There is wisdom in our hearts, wisdom in our blood, wisdom in our bones that we can hear if we listen carefully. The birds sing it to us…… do you hear their song? Do you hear the voices of the flowers and the green new grass covering the hills? Can you hear all of the red-blooded animals and green-blooded plants of this Earth rising up in a chorus singing life awake? Let your body dance the dance that we have been dancing forever. Let the joy of this time flow through you and arouse you. Life has returned! Inanna has ascended! Persephone has ascended! She is risen!
We have but a tiny sliver of written history to learn from our ancestors. We know that the Sumerians, the civilization which we have our earliest written history from, celebrated only two seasons, Winter and Summer. They celebrated their New Year, their beginning of Summer, at the Spring Equinox. This was Inanna’s day, the Goddess of Love and War, the Goddess of Civilization and Fertility, The Evening Star and The Morning Star, She who descends through the Seven Gates and ascends through the Seven Gates. Celebrations at this time lasted several days and included dancing, singing, temple rituals, storytelling of the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi, feasting, and making love.
This day is still celebrated as the New Year in the Middle East. The Christian Church says that the custom of dyeing eggs red to celebrate Easter originates from the earliest Christians in Mesopotamia, and a quick search on the internet, our collective consciousness, shows that yes, this is true, but even the original reporters of this fact admit that the resurrection of Christ is but a justification of this much older folk custom. Eggs have been seen as symbols of renewal, fertility, and life everlasting since ancient times. Decoration of eggs began with ostrich eggs in Africa…examples of which have been dated to at least 60,000 years old. Decorated ostrich eggs have been placed in the tombs of pharaohs as symbols of resurrection and kingship. There are examples of decorated ostrich eggs from the Mediterranean dated to the 7th century BC that have identical symbols painted on them as modern-day Ukrainian-tradition pysanky eggs which are given as gifts at Easter.
But do we really need words to tell us that eggs have always been a symbol of life and renewal? Of course our ancestors could see this obvious symbolism and venerate it as such.
Most years I have dyed my eggs many colors, but this year I only used red. Red like the Greeks dye their eggs, red like the Chinese dye their eggs to celebrate a child’s first birthday. Red like ochred hand-prints in caves, red like sex, red like menstrual blood, red like the thread that our ancestors left for us to find our way back out of the labyrinth, red like passion, red like henna painted on new brides, red like life.
Every Easter, my Sicilian great-grandmother, Rose Elarde, would wake up before the crack of dawn and set about baking special, individual Pupo con L’uovo for every single grandchild. These were beautiful little baskets made out of sweetened leavened bread, baked with an egg (in the shell) sitting in the middle of the basket. What a treat these were for our Easter breakfast! Unfortunately she passed on without anyone thinking to write down her recipe, but in my family, it is legend. I have tried to replicate it over the years, only to be told each time by my mother that what I had baked is “Really good, but it’s not grandma’s bread.”
There are many recipes for this special treat that can be found on the internet, and it is traditional all over the Mediterranean. I have created my own version of this traditional bread, which I bake into a braided circle. This recipe is not a sweet bread like my Great-Grandma made, but it is delicious and I bake it every Spring Equinox.
Spring Equinox Bread:
To decorate this bread, you will need 5 colored eggs, but they must be UNCOOKED. Be sure to use non-toxic dyes to color them.
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup warm milk
- 2 Tablespoons softened butter
- 2 eggs
- Sesame seeds
- Milk and egg white for brushing
- 5 uncooked eggs
- Non-toxic egg dye
- Vegetable oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the milk and butter and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1/2 cup flour and beat 2 more minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. (Keep some that you can add during kneading when the dough gets too sticky).
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 6 to 8 minutes). Kneading dough is a very magical act. It is ancient. It is rhythmic and trance-inducing. When I knead this bread, I feel the line of my ancestors in my body, performing this task with me through time. As I kneaded the bread this year, my body fell into the natural rhythm once more and it wasn’t long before I felt myself slip into that magic consciousness. I gazed out my kitchen window as I kneaded, rocking my body back and forth. A fog had descended onto the vineyard and I found myself calling to my ancestors to lend their wisdom and magic to the bread. I called and called, a chant arose from my lips and I began to see their forms walking towards me through the fog, down the row of the vines. “Lend your magic to this bread,” I asked, “bring me fertility and abundance.” “May your wisdom continue to live through me.”
Place the kneaded dough in a greased bowl, turning once to cover with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
Meanwhile, color 5 UNCOOKED eggs with non-toxic dye. (The eggs will fully cook when you bake them with the bread.) This is another opportunity to instill some magic. As you dye your eggs, you can add spells and blessings. You can even write spells or symbols onto your eggs in wax before dyeing if you wish. When the eggs are dried, lightly rub them with some vegetable oil.
Punch down the risen dough. Divide in half. Roll/stretch each half into a 24-inch rope. On a greased baking sheet ( a round pizza sheet works well), loosely twist the two ropes together. Form into a ring and pinch the ends together. Gently split the ropes and tuck the 5 uncooked eggs into the openings. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise again until doubled. (About 30 minutes).
Brush the bread with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Then brush with milk. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.