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Wiccan Holidays: What is Ostara?
Wiccan Sabbats: Ostara or Eostre
Finally the ice begins to crack and the snow begins to melt away. Finally, the days begin to grow longer and the sun’s warmth breaks through winter’s icy grip. Though there is still a chill in the air, we can breathe easy again. The barren branches that looked nigh dead sport signs of new life. The birds and the burrowing animals emerge from their slumber, stretching and rising and it’s time to start ploughing the ground for the annual planting season.
Happy Ostara, and welcome to spring!
Ostara is one of the eight sabbats (Wiccan holidays) on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. It’s one of the four minor sabbats which fall on the equinoxes and solstices. It is the zenith of springtime and we’re well on our way to summer. That means a lot of work and preparation, as well as a lot of relief. The day hangs in perfect balance with equal amounts of light and dark, but this is the when the light half of the year overtakes the dark half, bringing with it all the hope and promise that spring signifies.
Take a moment with me to explore this beautiful sabbat in all its splendor.
Wiccan Sabbats: Ostara or Eostre
Various Names and Spellings for Ostara
Ostara; Ostare; Ostar
Eostre; Eostara; Eostar
Spring Equinox; Vernal Equinox
What Is Ostara: History
Ostara is an ancient festival of Germanic origin celebrating the Goddess of the dawn. This name came from the Goddess of spring and the dawn, Eostre (which has had multiple spellings through the ages, including Ostara and Austrō). The Germanic people named their month (equivalent to our April) Ēosturmōnaþ after the Goddess.
We don’t know much about the celebrations. The first writings we have on Ostara come from the Venerable Bede, who wrote of an ancient festival that has practically died out, though some of the traditions had been incorporated into the Anglo Saxon Christian customs.
As far as we know, the Celts did not observe it. It was mainly Germanic, and it was in honor of the Goddess and the dawning of the new year and a fertility festival. The March hare, an animal that hibernated for most of the year, would emerge and begin reproducing, so the time of year became closely associated with rabbits. Seeds and eggs, major fertility symbols, were also popular symbols representing the season. This is why many cultures color eggs in the springtime.
The biggest influence Ostara traditions have had that we still can see in modern times is the Christian holiday Easter. The name Easter is a derivative of Ostara (Eostre—just change the ‘o’ to an ‘a’ and invert the ‘er’ at the end). And of course, we’re all familiar with the Easter Bunny and Easter egg activities.
Ostara Egg Coloring
Fast Facts About Ostara
Most common date of celebration for Ostara (Eostre): Spring Equinox, which falls on March 20th this year (2014). In the Southern Hemisphere, Pagans celebrate Ostara on September 23rd (2014).
Variations: Wiccan sabbats are more in celebration of a season and what it represents, rather than a specific date. While some may feel compelled to celebrate on or around the equinox, others may move their spring celebrations to a time that corresponds to when they plant their actual garden. And always remember there is nothing wrong with moving Wiccan holiday festivities and Ostara rituals to your nearest day off, or whatever date would be convenient.
Deities: Ostara Goddesses are generally associated with springtime, such as Ostara, Cybele, Freya and Flora. Maiden Goddesses are usually prominent on spring altars. Demeter and Persephone are often honored at spring and fall rites to correspond with the agricultural cycle. Gods associated with fertility and the wild, such as Pan and Cernunnos are sometimes invoked. This is also a time when many resurrected Gods were celebrated, who often came back in the spring or their strength returned in the spring: Mithras, Osiris, Attis, Dionysus.
Direction Association: East
Time of Day: Dawn
Ostara Colors: colors associated with springtime: grassy greens, pastels like pink, mint, lavender, yellow and robin’s egg blue. All these colors brighten up the Ostara ritual, or the Ostara altar.
Ostara Symbols: Eggs, seeds, rabbits and hares, flowers, buds, grass, sunrise.
Ostara Altar Tool: Any associated with the Earth: the pentacle, the bowl of salt.
Ostara Activities: preparation for spring, particularly garden preparation. Starting seeds, indoors or outdoors, tilling the land, planning your garden layout, transplanting early seedlings, etc.; anything to do with animals and animal care; crafts like coloring eggs, seed crafts like seed mosaics, crafts involving animals (particularly rabbits and chicks), and crafts involving flowers and decorating your home for spring. Getting involved in the arts—writing, painting, sculpting, theater. Activities that get you outdoors again, such as walking, jogging, hiking, playing ball or Frisbee in the park. Love and romance are also big activities when spring is in the air.
Ostara Magic: any works involving balance; romance; renewal/new beginnings; gardening; planting metaphorical seeds/making plans; creativity; fertility; growth; happiness; healing.
Please note that correspondences for Eostre can vary; mine may not match up with every other Wiccan authors. Feel free to follow your own instincts and beliefs as well-- correspondences are not written in stone.
Do You Celebrate Ostara?
Tell us, do you celebrate Ostara?
How to Celebrate Ostara
How to Celebrate Ostara
I’m a firm believer as a Wiccan that sabbats should be observed in some way; How you do it is up to you.
Hold a big Ostara ritual if you wish. Invite Pagan friends over for a potluck or attend an open sabbat somewhere in your town. You can also do a solitary Ostara ritual, just you and the Gods.
Eostre rituals are nice but not always possible. That’s okay—there are no requirements. How about setting up a small Ostara altar somewhere, such as in the garden, on your porch or patio, or under a sunny, east-facing window? It doesn’t have to be elaborate with Wiccan tools—a little censer, some candles, perhaps a vase of wildflowers. Go there in the mornings during the Ostara season just to meditate on the meaning of the season. Pray and make offerings of fresh herbs or seeds to your Ostara Goddess and God.
If you have a garden, even if it’s just growing herbs in pots on a sunny windowsill, think about the meaning of the season and the cycles of nature as you work in it. Be mindful and lose yourself in your gardening.
Make a nice holiday meal for your family! If you like, try my recipe:
If you’re an artsy person, play music or do crafts. Color eggs, or at least hard-boil some eggs and make yourself some egg salad or devilled eggs. Perhaps bake some biscuits with sesame or sunflower seeds in it. Pick some flowers and bring them home to brighten up the dark corners of the house. If you haven’t already, it’s a great time to put out your spring décor—floral bedspreads, curtains and throw pillows. Little touches like this can capture the beauty of spring in the home.
One of my favorite things to do is to go to the park, bring some peach nectar to sip, lie in the grass and read works by the romantic poets or maybe a little Walt Whitman— it’s even better if my husband goes along with me.
Anything that just rings springtime in your soul – any foods, beverages or activities that seem to capture the beauty and awesomeness of spring in your mind is perfect for inclusion in your Ostara celebration.