Life is certainly renewing itself in the garden and the land around me. There are English daisies in the lawn, cheerful little flowers, rayed like the Sun, that flower roughly equinox to equinox, and which I use to make salves for bruises. There are yellow primroses and cowslips all over the garden, of primrose, golden celandines, violets and wood anemones. The hedgerows are covered in fresh green haze of new leaves on the elder, hawthorn and dog roses. The daffodils are all out in the garden and along all the road verges, sunny cheerful flowers early perennials that tell me spring has arrived in full force. They are potent symbols of cheerfulness, rebirth and new beginnings, which are said to bloom from Ash Wednesday and die on Easter Sunday.
Some of my perennial herbs are pushing their way into the light, the frothy green sweet cicely green and spears of chives. There are butterflies on sunny days, and early bees lazily looking for nectar in the early flowers. I’ve been picking coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), one of the earliest flowers of the year, the sun-coloured flowers appearing before the leaves, hence its folk name ‘son afore the father’. I use a coltsfoot tea for coughs and bronchitis at this time of year. I’ve also found the fresh green shoots of cleavers (Galium aparine), which we called sticky buds when I was a child. It makes a great spring tonic, cleansing for the lymphatic system, in the form of a tea, eaten or juiced. 
We can feel energy building in the natural world as it responds to the increasing light during this month. Vigorous life is returning to the land; everywhere shoots push up through the earth, trees bud, flowers blossom, and animals and birds begin to mate – the earth is waking up. It is a time of renewal, of promise, of hope when the Sun God gains strength, when the Vegetation God emerges from the earth, and the Maiden Goddess is wreathed in flowers.
The Sun, reborn at the winter solstice, has gradually been gaining strength, and at the vernal equinox the light finally overcomes the darkness, and the days become longer than the nights. The Saxons called March Lentmonat, ‘lengthening’ referring to the lengthening of days, a word the Christians adopted as ‘Lent’, the days leading up to the festival of Easter.
It is not surprising that many places of the ancient world celebrated New Year at the spring equinox, when the Sun entered Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, and the natural world renewed itself. The Babylonian New Year, for example, began after the vernal equinox with the twelve day festival of Akitu. It commemorated the defeat of the dragon-goddess of chaos Tiamat by the god Marduk, and the beginning of creation with the emergence of order out of chaos. To mark this, New Year was celebrated with a temporary subversion of order,  reminiscent of the customs of misrule in later western Europe, when the king was stripped of his jewellery, sceptre and crown before kneeling before the altar of Marduk and praying for forgiveness on behalf of himself and his subjects, before all his emblems of authority were restored, symbolising the annual renewal of his authority and nature alike. Influenced by these ancient rites, Iranians, Zoroastrians, the Parsis in India, the Kurds and members of the Ba’hai faith still celebrate New Year at the spring equinox with the festival of Nowruz (‘New Day’), and this has taken place in Iran for at least 2500 years. It celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, order over chaos, and the rejuvenation of the world as the warmth of the spring conquers winter.
Out of the winter, spring comes. Out of the darkness comes light. In the midst of despair is hope. The world is renewed with youth and vitality, freshness and vigour. The themes of this month are the emergence of the vegetation god with the green shoots, as the youthful Green Man, the Maiden goddess as the lady of flowers, birds nesting and egg laying, and animals mating, promising us that life will be renewed and continue.
© Anna Franklin
 Julie Brunton-Seal & Matthew Seal, Hedgerow Medicine, Merlin Unwin Books, Ludlow, 2008