Friday, 22 March 2013

Liminal Equinoxes

With the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox just past, I've heard a lot of, it's too cold or snowy for it to be spring.  I had some thoughts about that while driving back to Colorado in a snow storm today.

Picture the year as a circle.

Place the Winter and Summer Solstices at the top and bottom, doesn't matter which is which, just whichever makes most sense to you.  Now draw a line halving the circle, horizontally.  Think of half with Winter as the Winter Half, and the part with Summer as the Summer Half.  The Solstices are very clearly one season or the other, the further you go around the circle to that middle line, the less clear.  Now make a mark half way along the circle between each Solstice and the centre line.  These points are Bride's Day, Beltaine, Lugh's Day, and Samhaine (or whatever order makes most sense to you).  Now, the top quarter of the circle, the arc from a point marked to a Solstice then to the other mark near that Solstice, and same on the bottom quarter, those two arcs are clearly Summer and Winter.  You may get some odd weather that doesn't fit, but those two sections are fairly clearly set (at least if you're far enough from the equator, especially outside the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn).  They are stable, static, passive, unchanging.

But the arcs between the points marked crossing the centre line, these are liminal, changing, dynamic, betwixt and between.  These are of course the Spring and Fall, Vernus and Autumn, arcs, with the centre line marking the equinoxes.  But these seasons represent the transition between Winter and Summer, Summer and Winter.  They are liminal.  They are neither Winter nor Summer.  And because they are liminal, winter characteristics can stretch later some years and earlier others, and the same for summer characteristics.  So the Spring Equinox isn't "spring" because of distinct spring characteristics, but because it's the midpoint of the transition from Winter to Summer, and the Autumn Equinox isn't "autumn" because of distinct autumn characteristics, but because it's the midpoint of the transition from Summer to Winter.

You can see this also by putting a day on the same circle.

Place Midnight where Winter is, and Noon where Summer is.  Midnight is clearly night, for even at the most extreme latitudes, it is the lowest point of the sun in summer and darkest sky in winter, and closer to the equator, clearly mid-night.  Noon is clearly day, for even at the most extreme latitudes, it is the highest point of the sun in summer and lightest sky in winter, and closer to the equator, clearly mid-day, especially south of the Arctic Circle and north of the Antarctic Circle.

Unlike midnight and noon which are obvious and static, Dusk and Dawn are dynamic and changing, both moving closer to midnight in summer and closer to noon in winter.  At lease outside the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, inside they are more static.  But regardless of latitude, Dusk and Dawn aren't set points like Midnight and Noon.  They are transitional, a change from clear day to clear night.  Twilight.  Neither day nor night, neither night nor day.  Liminal.  They aren't the point at which the sun appears or vanishes, they are the transition from the point the sky begins to lighten to the time the sun is fully visible, and from when the sun begins to set to when the sky is fully dark.  Just like Spring and Autumn, they aren't distinct, exact points of conditions, they are a liminal borderland between two exact conditions.

This is also true of course if you look at the directions.

North and south run to exact points, the axis of the world, whereas east and west keep going forever, overlapping.  You can go far enough north that every direction is south, and far enough south that everything is north.  But no matter how far east you go, you're still facing east, west is still at your back, north is on you left, and south on your right.  No matter how far west you go, you're still facing west, east is still at your back, south is on your left, and north is on your right.  East and West are liminal directions, relative directions.  Like Dawn and Dusk.  Like Spring and Fall.  North and South are absolute directions.  Like Midnight and Noon.  Like Winter and Summer.

~Muninn's Kiss

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