(Spring or Vernal Equinox)
March is when spring arrives in the northern hemisphere. trees are in leaf, and a carpet of flowers speads over the Earth. Insects are active, birds are building nests, and animals mate and give birth.
The Vernal (Spring) Equinox, when Pagans celebrate the festival of Ostara, which usually falls on or around March 20 or 21 (check your almanac for your time zone).
Our ancestors commemorated the day when light and dark stand in perfect balance (12 hrs of daylight and 12 hrs of night), before days begin to lengthen, and summer light dominates the dark. It marked the growing strength of the young spirit of vegetation, who emerged from a cave or tomb where he had spent the winter.
Called Ostara after the Saxon Lunar Goddess Eostre, this is a time of renewal, regeneration and resurrection as the Earth wakes from her long and deep slumber. This is the time of planting, children, and young animals.
It is the fertility of the Earth that we celebrate, and we symbolize this new life springing from sun and soil with eggs, chicks, lambs, and rabbits (all symbols of the Great Mother).
Ostara promises freedom from the cold and silent of winters, it heralds the return of hope and dreams. With the days lengthening, we fill our lungs with fresh air and drink the pungent cleansing teas that clear our bodies from the heavy foods of winter.
The Saxons believed that the goddess Eostre, in the form of a hare, traveled about the land renewing the fertility of the Earth and its creatures. She gave her name to the festival, Eostre or Ostara, which we carried over the idea of the Easter Bunny.
Eostre is the Goddess of dawn and new beginnings. Another name in the same family is Ishtar, the Babylonian Goddess of the forming and evening stars. Eostre’s sacred animal is the rabbit or hare. Rabbits bear young in the springs, and have come to represent fertility and abundance. Hares, which are bigger and wilder than rabbits, have long been identified with magic, the springs, and the mysteries. Hares are associated with the moon – the ancients saw the “rabbit in the moon”, today known as the “man in the moon”.
The other Goddess we associates with the Spring Equinox is Kore or Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the Greek Goddess of grain and growing things. In the Spring, Persephone comes back from the Underworld to be reunited with her mother. A part of the Goddess that has been sleeping all winter reawakens with the warming of the ground of springs. She who has been mother, midwife, and teacher through the winter now welcomes back her own daughter-self, the Maiden of Springs. At this time of balance the Goddess is Mother and Daughter both.
The God of Springs is the young God, playful and joyful, the trickster. He is the spirit of everything that is joyful, light, and changeable. Born at Winter Solstice, nurtured at Imbolc, now he’s like a young and mischievous child, still wild and new. He has raw, creative energy that has not yet been harnessed, tamed, civilized. He sees with clear eyes and does not hesitate to announce that the emperor is naked. He deflates the pompous and laughs at self-importance.
The trickster is an important spirit power in many earth-based cultures. To many of the Native American tribes, he is the Coyote. To the First Nations of the Northwest Coast, he is Raven, who creates the world. In parts of West Africa, he is Elegba, the small child-God who as a point of light constantly runs circles around the universe. To early African-Americans, he is Brer Rabbit, who tricks his way out of trouble.
In European earth-based traditions, he is the Fool of the Tarot, who leaps blithely off a cliff as he follows a butterfly, yet always lands on his feet, because he takes himself lightly. He is spirit taking the plunge into matter, idea manifesting as form. He is Robin Goodfellow, shape shifter and wood sprite, child of the Faery King. He comes to us in the springs when all of nature is shifting and changing: seeds poking out sprouts, butterflies emerging from cocoons, tadpoles growing legs and turning into frogs.
We celebrate him on the Spring Equinox, but of course, his proper holiday comes shortly after, on April Fool’s Day. In his honor, we play tricks on one another.
The Sun enters the sign of Aries at the equinox. In one solar myth the Sun is rescued from the underworld dragon and resurrected as the golden ram (Aries Chrysomallon) at the spring equinox. –Jason and his Argonaut crew journeyed to recover a sacred golden ram’s fleece and the stolen fleece was transported to the stars in his honor.
Sheep are said to bow three times to the east to welcome the rising Sun.
Buns marked with a cross, representing the four directions and the four phases of the Moon, was a traditional food at Pagan observances of Spring Equinox. These cakes, made and eaten once a year, were considered to be very powerful. A careful housewife would save a portion, which she tied in a bag and hung from the kitchen rafters. When anyone or beast of the household became ill, a few of the crumbs would be added to any remedy given to them to increase its effectiveness.
The convention of giving Easter eggs stems from a Pagan custom that is also related to the Spring Equinox, though the eggs in question were hen’s eggs and not the chocolate variety we have today! ^_^
Ancient Egyptians and Tomans gave each other presents of eggs at the Spring Equinox as a symbol of resurrection and continuing life. The egg, dyed red, represented the resuurrection of the Sun at the equinox.
The Altar: The altar for springs includes — what else?– images of rabbits and birds, eggs of all sorts, nests, flowers, and living plants. Start some seeds, to be planted out in the garden.
The Colors of Ostara: All pastels are appropriate for Ostara — especially the greens, yellows, and pinks. White makes a nice accent, but seems too sparse for an altar cloth representing the season of growth and fertility.
Incense, Herbs and Wood: Violet, honeysuckle, narcissus, and lemon make good incenses for Ostara. Jasmine, Rose, Strawberry, Floral of any type — the scents should be clear and light, floral and evocative, but not overwhelming or intoxicating.
Herbs associated with spring include meadowsweet, cleavers, clover, lemongrass, spearmint and catnip.
If you want to use wood in your spells and rituals, ash has a strong link with the equinox due to its connection with the macrocosm-microcosm concept in the Celtic ogham runes – the balance of light and dark… as above, so below.
Flowers: What better day to decorate for the spring season than with the flowers that blossom at this time? They are abundant and beautiful! Daffodils, jonquils, tulips, narcissus, woodruff, Gorse, Olive, Peony, Iris, violets and crocus and snowdrops – fill the house with their color after you’ve finished your spring cleaning.
Meditation: Take a walk around your neighborhood, walk in nature with no intent other than reflecting on the Magick of nature and our Great Mother and her bounty; looking and listening for signs of spring: the fattening leaf buds on trees, the first flowers of spring, the first Robin. Think about the Earth’s movement toward greater light and less darkness. How can you mirror this in your life?
Questions for Ostara:
1. Besides sunlight and darkness, what other signs of “balance” do you notice at this time of year? (Look both outside and within yourself to answer this question)
2. What could you do to welcome the signs of spring you notice on your walks?
3. Is there someone in your life who seems more dark than light in his/her makeup? Would you be willing to try to find more of their light? How can you do this? Does their darkness remind you of anything about yourself?
Sacred Gemstone: Jasper
Traditional Foods: Green leafy vegetables, Dairy foods (unless u’re a vegetarian — try soy milk and organic cheese!). Flower Dishes and Sprouts. Seeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
Special Activities: Planting seeds or starting a Magickal Herb Garden.
An Ostara Recipe
1TBSP raspberry vinegar
1TBSP minced Shallot
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp virgin olive oil
1/2 lb mixed greens washed
1/4 cup violet blossoms
1/4 cup wild strawberries (optional)
Combine vinegar, shallot, mustard and some pepper in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes
Whisk in stock then oil. Toss greens with dressings, top with violets and strawberries and serve immediately.