Tomorrow, March twentieth, is the Vernal Equinox, or what most of us know as the first official day of Spring. For thousands of years and across widely varied cultures, the beginning of the warm and traditional growing season has been celebrated in meaningful and interesting ways. In fact, some of these practices are still alive today.
The new year falls on the March Equinox in parts of central Asia and the Middle East to this day, in accordance with a celebratory practice that finds its roots in ancient Persian mythology. Even the dates of modern Jewish and Catholic holidays are still determined by the movements of the cosmos in connection to the equinox. Passover, for example, falls on the first full moon after the Spring equinox.
A resurgence of the Norse and Celtic pagan religions in recent decades has led to a rebirth in many of the traditional northern customs regarding vernal celebration as well. Amongst some of the tribes in these areas, body modifications occurred on the equinoxes and solstices due to their spiritual significance, and Spring as a time of renewed light and growth was particularly paramount. Amid a great many of the Celtic tribes the tree of life symbol (traditionally focused on in the Springtime) has always been important, and it remains a common element of Celtic tattoo art even today.
Another reason that body modifications were performed on or near the Vernal Equinox in many cultures is simple seasonal availability. For many ancient tribes ritual piercing and tattooing required the use of plant material or animal bone that wouldn’t be readily available until the onset of early Spring. Even in Mesoamerica though, where the growing season extends all year long, the beginning of Spring was celebrated with much intensity. The Mayan grand pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan region is just one of the many monuments worldwide designed specifically to align with the sun on the equinoxes. On this day and others, the Mayans may have performed ritual bloodletting by way of piercing the tongue in order to appease the gods.
So is piercing and tattooing still in order for the Vernal Equinox today? Well since it falls exactly six weeks before the first of May, the equinox is actually a perfect time to get new modifications, giving them the chance to heal before hot weather, high sun, and pool chemicals come into play.