Monday, March 19, 2018

Ostara Rituals and Celebrations




 The Spring Equinox is upon us at last, the weather is being carried in by warmer winds and flowers are starting to finally sprout out of the cold earth. The tell-tale signs are all there, heralding that Ostara is just around the corner. Ostara, Eostre, are names that this equinox is associated with, and the rituals that are performed on this holiday celebrate everything that resonates spring. However, there's more to this holiday than just the predecessor to what we now know as Easter.



What is Ostara?

It was an important time for our ancestors, the herds would start producing offspring, and seeds could be sown into the ground for the harvest. Like fall equinox, this is a time of balance, where abundance will soon tip the scales as we push deeper into warmer months.

The name of this holiday comes from an ancient text from the monk Bede who mentioned the name once in his 8th-century work De temporum ratione ( The Reckoning of Time)

"Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance." (The Complete Works of the Venerable Bede, in the Original Latin, Collated with the Manuscripts, and Various Print Editions, Accompanied by a New English Translation of the Historical Works, and a Life of the Author. Vol. VI: Scientific Tracts and Appendix. London: Whittaker and Co., Ave Maria Lane)

"Girl with Rabbits" Fredrick Church (1886)
                           

There has been speculation that Bede's accounts are not as accurate as many would claim due to the fact that the rituals and association with this Norse Goddess were stopped more than a century before Bede began his accounts and as of yet, there has been no archeological evidence to indicate that Eostre was a Goddess that was honored. Some will honor Freyja instead due to her role as a Goddess of fertility.

However, despite the uncertainty of whether Eostre was a name of a Goddess or just a word used in association with Spring, it stuck and it's English version, Ostara, is used to symbolize the holiday. Some modern-day pagans choose to worship her regardless, finding that Bede's take on the Germanic religions makes for a reasonable enough account to qualify Eostre as a Goddess of Spring.

Ostara Rituals


The first things first when you start celebrating any holiday is to figure out what sort of rituals you can perform to celebrate.

You can start by decorating that altar! That's right if you choose to keep an altar, now is the time to set out some eggs, rabbit decorations and spring flowers to celebrate. If you choose to set out colored candles, there are a few to choose from. You can keep it simple with just white candles, but I chose light green and dark green, both to symbolize the growth and fertility of the land as well as the new wealth I hoped to obtain this year! ( Mind you, wealth isn't always about money. While it'd be nice to have, I'd be just as happy with some spiritual wealth.)

The Rabbit or Hare has been a staple symbol in Ostara and rituals associated with it. While there's not a lot of definitive sources that would claim the rabbit's role in this equinox, a simple explanation is that I've been happy to accept is that rabbits are plentiful when Spring is near, and since spring is all about fertility, the Rabbit makes for a good figurehead. Simple as that. 

Egg decorating is also a great choice for some fun rituals to do, either from hard boiled eggs or blown egg shells. Egg decorating was done for thousands of years, more commonly known from the Iranians during their spring celebrations and can liven up the altar and your home. Eggs are also a symbol of fertility and the return of the sun so it's a great idea to have a few decorated and added to some home- prepped meals.

Another great ritual to perform is planting indoor seeds. It's a great way to get back in touch with nature, to remind yourself that spiritual growth and goals are like the seedlings. They may start small but they can turn into something wonderful with love and constant care. If the weather is warm enough, nature hikes are another great way to get back in touch with Gaia. 
Eggs we decorated for Ostara
In the end, however you decide to celebrate Ostara do so with the mindset that you're shedding away the blanket of winter and growing again as the new year finally begins to show signs of life. Where ever your endeavors take you this year, remember to learn and constantly grow from them. Until next time, Bright Blessings and Happy Ostara.

Don't forget to check out other holidays that I've touched on here