Monday, March 5, 2012

Ostara–it’s not just Bunnies & Eggs!

The Vernal or Spring Equinox, also called the Ostara sabbat, is celebrated by pagans all over the world. It is a Solar or Fire Festival which was adopted over the years by the Christian church as their feast day of their God’s resurrection and rebirth. In German, Ostern – which is derived from the Teutonic/Anglo-Saxon Goddess Ostara/Eostre - is the translation for Easter.

The Goddess Ostara was honored at the Spring Equinox as the goddess of fertility and renewal, as this is the time of year when the first buds are seen in the trees, and the flowers begin to open up after a long winter of hiding under the soil. Day and night are equal, and day will be in ascendency until the Solstice. Winter holds no more power here, and we can rejoice in the return of the light. Ostara’s name is seen in the German word for East – Ost – where the sun rises and is reborn every morning. She is the Lady of the Morning Sun, the Maiden who welcomes the Sun God to a new day.

So prevalent was the Goddess Ostara’s influence, many cultures believed that there was great healing power in water drawn the morning of Ostara. This was a common practice in Germanic cultures until the 1800’s and is still common in many folk magick traditions to this day. Some of the more popular practices today are lighting a fire first thing in the morning to welcome the goddess and to purify the household; this is a popular day for household “spring cleaning”, a time of renewal and rebirth for the home. Ritual cleaning included scrubbing floors in a clockwise fashion (also known as going “deosil” or “sunwise”), to mimic the movement of the sun. This is the time of year when seeds were planted and songs sung to Ostara to protect and nurture the seeds.

The modern celebration of Easter, even to this day, has kept some of the same fertility symbols as in ancient times. Rabbits and hares, sacred to Ostara, have always been a symbol of fecundity. This is most likely due to the fact that they have one of the shortest gestation periods in the animal kingdom. The saying goes that for every one rabbit you see, there are 50 more you can’t! Eggs are another popular Easter/Ostara symbol. In times of old, eggs were dyed in the Goddess’ honor to represent the life lying within a seemingly closed shell, just as the flowers and plants are at this time of year. In ancient Rome, eggs were a common offering to the Goddess of the Dawn, as the yolk represents the sun that She welcomes. It is even suggested that humans learned to weave baskets by watching birds weaving nests for their eggs, which is where we might have gotten the idea for Easter egg baskets!

As a modern Pagan, you can use the power of the Spring Equinox to enhance your own life. Think about what you wish to make fertile in your life. Do you want to write? To paint? To learn? What abundance are you looking for? Now is the time to make fertile the soil of your spirit so the Gods can plant the seeds of that abundance and you will grow strong and healthy plants. This is the time of year to really think about our own personal fertility, the renewal of the spirit and the bringing of the Spiritual Sun into our lives. This is a perfect time to work magick for new growth in your life, to kick start any new beginnings and awakenings you wish to initiate. It’s also a good time to do magick to bring love to your life.

One of the ways to mirror your spiritual garden and endeavors is to be similarly active in your real world. If the weather is kind, plant a little garden and dedicate it to the Maiden of the Spring. If the weather is not cooperative, you can always prepare a small plot of land, clearing it of debris and weeds in preparation for planting. Perhaps starting an indoor herb garden is more conducive for you. Spend a few minutes to meditate on the rising sun and ask the Lady to guide you to your own personal abundance and spiritual growth. Take a long walk in a local park and look for the new life emerging; show your gratitude to the Universe by sending loving energy to those around you.

There are several correspondences associated with Ostara. One of my favorite things to do is to make an Ostara Basket and dedicate it in the Lady’s honor. This is a fun activity you can do alone, with your magickal working group, or with your family (kids love to participate!).

In your Basket, you can include stones such as jasper, amethyst, aquamarine and bloodstone. Choose flowers and herbs like violets, jasmine, rose, sage, honeysuckle, iris, daffodils, crocuses and other similar spring flowers. Add a few jellybeans and some dyed / colored eggs. You can include pictures or figurines of rabbits, the moon, the rising sun, and other such symbols too. When you’ve filled your basket, offer it to the Maiden on the morning of the Equinox. Place it in the easternmost part of your home so it’s one of the first thing that the morning ray of light will find. Sing songs or say a chant to the Maiden of the Spring – you can make one up or use one of the many popular ones in pagan practice.

One of my favorites is by Ann Moura, authoress of the Green Witchcraft series, done with a candle (I have used a jasmine scented tea candle for this):

Saying Farewell to Wintry spirits
by Ann Moura

Farewell to wintry spirits and friends;
On morrow we greet the spirits of spring.
Our blessings to thee as your way you wend;
And merry we’ll meet next winter again.
Blow out candle and say: Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!

Ostara is a time to celebrate the coming of spring and the new growth of the year. All this new growth is important as it leads to our own harvests throughout the year!

Wishing you all a fertile and abundant Ostara. May the Lady bring us all the blessings of the Spring.