The New Beginnings of Spring
As the days lengthen, we near a fulcrum point. A balance between the dark and the light. A day of equal light and dark. Tipping further to longer days of light. The Vernal Equinox, also known as Ostara.
Celebrated around March 20th to 21st, (though it can be as early as March 19th and as late as March 22nd depending on time zone) the Spring Equinox marks the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere that brings longer daylight hours and warmer weather.
But what is Ostara and how do we celebrate it?
What is Ostara and the Spring Equinox?
There is plenty of evidence that our ancestors saw some sort of significance to the Equinoxes and Solstices. Ancient sites like Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza line up to these times of year in such a way that we know they were no accident. But what is significant about the holiday today?
While Imbolc marked the steadily growing light of the sun and the first peakings of new growth, Ostara marks a far busier season of new growth and activity with the beginnings of planting seeds, literally and figuratively.
It is a time of coming out of hibernation and increasing one’s activities. It is a time of fertility. Fertility of new growth in gardens and farms. Fertility of creative projects. And fertility of life when animals begin their mating dances to bring new life into the world.
It is especially a time of balance. Balance of light and dark. It is a reminder that while we have been turning inward during the winter season, there is a constant shift and cycling of those periods of our life that circles back to more active periods of life. Ostara brings our focus outward again. It reminds us to balance our dark and our light to truly manifest our goals.
It is a time of renewal and rebirth.Learn More Here:
Ēostre is often considered a Germanic and Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess of the Spring that loaned her name to the Germanic name of the month of April, the holiday of Ostara, and subsequently Easter. The first mention of her being a goddess wasn’t until the 8th Century by Bede in his work The Reckoning of Time where he states the name of the Germanic month of April (Ēosturmōnaþ) was named after the goddess and early pagans held festivals in her honor during this month.
However, the fact of Ēostre being a goddess is contested by modern scholars as there is little evidence of her worship prior to Bede’s mentioning of her. Others, like 19th century scholar and fairy tale specialist Jacob Grimm, have traced the goddess linguistically to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn.
Whether Ēostre is an authentic ancient pagan goddess or not, many today do worship her in conjunction with Ostara. She is a goddess of spring, the dawn, and has been connected to hares and eggs.
Learn More Here about Eostre:
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash
There are many debates out there about how Christians stole Ostara from pagans. Based on the name of Ēostre bearing quite a resemblance to the word Easter, the nearness of the festivities, and the overlapping symbolism, this is easy to see where some of these protestations come from. However, that does not mean Christians stole Ostara.
Easter is considered a moveable feast, which means the date in which it falls varies from year to year. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox. In the Liturgical calendar, the Equinox is always on March 21st regardless of when the Astrological Equinox actually occurs. This means that Easter can never fall before March 22nd and often falls a week or so after the Equinox depending on the date of the next Full Moon.
Many times, Ostara and Easter occur very near to each other. Despite the nearness, the date of Easter is based less off of Ostara and more off the Jewish calendar and the holiday of Passover when Jesus was said to have died. The time of Passover begins the evening of the Full Moon after the Equinox and celebrates the exodus of the Isrealites out of Egypt.
Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus following his crucifixion and sacrifice. It shares the symbolism of rebirth with rabbits, baby chicks, eggs, and lambs. But it also has much more somber images associated with it like the cross.
Whether or not Easter was stolen from the Pagan festival of Ostara is debatable. However, their shared symbolism and nearness to each other makes it easy to procure decorations for your altar and celebrate in secret if you are still in the closet with your practices.Other Holidays
Alban Eiler is the Druid holiday with its own traditions that recognizes the Spring Equinox as being equal day and night.
Bacchanalia is a festival held in March that celebrates Bacchus or Dionysus. There is more celebration relating to pleasure and ecstasy.
Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th a few days before the Equinox. This holiday honors Saint Patrick and the day he drove out the snakes (sometimes interpreted as pagans) out of Ireland.
Celebrations of other springtime deities.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
When decorating your altar or looking for deities to call upon to honor during Ostara, consider the following lists of correspondences. These lists are not exhaustive.Deities
Deities of springtime, rebirth and sacrifice are common ones tied to the season of Ostara.
Eostre, Dionysus, Cybele, Osiris, Kore (Persephone), Demeter, Aphrodite, Eos, Flora, Freya, Gaia, Maiden Aspect of the Triple Goddess, Aengus Mac Og, Cernunnos, The Green Man, Pan, JesusColors
Pastel Colors particularly Green, Pink, Blue, YellowSymbols
Eggs, Hares, Rabbits, Lambs, Flowers, Birds, Bees, Clovers, Butterflies, PhoenixFoods
Eggs, Honey, Sprouted greens, Baked goods, AsparagusHerbs and Crystals
Jasmine, Rose, Daffodils, Violets, Clover, Lemon, Mint, Cedarwood
Aquamarine, Amethyst, Rose Quartz, Moonstone, Bloodstone, Jasper, Moss Agate
Find Herbs Here:
Find Crystals Here:
5 Ways to Celebrate
Aside from learning about some of the nuances of Ostara above, how else can you celebrate the Spring Equinox?1. Set Up Your Altar
Your altar can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Place down a cloth in the color of your choice that represents the holiday best to you. Have a candle on the altar in a seasonal color. And place any symbols or items that make you think of spring. Fresh flowers are great. Any representation of a deity or animal of spring is also good to add.
Take time to sit before your altar each day and light your candle and any incense or oils that are light and airy for spring.
Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash2. Decorate Eggs
Egg coloring and decoration is a great way to celebrate Ostara. They represent creativity and fertility and different colors can represent different intentions. The following link goes into the why of decorating eggs for Ostara and includes a list of natural dyes.Check out this link here for more about decorating eggs:
Depending on the area you live, this idea may need to be done initially indoors, but Ostara is a great time to plant some literal seeds for your garden. You can pick a plant that represents your intention for the year and turn it into a ritual to grow and nurture your goal.
You can use eggshells and egg cartons as seed starters. The following link provides a helpful how-to:
Some initial cleaning at Imbolc can now turn into full blown spring cleaning. Open the windows. Dust, vacuum, mop your floors. Change your sheets. Toss out things you aren’t using anymore. Donate anything that is in good enough condition.
With the shift in weather it is usually easier to get some serious deep cleaning done. Wash your windows. You can always use cleansing sprays and florida water in your cleaning. Citrus essential oils to your cleaning products can bring a refreshing scent to your home.
Don’t underestimate playing some fun, upbeat music during your cleaning routine. Singing and dancing along can make the experience more fun and helps you get more done.5. Perform an Ostara Ritual
Purpose: To restore balance in your life.
Supplies: Your altar, a candle, an offering
Prep: Decide on what spirits you wish to call in. All four elements would work for meditation on the balance and interplay between them. A god and goddess that are opposites of energy (dark and light) are also an option. Any singular deity that is associated with spring and the equinox. Try to work with a deity you already have a relationship with.
For an offering, milk and honey in a bowl is a simple one. You can also choose something specific to the spirits you are calling in.
- Set up your altar with seasonal decorations and your candle
- Cast a circle if you feel it is appropriate
- Light your candle
- Call upon your chosen spirit
- Say something like “I call upon the elements of fire, water, earth, and air to join me in this ritual celebrating Ostara and to bring balance in my life.”
- Make any changes as appropriate. Make this calling in as simple or as complex as you want using epithets and relating the deeds of the gods you call in.
- Take a moment to feel their presence
- Say a petition for them to restore balance in your life.
- Expand upon your intent with bringing balance using specific examples of the type of balance.
- Example - Intention to have a better work/life balance and requesting they help you leave work at work and be more present at home with your family
- Once you relate these intentions and specifics, take a deep breath and sit down to meditate a moment
- Take several deep breaths
- Focus on a stream of energy from the earth running up from the ground through you to the sky above
- Then focus on a stream energy coming down from the sky into the crown of your head and flowing down to the earth below you
- Now focus on both streams of energy at once flowing through you
- Feel how this is balancing your energy
- Release the visualization of the energy flowing through you and focus instead on how your life will look when the balance you have asked for comes to you
- Visualize your life in balance in as much detail as you can muster
- Feel what that will be like
- When you feel you are done or your attention begins to wane, return back to taking several deep breaths and feeling yourself in your body
- Thank the spirits you called in, reiterating your request for balance in your life
- Offer them the offering you have placed on your altar as further thanks for their aid
- Release them from your ritual
- Say something like “I thank and release you elements of fire, water, earth and air. Until we meet again.”
- Snuff out your candle
- Take down your circle if you cast one
- Clean up as necessary, but leave the offering for a short time.
- If the offering may get knocked over and eaten by a pet or animal, dispose of properly
Photo by Atul Vinayak on UnsplashOther Ways to Celebrate
Meditate on balance or new beginnings
Journal about balance
Have a Spring Feast
Get Outside and walk
Check Out These Links Below for a meditation and more ways to celebrate:
Ostara is a time to celebrate renewal and new life. It is a time of new beginnings and new activity and action. Take time this Ostara to celebrate in a way that fits you and your practice. And have fun and enjoy the warmer weather!