March is a month of conflict which is appropriate as it gets its name from Mars, the Roman god of war. But it’s not the conflicts of men or the gods (depending on your outlook) that plague March, no this fight is all nature’s.
“March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb” captures the essence of the month, as the pawns of Spring begin to defeat the last defenses of Winter. This clash brings turbulent weather, as cold and warm fronts duel and spar; filling March with warm days, cold snaps, thunderstorms and snow, sometimes all within one week. Signs of nature awakening begin to appear, birds start to check out nesting boxes, daffodils begin to sprout from the last remains of Winter’s snow, and mega-home stores begin to line their entranceways with shiny, new grills.
The science behind this is the spring or vernal equinox, the point in cosmic geometry where the plane of the Earth’s equator points directly at the sun, thus splitting our 24 hour clock equally between night and day. As the earth (in our northern hemisphere) continues to tilt, the days become increasingly long, and the weather starts to become more pleasant and agreeable.
And “starts” is a important word, as not only does the spring equinox herald the beginning of the astrological Spring season here, but many cultures such as the Romans looked to it as the beginning of the year. The vernal equinox also marks the beginning of the Western Astrological cycle. While at it’s core, astrology is largely based on which constellation of the zodiac the sun is in, the Western branch (the branch you read when you look up your horoscope in the paper) is actually tied to the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the sign of Aries always starting at the vernal equinox. So as the cosmic landscape shifts over time, and the sun begins to drift slowly from one star cluster to another, on the vernal equinox the sun will always be “entering Aries”, like this year when it happens on March 20th 12:57pm.
For Wiccans and Neo-Pagans, the Spring equinox is one of the eight Sabbat days in the Wheel of the Year. The day, which is commonly referred to as Ostara, from the Germanic fertility goddess of the same name, represents the rebirth of nature. The festival and celebration is full of symbols of fertility such as rabbits and hares (the mating dances of hares in early spring lead to the term, “Mad as a March Hare”); and eggs. The celebration is not unique to the Germans, both the English (Ēostre) and the Saxons (Ēastre) celebrated similar festivals. Ēastre, rabbits and eggs – sound familiar?
But Ostara isn’t the only big spiritual celebration in March. Due to Easter being late this year (because of it’s seasonal calculation that causes it to fall anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th), Lent, which covers the period six weeks before, along with it’s period of atonement and self denial started on March 5th with Ash Wednesday. As well as the Jewish Holiday of Purim, which is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (March 16th this year), which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in the Pursian Empire. The story is chronicled in the book of Esther that can be found both in the Tanakh and the Bible.
As far as the full moon (12:57pm, March 20th), the modern name tends to lean towards the Storm Moon, which considering the weather patterns in March is understandable. But the old almanac and Indian name for it is the Worm Moon, which is a little more cryptic. The name refers to the changing of the seasons, when worms would begin to come up through the newly softened soil. And of course, where there are worms, there are robins, another harbinger of Spring.
So what should we beer peeps be doing? Let’s take a month off and relax. We can sit back and enjoy the final rounds of Spring VS Winter; pretty soon with some Spring beers that will surely be hitting the shelves any day now. Other than that? Well if you are a grill/BBQ freak like me, you could go check out the new grills a home depot.
Time for another beer.