March sees the arrival of the Autumn Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere and the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. As the equator runs across her middle, Africa experiences both and has celebrated them from her earliest beginnings.
The Autumn Equinox, which falls on the 20 March, in the Southern hemisphere, officially marks the end of summer, and the beginning of winter. Although you may not feel it in the weather immediately, the promise of winter is in the increasingly chilly mornings and evenings. There are two Equinoxes in a year and the mark the days when the day and the night are exactly the same length. After the Autumn Equinox the days start getting shorter and the nights start getting longer.
In ancient cultures, calendars were not an organisation of days, but a record of the physical and spiritual order. Physically these times of change were quite important as they marked the planting period or, in the case of the Autumn Equinox, the start of the harvesting period and the storing of food for the winter. In the African calendar (a calendar governed by agriculture), this period is the third season and known as The Faro Season or the birth of the lion-king. The third season of the year not only represents first fruits, harvest and prosperity but also the death and rebirth of the divine king symbolised by the Son of the Sun (Sa Ra) during the Easter Period.
Spiritually there is a great power around “edge times” like the equinoxes and they represent the balance between day and night, winter and summer, dark and light. More deeply they represent the balance of light and life, and dark and death within human spirituality; all things must die, before than can be born again. The Autumn Equinox is the literal dying of the sun and the light, and without the dark, cold winter, the sun cannot be reborn in the spring and life cannot continue. The journey the sun takes is considered the spiritual journey that man takes from darkness to enlightenment.
Where the remnants of ancient cultures have been uncovered, the importance of this time is highlighted in the statues, imagery or hieroglyphics and the buildings found at these sites. Many of these sites can be found in Africa, although none as documented as the pyramids of Egypt.
In Africa and beyond the sun was the most important astral body, often depicted as a god or given god like status. In ancient Egypt the sun Ra was one the most important dieties, as the sun represented light, warmth, and growth. The sun was seen as the ruler of all that he created. This is seen in hieroglyphics and constructions found in Egypt. The pyramids themselves are believed to be built in alignment with the stars and in design are thought to coincide with astral events, like the equinoxes. Ancient sites in Mexico, Central America and China reflect a similar importance placed on the sun as the centre of life. For instance the Pyramid of the Sun found in Mexico.
There would have been many rituals surrounding this time, some of a practical nature, like preparing the harvest for safe storage and some of a spirtual nature, preparing for the enlightenment for when the sun is “reborn” in the summer.