Lady Day is March 25th. From 1155 to 1752, Lady Day, not January 1, was the start of the year. In England today the tax year still runs according to this old timetable. So if your January New Year’s Resolutions have gone awry, it’s a great time to make some more.
This ancient festival celebrates the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced the forthcoming birth of Jesus to Mary, known in the Catholic faith as ‘Our Lady’. Lady Day is also a quarter day in the wheel of the year. It falls near the Spring Equinox and is connected to pagan celebrations of the earth’s rebirth. The ancient Celts honoured Eostre, the Goddess of spring around this time. She was traditionally accompanied by a hare. We still know her name in the feast name ‘Easter’ – while the hare has become the Easter bunny.
The word ‘lady’ itself is rich in heritage. In an academic paper I wrote for Women and Language journal I analysed its history and meaning. The word lady invokes the imagination. While woman captures our biology, our physicality, or femaleness, lady evokes the more elusive quality – muse, magic, spirit – of the feminine. I wrote it a few years ago, but I still get contacted about it – by chance I did this morning!
A famous Lady of Legend, Godiva, has long intrigued me and my version of her tale, with a twist, can be found in NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva (St Martin’s Press). In some ancient stories Godiva is accompanied by a hare – connecting her to the Celtic goddess of spring, Eostre. You can find the book on Amazon. and all good bookstores (trade paperback and e-book. There are more Ladies of Legend in store, so stay tuned.
The image I’ve used here of The Annunciation is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1849) and the model is his sister, the poet Christina Rossetti.
Best wishes for the (new) year,
This photo was taken a while back when I was researching the word lady and felt rather determined about it.
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