March 21st is the Vernal Equinox in those parts of the Northern Hemisphere which lie above the tropical zone – so I shall spend some time analysing how various occult traditions treat this seasonal event.
In Wicca, the Vernal Equinox is celebration of Light. The central part of the ceremonial consists of the following invocation, which the High Priestess recites before a bonfire is lit.
We kindle this fire today
In the presence of the Holy Ones,
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
But the High Gods
Thee we invoke, O Light o fLife;
Be thous a bright flame before us,
Be thous a guiding star above us;
Kindle thou within our hearts
A flame of love for our neighbours,
To our foes, to our friends, to our kindred all,
To all men on the broad earth;
O merciful Son of Cerridwen,
From the lowliest thing that liveth
To the Name which is highest of all.
(Source: “What Witches Do,” by Stewart Farrar).
In the Golden Dawn, the Equinox is the time when the old Hierophant steps down, and the new Hierophant is installed. It is also the time when the pass-word for the Equinox has changed. The choice of pass-word is significant, for it represents a Magical Affirmation to inspire and guide the Order for the next six-months. The Equinox ceremony of the Golden Dawn when worked with all the inner magical working, is in fact a magical ceremony to put that Magical affirmation into effect.
It was for this reason that Crowley referred to the reception of the Book of the Law as “the Equinox of the Gods” – because he saw it as a cosmic Equinox ceremony to give effect to the new Word, not of the next six-months, but of the new Aeon, i.e. “Thelema.”
Those of us who are not so much interested in becoming the Magus of a new Aeon as using the Equinox formula in our own workings, may find an insightful analysis of the ceremony in Circles of Power by John Michael Greer.
The final equinox working to which I will briefly refer is that of the Elus Cohens. This was a theurgic order founded by one Martinez De Pasqually in the eighteenth century. It ceased working in the late 18th / early 19th century, but was revived in modern times by Robert Ambelain. Ambelain’s own group was allegedly closed sometime in the late 20th century, although it is within the author’s personal knowledge that the Elu Cohen rituals are still being worked by various people to this day.
The essence of the Elu Cohen Equinox ritual is that it is a great Exorcism rite, designed to banish all evil spirits from this planet. It is in fact quite intense, as it takes five days to complete (i.e. it was worked on five successive nights).