Costume Ritual for Spring Equinox/Purim

Purim is the Jewish holiday of merriment celebrating the story of how Queen Esther of Persia saved her people by foiling the plot of a royal advisor named Haman to kill the Jews. This year, Purim (Mar. 25) falls very close to the spring equinox (Mar. 20), which has been celebrated in many cultures as the return of the Goddess to the world after a stay in the underworld. (For example, the Greeks celebrated this day as the return of the underworld goddess Persephone to her mother Demeter.) Purim, with its joyful noisemaking and costume-wearing, can be said to celebrate Esther's "descent" into the king's harem and her "ascent" to triumph after confronting the king. Or, one can imagine the king's first queen, Vashti, whom he exiles, as the Divine Presence descending into the underworld, and the new queen, Esther, as the Divine Presence rising into the world again.

This is a ritual for putting on one's costume in order to celebrate Purim. According to the book of Esther, Queen Esther "garbed herself in royalty" before going before the king to plead for the life of her people. So too, the Shekhinah, the Divine feminine, the sacred presence within all things, is said to dress herself in royal robes. On Purim, the clothes we put on to celebrate are like Esther's royal robes; we wear them to remember our dignity and strength.

Designate a chair that will be Esther's throne. Decorate it with draped cloth or a vase of flowers to represent the coming of spring. (If you feel closer to Vashti, the king's rebellious first queen, you can make the chair Vashti's throne.) Dedicate it with whatever words or actions seem appropriate to the moment.

Consider the Purim costume you have chosen. Does it represent a legendary figure? An animal or thing? What made you choose it? What aspect of yourself does it reveal? What parts of you does it hide? How does it help you to learn about your inner self? How does it reflect the new season?

Lay your costume on the chair. Then, sit before the chair. Imagine that the Shekhinah, however you imagine Her, is sitting in the chair and wearing your costume. Ask her what She has to tell you about the garments she is wearing. Ask her to bless your costume with the inner qualities you are seeking to discover.

(If you do this ritual on the spring equinox, you can leave your costume on the "throne" for several days until Purim arrives. You can also, when you give charity to the hungry for Purim as is customary, silently ask to receive the qualities you seek.)

Remove your costume from the throne and put it on. As you put it on, you may want to sing or say these words from the book of Proverbs: Strength and glory are her clothing, and she laughs on the last day--Hod vehadar levushah vatischak leyom acharon.

Enjoy Purim!

Rabbi Jill Hammer is the founder of Tel Shemesh and the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.

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