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Dzibilchaltun’s Temple of the Seven Dolls at sunrise on spring equinox| Image Source:

Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 12:30 am. E.S.T. marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and fall in the South. Even though our clocks are set to different time zones, this moment happens at the same time across the globe. The sun shines directly on the equator, making the length of the days and nights equal everywhere; afterwards, in the Northern Hemisphere the days get longer, and the nights get shorter as the sun is on an ecliptic journey north.

While the spring equinox is celebrated and marked differently within various Indigenous nations, observing the movements of the sun and moon and our connections to it created a calendar consciousness that often reveres women, birth, and renewal.

1. Happy New Year! Welcome Ziissbaakdoke Giiza – Sugar Moon

Within the Anishinaabe tradition, the third moon is known as the sugar moon. This is celebrated as the Anishinaabe New Year. It is a time when the maple sap starts to run from trees. The maple sap is one of the main medicines given to the Anishinaabe that balances our blood and heals us. During this time, we are encouraged to balance our lives, including our blood sugar levels.

Blue Moon Remembering a Loved One by William Monague
Blue Moon Remembering a Loved One by William Monague | Image source:

2. Dzibilchaltún

The Mayans are known for their impressive accuracy when it comes to astronomy. The sun is incredibly important to Mayans with the agricultural growth of corn central to their society. Some of their most impressive architecture was designed to mark the movement of the sun with precision, detailing the exact spring and winter equinoxes. At dawn on spring equinox, in the ancient Mayan city of Dzibilchaltún, a celestial disc on the door to the Temple of the Seven Dolls lights up to create a spectacle of light and shade on the western front. This marked the beginning of planting season and spring.

2. Medicine Wheel Teachings

The Medicine Wheel represents the stages of life. The yellow portion symbolizes the east, springtime and a time when spirits are preparing for the journey into the physical world. It is said that during this time the Creator grants us the gifts of choosing our own parents, choosing how we will be born, and choosing how we will die. Once our parents are chosen we are carried by our mother for nine months, until her water breaks, and we enter the physical world.

3. Sun Dagger in Chaco Canyon

The Chaco Canyon in New Mexico is home to ancient Pueblo monuments on top of the Fajada Butte. The Pueblo people built a structure in the butte that would capture the solar cycle. Three large stone slabs lean against the cliff, channeling dagger like shaped sun markings onto two spiral petroglyphs on the cliff wall. The larger spiral is the principle and the smaller the ancillary. Spring equinox is observed when the “sun dagger” strikes the centre of the ancillary spiral.

Sun dagger on petroglyphs on top of the Fajada Butte
Spring equinox is observed when the sun dagger reaches the middle of this ancient petroglyph built into an ancient structure found on the Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico| Image source:

4. Indigenous Women and Calendar Consciousness

Before the advent of artificial light women’s menstruation was controlled by the lunar cycles with women menstruating, at the same time, once a month (moontime) when the moon was full. Indigenous women developed a lunar consciousness on which both the Chinese and Mayan calendars are based. The lunar cycles control the sea’s tidal forces in much of the same way it controls the life forces within women’s bodies and often when our babies are born.

5. Woodhenge

Near the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, stands Woodhenge – a circle of wooden posts carefully situated to mark summer/winter solstices and spring/fall equinoxes. The site contains five similar circles of various sizes with only three of the posts significant to marking solar cycles. Two outer posts mark the winter/summer solstices while a post in the middle of them marks the equinoxes. The post marking the equinoxes aligns with the front of the Cahokia Mounds making it seem like the mound has given birth to the sun.

Mother Earth by Ray Carl
Painting of “Mother Earth” by Ray Carl | Image source: Image source:

6. Mother Earth Gives Water To Give Life

Women are considered to be the carriers of life because women’s bodies have to ability to grow and sustain life. When women give birth they release this water, similar to when the Earth’s spring water begins to flow. Water is considered the blood of Mother Earth; her veins are the lakes, rivers and inlets. Like Mother Earth, humans are mostly made up of water, whatever affects the water affects us and vice versa – everything is connected.

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MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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