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Ostara - Spring Equinox

I am movement towards becoming
expanding
enhancing
the impulse deep within all being
to develop
evolve
press onward
to fulfill
all that is possible

Each day after the winter solstice, which occurs on December 21st, the Sun's path becomes a little higher in the southern sky. The Sun also begins to rise closer to the east and set closer to the west until we reach the day when it rises exactly east and sets exactly west. This day is called the equinox. In the spring we have the Spring Equinox about March 21st. There is also a Fall Equinox on September 21st.

The exact arrival of spring is marked by the Spring Equinox, the date when day and night are equal lengths. Depending on the year and time zones, this equinox falls between March 20 and 23.

The Mythology
German pagans named the Spring Equinox after Ostara, their goddess of spring, fertility, and rebirth. The modern holiday of Easter is derived from the name "Eostre" and the associated myths. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honor. The Germanic Goddess of fertility, and spring, Eostre was celebrated with the ritual lighting of dawn fires as a protection for the crops. She symbolizes springtime, new growth, and rebirth. Once, when the Goddess was late in coming, a little girl found a bird close to death from the cold and turned to Eostre for help. A rainbow bridge appeared and Eostre came, clothed in her red robe of warm, vibrant sunlight which melted the snows. Spring arrived. Because the little bird was wounded beyond repair, Eostre changed it into a snow hare, who then brought rainbow eggs. As a sign of spring, Eostre instructed the little girl to watch for the snow hare to come to the woods.

In England, among the Anglo-Saxon tribes, Eostre was known as Ostara. According to another of the myths, Eostre was a playful goddess whose reign over the earth began in the spring when the Sun King journeyed across the sky in his chariot, bringing the end of winter. Ostara came down to earth then, appearing as a beautiful maiden with a basket of bright colorful eggs.

Ostara's magical companion was a rabbit who accompanied her as she brought new life to dying plants and flowers by hiding the eggs in the fields. The custom of eating hot cross buns is also said to have Pagan origins. The Saxons ate buns that were marked with a cross in honour of Eostre. The ancient Greeks also consumed these types of buns in their celebrations of Artemis, Goddess of the hunt (known as Diana to the Romans). And the Egyptians ate a similar cake in their worship of the Goddess Isis. There are conflicting ideas as to what the cross symbol represents. One suggestion is that it is a Christianisation of horn symbols that were stamped on cakes to represent an ox, which used to be sacrificed at the time of the Spring Equinox. Another theory that explains the cross marks on the bun relates to moon worship, whereby the bun represented the full moon, and the cross represents its four quarters. After Christianity gave new meanings to the symbolism of these crossed buns, i.e. that the cross represented the crucifixion cross, superstitions arose which credited these buns as being charms against evil, so after Good Friday, people would keep one or two of them hung in their homes as amulets. During the festival season and for a long time afterwards, fishermen would also carry these Easter buns in their boats for protection.

Eggs are another Pagan symbol. From the earliest of times, the egg has represented immortality. The egg is the World Egg, laid by the Goddess and opened by the heat of the Sun God. The hatching of this World Egg was celebrated each year at the Spring festival of the Sun.

As spring is the season of nature's rebirth, the symbol of the egg was of course particularly significant at this time. The Druids dyed eggs scarlet to honour the Sun, and Pagan Anglo-Saxons made offerings of their coloured eggs to the Goddess Eostre. They also (like many Pagan cultures before them) placed patterned eggs in tombs or on fresh graves, to ensure the rebirth of the deceased.

The white lily, an ancient symbol of resurrection, is the special Eoster flower.

The rabbit is another symbol that has obvious links to the fertility, rebirth, and the abundance of life that is evident in Spring.

The Lessons of this Goddess
Eostre comes into your life with her springtime message of personal growth. It is time to open to things in your life that facilitate growth, development, evolution. Is there a class or workshop you've been wondering if you should take? Do it now! Is there something new that you want to include in your life? Let it in now! Have you just gone through a period of stagnation and lethargy where nothing seemed to be happening? Let it go! Now is the time of growth. The Goddess says that wholeness is nurtured when you to stretch. The stretching promotes your growth.

Ostara is a time to celebrate the arrival of Spring, the renewal and rebirth of Nature herself, and the coming lushness of Summer. It is at this time when light and darkness are in balance, yet the light is growing stronger by the day. The forces of masculine and feminine energy, yin and yang, are also in balance at this time. At this time we think of renewing ourselves. We renew our thoughts, our dreams, and our aspirations. We think of renewing our relationships. This is an excellent time of year to begin anything new or to completely revitalize something. This is also an excellent month for prosperity rituals or rituals that have anything to do with growth. In the Pagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time when the great Mother Goddess, again a virgin at Candlemas, welcomes the young Sun God unto her and conceives a child of this divine union. The child will be born nine months later, at Yule, the Winter Solstice.

For Wiccans and Witches, Ostara is a fertility festival celebrating the birth of Spring and the reawakening of life from the Earth. The energies of Nature subtly shift from the sluggishness of Winter to the exuberant expansion of Spring. Eostre, the Saxon Goddess of fertility, and Ostara, the German Goddess of fertility are the aspects invoked at this Sabbat. Some Wiccan traditions worship the Green Goddess and the Lord of the Greenwood. The Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility, bursting forth from Her sleep, as the God stretches and grows to maturity. He walks the greening fields and delights in the abundance of nature.

Pagan customs such as the lighting of new fires at dawn for cure, renewed life, and protection of the crops still survive in the Southern Americas as well as in Europe. Witches celebrate Ostara in many ways on this sacred day, including lighting fires at sunrise, ringing bells, and decorating hard-boiled eggs which is an ancient Pagan custom associated with the Goddess of Fertility. In those ancient days, eggs were gathered and used for the creation of talismans and also ritually eaten. The gathering of different colored eggs from the nests of a variety of birds has given rise to two traditions still observed today - the Easter egg hunt, and coloring eggs in imitation of the various pastel colors of wild birds. It is also believed that humankind first got the idea of weaving baskets from watching birds weave nests. This is perhaps the origin of the association between colored Easter eggs and Easter baskets.

There is much symbolism in eggs themselves. The golden orb of its yolk represents the Sun God, its white shell is seen as the White Goddess, and the whole is a symbol of rebirth. The Goddess Eostre's patron animal was the hare. And although the references are not recalled, the symbolism of the hare and rabbit's associations with fertility are not forgotten. The Spring Equinox is a time of new beginnings, of action, of planting seeds for future grains, and of tending gardens. Spring is a time of the Earth's renewal, a rousing of nature after the cold sleep of winter. As such, it is an ideal time to clean your home to welcome the new season. "Spring cleaning" is much more than simply physical work. It may be seen as a concentrated effort to rid your home of the problems and negativity of the past months, and to prepare for the coming spring and summer. To do this, many Pagans approach the task of cleaning their homes with positive thoughts. This frees the home of any negative feelings brought about by a harsh winter. A common rule of thumb for Spring cleaning is that all motions involving scrubbing of stains or hand rubbing the floors should be done "clockwise". Pagans believe this custom aids in filling the home with good energy for growth.

Appropriate Deities for Ostara include all Youthful and Virile Gods and Goddesses, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, Love Goddesses, Moon Gods and Goddesses, and all Fertility Deities. Some Ostara Deities to mention by name here include Persephone, Blodeuwedd, Eostre, Aphrodite, Athena, Cybele, Gaia, Hera, Isis, Ishtar, Minerva, Venus, Robin of the Woods, the Green Man, Cernunnos, Lord of the Greenwood, The Dagda, Attis, The Great Horned God, Mithras, Odin, Thoth, Osiris, and Pan. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include openings and new beginnings. Spellwork for improving communication and group interaction are recommended, as well as fertility and abundance. Ostara is a good time to start putting those plans and preparations you made at Imbolc into action. Start working towards physically manifesting your plans now. The most common colors associated with Ostara are lemon yellow, pale green and pale pink. Other appropriate colors include grass green, all pastels, Robin's egg blue, violet, and white.

Stones to use during the Ostara celebration include aquamarine, rose quartz, and moonstone. Animals associated with Ostara are rabbits and snakes. Mythical beasts associated with Ostara include unicorns, merpeople, and pegasus. Plants and herbs associated with Ostara are crocus flowers, daffodils, jasmine, Irish moss, snowdrops, and ginger.

For Ostara incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one... jasmine, frankincense, myrrh, dragon's blood, cinnamon, nutmeg, aloes wood, benzoin, musk, African violet, sage, strawberry, lotus, violet flowers, orange peel, or rose petals.

Foods in tune with this day (linking your meals with the seasons is a fine way of attuning with Nature) include eggs, egg salad, hard-boiled eggs, honey cakes, first fruits of the season, fish, cakes, biscuits, cheeses, honey and ham. You may also include foods made of seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, as well as pine nuts. Sprouts are equally appropriate, as are leafy, green vegetables. Flower dishes such as stuffed nasturtiums or carnation cupcakes also find their place here. (Find a book of flower cooking or simply make spice cupcakes. Ice with pink frosting and place a fresh carnation petal on each cupcake. Stuff nasturtium blossoms with a mixture made of cream cheese, chopped nuts, chives and watercress.) Appropriate Ostara meat dishes should contain fish or ham.

Solitary Ostara Ritual Preparations
For decorations use dyed eggs and pink and green streamers. Include a soil-filled cauldron, sword (or athame) a small shovel (trowel), a small pot, a few of your favorite seeds and all your altar tools.

Ritual

Cast the circle in your usual way.
After casting the circle, say:

"Here I am on this day, Ostara, Lady day, Rite of Eoster, The Vernal Equinox, and the first day of the planting season. I am here to understand life, death, and rebirth, and to give reverence to those who have endured each."

Bow your head to think about how Ostara fits into the three groups above and how it fits into the wheel of the year. Say:

""I stand at the gate between the living and the dead on this night where both light and dark are equal. I am here to witness the union of the Goddess, Mother Earth, the Waning Lady of the Moon, Of My God, Green Man, the Waxing Lord of the Sun. Conception...a necessary transition on the wheel of the year." "

Unite the blade of the Athame with the depth of the cauldron. Symbolizing the Great Rite. Leave the Athame Standing. Hold the God candle and let the flame become on with the Goddess candle's flame. Replace these on the altar and set them closer than they were before. Say:

"Elder Gods wish to bestow upon us the gift of knowledge. Thus they shall speak."

Use the small shovel to transfer soil from the cauldron to the small pot. As you are planting the seeds, you should be thinking about your goals as though they were the seeds. You can now conclude the ritual. Say:

"May these newly planted seeds material spiritual, and symbolic bring me plentiful fruits and bounties. "

Close the circle and enjoy eggs and apple juice in your simple feast. Leave the cauldron and athame at the altar until Beltane to remind you of the seeds sewn on this day.

By Willow 7th March 2010