March, named after the Roman god Mars, god of war and guardian of agriculture, seems aptly named. He came second in importance to Jupiter and, not surprisingly, most of the festivals associated with him were held in the month of March. The first of the month was his birthday, while other festivities during the month included chariot races.
Mars was father of Romulus and Remus – founders of Rome as I remember from my days of Latin at school – and was therefore regarded as father of the Roman people. He viewed war as a means of securing peace.
According to mythology, the animals most sacred to Mars were the woodpecker, the bear and the wolf. A wolf, of course, brought up Romulus and Remus, the woodpecker bringing them additional nourishment. The bear doesn’t seem to have played a part in their early years.
Mars is often depicted wearing a helmet and carrying a spear, on one depiction garlanded with laurel leaves to symbolise peace brought by military victory. The representation of Mars’ spear and shield is the symbol for the planet Mars and also depicts the male gender.
March is also said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. It is a transition month – a month that flicks the tail of winter and sniffs the warmer air of spring. The lion aspect is similar to the Mars aspect – the roar of a lion and the roar of battle. Certainly, that often applies to a month that batters us with storms and uncertain weather.
This winter we’ve thankfully only had one minor fall of snow in my area of the Borders, but the month so far has been cold, with rain, sleet and flurries of the white stuff. In a show of bravado snowdrops have bloomed their hearts out despite the cold and wet, crocus are about to create carpets of colour along road verges, and daffodils are poking through earth and layers of rotting leaves that provided a winter blanket.
A winter heather glows in purple glory in a border behind the house bringing pleasure each time I glance through the kitchen window.
By the end of the month other early shrubs will bloom, trees will take on a perkier appearance as they gear up to put on another show of green, some will bloom with catkins or delicate blossom, and with longer days (British summer time starts on the 27th of the month, coinciding this year with an early Easter) and pleasant warmth, Mars victory over winter will see us again enjoying spring.