The season of Spring is now upon us. The sun warms, days lengthen and the air is filled with the scents of new life. Spring is a time of awakening and renewal, along with the dawning and planting of new ideas.
At this time nature provides a bounty of enlivening and cleansing foods and herbs, but before I get into that I thought it would be interesting to trace some of our traditions that have evolved out of Spring.
Our Spring Traditions Pagan Heritage
Here in the southern hemisphere Spring arrives in September, while of course in the northern hemisphere it dawns in March. The vernal equinox marks the time that the sun crosses the earth’s equator and is one of only two times in the year when day and night are equal in length. In earlier times, the vernal equinox was considered the beginning of the new year as it signified the beginning of regeneration and new life.
Easter is celebrated on the first full moon after the equinox which in the northern hemisphere is usually the first week in April. The word “Easter” itself is linked to the old english word for “east”. Easter marks the dawn of Spring and the dawn itself begins in the east.
In pre-Christian Europe, Anglo-Saxons worshipped Eostre, the moon goddess of spring and fertility. She was portrayed as standing among spring flowers and holding an egg in her hand. Her sacred animal was the hare, which laid eggs to honor her and encourage her fruitfulness.
Later Christians adapted many pagan traditions and symbols for their own celebration of resurrection. Eggs are of course a symbol of new life but another reason they became part of the Easter celebration is that they were forbidden during Lent, the forty-day period of fasting and penitence that ends on Easter Sunday.
The Significance of Fasting leading into Spring
Fasting as a spiritual practice is present in virtually all of the worlds wisdom traditions, from tribal shamans, Native Americans to Taoists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Fasting has been used as a means of releasing emotions and connecting one’s soul with the sacred, used often as preparation for divine revelation as the act of fasting is a means to access a relationship with divinity. Fasting in this spiritual context then is a means of reducing or eliminating tension between the earthbound body and the divine – in essence it’s a discipline of making space for God.
There are 74 references to fasting in the Bible, the best known being Jesus’ 40 day fast in the desert and Mose’s 40 day fast on the mountain. As mentioned above, in the Catholic tradition “Lent” which commemorates Jesus’ 40 day fast, traditionally forbids the consumption of eggs (along with meat) for forty days leading up to Easter Sunday. The consumption of eggs again on Easter Sunday honours then this symbol of Christ’s resurrection.
More generally though, christian fasting has always been seen as a way to overcome desire for earthy things, to purify oneself, make oneself more Christ-like, and prayer more powerful.
Why Spring is the season for Purifying
Ayurvedic Doctor John Douillard believes that Spring has two main goals for us humans;
First, to detoxify the body and second, to reset the body’s ability to burn stored fat.
After eating heavier foods throughout winter, the lymphatic system is usually more stagnant and often we’ve stored more body fat (which incidentally is where we store most of our toxins). Early in spring however nature helps us begin to address these issues by firstly providing us with bitter plants and roots like dandelion which clean excess mucus off the intestinal mucosa. Next the new intestinal flora is fertilised with the leafy greens and sprouts that abound in spring. Then later some of the last foods harvested in spring are berries which are nature’s great lymphatic movers.
If your lymph is stagnant, common symptoms include allergies, rashes, swollen hands or feet, headaches, joint pain, chronic colds, weak immunity, constipation, fatigue and lack of mental clarity.
Nature in it’s infinite wisdom provides us with the foods and herbs in Spring that de-stagnant us and help restore our gut. Our metabolism is then able to shift into a new gear and burn off stored (toxic) fat. Tuning ourselves to nature brings us into communion with its powers. Spring is the perfect purifying time, little wonder to me then why fasting traditions such as Lent chose this time of year.
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Aaron Travers is author of “The Boda Fast – a three step plan to lower inflammation, maximise fat burning and restore vitality”. Aaron writes at www.thebodacleanse.com.au and shares his ideas and experiences on health and wellbeing from his personal life and through working with clients clinically and those doing his “supported fasting” programs. Every Friday he sends out his newsletter, click below to subscribe.