March 20, 2018

the marzanna doll

"we carry death
out of the village

we carry death
out of the village"

today is ostara. this is one of the two days each year when the dark and the light are in balance, equal in duration for a day. it was celebrated traditionally as a festival of new life, increasing warmth, and increasing plenty, as eggs, fresh greens, and milk products became more available again after a long winter. there were (and are) many rituals and practices to observe the day, all concerned with increasing fertility and the forces of life, and with removing or banishing forces of death. from decorating eggs to 'sprinkling' the girls with water, dancing or swinging for the vilys, and dressing wells with flower petals or cooking special dishes, many of these customs are still observed around the northern hemisphere. others have faded away...

one of those rituals was the 'marzanna doll': a figure or effigy of an old woman, representing winter, made of sticks and straw, dressed up, and carried through the village before being thrown into a river or burnt near the fields. they were ritually carrying death, illness, hunger, and winter out of the village in order to ensure health and plenty going forward. such older rites lost traction with the advent of christianity, or held on through the changes of faiths only to be considered 'rural superstition' by more modernised societies. and finally, the last vestiges of them dwindled away as people lost their connection to the land as the source of sustenance and health, replaced by a reliance on supermarkets and immunisation and antibiotics and central heating for food and well-being. with few people suffering hunger, malnutrition, extreme cold, or epidemics sweeping through at the fag end of winter, modern life seemed to have no need for rituals such as the marzanna doll.

or do we?

early this morning, as i put my tea to brew and opened my laptop to post a cheery "happy ostara" message on social media, i instead was met with news of a school shooting at the local high school. a number of people i know, including two of my closest friends, have children who attend that school. i spent hours texting, checking facebook posts, and refreshing online news pages in an attempt to find out how many people had been shot, who was accounted safe, and who needed help in any way.

it could have been much worse. three students were shot, of whom one died. one girl is in critical condition at a regional hospital. (edit: she was taken off life support this evening, and passed away, age 16.) one boy is also in hospital locally in stable condition. the fatality was the shooter himself, who shot himself in front of students and the armed police officer that all our public schools seem to have these days. it would have been worse, had the boy who brought the gun to school had an automatic assault gun instead of the glock handgun he used. still, a girl is dead, a boy is injured, another boy is dead by his own hand, and a cop had to make a horrible decision about whether to shoot a kid to protect other kids and teachers. parents and friends and families went through agony for hours, trying to learn who was hurt. the rest of the students spent the duration in terror, hiding in locked classrooms, not knowing if they were safe or who was shot. others witnessed the shootings, and watched as CPR was performed on the injured. they were then herded onto hastily recalled school buses and taken to the auditorium of another local high school, where they were interviewed by police and FBI officers, until finally, hours later, being released to their poor parents.

what a terrible world we have allowed to come into being.

and so, i think it is a good day to think about finding balance in our own lives. in our societies. i think we have to give thought to where we could 'carry death' out of our civic spaces by coming together to protect our children, our earth, our future...

#forthechildren #guncontrolnow #ostara  #equinox

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