Ostara/Spring Equinox

Ostara

 

The welcoming of Spring has been celebrated in ritual for over 12,000 years by many cultures around the world. As the sun appears to cross the earth’s equator on the 20th or 21st of March, (in 2017 it will fall on Monday, March 20th @ 6:28 AM EDT) entering the Zodiacal sign of Aries, day and night will be equal in length.

This is a day anciently revered among many different people. Their festivals included Alban Eiber, the Teutonic festival in honour of Eostre, Roman Hilaria Matris Deûm, Welsh Gwyl Canol Gwenwynol (‘Day of the Gorse’), the Wiccan Eostar (Ostara) Sabbat and the Christian Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (Lady Day) as well as Easter itself. Some of the deities who have had annual celebrations at this time of year are: Ashanti, an Earth Mother Goddess who brings forth new life in spring; Cybele, a Mother Goddess of Rome; Freya, a Norse Goddess of fertility; Osiris, an Egyptian Mother deity and a symbol of spring resurrection and Demeter, Roman Goddess of the harvest whose daughter Persephone returns each spring from the Underworld. Demeter is so happy to see her that she makes the flowers bloom and the crops to grow again until Persephone goes back to the Underworld in the fall.

Ostara or Eostre, who was the Germanic Goddess of Spring, represents birth, rebirth, fertility, and renewal. Daylight and darkness are again in balance with the darkness waning and the light waxing. Shoots begin to break through the ground and burst into flower. Life’s energy begins to stir in many creatures, and primal passions come to the forefront. This is when Ostara mates with a fertility god and then gives birth nine months later – at Yule.

One of the symbols of this celebration is the egg. It symbolizes the rebirth of nature, the fertility of the Earth and all creation. In many traditions the egg is a symbol for the whole universe. The ‘cosmic’ egg contains a balance of male and female, light and dark, in the egg yolk and egg white. The golden orb of the yolk represents the Sun God enfolded by the White Goddess, perfect balance, so it is particularly appropriate to Ostara and the Spring Equinox when all is in balance for just a moment, although the underlying energy is one of growth and expansion.

Because hens need 12 hours of daylight to be able to lay eggs, our ancestors were not able to obtain this food for 6 months of the year. Today we have electrical light and refrigeration, so eggs are available all year. Since eggs were available only from Spring Equinox to the Autumn Equinox, they became the symbol of the renewal of life and rebirth each spring. From this symbol, we get the story of the Easter Bunny. One legend tells the story of Ostara finding a bird, wounded, on the ground late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. But the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs…the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to the Goddess. Another tale is that a small hare came across a new egg in the forest early in the Spring. Wanting a gift for the Goddess, he took it to his burrow and decorated it with colours and markings that were special to Her. Then at the Equinox celebration he presented his gift to Her. She was so pleased with his generosity that forever after, each Spring at Equinox, the descendants of that hare have taken up the joyous task of giving coloured eggs to children as a token of Ostara’s love. The hares became known as Eostre’s Bunnies or The Easter Bunny.

Some people wish to invite the nature spirits or faeries into their lives to bless and nurture their growing gardens. To ask these ancient beings to be with you, you may wish to leave an offering to them on Equinox. To do so, put a bowl in which you have placed your gift in your garden, in the woods, near your hearth or in a shed or outbuilding on your property. Faeries are very drawn to shiny and sweet things. Your gift may include: honey, shiny coins, sparkly crystals, fresh milk, small candies, dandelion wine, mead, fresh berries or such like. Some spiritual shops have items called “faery balls”, which are tiny balls made up of broken bits of mirrored glass. I have found that my garden faeries like these.

Colours for your spring festival are pastel in hue, making us think of outdoors and warm spring days. Green grass, robin’s egg blue, and light yellow are all colours associated with spring. You may wish to decorate your home with any of these shades to bring new life into your surroundings. To bring a spring blessing to your home, do the following:

• Gather ribbons of pastel shades of colour cut to make streamers
• Take the streamers and a pen to a window
• On a bright, sunny, warm day in spring, open the window
• Stand in front of the window and lift your arms
• Let the breeze surround you and say something like:
Welcome Spring
Welcome are your balmy breezes
Welcome deities and nature Spirits of Spring.
I welcome Spring’s blessings of new life,
Growth, love, partnership and
The promise of bounty to come.
• Next, think about any specific Spring blessing that you may wish to receive.
• Write this blessing on one of the ribbons.
• Repeat until you have written all that you want. You can write the same thing on more than one ribbon if you wish to intensify the wish.
• When complete, attach the ribbons to the inside of the window frame where it can catch the breeze. Attach the ribbons so that the writing is facing outwards and the breeze will blow the writing towards you and bring the blessings to you.
• Finish the ritual by thanking the Spirits for their aid:
Warm Spring wind who blows my way
Bringing blessings on this sun filled day;
To all the Spirits who in Spring winds dwell
Thank you for this successful spell.
Allow the window to remain open for as long as you can.

This ritual was taken from the book “Ostara” written by Edain McCoy.

However you celebrate, I hope you will enjoy this beautiful season with the rebirth of nature and the longer, warmer days of Spring.

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