The Spring Equinox, Also Known as Ostara: Its Meaning and How to Celebrate
The spring equinox is knocking on our dew-stained windows...beckoning us to remember its once mystical and spiritual existence. Unfortunately, the spring equinox has been close to forgotten, except by the Pagans. Many Pagans celebrate the spring equinox, known as Ostara, and/or the full moon following the spring equinox. The word Ostara is said to have originated from a lovely Anglo-Saxon, spring goddess' name—Eostre.
I absolutely adore the word Ostara; I feel like it just bounces around inside of my mind and then rolls off of my tongue and into the world...a world that has forgotten the old beliefs and how sacred and enchanting those beliefs once were. When we take a look at the Pagan holiday Ostara, we find that many of the rituals mirror what the Christian Easter holiday entails. The Resurrection of Christ is actually calculated by figuring out the first full moon following the spring equinox, and Easter will be on the first Sunday following that full moon. If it so happens that the first full moon coincides with a Sunday, then Easter will be on the following Sunday. I guess full moons are just too "heathen-like" to actually have a Christian celebration occur on that same day. Ironically enough, where do you think the word "Easter" originates—think about where the word Ostara originates...from the Goddess named Eostre.
Ostara was first celebrated by the Anglo-Saxons, an ancient Pagan culture in England. These people celebrated Eostre, more specifically the courtship between the spring Goddess and the warrior God. Fertility and life were the two main reasons for the Ostara festivities, as well as fruitfulness (which goes along with fertility in a way, but pertains specifically to the fruits of the land and not of the womb or loins). The earth is returning to its abundant greenness and the sun is returning to the high skies. Flowers are budding, lambs are bleating in the fields, and the whole of nature is singing in worship to the oncoming warmth and the return of mother nature. We have escaped the icy hands of the winter gods and are being held in the loving, comforting hands of the spring's goddesses and gods.
Still Relevant: The Original Symbols of Ostara
The Easter Bunny is an image in American holidays that is held right up on a pedestal with the likes of Santa Clause and The Tooth Fairy. But where does this Easter Bunny come from? Well, just like so many other historical Holiday icons and traditions, the Easter Bunny has been born from a Pagan belief and following. When you think of bunnies, what do you think? Cute, fluffy, hippety-hoppety...yes, all of the above. But what are bunnies also known for? That's right, folks...mating...A LOT. So it should come as no surprise that the Rabbit (or Hare) is one of Ostara's original symbols of fertility, and it has survived the Christians' conversion plan as being one of the icons still held in tradition today.
Well, how about eggs you ask? There is a quick and simple answer to that question, as well. Eggs are another symbol for fertility...for obvious reasons. Pagans claim that Easter eggs are also a symbol of the rebirth of earth; however, Christians claim the Easter eggs for themselves. They say that the Easter eggs represent Christ's Resurrection...as an egg inevitably means new life or birth into a new life. Besides the ancient Pagans and their fertility symbolism, the "dying of eggs" tradition may have its roots in the ancient Zorastrians' ritual of painting eggs on the spring equinox. Painting and decorating eggs has been a common activity at various times of the year for many countries, including Ukraine, Poland, Russia, and Bulgaria. It is interesting to see how decorating of an egg has become a part of a multitude of cultures all across the world. Whether on Easter or otherwise, the painted egg is a prominent object of symbolism and life.
Another image that is widely associated with Ostara and Easter...the flower. Flowers are exactly like the egg's representation...new life. When you happen to see a field of wildflowers, or you pass by a neighbor's rose garden in the spring, how do you feel? It makes you instantly filled with joy and somewhat sentimental, right? Flowers have that effect on people and have since the very first human met his/her first flower. Flowers are bright and they prove to us that even though there is a time for death, there will always be a time for rebirth. This spring Equinox/Ostara, why not pick some wildflowers or flowers (whatever you can find) and place them in a vase on your table? It will remind you of the beauty of spring and of the true meaning of Ostara (and Easter, for that matter)...new life.
An Ostara Ritual
Whether you are Christian, Pagan, Agnostic, or Buddhist...everyone must celebrate the coming of spring in their own special way. You might like to create your own rituals and traditions, which I have done below. Use it if you would like, but you must remember to charge it with your own personality and make it your own.
An Original Ostara Meditative Ritual:
On the day of the spring equinox, stand outside in your backyard or wherever is most private. Breathe in the air and remind yourself why spring is so special and magical. Let old memories of the springtime and Ostara or Easter rise within your mind. Holding the joyful memories of spring in your mind:
Turn and face the direction of the sun. Thank the sun for its grand return to the sky and ask for its blessings upon the land. Thank Mother Nature for her return to the earth, as well. If you have shoes on, remove them and allow the earth's energy to rise up into your feet and gradually up your legs and then through the rest of your body.
Choose the nearest tree and slowly walk over to it, still feeling the earth's energy undulating in waves throughout your body. Hold your hand out to the tree, fingers up and place your palm against the tree, as if saying hello. Let the tree's energy flow into your fingers and palm and then into your arm, slowly meeting and mixing with the energy still rising from your feet. Place your other palm against the tree, also as if greeting the tree's spirit. Let the tree's energy totally fill the top portion of your body, including your mind and heart. At this point, you will feel the earth and tree's energy meeting and combining. If you cannot feel something mundanely, feel it with your mind and spirit. Visualize the energies compiling and filling your body. This is the spirit of Spring and the soul of nature.
To end your spring welcoming ritual, be sure that both of your feet are flat upon the ground and both palms are flat against the same tree. Imagine some of your energy and spirit flowing out from your heart chakra and into the tree. Think of your solar plexus as sending waves of your aura's energy down through your legs, through your feet and delving into the earth. This is to give some of yourself to the earth, as you have taken some of its energy in this rite.
Once more, face the sun (don't stare directly at it), and thank the sun for its warmth and thank the earth for its upcoming gifts to us this spring.
After you have performed this spring ceremony, remember the exchange of energies for the rest of the day. Remember why we love spring and be grateful for all of the fruitfulness of the earth. If we take, we must give something in return.
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© 2011 Nicole Canfield