Marching through March i.e. when Winter meets Spring

March, the third month of the year, was named after Mars, the Roman God of war, but also a guardian of agriculture and the ancestor of Roman people being the father of Romulus and Remus.

That’s what the Western European tradition says, but in Slavic which is the tradition of my ancestors the story is a bit different, or is it?

When I was little I had to memorise two names for each month of the year. At the time I did not understand why. I had no problems with extra words, but I could not figure out why months had two official names each. One was Croatian, and the other was a latinised form that was the preferred form used in formal documents in Yugoslavia.

Now, let me go back to the month in question.

Not until recently did I find out the meaning of the Croatian name for March. It is ožujak and if you ask anybody who is not etymologically aware what that word really means in Croatian, they would go blank.

My research showed that what we now call “ožujak” which is an entirely obscure word in my language, used to be “lažujak” from “laž” meaning “lie” which indicates the deceiving, fickle quality of the month that tricks plant-life into sprouting too soon as suggested also in old Polish name for the month  („łżykwiat“, „łżekwiat“ and „łudzikwiat“).

If you think that this reference to March is off-putting and somewhat unfair, let me tell you what Serbs used to call it. In their old calendar the name for March was “derikoža” which means skinner or skinning, implying that March, the month when winter meets spring, is the time when grim reaper harvests most souls, but also the time for skinning animals, or so the Serbian tradition claims. The same word is still in use in Serbian language to denote skinner or shark.

Even though I never thought highly of March, I was surprised to see so many references to death related to it. Do you recall the Ides of March from Shakespeare’s Julius Cesar – ‘Beware the Ides of March’ is the soothsayer’s message to Julius Caesar, warning Caesar of his death – (Cesar was indeed killed on the Ides i.e. 15th of March in 44 B.C.)

I will not show March as the month that claims lives either human or animal, instead I’ll focus on its fickle nature, its deceiving weather that should not be taken lightly.

“Beware of the sunshine of March” I used to be told when I was a kid living on the coast in the far south of Croatia.

Back then I did not understand why; now I do.

march sun_double ex_viv_cef-1_scale

 

This is my entry for Cardinal’s Changing Seasons challenge.

 

 

44 thoughts on “Marching through March i.e. when Winter meets Spring

  1. Pingback: The Changing Seasons: March 2016 – Cardinal Guzman

  2. The photo is just superb and I enjoyed the read as I always do with your essays…
    I only knew about Mars,didn’t know anything about Slavic tradition and culture!
    Thanks so much for all!

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  3. A gorgeous photo Paula. Very mysterious. I enjoyed reading the meanings of March. Fickle would definitely fit a Canadian March. It gets your hopes up with sunshine and bits of green grass only to dash them with a snowstorm.🙂

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  4. Beautiful photo.I remember the saying that if March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. In England my sister and I always got a new spring outfit for Easter. We used to shiver in our new clothes for quite a few Sundays, until the weather warmed up.

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  5. Maybe it is true where you live too, but here, March has the best sunrises. In old Celtic mythology, March is the month of floods and madness. Ash trees are protection against both. So watch the sunrise and carry a piece of ash wood with you🙂 Is that a sunrise or sunset? Whichever, it’s lovely🙂

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  6. That was a great read, Paula, very interesting to hear about the weird and dark etymology of ´March´!
    And it almost looks like you woke up early and took a sunrise photo?😉
    Amazing scene you captured!
    Greetings, Ron

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    • You should know me better than that😀. I double exposed this one. The first and only time I did it and I liked it🙂 It’s lovely to see you here and hear your opinion, Ron.

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  7. Wow! This is an amazing shot Paula! Very interesting about the names your ancestors had for March. I also prefer to view it the way you do. Around here it’s definitely fickle, as we entered Autumn. Some days it’s neither hot or cold and you can’t decide what to wear. LOL!

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  8. Interesting read. The god of war reminds me of the Motorhead song “orgasmatron” where Lemmy sings: “For I am Mars, the God of war and I will cut you down”. Sepultura also made a great version of that song.
    The Vikings dicvided the year differently -only two halves: summer & winter. They had months too, but your age was counted in how many winters you’d survived.
    Here’s a good article on the Viking calendar:
    http://thornews.com/2015/09/27/the-viking-calendar/

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The combination of image and music is mesmerising, Paula! I love a surprise and I came here just to peep at the theme for tomorrow, not expecting a post. Mad March! I forgive it a lot because I know Spring is hiding in there somewhere. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the smoky, wistful, gleaming quality of your photo. A fascinating investigation. As I watch the forecast every night and decide whether to cover one or two shrubs who have been confused by the warm winter and got way ahead of schedule, I wish March were more reliable one way or the other. It has also, sadly, been a month of bad news on the human front, but this is true from December to March these days and is probably mostly due to age.

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    • Yes, due to age, but not to aging. We live in scary times. I am grateful for your comment Hilary and very flattered that you read my article. The photo was double exposed – my first try outside post-processing. Thanks so much.

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  11. A very interesting article with lots of really interesting information, beautiful picture and extremely well selected music. It was a pleasure to read your article and learn something new and to recall some long-forgotten names for March. If I understood correctly photo is in camera double exposure. Kudos to you I always find that process too complicated.

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  12. Oh, Paula, I know just what you mean about fickle March. We have warm days and cold nights. I’m not used to this and it’s confusing. I can’t imagine what my poor little plants are going through! But they seem to be persevering and so must I! What a beautiful photograph you selected to depict it and I love the music! Have a beautiful weekend!

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  13. First of all, that picture is frigging amazing. Second, I loved the etymology of March from the different languages. I totally agree that March has a fickle, deceiving quality…especially as I originate from Chicago. March is wicked there.

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