Ostara is the spring equinox festival this year it falls on the 20th of December. Like Lughnasadh, it is the time where day and night are in balance. The Druid name for Ostara is Alban Eilir-the Light of the earth.
Having rested and transformed in the cauldron of winter we are now reborn with new energy and determination to ‘spring forth’ and ‘hatch our plans'(the more I think of Ostara the more I see these phrases and their relevance) Like the earth around us, life is returning, the sap is rising, we have shed what needed shedding and are ready to set our intentions for the coming year and ‘plant the seed’.
Now, If you’re new to my blog or paganism you may not be aware of how pagan traditions have been carried through centuries by christians (look through the other festival posts, its all there, sorry christian folk). Ostara is a big example of just that, also known as Oestre, Oestar and Easter (it is actually the root of the word for oestrogen, the female hormone). Putting the christian mythology to one side, why eggs and rabbits? They are fertility symbols and this is exactly what we are celebrating on this day; the fertility of the earth our lives and (if you like) ourselves.
The symbol of the rabbit used in the ‘easter bunny’ should/is actually a hare. Hares are strong, fertile animals (have you met a hare?! they’re fucking terrifying velocibunnies!). In ancient mythology they were thought to be shape shifters and witches familiars. There is one story of a woman tried for witchcraft who confessed she could shape shift into a Hare (her name was Isobel Gowdie if you wanted to look it up its very interesting.) They were believed to lay eggs. In fact, hares are so fertile they can produce around 42 live offspring a season. Often depicted as moon gazing creatures, Hares are beloved symbols of witches. they are messengers and light bringers.
To me they represent that shape shifting quality, the ability to fully transform yourself and your life at any given moment. after all it only takes a moment. How could such a massive creature be observed so little for the rest of the time. spring is a time of transformation whatever you want to be or achieve you can start now. My brother has a fabulous story about his encounters with some mad march hares, I’ll ask him if I can share it.
Eggs are another symbol of fertility and new birth. unlike the powerful hare, Eggs are delicate and yet contain so much potential for new life. Chicks are actually twice born, they are laid and ‘hatch out of their shell’ much like us and our plans. Did you know, the Easter bank holiday in the UK is the biggest in DIY sales. It’s innate in us to want to get on and make improvements. The traditions around eggs at Ostara are to celebrate just that the potential for new life, new adventures, new plans.
Ostara is the festival of the maiden in Greece she is Eos-the dawn, the Celts Blodeuwedd-the flower faced one, to me she Eostre, Brigid and Freya. Our Goddess, having been awoken at Imbolc is now emerged; her gifts are the bounty of spring. Our ancestors, having survived a harsh winter would be setting out now to enjoy and harvest abundant greens, the nutrients in which stir us to life, to replenish and enliven our spirits. the energy of spring is palpable.
At this time our maiden goddess is being courted by the Green Man. The exciting energy of the first flourishes of love is everywhere, later there will be a more powerful coupling when they join together at Beltane but for now it is the energy of youth (oh youth, I remember you fondly) that drives us forward. The Flora and Fauna follow their lead.
There is an unfortunate pandemic looming over our Ostara practices this year (there’s a rant brewing on that).
One tradition we probably won’t be able to partake in is the Feasting aspect. Usually a big garden party, involving some hard work and preparations, tree planting etc followed by a shared meal and talk of all the things we have planned to improve and bring light into our own lives and those of our community.
However there is much that can still be done:
- Spring clean your home, use a blessing floor/doorwash, smudge and make a start on improvements (even if its a list to start).
- Dress your home and altar. greens and yellows are traditional as are spring flowers
- Get out and forage some greens (nettle, ramsons, cleavers, alexanders and primrose just to name a few all can be found in the plantlore section), make a green goddess soup.
- Visit an outside space and leave an offering.
- Make a flower mandala or flower crown; primroses are particularly sacred to the maiden goddess.
- Decorate eggs with paint or natural dye each egg can represent a wish or blessing. I like to make egg trees with a branch or hang them outside (hard boiled is good). this one is great with children.
- Gather water from a natural water source, ask that it be blessed with the energy of spring and sprinkle around your home, on yourself or even drink it if it’s safe to do so.
- Get out in the garden and do some work. Whisper your wishes to seeds and seedlings before planting them.
- Do some divination or journaling, set out what your goals are and how you will achieve them. Mood boards are great for this.
- Make bird seeds and cakes with children or leave out natural nesting materials. Our dog molts so much (so very much) which is great for birds nests.
- Bake something
- Do an egg intention ritual.
- Open all the doors and windows to your home, put on your favourite ‘happy song’ and dance around; fill your home with positive energy and invite in Ostara blessings.
How will you be celebrating? I’d love to know.
Blessed be in these hard times. Take care of each other please.
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Peace out witches.