Friday 20 March 2015

And a very merry Vernal Equinox to you too ...

Today is a very special day. Yes, yes,  I know it's Friday ...
... but it's also the Vernal Equinox!

Now these things normally pass me by in the whirlwind of activity that is my daily routine, but the other day I found myself searching around for a reason to bake a cake. As regular visitors will know we don't need much of an excuse to have a party over here at Talk-a-Lot Towers. But I don't bake cakes very often, and, as a result, I still subscribe to the view that a cake is a bit of a celebration. So I found myself casting around for something to celebrate when my recipe finally came together too late for either Mother's Day or St. Pat's. And as only the Vernal Equinox was on the near horizon I decided to run with that.

So what is this Vernal Equinox? Well our dear little planet travels around the sun on an orbit called the ecliptic. It's a journey that takes a year to complete. During the course of that year it tilts on its own axis. When the North Pole tilts towards the sun we have spring and summer up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and when it tilts the other way we go on our seasonal journey into winter. And because of this tilting behaviour the sun is rarely directly overhead the equator. That only happens twice in the year, as the tilt reverses, and the hemispheres change seasons on the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes.   On those two days of the year, at the tilting points of the seasons, day and night are of equal length. And thereafter the change of the season soon becomes manifest, or it ought to if old Mother Nature is following her script.

It's all text book science today, but way back in the days before anyone went to school, the ancient people of the world saw a special kind of magic in these two days.

I'm always amazed that they noticed, but I suppose if we didn't have television and I had to either grow or catch our dinner every evening before we ate it out in the back garden I might also notice a slew of things that escape me at the moment. Anyway our wily ancestors recognised the Vernal Equinox as the day that marked the shift from the season of cold, dark barrenness to spring, the season of light, growth and the rebirth of the natural world after the long dreary months of winter.

For totally logical reasons many ancient people regarded the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring, as the first day of the year. It was, after all, the day on which the cycle of the seasons kicked off.

The ancient Chinese are said to have seized upon the egg as the emblem of all this happy sunny stuff; a perfect symbol of fertility and the rebirth of nature. Given what they observed to be the perfect balance of the hours of daylight and darkness they imagined that special forces were afoot in the world. Someone, somewhere, on this day, found a perfect egg with a slightly blunt end that they were able to stand on its end: a feat not normally achievable with a regular egg. It was hailed as a miracle! And the sages of the day reasoned that the perfect balance of the day and the night, and the tipping point of the seasons must mean that the celestial bodies were aligned in such a way that the Equinox was blessed with certain gravitational anomalies not present on other normal days.

It was all a load of old hooey, of course. You need to practise a lot, but on just about any day of the year you can balance a blunt-ended egg on its blunt end if you take the pains to do so. Why you'd want to is of course another matter entirely.

Actually, because I like you all so much,  I'll let you into a little secret as to how you can impress all the egg-fanciers out there. If you place a plain wedding ring under the tablecloth in the exact spot where you'd like to balance your egg, and then take pains to remember where you've left it, you can make just about any old egg stand upright on its end, using the ring as a hidden cradle to support it. Here's one I did earlier (photo below) Impressive, heh?

The ancient Chinese art of egg balancing on the Vernal Equinox
Anyway have a very merry Vernal Equinox. As for me: I'm off to peer through the clouds at the solar eclipse and honour this auspicious day with a very large slab of marmalade cake, and I'll worry about bringing order and balance to my waistline in the season of light and rebirth.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful spring pictures , I've enjoyed them (I cannot all read, I'm still a beginner in English)