Ostara is the pagan holiday that falls upon the spring equinox, that normally falls between March 20th and the 23rd. An equinox is a time of the year when the amount of light and darkness are equal, at approximately 12 hours each. It is widely held that the name for the holiday comes from a Germanic spring goddess by the name of Eostre, or Ostara. She was a goddess of spring, of renewal and rebirth.
There is much history and lore associated with the spring equinox. Several ancient cultures were aware of the Equinox, and had special ceremonies and rites attributed to this special day. Sadly, due to time and space constraints, I will not be able to touch upon any one of them in any great detail.
For neo-pagan groups, Ostara is a time for rebirth and fertility. It is a time to prepare crops and gardens for the coming spring, even though actual planting may not be able to take place until at least a month later. If weather allows, this is a great time to prepare the soil for planting.
From a spiritual standpoint, this is also a great time of year to do a ritual intended for spiritual and aura cleansing. Spring cleaning shouldn’t just be limited to the house after all. A simple meditation can be used, on a nice day, open a window and just sit in the room. Feel the fresh clean air move through your body and spirit and notice how much cleaner and lighter the airs feels. It is very refreshing and can help you feel less stress and more energetic.
One of the earliest known celebrations of the Spring Equinox comes from ancient Mesopotamia. In a festival called ‘Akitu’ it is said that the patron god/goddess of a city would leave their temple and parade around the city. The deity would travel, in processional, to a special religious building outside of the city walls. Later in the day, another procession would occur as the city-deity returned to their temple within the city. It is widely thought that this festival was originally associated with the equinoxes, but in later (ca. 1st Millennium BCE) Mesopotamian history is a celebration for the new year, which began in spring. However, it is impossible to say with any certainty whether or not this celebration was intended as a celebration of rebirth.
There are tales and myths of an Ancient Roman God by the name of Mithras. The tales of Mithras are similar in many ways to the tales of Jesus Christ. Being that he would die and be reborn again, and thus lead his followers into the light after they had died. He was said to have died in winter and to be resurrected again in spring.
Another tale from Ancient Rome is the tale of Cybele and her consort Attis. He would die each winter only to be reborn again each spring around the time of the vernal or spring equinox.
There is a common theme in all these stories, the rebirth of life with the return of the sun. So rejoice, pagans and nonpagans alike, in the glory of the return of life after the winter’s thaw.