The Spring Equinox, and the Return of Ostara

March 1st, 2009

ostara

The Winter Solstice was about the rebirth of the sun. The Spring Equinox is about the rebirth of the earth. The signs of this massive stirring are everywhere!

Soaking rains shift to brilliant sunshine, and back again. Soil softens. Snowdrops creep out. Shoots of tulips, daffodils and crocuses push, green, through drooping winter pansies. Birds return. Hibernating animals wake up. Days lengthen. Nights shorten.

Slowly but surely, Earth is turning toward March 21st, the Spring Equinox, when day and night will be in perfect balance.  The time of Ostara, Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, who has lent her name to this Sabbat, is at hand.

What bliss, after the harsh winter so many have experienced, to sense the advance of this beautiful young goddess! She heralds the return of life and fertility to the world.

Her counterpart, in Greek mythology, is Persephone, the Maiden. Persephone is restored to her mother, Demeter, after spending the winter in the underworld, with her abductor and lord, Hades.  When she returns, Demeter lifts the long, grieving winter that has punished Earth during her daughter’s absence, and spring bursts forth.

persephone

Ostara and Persephone are both filled with vitality and joy when they return to the world they love. This may be especially true for Ostara, who isn’t burdened with Persephone’s dark memories of kidnapping, rape, and forced marriage ~ and the knowledge that she must return to the underworld ~ and Hades ~ at summer’s end.

The symbols that surround Ostara include eggs, rabbits and spring flowers ~ all of which speak of the fertility and new life she brings. The egg, especially, has always been a sacred sign of fecundity. Long before it was understood that women became pregnant when the males with whom they lay fertilized the eggs they carried hidden within their bodies, many people believed that the Earth itself was hatched from an egg.

Mama Donna Henes, the Urban Shaman, tells us that, “The myths of the peoples of Polynesia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Greece, Phoenicia, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Central and parts of South America and Africa all describe an original cosmic egg from which the universe is born. The Latin proverb, Omne vivum ex ovo, proclaims, ‘All life comes from an egg.’

It is only natural… to assign the birth of the world to a Great Mother Goddess who laid the egg of life. All of nature… is a constant cyclical reminder of just such a fertile female force…. All life does, indeed, come from an egg,”

Our Pagan ancestors often painted their eggs red at the time of Spring Solstice, and the return of Ostara. The decoration they added symbolized the rays of the Sun, and their prayer that the Sun would warm the egg, and from it create new life. Rabbits were also associated with Ostara, since they were known to be incredibly fertile, and because of their long association with the Moon, and the Goddess.

These symbols, and the happy custom of feasting and celebration at the time of the Spring Equinox, were co-opted by Christianity as it gained ascendancy over Paganism.  The chocolate Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, Easter baskets, and Easter egg hunts that children enjoy today have their roots in the celebrations and religious practices of their Pagan ancestors.

Today, modern Celtic Pagans have adopted Ostara enthusiastically. The focus is on balance ~ equating the balance between night and day at the Spring Equinox, with the need for balance in one’s own life. It is also a time for new beginnings, for the planting of seeds that will bear much fruit, for celebration of the rebirth of the soil, the land, and oneself.

It is a time for feasting and fun!

Here are a few suggestions I have found for celebrating Ostara.

1. Color hard boiled eggs, and decorate with symbols for the Fertility God, the Goddess, and the Sun God.
2. Hide the eggs and have an Ostara Egg Hunt
3. Light a candle on Ostara Eve, and give a blessing to the departing spirits of winter. Welcome the arriving spirits of spring.
4. Fill your house with spring flowers
5. Clear out the old growth in your garden or pot garden
6. Plant new seeds
7. Enjoy a chocolate rabbit, if you don’t have a real one

Give thanks for family and friends with whom you share Ostara’s journey from winter into spring ~ from death to new life ~ and to fresh beginnings.

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