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The first day of spring?


Are our seasons out of step with the rest of the world as some may suggest? There is some confusion. On the calendars August is always shown as having daffodils, lambs etc, but it's still considered winter. So people say oh, winter is lasting longer now, seeming to be going into September. Yet we do celebrate Daffodil Day in August.  So, are daffodils a spring flower or a winter flower?  Most people associate daffodils with spring and yet they start blooming in winter. And "spring lambs" can start arriving any time from mid July to September.  Now what we have, is essentially two systems. Since the Middle Ages, western society has attempted to move away from its pagan origins, not wishing to recognize that agriculture is still heavily tied into ancient astrology, and the calendric science of seasonal prediction is still based on repeatable astronomical cycles. Two millennia ago, due to its predictive function, astrology was considered anti-Christian in the west because to the then Church it was considered that God alone knew what was going to happen, and the congregation could only attend church to receive the Holy Word - calculating it yourself was considered heretical. What arose were seasons, marked by specific weather conditions, temperatures, or length of the days, with (what would be our) spring considered to start on 1 September, summer on 1 December, autumn on 1 March, and winter on 1 June. Distancing the congregation from the zodiac and the heathen discussion of constellations was considered holy. And yet even in the anti-astrological west, when the equinox arrives on September 22 it is this date that we still regard as the official end to winter.

But spring in the old gardening books always started on 22 September, and summer not until just on Xmas, and that is the much older astrological season calendar. It puts the old idea of spring from the September equinox (22 Sept-22 Dec) at nearly a month ahead. So if daffodils and lambs appear in August, there is still arguably a case for calling for spring to be considered to start up to a month earlier, from the day after winter solstice to spring equinox (22 June -23 Sept). This means instead of mid-spring being 1 October, maybe it should be 22 August. With the days suddenly starting to get longer after the winter solstice (21 June), it's a sign to the plant world that spring is in the wings, so growth had better get cracking. At each of these astrological points is the beginning of a change (winter solstice to spring equinox (22 June -23 Sept), whereas calling them as we do now (1 Sept), they are arguably in the middle of the change.  Therefore summer should be from spring equinox to summer solstice, (23 Sept-22 Dec), autumn would be from summer solstice to autumn equinox (22 Dec-22 March) and winter from autumn equinox to winter solstice (22 March-22 June). Of course no one would buy into that, with winter ending in June. It might suit gardeners, but not skiers. This highlights the mismatch between when things flower or get born, and more modern calendar-directed dates. But even more importantly, something else is also going on which is in the realm of lunar long range weather forecasting. That is what some may have noticed but not known how to put into some context; that when it comes to weather trends the seasons extend about two weeks every year further ahead each year for a few years, then a year is reached when they spring back to what they are traditionally expected to be. This is part of lunar science, which is predictive. So for instance, in 2015, our summer rolled on into the start of May, but in 2016 it was still Indian summer at the end of May. Next year there is an even further extension, with the spring-back just beginning to take effect, so first snows will come at the end of April which will get snow operators excited. However it won't be sustained. They will have to wait a year. In 2018 the seasons are somewhat back to what they should be, in terms of the expected calendar. Lunar cycles are roughly 9 or 19-year repeating cycles. e.g. 2007 was much like 2016, with a late winter and poor snow prospects.

This is all comes down to cycles of Sun and Moon. The reader might imagine 4 cycles at once, 1 big sun one and 3 smaller moon ones. The Earth is on a tilt, which is what causes seasons. We tilt closer to the sun on 22 December (summer solstice) and furthest away on 22 June (winter solstice).  It's actually around 13 weeks closer, 13 weeks furthest away and 13 weeks around each at the mid positions, the focus of which are called the equinox periods. The sun does only the one cycle per year. The moon, as it orbits the Earth each month, is doing 3 things at once. Because they endlessly repeat they are 3 cycles, known as the perigee cycle, declination cycle and phase cycle. Perigee is the 2-3-day period when the moon comes closer to Earth once a month, bringing extremes such as king tides, earthquakes, and cyclones because it creates turbulence in the tides of the land, sea and air. Winter perigees can be (typically but not always) colder than surrounding days and summer perigees hotter. Equinoctial perigees are typically windier.  Declination is about which hemisphere the moon is over, because changing hemispheres (at 'lunar equinox') brings changes in barometric pressure. Declination is also the zodiac, which is why weather patterns change when the sun and/or moon occupy different 'signs'. Thirdly there's the visible full moon/new moon phase cycle. Combinations of the three cycles bring different weather combinations, because these three cycles are out of synch with each other. They come back into synch every 18-19 years, 38 years, 56 years, 72 years, 133 years and 186 years. This enables longrange predictions because we have archived records of past weather that we can extrapolate forwards. But it is only half the story. Whereas moon cycles dictate anticipated timing of coming weather events, it is the sun because it causes prior evaporation rates, to therefore determine the cycles of storm intensity or amounts of rain.

When it comes to the sun we have only the one annual cycle around us, or rather the other way around because technically Earth orbits the sun. However from down here on Earth it looks like the sun does the moving - on 22 December (solstice) it rises in about the southeast (actually halfway between E/SE and SE). Sunrises then sequentially progress slowly up the east coast and on 22 March (autumn equinox) it is rising due east and setting due west. Then on 22 June it is rising roughly in the northeast (actually in NZ between E/NE and E), our midwinter solstice. It is this autumn equinox (in the southern hemisphere) that we should discuss, for it has a fascinating local charm. This date, in the northern hemisphere Old World was called the Vernal Equinox and was the gloriously joyous day that spring was announced. It was cause for much celebration and is the origin of the Hebrew festival that we now, in the West know as Easter. In ancient agricultural societies this day was the most important day of the year, because unless calendars were reset to match this astronomical day of exact east-rising and west-setting sun, calendars and therefore growing seasons would gradually slip out of what was 'true' at the rate of one day every 72 years. Unless the calendars were regularly reset, after 12,500 years summer and winter would have reversed, with the northern hemisphere winter being from June to August, instead of as it is today of December to February.

All around NZ we can still see ancient markers for this, but no funding has been advanced to investigate it. The late historian Michael King sometimes referred to these structures in his public talks, but did not wish to write of them because of politics: evidence has not been validated by academia. In Auckland there is a huge "V" carved out of one of Auckland's volcanoes, about ten meters in width and viewable from the site of an old prominent hilltop stone circle 6 kms away; stones that were moved, according to the local council records, to build a fort on that hilltop during the late 1800s. When one stands on the old viewing platform of what was this stone circle, one can still witness the beautiful sight of the evening setting sun exactly sliding majestically between the arms of this giant V shape. It happens twice per year, only on equinox days (e.g. it happened on evening of 22 September). Standing in that V and looking towards the Waitakeres through a theodolite, as did Herald reporter Philip English and a photographer in July of 1999, a Ministry of Works foreman together with the Herald cameraman could identify another V in the Waitakere treeline. It was indication that the Auckland isthmus once supported a large population that utilized this seasonal calendric marker well before the final eruption of Rangitoto. The intriguing question is what ancient Auckland peoples carved these massive grooves. Stone circle use for calendars seems to have been unknown to Pacific peoples, who often simply preserved the circles out of respect. However, similarly shaped landscape markers can still be found across England and Europe, which is how we know of their function. The equinoctial sun date has been the first day of spring in many cultures for thousands of years, in all eastern, western, Semitic and indigenous cultures.
So spring was when the rising sun changed hemispheres from the wintry cold and dark half of the sky when it was seldom seen, to the other hemisphere of sunny warmth and light, from hibernation to growth and rebirth. Because it changed hemispheres right on that equinox day it was said that the sun "passed over", which is why the Hebrews knew it as The Passover('Pesach' in Hebrew).
The sky therefore divided into 2 main parts, and then 4 seasonal subparts. Astrology merely took this a stage further dividing the sky into 12 divisions and giving each an animal's name. There is nothing Satanic, witchy or anti-science in that. It is always odd to hear people in the West say they do not 'believe' in astrology, which they mistakenly think is just about one's star sign or love life, when it is really about agriculture and calendars. Astrology gave us the names of the days of the week. Monday is governed by the moon, (moon-day); Tuesday by Mars (Martes in Spanish); Wednesday by Mercury (Miércoles); Thursday by Jupiter (Jueves, Jovian for Jupiter); Friday by Venus, (Viernes), and Saturday, is governed by Saturn. It means when we say a day of the week we invoke planets with their astrological figureheads. At the same time that westerners gaily and daily plan their lives around weeks with astrological names, they deny that astrology plays a part in culture, and they seem unaware that without astrology there would have been no mathematics or science. All the early scientists, including Copernicus, Galileo. Nostradamus and Newton were astrologers or were mentored by astrologers. And for the true story of Easter, see:

Spring starts regardless where you live, day and night will still be of equal length at the equinox, whether you are in Kaitaia or Otago.  However, what does vary is the climatic influences of the regions.  So, technically, due to the “colder” climate of the base of the South Island, their winter season is considered to go for a longer time than the tip of the North Island, but this is simply due to the impact of the “roaring 40’s weather systems” verses the north Pacific Ocean weather systems.  The word climate actually means latitude, so there can be no climate change in our lifetimes, because all places stay the same distance from the equator. Both ends of the country receive their seasons according to their latitudes, due to the angle of the sun's rays. What is spring and what the plants and garden decide is spring – is to do with many factors; the climate, the placement of the moon and sun, the duration of the daylight hours and the energies of the planets.  You can keep the temperature of the room in which a plant has been kept, fairly constant (down to around 10°C at night and up to 22°C during the day – even over winter).  So something else besides temperature has told it to sprout -  it has to be a host of factors, e.g. daylight hours, and also these astrological, astronomical factors, geomagnetic, whatever we wish to call that, is information the plant feels and responds to, deep down in its tidal genes, and not all plants are going to respond to the same factors because they all have different nutritional needs. But while our seasons change under the meteorological dates, the hemisphere you are in, stays “locked-in” to their season until the astrological date comes around several weeks later.  

When to sow or plant and when to prune are about two lunar cycles: the waxing and waning 29.5-day phase cycle tying in with the 27.3-day declination cycle, or what gardeners often call ascension and descension, which is where the moon happens to be with respect to the tilt of the earth, throughout each month. This can be seen from day to day as the moon's arc of transit moves higher and higher in the sky until it reaches its highest arc, or southern declination, then works its way downwards day by day until 2 weeks later when it reaches its lowest arc in the sky, and then is above the northern hemisphere. In summer the New moon occurs when the moon in in the southern hemisphere, and in winter when the full moon is in the southern hemisphere. So energies are either going up or down in the plant, and for sowing you want the energies going upwards from roots to branches. But for pruning you want the energies going downwards, so branches don't bleed or regenerate when you trim them. Throughout the year those moon cycle combinations vary, such that for us, those best planting and pruning days are mostly between April and August, and are least good between November - February. Spring growth occurs because throughout winter the energies are more frequently progressing upwards from roots to plants' extremities, such that by the time spring arrives, harvesting can commence. That is why winter time in the southern hemisphere is better for gardening activities than in our summer.  It also explains why for the northern hemisphere, in particular the US, Canada and UK, from April – October is usually considered their best planting season.

In September you should be pruning 18th-23rd, and leave any weeding and harvesting until the last week of September. Next month the best days for sowing are 2-8 October, and 17-21 October for pruning.

More information in NZ Weather Almanac, and on

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