Monday, April 06, 2009

On The Magic of Easter

     This then is the truth: Easter has always been as richly embroidered with folk customs and superstitions as Christmas; it is as magical and pagan a holiday as the winter solstice. But there is one great difference: the mysteries of Christmas is to a large extent prophetic, whereas the mysteries of Easter are more akin to conjuring. At Easter no one pours lead or halves apples or cracks walnuts or lights candles or looks into the depths of the water so that the future might appear. No dog barks at Easter to indicate the direction the bridegroom will come from. All of these prophesies belong to Christmas.1 At Easter magic is performed so that we will be happy, so the harvest will be good, and what have you. At Easter you do not pose questions of what will be with magic rituals, but you instead look to effect an enchanting influence on that future. Wash in the brook at dawn, girl, and you will be healthy all year.2 Do this and that, fulfill this magical law or that, and everything will be in order; your future will be in your hands. It is not in your power at Christmas to determine what shape the poured lead will form; you have no influence on whether the core of the apple will be shaped like a cross or a star; you cannot cause your little candle to burn out faster than all the others. But at Easter you are sort of master of your own fate; you do this and you’re be healthy and happy as a clam. So run along and do it.

     It might be because Christmas is ruled by the night and Easter by the divine day. Nature sleeps at Christmas and nothing can be done about it, man together with nature sits, hands in his lap, until the winter passes. He cannot reach into the current of events in any way, it’s only a matter of somehow survived until spring. And so he, dreaming and waiting, gets in a mood for fortunetelling. A man with a plow in his hand doesn’t powerlessly ask how the harvest will be, because to a certain level he’s making it happen himself; hail can still come, our drought, but a man does what he can to get his field to grow. He performs magic so that evil powers do now ruin his work and his health; so he sets up candles against storms and says old sayings to ward off disease. At the winter solstice he sits in the gloom with his hands in his lap and longs for omens and signs; show me what will happen to me and mine, for there is no way for me to do this myself. At the vernal equinox he has too much to do already; God be praised, he is again the architect and shaper of his own fate, to a certain extent. And around him everything is moving, nature gives itself to its own grand progress; there is no more of this hibernal fixation and paralysis. And that is why springtime enchantment is entirely different from that of the wintertime; no more of this metaphysical impotence and helplessness, which can only ask fate what will happen, but some action at least, a little force to have a noticeable influence on one’s fortunes.

     And I think that we all can have enough of this wintry prophesy. The whole of Europe is given over to it; always these anxious questions about what will happen and how it will turn out. Perhaps it’s time for people everywhere to throw themselves into a springtime enchantment and do something so that things turn out well. If we do this and this, if we fulfill this prerequisite or that, we will be happy and healthy. And every one of us can help with this enchantment--whoever is doing something does not have to ask helplessly what fate has in store. Do not think that we cannot have even the slightest influence on what will be; even the smallest influence is better than mere prophesy. That is the whole secret of spring magic: what is going to happen is under our control.



1 [Most if not all of these are outlined many places on the web, say here, for instance.]
2 [People love discussing the pomlázka tradition (myself included) but there are other Easter traditions as well, some noted here.]

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