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You Call It Easter, We Call It Ostara
Spring Equinox — Equinozio della Primavera
Rite Of Ostara
Ostara Meditation
Ostara New Beginnings Spell
An Ostra Ritual
An Ostara Ritual
Ostara Incens
Ostara Oil
You Call It Easter, We Call It Ostara Try this sometime with your children or a young niece, nephew or cousin: on the day of the Vernal or Autumnal Equinox, just a few moments before the exact moment of the equinox, go outside with a raw egg. Find a reasonably level place on the sidewalk or driveway. For a few moments just before and just after the equinox, you can balance the egg upright (wider end down) by simply setting it down on the ground. No kidding! It will stand up all by itself. Kids love this, and most adults are amazed and delighted, too. This little "trick" brings together two of the most potent aspects of this holiday: the balancing of the earth's gravity midway between the extremes of light and dark at Winter and Summer Solstice; and the symbolism of the egg. The egg is one of the most notable symbols of Easter, but, as someone who was raised Catholic and who was never told exactly why we colored eggs at Easter, or why there was a bunny who delivered candy to us, or why it was traditional to buy new clothes to wear for church on Easter Sunday, I always wondered about this holiday. As with many of the seemingly unrelated secular symbols and traditions of Christmas (what do evergreen trees, mistletoe, reindeer and lights have to do with the birth of Christ? You might wanna read "You Call It Christmas, We Call It Yule" for an exploration of these connections), Easter too has adapted many ancient pagan symbols and customs in its observance. Easter gets its name from the Teutonic goddess of spring and the dawn, whose name is spelled Oestre or Eastre (the origin of the word "east" comes from various Germanic, Austro-Hungarian words for dawn that share the root for the word "aurora" which means " to shine"). Modern pagans have generally accepted the spelling "Ostara" which honors this goddess as our word for the Vernal Equinox. The 1974 edition of Webster's New World Dictionary defines Easter thus: "orig., name of pagan vernal festival almost coincident in date with paschal festival of the church; Eastre, dawn goddess; 1. An annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, held on the first Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21." The Vernal Equinox usually falls somewhere between March 19th and 22nd (note that the dictionary only mentions March 21st, as opposed to the date of the actual Equinox), and depending upon when the first full moon on or after the Equinox occurs, Easter falls sometime between late-March and mid-April. Because the Equinox and Easter are so close, many Catholics and others who celebrate Easter often see this holiday (which observes Christ's resurrection from the dead after his death on Good Friday) as being synonymous with rebirth and rejuvenation: the symbolic resurrection of Christ is echoed in the awakening of the plant and animal life around us. But if we look more closely at some of these Easter customs, we will see that the origins are surprisingly, well, pagan! Eggs, bunnies, candy, Easter baskets, new clothes, all these "traditions" have their origin in practices which may have little or nothing to do with the Christian holiday. For example, the traditional coloring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce. In England and Northern Europe, eggs were often employed in folk magic when women wanted to be blessed with children. There is a great scene in the film The Wicker Man where a woman sits upon a tombstone in the cemetery, holding a child against her bared breasts with one hand, and holding up an egg in the other, rocking back and forth as she stares at the scandalized (and very uptight!) Sargent Howie. Many cultures have a strong tradition of egg coloring; among Greeks, eggs are traditionally dyed dark red and given as gifts. As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our "ancient history, " there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the "Old Religion" were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone's gardens and beneath fences and other spots. It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone's property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know! When I first heard it, I was eerily reminded of the way my own family conducted such egg hunts: our parents hid money inside colorful plastic eggs that could be opened and closed up again; some eggs contained pennies, some quarters and dimes and nickels, and some lucky kids would find a fifty-cent piece or silver dollar! In our mad scramble for pocket change, were my siblings and cousins and I mimicking the treacherous activities of children so long ago? Traditional foods play a part in this holiday, as with so many others. Ham is the traditional main course served in many families on Easter Sunday, and the reason for this probably has to do with the agricultural way of life in old Europe. In late fall, usually in October, also known as the month of the Blood Moon, because it referred to the last time animals were slaughtered before winter, meats were salted and cured so they would last through the winter. Poorer people, who subsisted on farming and hunting, would often eat very sparingly in winter to assure their food supply would last. With the arrival of spring, there was less worry, and to celebrate the arrival of spring and of renewed abundance, they would serve the tastiest remaining cured meats, including hams. This also marked a seasonal end to eating cured foods and a return to eating fresh game (as animals emerged from hibernation looking for food), and no longer relying on stored root vegetables, but eating the young green plants so full of the vitamins and minerals that all living beings need to replenish their bodies in spring. Modern pagans can observe these same customs by eating the fresh greens and early vegetables abundant now: dandelion greens, nettles, asparagus, and the like. There are some Witches who believe that fasting at the Equinox is very healthy and magical: it clears away all the toxins stored over winter, when we eat heavier foods to keep warm, and can create an altered state of consciousness for doing Equinox magic. By eliminating all the "poisons" from our diets for a few days (including sugar, caffeine, alcohol, red meats, dairy products, refined foods), and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, we not only can shed a few pounds and improve the appearance of our hair and skin, but also improve our health over the long term. The overall benefit to health from an occasional cleansing fast helps strengthen our immune system, making our bodies more resistant to illness, and help us feel more alert and energetic. Try it! Be sure to "break" your fast slowly, reintroducing your normal foods one at a time, instead of going from several days of fruits, grains and herbal tea to a feast of steak, potatoes and chocolate cake! The breaking of the fast can be incorporated into the cakes and wine portion of your ritual, or at the feast many Witches have afterwards. Speaking of food, another favorite part of Easter for kids, no doubt, is that basket of treats! Nestled in plastic "grass" colored pink or green, we'd find foil-wrapped candy eggs, hollow chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, marshmallow chicks (in pink, yellow or lavender!), fancy peanut butter or coconut eggs from Russell Stover, and of course our Mom always included one of the beautiful ceramic eggs she painted by hand. Like that other holiday where children are inundated with sugar (Hallowe'en), no one seems to know precisely where, when or how this custom began. And why are the baskets supposedly brought by a bunny??? There are some modern Witches and pagans who follow traditions that integrate the faery lore of the Celtic countries. It is customary to leave food and drink out for the fairies on the nights of our festivals, and it is believed that if the fairies are not honored with gifts at these times, they will work mischief in our lives. Certain holidays call for particular "fairy favorites." At Imbolc/Oimelc (February 2nd), for example, we leave gifts of dairy origin, like cheese, butter or fresh cream. At Lammas/Lughnasa (August 1st) we leave fresh grains or newly-baked bread. At Samhain, nuts and apples are traditional. And at Ostara, it is customary to leave something sweet (honey, or mead, or candy)--could this be connected to the Easter basket tradition? Perhaps a gift of sweets corresponds to the sweet nectar gathering in new spring flowers? To refer again to The Wicker Man, the post office/candy shop where May Morrison works (she is the mother of Rowan Morrison, the young girl who is supposedly missing and who Sargent Howie has come to Summerisle to find) offers a large selection of candies shaped like animals. When Sargent Howie says "I like your rabbits" Mrs. Morrison scolds him saying "Those are hares! Lovely March hares, not silly old rabbits!" And when Howie goes to dig up the grave of Rowan Morrison (who it turns out is neither dead nor missing) he finds the carcass of a hare, and Lord Summerisle tries to convince him that Rowan was transformed into a hare upon her death. Clearly this is an illustration of the powerful association with animals that many ancient cultures have (Summerisle being a place where time has seemingly stood still and where the pagan pursuit of pleasure and simple agricultural ways define the way of life). The forming of candy into the shape of rabbits or chicks is a way to acknowledge them as symbols; by eating them, we take on their characteristics, and enhance our own fertility, growth and vitality. For clearly the association of rabbits with Easter has something to do with fertility magic. Anyone who has kept rabbits as pets or knows anything about their biology has no question about the origin of the phrase "f*** like a bunny." These cute furry creatures reproduce rapidly, and often! Same with chicks, who emerge wobbly and slimy from their eggs only to become fluffy, yellow and cute within a few hours. The Easter Bunny may well have its origin in the honoring of rabbits in spring as an animal sacred to the goddess Eastre, much as horses are sacred to the Celtic Epona, and the crow is sacred to the Morrigan. As a goddess of spring, she presides over the realm of the conception and birth of babies, both animal and human, and of the pollination, flowering and ripening of fruits in the plant kingdom. Sexual activity is the root of all of life: to honor this activity is to honor our most direct connection to nature. At Beltane (April 31st-May 1st), pagans and Witches honor the sexual union of the god and goddess amid the flowers and fruits that have begun to cover the land; but prior to that, at Ostara, we welcome the return of the spring goddess from her long season of dormant sleep. The sap begins to flow, the trees are budding, the ground softens, ice melts, and everywhere the fragrance and color of spring slowly awakens and rejuvenates our own life force. I have always thought this had a lot to do with the tradition of wearing newly-bought or made clothes at Easter, in pastel spring colors. Wearing such colors we echo the flowering plants, crocus, lilac, forsythia, bluebells, violets and new clothes allow us to feel we are renewing our persona. How many of us feel sort of "blah" after winter ends? Along with the fasting practice mentioned earlier, this is a time for many of us to create new beginnings in our lives: this can apply to jobs, relationships, living situations, lifestyle choices. But since the Equinox is such a potent time magically, and often (as it does this year) falls in the period when Mercury is Retrograde, starting a new endeavor at this time can be problematic if we do not take care. One good way to avoid catastrophe is to engage in small, personally-oriented rites or activities: a new haircut, a new clothing style or make-up, a new exercise program, the grand old tradition of spring cleaning, a new course of study: all of these are relatively "safe" ways to begin anew without risking the weirdness and unpredictability of Mercury Retrograde. This is a very powerful time to do magic, not only because of the balancing of the earth's energies, but because of the way our own beings echo the earth's changes. We are literally reborn as we emerge from our winter sleep, ready to partake of all the pleasures of the earth, and to meet the challenges we will face as the world changes around us daily. As we greet and celebrate with our pagans brothers and sisters of the Southern Hemisphere (for whom the Vernal Equinox more closely resembles the beginning of autumn, in physical terms!), we remember that Spring is not only a season; it is a state of mind. Blessed Be in the Season of Spring! Go Forth and Flower! Spring Equinox — Equinozio della Primavera — March 21/22 The Vernal Equinox celebrates the beginning of the Goddess’ ascent from the “Realm of Shadows". Longing for her children and the light of the Sun, She emerges. As She returns, the Earth awakens, and her children rejoice. This is a time of great fertility. It is also the time that the God Lupercus is slain in a hunting accident. Yet he rises the next day as the new Sun God, taking on the persona of Janus. His brother, Cern, takes rule of the Waxing Year on Earth and will, with the regenerative growth of his antlers, become the Horned God of summer. The Easter Bunny also is of Pagan origin, as are baskets of flowers. A traditional Vernal Equinox pastime: go to a field and randomly collect wildflowers (thank the flowers for their sacrifice before picking them). Or, buy some from a florist, taking one or two of those that appeal to you. Then bring them home and divine their Magickal meanings by the use of books, your own intuition, a pendulum or by other means. The flowers you've chosen reveal your inner thoughts and emotions. Cultivating herb gardens is also a fine Ostara project . This is the time to free yourself from anything in the past that is holding you back. Rite Of Ostara Say: Hail to the North Earths bounty we seek New life that rises, your protection to keep Round the circle you new life abounds Protect and keep us till the rite is meet Hail the East the cool breezes blow Soft the perfume of spring time Around us the scent goes Protect us with thy loving embrace Hail to the South life fire is high New life in abundance springtime is nigh Around us the fire of new life flows Protect us with thy warm caress Hail to the West the water of life Sweet flows the winter snows and end to strife Around us babbles the brook so cold Protect us with thy nature so bold Hail the spring time is near Hail and welcome the sunshine clear New Life, New ways are calling loud Stand up like the flowers, lively and proud Welcome My Mother of faith so bold Proudly we call on our Lady of Old Hail and Most Welcome Dear Lady of Life Vibrant and Alive, Brings an End to Winters Strife The Plants are Awakened, The Trees are in Bloom Flowers Adorn every Inch of the Room All the Creatures are Courting and looking to Bear And the most Prolific Is thy Beloved Hare The simple Egg to remind us of the Treasure you Bring New life for the Living, Renewal .. The World Sings Sweet is thy Bounty Great Mother of Old But the Nectar of life Is drink only for the Bold For Only the Strong Can bring Forth new Life Only the Strong Passed through Winters Strife From the Sleep of Death The Land you Awaken Sweet Lady of Grace With the Suns rise we Greet thee Gentle Maiden .. May you ever Smile on Us when we meet thee Rise up like the new life that greens the hillside Rise up and become one with the life that abides Feel the power of burgeoning bliss Hold fast the force that seals the day with it's kiss Weep not for the ones taken by the frost Only the strong may drink new life to fulfill the loss Life goes on.... the circle turns round Hail and be welcome Life does abound Quietly let the power seep Into the cracks of winter so deep Slowly open to the warmth of life's flow Slowly open your heart to the life forces glow Feel the heartbeat like the Hare in the grass One and the same are thee and Swift ones Hail and be merry that life comes to pass Rise up like the sap in the trees Prepare to take up springtime's pace Hail Ostara we stand in your grace Like the Hare we are swift to run life's race Blessed be Mighty Maiden of Life everlasting We sup at thy table of Earths bounty after winters fasting Open are we like the flowers of springs face Blessed are we to abide in thy grace Hail to the North Earths bounty we keep New life that rises, your protection is meet Round the circle your new life abounds Protected us and kept us We thank thee Hail the East the cool breezes blow Soft the perfume of spring time Around us the scent went Protected us with thy loving embrace We thank thee Hail to the South life fire is high New life in abundance springtime is here Around us the fire of new life did flow Protected us with thy warm caress We thank thee Hail to the West the water of life Sweet flows the winter snows and end to strife Around us babbles the brook so cold Protected us with thy nature so bold We thank thee Ostara Meditation Introduction: Ostara is the Goddess of Spring and the Dawn, whose worship goes back to ancient Pagan Teutonic/Saxon cultures. Contemporary Pagans of many paths honor Her at Spring Equinox time. Also known as Eostre, the Christian festival of Easter was named for Her, and the Easter Bunny, baskets, and colored eggs that are part of Springtime and Easter celebrations in America, Europe, and other parts of the world are rooted in Her lore and symbology. Over the years, I have created and guided Ostara meditations as part of our Welcome Spring Festival at Circle Sanctuary at Spring Equinox time. This form of my Ostara meditation which I present here can be done as part of a group ritual or as a personal meditation. It can be a ritual itself or included as part of a longer ritual. In guiding this meditation for others as part of a group setting, pause between paragraphs and include longer pauses indicated by ...... In guiding this meditation for yourself, you may find recording it on a tape first and then playing it can deepen your experience. Meditation: Find a comfortable, safe, and quiet place to be for this meditation. Close your eyes. Relax and center yourself by taking deep slow breaths. Now journey inward. Imagine that you are in a hilly countryside. It is just before dawn at the beginning of Springtime. The land is nearing the end of its Wintertime slumber. You face the East and watch the Sun as it begins to rise. Rays of light shimmer onto the land and into the sky. Experience the beautiful colors of light that is the Dawn. Now, as the glowing disc of the Sun becomes visible above the hills, you see the Goddess Ostara appear on the land in the distance in the East. She is beginning to move toward you. As She moves, the land awakens with new life. You see Her coming toward you in the form of a Beautiful Maiden. You see Her radiant face and flowing gown. She is carrying a golden basket filled with colored eggs. Beside Her is Her companion, a frisky magical Rabbit. As They come closer to you, you see that with each step that They take, the land around them bursts into new life and grows green. New grasses sprout from the ground. Herbs flourish. Trees grow new leaves. You call out a welcome to Them and to the Spring they bring. As you meet face to face, you see that the Goddess Ostara and the Rabbit are both smiling a welcome to you. Ostara then holds Her golden basket toward you and invites you to chose one of the eggs in it as a gift of Spring. You notice that each egg has a different color. You see the beautiful array of choices. You feel more drawn to one of the eggs than the others and choose it. Now you hold the egg that you have selected in both of your hands. You first focus on its color and reflect on what that color means to you. ..... Then Ostara invites you to ask this Sacred Egg to give you a message about personal growth. You ask this and then are quiet as you pay attention to whatever words, symbols, sensations, impressions, and/or other forms of message emerge. Ostara now invites you to take this Sacred Egg and its power of new growth into yourself. You hold it to your heart and as you do this, you absorb it into your being. You experience the renewal of Springtime. You radiate vitality. Be immersed in this experience. Continuing to experience vitality within you, you prepare to end this meditative journey. You reflect once more on the color and message of the Sacred Egg. You bid Ostara and Her Rabbit companion farewell for now, knowing that they continue to live within your consciousness to guide you in your Springtime growth. When you feel ready, take several deep, slow breaths to aid you in returning to waking consciousness. Then slowly rise, stretch, and orient to the here and now, as you carry with you the memory of your experiences on the journey you have just completed. Take a few moments now and note down your experiences, including guidance your received for personal growth. Now, let the vitality of Spring renewal continue to be with you as you go about your daily life. Ostara New Beginnings Spell Now is a time of new beginnings becoming visible, hope and inspiration dancing into being. Take a white and a black candle, and place them in front of you. Light them, and breathe in the glow that comes from the balance of light and dark. Speak this verse as you bask in the glow. Say: Wakening Earth, Shake off your slumber Feel the sunlight. Kore has returned, Spring has begun. All is possible, Everything awakens. Pulses quicken, Rivers flow, As each and every creature knows. Excitement fills each brook and stream, Creatures living in a dream. Energies bursting from the ground- Magic, Prana, And possibility all around. Now awakening, My powers are strong and true. Surrounded by new life, New visions are coming through. Maiden goddesses dance To each bud's joyous opening. I am replenished, Like the baby chick, I am not finished. Like the flower bud, My powers are opening. I am becoming, My creative power blossoming. The promise of life is fulfilled, Spring has returned, and we are renewed. What I initiate now Grows quickly, And balance is easy. So mote it be. An Ostra Ritual The main points of this sabbath are those of balance and of spring. This ritual is best performed outdoors. You Will Need: a small handful of old leaves and write on each something that you would like to be rid of. a small number of seeds or seedlings (if these seedlings come from the seeds you planted at Imbolg, so much the better), one for each new thing that you wish to attain. Silently ask the elements, the Goddess and the God to be with you, then when you are ready, dig a hole large enough to give space to the seedlings you wish to grow and place the dead leaves into it. Say: Lord and Lady of this time of balance, these are the things I wish to be rid of. As these leaves wither and rot, may I let go of those things that might hold me back. Next place one or two seedlings on top of the leaves. Say: Lord and Lady, these are the things which I wish to attain in the coming season. Let them grow strong and true from the remains of the old. As before, thank the elements, the Goddess and the God. Remember that for ritual to work, you should give more thought to your preparations than the time you actually spend performing the ritual. In this case, that preparation includes carefully choosing the things you wish to leave behind and the things you wish to take on. On a more practical level, it will also include selecting plants appropriate to your area and climate outside, as well as a suitable place to plant them. If you cannot perform your ritual outside, then you can either scale down everything and work with a single plant pot or you can dedicate your leaves and plant indoors and go out to plant them at a later date. An Ostara Ritual The main points of this sabbath are those of balance and of spring. This ritual is best performed outdoors. In advance you will need to collect a small handful of old leaves and write on each something that you would like to be rid of. Also take a small number of seeds or seedlings (if these seedlings come from the seeds you planted at Imbolg, so much the better), one for each new thing that you wish to attain. Silently ask the elements, the Goddess and the God to be with you, then when you are ready, dig a hole large enough to give space to the seedlings you wish to grow and place the dead leaves into it. Say, ‘Lord and Lady of this time of balance, these are the things I wish to be rid of. As these leaves wither and rot, may I let go of those things that might hold me back’. Next place one or two seedlings on top of the leaves. Say, ‘Lord and Lady, these are the things which I wish to attain in the coming season. Let them grow strong and true from the remains of the old’. As before, thank the elements, the Goddess and the God. Remember that for ritual to work, you should give more thought to your preparations than the time you actually spend performing the ritual. In this case, that preparation includes carefully choosing the things you wish to leave behind and the things you wish to take on. On a more practical level, it will also include selecting plants appropriate to your area and climate outside, as well as a suitable place to plant them. If you cannot perform your ritual outside, then you can either scale down everything and work with a single plant pot or you can dedicate your leaves and plant indoors and go out to plant them at a later date. Ostara Incense You Will Need: 2 parts Frankincense 1 part Benzoin 1 part Dragon’s Blood 1/2 part Nutmeg 1/2 part Violet flowers (or a few drops Violet oil) 1/2 part Orange peel 1/2 part Rose petals Procedure: Burn during Wiccan rituals on Ostara (the Spring Equinox, which varies from March 20th to the 24th each year), or to welcome the spring and refresh your life. Ostara Oil Use this oil to put in soap or anoint candles. You Will Need: 5 drops lavender 5 drops jasmine 5 drops patchouli 5 drops rose 1 small Lapis Lazuli stone 1 clear quartz crystals (use as many as you feel you need) Procedure: Add a lavender bud and small lapis lazuli, rose, and clear quartz crystals. This has the gently smell of spring beginning to blossom. Remember to harm none!!!! Click for the Site Index