Spring’s Celestial Hat Trick
No ordinary magic rabbit, this hare lays eggs
This year spring with the near-convergence of three significant events: Vernal equinox, the full moon and Easter Sunday, the literal celebration of life after death.
Vernal equinox, the first day of astronomical spring, is often March 21, but this year it falls a day earlier due to February’s Leap Day.
March’s full moon falls at the witching hour between the 21st and 22nd. Although April’s is the typical Planting Moon, legend has it that the first full moon immediately following equinox is ideal for sowing the season’s first seeds.
Then, for Roman Catholics and Protestants, Easter falls on the 23rd. Easter Sunday can fall on any date from March 22 to April 25. The date is marked as the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 20, the earliest possible date for vernal equinox. The year-to-year sequence is so complicated that it repeats only once every 5.7 million years.
Hidden in the heavens is a figure that unites all three of these springtime events Lepus the hare. Cultures stretching from the cradle of civilization to Native America, from Asia to Africa associate the hare with the moon. Look closely at the dark regions of the moon’s surface and you, too, may see a rabbit.
Lepus is a small constellation, often overlooked beneath Ursa Major and Orion, for whom rabbit was a favorite prey. However, other myths claim that the hare was originally a bird, transformed and placed in the heavens by Oestre, the Goddess of Spring from whose name comes the word Easter. Once a year, with the rebirth of the land, Lepus returns to its earlier form, delivering its eggs as the Easter Bunny .
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