This was the view from my front porch on March 22, 2018, the day after the vernal equinox. While not exactly the time for short sleeves and shorts, the start of Spring where I live on the northern border of Kentucky does not usually bring nearly half a foot of snow. The expected weather this time of year is warm wind and rumbling thunderstorms and the occasional frosty night as the powers of Spring tug-of-war with the waning powers of Winter for control of our weather, powered by the whims of the jet stream. But this year, thanks to the multiple winter nor’easters battering the eastern seaboard, Winter has held on for just a bit longer than usual.
As a part of building my naturalistic pagan practice, I have made a point of paying attention of the weather and noting the ways that the seasons change and blend into one another. This Ostara, I am reminded how we do not control the weather, and that Mother Earth does not give a damn about what we think the vernal equinox ought to look like. And there is nothing for us to do really but accept it and acknowledge that we cannot control nature.
Recently I watched the series “Myths and Monsters” on Netflix (which I highly recommend). This series tells a handful of myths of a variety of cultures — mainly Norse, Greek, Roman, European — and interspersed with the storytelling it discusses the people and cultures and histories that created those myths and are reflected in the myths. A story that was told that keeps coming back to my mind is one in Episode 2: The Wild Unknown. Interspersed in the episode is the story of Actaeon and the goddess Artemis. Essentially, this hunter Actaeon was exploring the wilderness — a place humans were not supposed to be — and came across Artemis and her female accomplices bathing. Artemis was so angry that she cursed him to turn into a stag, and his own dogs hunted him down and tore him apart. It’s a gristly and disturbing story. But what made me think is that yes, sometimes wilderness and nature is like this. Apparently the Greeks at that time had the idea that humans just shouldn’t go into the wilderness — they should stay in the city where humans have control. In American culture we’ve inherited this romantic view of the wild frontier and untamed wilderness, and it’s worth being reminded that a romantic view of wildness is not the only view or the default view.
I also find it interesting from the point of view of seeing pagan gods and goddesses as symbolic of forces of nature. My take away from this myth is that Artemis pretty much is a force of nature and a reminder that while nature is beautiful it doesn’t conform to human desire and control. And that is an important thing to remember — especially as we consider the potential consequences of our pollution and carbon emissions.