid the egg of life. All of nature, after all, is a constant cyclical reminder of just such a fertile female force, the seed source of all generation. All life does, indeed, come from an egg.
The Egyptian goddess Hathor took the form of the Nile goose, the Great Cackler in order to lay the golden egg, which was the sun. The Egyptian hieroglyphic notation for the World Egg is the same as for that of an embryo in the womb of a woman. The Celts, too, had a Mother Goose who laid the egg of all existence. According to the Hawaiians, the Big Island was produced from the egg of a huge water bird. She was known as the Great Midwife, the Egg Mother. Knosuano was the Moon Egg of Ghana. The Druids honored the Egg of the World. In Greek Orphic tradition, The Great Goddess of womb-like darkness, Mother Night, was impregnated by the Wind, and she gives forth with the silver egg from which the earth emerges.
According to the Chinese, the first human being sprang from an egg dropped from the heaven into the primordial waters. The Chimu Indians of Peru are descended, ordinary people and heroes alike, from the original egg -- the moon. The Samoan Heavenly One, hatched from an egg whose shell pieces became the earth. Prajapati, the creator of all living things in Indian mythology, was born of a great golden egg, which was first incubated in the uterine waters of eternity. The god, Brahma burst forth from a gold egg.
In time, the egg, the symbol of life, of birth, came to signify the season of spring. For it is then that the aspect of fertility and rebirth within the cycle is so overwhelmingly evident. Clearly, the egg stands for spring. The egg, in fact, stands at spring. Actually stands up on its end at the moment of the Vernal Equinox. Stands at attention as the sun crosses the equator into the northern hemisphere. Stands in salute to spring.
Soon after I started producing urban celebrations of the seasons in 1975, a friend returned from Asia with an odd bit of equinoctial information for my interest. Apparently, in prerevolutionary China it was customary for peasants to stand eggs on their ends on the first day of spring. To do so would guarantee good luck for the entire year. I have since had people tell me that their Scandinavian grandparents, too, balanced eggs at the equinox in their home countries.
Tantalized, I immediately set out to prove it on American soil. Of course they stood. That was 35 years ago, and I have initiated the public balancing of many thousands of eggs on every Spring Equinox since. There is something extraordinarily powerful in the image, in the experience, of an egg standing upright without any support that elicits ancient and rarely accessed emotions. Stood at the first moment of spring, the egg becomes the symbol of a new season, the birth of new life. The regeneration of hope.
Let us stand, too, on the Spring Eqquinox, in celebration of all life and living.
Join Urban Shaman, Donna Henes
35th Annual Vernal Equinox Celebration
Eggs on End: Standing on Ceremony
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Pier 16, South Street Seaport, Manhattan