Hail Holy Ostara! Hail the daughter born at Delling’s door,
At the gate of day who bears the morning light!
Hail Ostara, Lady of the Spring Dawn!
~ Heathen Kinship Blessings
As you probably know, this is the Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere, and it is Autumn Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.
We celebrate it as the lesser Sabbat named Ostara. (“Lesser” Sabbat only means that it is a holiday associated with the seasonal quarters – equinoxes and solstices – of the year. The cross-quarters are considered the “Greater Sabbats.”)
It is also known as Lady Day or Alban Eilir (in the Welsh and Druid traditions).
At 6:45pm, Eastern time, the subsolar point (the place on the Earth’s surface where the center of the Sun is exactly overhead) will cross the Equator, moving northward.
Across the globe, we are all experiencing the same phenomenon: light and the dark are equally in balance.
After today, in the northern hemisphere, there will be more daylight hours than darkness. The forces of masculine and feminine energy, yin and yang, are also considered to be in balance for this brief moment.
As Winter departs, and Spring arrives for us in the north, the world begins anew. This time has been a universal celebration of the miraculous resurrection of life triumphing over death for many thousands of years, with the Christian God being a rather recent member of a very long lineage.
This is the first day of the astrological year, hence it is International Astrology Day. Today the Sun enters Aries, the first sign of the zodiac and the sign of new beginnings.
Who Is Ostara/Eostre?
Ostara is a time of great fecundity, new growth, and newborn animals and thus is named for Eostre, the Saxon Goddess of fertility (and source of the word “easter” as well as “estrogen”), and Ostara, Her German counterpart. In Neo-Pagan rites, these are the Goddesses most frequently invoked at this Sabbat.
But why? What is known of Her?
Christians around the world will soon celebrate their most important sacred day, the festival of Easter. “Easter” is the name that was given to their rites in some parts of Europe around the 8th century, C.E.
Previously, it had been simply called Pesach, or pascha in Greek, because it was held at the time of the Jewish feast Passover. The reason, of course, is that it was at Passover that the events around their dying and resurrecting God took place. So why the name change, and what does “Easter” mean?
In 325 C.E., the church council of Nicaea decided that the observance of the Christos’ resurrection should be celebrated on the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, on or after the Vernal Equinox of March.
This meant that they were parting ways with holding it in tandem with the prescribed dates of Passover, the Pesach. (The early church had long before parted ways with the Jewish day of Sabbath, celebrating instead “the Lord’s Day” on Sundays, because that was the day of the Christ’s resurrection).
As the new religion spread across Europe, many of its Jewish characteristics faded and blended in with the Pagan customs and beliefs of the local populations.
The Goddess of Spring
Always held in early Spring, most indigenous people held rites of fertility, renewal, and celebration for the return of life. Naturally, this fit right in with the theme of the dying and reborn sacrificial God, which is a theme that far pre-dates Christianity.
The English word “Easter” is derived from the name “Eostre” or “Eastre.” Eostre is the Anglo-Saxon word for Ostara, the Germanic Goddess of the Dawn.
It is probably no coincidence that the similarly named Greek Goddess of the dawn is the beautiful, chariot driving Eos. And our word “estrus” comes from Her name, as it is one of the more notable signs of Springtime.
Bede the Venerable, a scribe who lived around 673-735 C.E. wrote that the fourth month of the year, “Esturmonath” was named for Her. April, in Anglo Saxon, Old High German, and some modern German dialects, is called “Ostara’s month.” Place names suggest that Ostara was venerated throughout ancient Germany and Denmark.
Sadly, we do not know very much about Ostara Herself. As a Goddess of fertility, She was also a grain Goddess, so offerings of bread and cakes were made to Her.
And we believe that the Anglo-Saxon Pagans made offerings of colored eggs to Her at the Vernal Equinox. They placed them at graves especially, probably as a charm of rebirth. (Egyptians and Greeks were also known to place eggs at grave sites).
Rabbits are sacred to Ostara, especially white rabbits, and She is said to be able to take the form of a rabbit.
The source of this may be in one myth that tells of how Ostara found a bird dying from the cold, because She had been late returning the warmth to the land. Filled with remorse, She changed it to a white snow hare, to save its life. Yet it was still able to lay eggs like a bird. Thus, some stories tell us this is how the Ostara Bunny brings eggs to children on Easter.
According to the scholarly collection of German oral histories and myths Deutsche Mythologie, published in 1835 by Jacob Grimm (yes, the same one, who with his brother, collected fairy tales), various traditions throughout Germany were still practiced at that time in Her honor. From these records we know of the Ostern Hare, Ostara eggs, the Ostara sword, and Pagan hilltop ceremonies, particularly celebratory bonfires, at dawn.
In climates where Winter was a time of constantly living on the edges of death, the return of the Sun, the lengthening of daylight, the warming of the land, and the birth of new livestock were celebrated with gratitude and joy we can scarcely imagine today.
Despite all the hardships and loss that our ancestors (and we) may have endured in the Winter, this has always been a time of rejoicing. It is when we call for merriment and healing.
This is the celebration day when Persephone returns from the Underworld, ending the grief of Her Mother, Demeter. And Amaterasu is coaxed from Her cave of mourning by the laughter of the kami, thanks to the Goddess of the Night and Stars, Amanouzume.
Today we honor the Green Goddess and the Lord of the Greenwood. She blankets the Earth with Her magnificent fertility, bursting forth from Her sleep. And the dazzling young God awakens and grows to maturity.
The Vernal Equinox is a time for blessing the fields and seeds.
Some Caution Working Magic Today
It is stupendously fortunate this year that it falls exactly on a New Moon, which is also the most powerful time for blessing seeds, new plans, and all that is being born. It also happens to be a Moon at perigee, meaning it is the closest the Moon comes to Earth’s orbit.
For a brilliant article about this Pisces Super Moon, I recommend the article by Simone Butler Mooncircles site – Pisces New Moon: Jewel in the Heart.
But – we have a total solar eclipse. My friend, astrologer Diotima Mantineia writes, “We’ll want to get very clear about our intentions for our lives and our world, because the energy we set in motion on this day is likely to be powerful and long lasting.
“Should you work magic during this time? Of course! It could be argued that a magician is always working magic.
“But it is definitely a good idea to carefully consider where and how you are directing your magic, and also to know that with volatile energies like these, you may not get the results you expected, particularly if you work at the eclipse.
“Magic done at an eclipse tends to always have a wild card somewhere in the mix. I’d advise working with the eclipse energy only if your personal magical practice is relatively disciplined, you are well-tuned-in to the flow of energy in your life, and you can be flexible about the results.
“If this isn’t you, then you might want to work in the evening, at or after the equinox, when the Moon and Sun are trine Saturn, and the Moon is trine Jupiter.”
A Time for Celebration
The Spring Equinox is the time for fresh new beginnings, taking action, planting seeds for future harvests, and of tending gardens. Spring is a time of the Earth’s renewal, a rousing of nature after the cold sleep of winter.
This makes it an important time to clean your home to welcome the new season. Spring cleaning is much more than a yearly chore. It is a sacred rite that rids our homes of any negativity or stuffiness left over from Winter. An energetic and physical clearing for your sacred hearth are ideal at this time.
Other things to focus on at this time include working with the energy of openings and new beginnings. Thus, you may wish to invoke Lord Ganesha, who Opens the Way.
Spring is associated with the element of Air, so now is a time to work with communication, ideas, stories and songs, and developing new skills.
In addition to Ostara/Eostre Herself, you might want to invite Aphrodite, Athena, Cybele, Gaia, Hera, Isis, Robin of the Woods, the Green Man, Cernunnos, Thoth, Osiris, or Pan to bless your rites. (Maybe not all at once, of course!).
It is also an ideal time for spellwork around fertility and abundance.
The most common colors associated with Ostara are pastels, like lemon yellow, pale green and pale pink. Other appropriate colors include grass green, Robin’s egg blue, lavender, and white.
Stones to use during your Spring celebrations may include aquamarine, clear or rose quartz, amethyst, and moonstone. Rabbits and snakes are frequently associated with this Sabbat (see my posts from past years, for more about the snakes).
All Spring flowers are energetically ideal, although some experts warn that the Faery Folk are insulted by cut flowers, so a living plant on your altar might be more diplomatic. I love the little pots of primroses that you can sometimes find in grocery stores this time of year.
Stand in the sunlight today (hopefully you are getting some), and feel the sap rising in you; the desire stirring within to form new, joyful beginnings.
Bless your seeds, both green growing ones, and the seeds of your dreams, and let this powerful cusp energize the life and passion within them.
Now is the time to start putting those promises you made at Imbolc into action, and begin physically manifesting your resolutions.
Today, The Wheel has turned and for the next six months, Light overpowers the Dark. What will you give birth to? What will you grow in your heart’s garden? How will you celebrate this miraculous gift of sparkling new life?
May the Lady and the Lord awaken and bless the seeds of your desires. May Ostara, the Lady of the Spring Dawn, shine upon you, bringing sweet awakenings and returning life to all you cherish.