Monday, April 3, 2017

Carpe Diem #1184 Spring Equinox (Haru Higan)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Today our second classical kigo is "spring equinox" or "haru higan" and I remember that we have had this kigo earlier in our existence ... so I decided to make it myself easy today and re-publish the episode on Haru Higan of March 20th 2013. It was the 150th prompt here at CDHK and as you see above we are already heading for 1200 prompts. So I think we have done a great job with our haiku family.


The most common equinox are Summer - and Winter equinoxe, but Spring and Autumn also have equinox. Spring equinox is called Vernal Equinox or 'Alban Eilir' and on that day druids celebrating the coming of the light back to the world. It's, for druids and pagans, one of the most important celebrations. After the dark period of Autumn and Winter finally light is returning to the world and nature's coming to life again.

Achnaton (Echnaten)

In ancient Egypt Achnaton, a pharao, promoted the One-God Religion of the Sun and in that religion the returning of the light was also an important issue.
Druids, as you may know, are a kind of religious man (and woman) in the Celtic culture. I have sought the Internet for some background on this Spring Equinox, which in Celtic druidry is called 'Alban Eilir' and I found this:

The name for the festival of the Spring Equinox in Druidry is Alban Eilir, which means 'The Light of the Earth'. As the Sun grows warmer, so life begins to show through the soil. Small signs at first - the daffodils and crocuses - then more green as the bluebells and wood anemones spread through the woodland. Plants are seen by some as inanimate greenery with no actual feelings and life force. But Druids see life in all living things, from rocks and stones, to rivers and springs, plants and trees - all life is sacred. Have you ever thought about how you recognize the beginning of Spring? Is it the plant life? The weather? How does a plant know when it is time to grow? It cannot tell the time or see a calendar. Yet it knows. If it has senses, then it has consciousness, if it has consciousness then it is more than an inanimate life form. So it is the return of life to the Earth that is celebrated at Alban Eilir, the time of balance.
One of the inner mysteries of Druidry is the Druid's egg. Life-giving, it is the egg protected by the hare, which is the symbol of Alban Eilir - still celebrated by the giving of Easter eggs by the Easter bunny.

So we know now a little bit more about the Spring Equinox in our region of the world, but how is it celebrated in Japan? Let's look a bit closer to the meaning of the Spring Equinox in Japan.

Higanbune (festival boat)
In Japan the Spring Equinox, Haru Higan, or Vernal Equinox is one of the most traditional Japanese National Holidays. These holidays seem to have a double origin. One is the celebration of seasonal change typical of an agricultural society: This is the day when the day-time and the nighttime are equal length. The actual date of the Vernal Equinox day may change from year to year due to leap year. Based on the Buddhist teaching, this Vernal Equinox is also called Higan no Chu-Nichi, as is Autumn Equinox on September 23rd. On Haru Higan Many Japanese visit their family tombs on this day in the middle of the week of Higan to pay their respects to their ancestors. People weed their family tombs, and leave flowers, incense and ohagi (sweet rice balls covered with red bean paste). It is tradition that ancestors' spirits prefer round food! Japanese consider this period the changing of the season, because it is usually around Higan that the cold front hanging over the Japanese islands weakens, and the weather changes to spring.
Thus we have a saying "Atsusa samusa mo Higan made" ("Heat and cold last until Higan").

At those festivals boats are used to celebrate the returning of the sun, this is called higanbune. And it was a custom to go walk around, enjoy one's shadow, pray at the temples and shrines and to pray for good fortune. This custom is known as 'praying to the sun' (I couldn't retrieve the Japanese translation) and it's part of the Spring Equinox and the Autumn Equinox. In the Spring Equinox festivities it was called 'welcoming the sun' ( hi mukae, himukae) and in the Autumn Equinox festivities it was called 'saying goodbye to the sun'. During this day Japanese people are visiting friends for a snack, talk and a drink.

I have found a few nice haiku on Haru Higan which I love to share with you all here on Carpe Diem. First a haiku by Issa:

higan made to wa moosedomo samusa kana

"fair weather by Spring's Equinox"
so they say ..

© Issa - 1823

Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province. Shinji Ogawa notes that there is a Japanese proverb which states, "Hot or cold only lasts till an equinox." In Issa province of Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, this saying doesn't at all hold true. Literally, Issa is saying, "Only until the spring equinox [will the cold weather last], they say...[and yet] it's cold!" (Source: haikuguy)

Or what do you think of this one written by Origa (nom de plume of Olga Hooper) in 2008:

vernal equinox -
the rising moon is lit
by the setting sun

© Origa - 2008

On Haru Higan Many Japanese visit their family tombs on this day in the middle of the week of Higan to pay their respects to their ancestors. 

And what are we doing on this Spring Equinox? As far as I know in my country we're not celebrating this equinox. We are celebrating the Summer solstice and the Winter solstice. But ... back to this nice (and difficult) prompt Haru Higan to do some haiku composing myself. For this "re-published episode I decided to re-do the haiku I used in that 150th episode into tanka and I think these are beauties.

celebrating the sun
with narcissus flowers in my hair -
Spring Equinox
day and night the same length
departing Winter

departing Winter
visiting my ancestors graves
paying my respects
to Mother Nature ... flowers in my hair
Vernal Equinox

© Chèvrefeuille (sorry didn't follow the rules)

I am looking forward to all of your inspired haiku on this prompt for today.  Have fun, be inspired and creative and share your haiku with our haiku community.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until April 8th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, mirage, later on. 

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