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Ostara - Spring Equinox

Finally, let's welcome spring as we should!

What is it?

Spring Equinox, Ostara symbolizes the return of life after winter.

This minor Sabbath is celebrated between March 19 and 21 when night and day are of equal length. This year it will be celebrated on March 20 at 10:22 p.m. However some will prefer to celebrate it on March 21 each year, it is a personal choice that you are free to make.

These origins remain unclear, we do not really know if it is Celtic or Germanic.

It takes its name from Eostre, Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, fertility and dawn.

However, the existence of this goddess remains uncertain because she is very little mentioned. Its name would be derived from the word "Easter", celebrated in the spring.

However, it could also be of Germanic origin, Ostara being then derived from the word "Ostern", "Easter" in German. The word "is" ("ost" in German), cardinal point where the sun rises at dawn, is then found in the word.

In Germanic mythology, Ostara is the goddess of fertility, dawn, and spring.

Moreover, in Norse mythology, her arrival symbolizes the beginning of spring, which is then marked by the flowering of plants. She would then wake up at dawn on the first day of spring after her winter sleep. Being part of the Vanes deities, she is also linked to life, to the earth, as well as to youth.

Although no historical source mentions it and is not well known, it is celebrated in the Viking civilization.

It is a sabbath said to have been created by Gerald Gardner, founder of wicca. He would then have been inspired by ancient traditions, including those linked to the goddess Eostre.

A legend also says that Eostre, who had encountered a wounded bird, tried to cure it by being forced to transform it into a hare. The transformation not having been able to take place completely, he continued to lay eggs. At its first laying, it took a few eggs, decorated them, and offered them to Eostre in thanks.

Easter was born.

However, this legend should be taken with a grain of salt. Indeed, it could be a popular Ukrainian tale that would have been reworked into a legend linked to Eostre in order to justify the importance of the goddess.

Also, the equinox represented by this Sabbath, is an astronomical phenomenon that can be observed all over the world.

However, this Sabbath, although not ancient, symbolizes renewal, the awakening of all, the return of life and fertility after the harshness and coldness of winter. Something that has always been celebrated.

Indeed, during spring, nature, animals and life wake up from their long sleep.

Plants bloom, trees bud, the sun rises earlier and sets later. Temperatures are rising, and some animals are coming out of hibernation while others are returning from their migration.

This equinox is celebrated in many ancient religions and spiritualities and has given rise to many festivities.

Monuments were even built and used for these celebrations.

The first inhabitants of Ireland celebrated the equinoxes and solstices using megalithic constructions, some of which were astronomical calendars marking the equinoxes and solstices.

Calendar that can also be found in France, in Brittany on the Carnac site.

The Mayans celebrate the vernal equinox.

Many constructions allowing to recognize the equinoxes and solstices exist in the United States.

In Cambodia, the sun appears above the largest 12th century temple tower at Angkor Wat.

In Malta, is on a site of more than 5000 years, that of Mnajdra, one of the oldest solar calendar in the world, marking equinoxes and solstices.

In the United Kingdom, in Cornwall, is the stone circle of Fernacre, one of the stones of which marks the sunrise at the equinox. Also, standing in the center, the sun sets over a hill on the first day of May 1 (which is another Sabbath).

In India, there is a large sundial built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh in the Jantar Mantar solar observatory in Jaipur, which also marks the equinox.

In Bolivia, on the day of the vernal equinox, the setting sun illuminates the central pillar of the main wall of the Kalasasaya temple.

Finally, in Egypt, the sun sets above the right shoulder of the Sphinx of Giza. The cult of the sun god Ra was then celebrated in this place.

Ostara was created based on ancient European pagan festivals. Thus taking up the notions of renewal and rebirth present in these spring festivals.

Of these festivals, we can cite the Celtic Alban Eiler meaning "light of the Earth", celebrating the equality of day and night, the resumption of sowing and the transition between Winter and Summer.

The Greco-Roman Bacchanalia which took place in March can also be mentioned. Wine and carnal pleasures were then celebrated there.

Then, as mentioned above, similarities, notably rebirth and resurrection, between Ostara and the Christian Easter can be noted.

Finally, and in the same spirit, the Passover celebrating the rebirth of the Jewish people gaining independence from Pharaonic Egypt during the spring also deserves to be mentioned.

It is therefore the moment when we resume the sowing, announcing the return of a better diet and the possibility of leaving home and returning to work.

Indeed, after the reflections led by Imbolc, Ostara invites us to go out and enjoy nature and start new projects. It is a time that drives us to action. But not in a haphazard way. On the contrary, Ostara pushes us to thoughtful action that will bring about a balance. The rest of the work will therefore consist in maintaining this balance in our lives.

How to celebrate Ostara ?

It is common to honor the deities embodying renewal, rebirth and vitality, among others, during this celebration.

In this idea, we can speak, among the Celts, of Ana (or Dana), of Brigid, of Aengus MacOg, of Cernunnos, of Dadga, of Mabon, of Blodeuwedd.

Ana/Danna, goddess of primordial nature is linked to spring.

Brigid, celebrated during Imbolc (go take a look at the blog post on this subject!), protector of animals and nature, is also linked to spring as well as to Ostara.

Aegnus MacOg is an Irish god of love and youth. Linked to the spring season, it is one of the sons of Dadga.

Dagda is therefore also an Irish god, god of regeneration, he is depicted as often present during spring because it is he who resurrects what is dead, and then presides over the return of nature.

Cernunnos, is the horned god, god of wood and nature. Originally a Celtic god, he is also the image of the horned god for some Wiccans.

Mabon, Welsh god, is celebrated during the eponymous sabbath while having a link with Ostara. At this time, he comes out of the ground to give birth to nature.

Blodeuwedd is a goddess made magically out of flowers, being then closely tied to spring.

On the Greco-Roman side, we can cite Persephone, Dionysus, Aphrodite and Venus, Cybele, Eos, Flora, Gaïa and Pan.

Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of crops and harvests, lives six months of the year in the underworld with Hades, and six months with her mother during spring and summer.

Dionysos, god of vegetation and the vine, regains all its vigor during spring, thus allowing nature to bloom again.

Aphrodite can be considered the mother of living nature because, when she put her foot on the ground after emerging from the foam from which she was born, flowers grew under her feet. She is therefore considered one of the goddesses of spring.

Venus would on her side have powers over fields and gardens, and presiding over new beginnings.

Cybele, Phrygian goddess, was later adopted by the Greeks and Romans and is associated with the renewal of life, the fertilization of the earth, love, as well as passion.

Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn, is associated with spring because she too represents new beginnings, like dawn beginning day. She is also a goddess of love and fertility.

Flora, Roman goddess of flowers, was venerated during the Floralies, a festival located around April 27, between Ostara and Beltane. It is then celebrated between these two Sabbaths.

Gaia, Mother Earth for the Greeks, makes all things alive. She then wakes up in the spring and gives birth to her previously dormant creations.

Pan, Greek god of wilderness, woods, forest animals also represents the god of primary sexual pleasure. He will then let the forest grow when he wakes up in the spring, watching over the loves of animals.

Among the Nordics and Scandinavians, Freya and Thor can be cited.

The first being the goddess leaving the earth in winter to return in spring, when nature can then be reborn. It represents sexuality, life and death.

The second smashes the ice with Mjölnir, his hammer, thus driving out winter to make way for spring.

In Ancient Egypt, Min, Osiris, and Isis will be cited.

Min is often depicted as an erect phallus and is the creator god and the god of fertility and creation. Animals can reproduce and plants bear fruit thanks to it.

Osiris is the god of vegetation, ensuring the prosperity of future harvests. He is also the one who resuscitated Isis.

Finally, Isis having been resuscitated, is linked to the return to life and therefore to this magical side of spring.

In India, Rati and Kama will be highlighted.

Rati is the wife of Kama, god of love. They then represent desire, love, passion and pleasure. They are those who restore life and are then celebrated in spring.

Ostara then has several symbols. It is first of all the idea of carrying out its projects and planting seeds in every sense of the word.

The hare and the rabbit have more or less the same role: they are a sign of fertility, development and growth.

The hen and the egg also represent fertility and development.

The caterpillar and butterflies symbolize the image of rebirth and life change, evolution.

The lamb is a popular symbol during Ostara because it is the baby of the ram.

The phoenix representing rebirth and optimism is then also associated with this sabbath.

Finally, the Pooka is a mythological creature from Ireland taken from Alban Eiler, one of the Celtic festivals that inspired Ostara. It is a shape-shifting creature, often depicted with the ears of a hare. He would then help to spread on earth, woods and fields the benefits of the spring equinox. It is then also associated with fertility, and sometimes even with Samhain.

Here are some celebration ideas:

- Set goals.

- Start new activities that make you want or that you have left aside.

- It's the return of good weather! Pay homage to nature and thank her for what she offers us.

- With this in mind, you can do a ritual to bless both physical and symbolic seeds. You can also give as an offering honey, maple syrup or seasonal fruit.

- Take the opportunity to integrate natural elements into your daily life, in your environment! Take an interest in seasonal plants and flowers! You can then take the opportunity to decorate your altar, if you have one, with pastel colors close to those of nature.

- Enjoy nature and go for a walk! Contemplate the beauty of nature waking up. And why not garden if you can?

- Why not do a mediation session and think about the elements of your life that can relate to this equinox?

- You can, like many pagans, pay homage to the goddess Eostre, or to any other deities of spring if you wish.

- Reintegrate more vegetables into your diet and consume seasonal fruits and vegetables near you!

- The egg being a symbol of Ostara, you can organize an egg hunt for young and old alike.

- Obviously, you can take the opportunity to do a good spring cleaning, thus symbolizing renewal.

- Engage in new activities that make you want!

- Meditate and feel the awakening energies!

- Take the opportunity to work on your communication, your ideas, the art, or even the development of skills as needed.

- Finally, celebrate the return of light and all the symbols of this Sabbath.

Happy Ostara!


Written by and for SparkStudio in 2023.


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