The Sabbats

Setting Up Your Ostara Altar

Setting Up Your Ostara Altar

By , About.com Guide

 

It’s Ostara, and it’s a time of year in which many Wiccans and Pagans choose celebrate the balance of light and dark that heralds the beginning of spring. It’s a time to celebrate new life and rebirth — not only the physical embodiment of renewal, but the spiritual as well. Try some — or all — of these ideas to ready your altar for Ostara.

Colors

To get an idea of what colors are appropriate for spring, all you really have to do is look outside. Notice the yellows of the forsythia blooming behind your house, the pale purples of lilacs, the green of new leaves appearing in the melting snow. Pastels are often considered spring colors as well, so feel free to add some pinks and blues into the mix if the idea strikes you. Decorate your altar in any of these colors — try a pale green altar cloth with some purples and blues draped across it, and add some yellow or pink candles to carry the color up.

The Balance of the Equinox

Altar decor should reflect the theme of the Sabbat. Ostara is a time of balance between light and dark, so symbols of this polarity can be used. Use a god and goddess statue, a white candle and a black one, a sun and moon, even a yin/yang symbol.

New Life

Ostara is also a time of new growth and life — add potted plants such as new crocuses, daffodils, lilies, and other magical spring flowers. This is the time of year when animals are bringing forth new life too — put a basket of eggs on your altar, or figures of new lambs, rabbits, calves, etc. Add a chalice of milk or honey — milk represents the lactating animals who have just given birth, and honey is long known as a symbol of abundance.

Other Symbols of the Season

  •   Seeds and bulbs
  •   Caterpillars, ladybugs, bumblebees
  •   Symbols of nature deities — Herne, Flora, Gaia, Attis, etc.
  • Gemstones and crystals such as aquamarine, rose quartz, and moonstone
  •   Ritual fires in a cauldron or brazier
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Deities of the Spring Equinox

Deities of the Spring Equinox

By , About.com Guide

 

Spring is a time of great celebration in many cultures. It’s the time of year when the planting begins, people begin to once more enjoy the fresh air, and we can reconnect with the earth again after the long, cold winter. A number of different gods and goddesses from different pantheons are connected with the themes of Spring and Ostara.

  • Asasa Ya (Ashanti): This earth mother goddess prepares to bring forth new life in the spring, and the Ashanti people honor her at the festival of Durbar, alongside Nyame, the sky god who brings rain to the fields.
  • Cybele (Roman): This mother goddess of Rome was at the center of a rather bloody Phrygian cult, in which eunuch priests performed mysterious rites in her honor. Her lover was Attis (he was also her grandson, but that’s another story), and her jealousy caused him to castrate and kill himself. His blood was the source of the first violets, and divine intervention allowed Attis to be resurrected by Cybele, with some help from Zeus. In some areas, there is still an annual three-day celebration of Attis’ rebirth and Cybele’s power.
  • Eostre (western Germanic): Little is known about the worship of this Teutonic spring goddess, but she is mentioned by the Venerable Bede, who said that Eostre’s following had died out by the time he compiled his writings in the eighth century. Jacob Grimm referred to her by the High German equivalent, Ostara, in his 1835 manuscript, Deutsche Mythologie. Eostre’s name is the root of our present day spring celebration of Ostara.
  • Flora (Roman): This goddess of spring and flowers had her own festival, Floralia, which was celebrated every year between April 28 to May 3. Romans dressed in bright robes and floral wreaths, and attended theater performances and outdoor shows. Offerings of milk and honey were made to the goddess.
  • Freya (Norse): This fertility goddess abandons the earth during the cold months, but returns in the spring to restore nature’s beauty. She wears a magnificent necklace called Brisingamen, which represents the fire of the sun.
  • Osiris (Egyptian): This lover of Isis dies and is reborn in a resurrection story. The resurrection theme is popular among spring deities, and is also found in the stories of Adonis, Mithras and Attis as well.
  • Saraswati (Hindu): This Hindu goddess of the arts, wisdom and learning has her own festival each spring in India, called Saraswati Puja. She is honored with prayers and music, and is usually depicted holding lotus blossoms and the sacred Vedas.
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History of Ostara – The Spring Equinox

History of Ostara – The Spring Equinox

By , About.com Guide

 

Many Holidays, Many Names:

The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox on March 21. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. Of course, it’s also the same time as the Christian Easter celebration, and in the Jewish faith, Passover takes place as well. For early Pagans in the Germanic countries, this was a time to celebrate planting and the new crop season. Typically, the Celtic peoples did not celebrate Ostara as a holiday, although they were in tune with the changing of the seasons.

A New Day Begins:

A dynasty of Persian kings known as the Achaemenians celebrated the spring equinox with the festival of No Ruz — which means “new day.” It is a celebration of hope and renewal still observed today in many Persian countries, and has its roots in Zoroastrianism. In Iran, a festival called Chahar-Shanbeh Suri takes place right before No Ruz begins, and people purify their homes and leap over fires to welcome the 13-day celebration of No Ruz.

Mad as a March Hare:

Spring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature’s fertility goes a little crazy. In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

The Legends of Mithras:

The story of the Roman god, Mithras, is similar to the tale of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Born at the winter solstice and resurrected in the spring, Mithras helped his followers ascend to the realm of light after death. In one legend, Mithras, who was popular amongst members of the Roman military, was ordered by the Sun to sacrifice a white bull. He reluctantly obeyed, but at the moment when his knife entered the creature’s body, a miracle took place. The bull turned into the moon, and Mithras’ cloak became the night sky. Where the bull’s blood fell flowers grew, and stalks of grain sprouted from its tail.

Spring Celebrations Around the World:

In ancient Rome, the followers of Cybele believed that their goddess had a consort who was born via a virgin birth. His name was Attis, and he died and was resurrected each year during the time of the vernal equinox on the Julian Calendar (between March 22 and March 25). Around the same time, the Germanic tribes honored a lunar goddess known as Ostara, who mated with a fertility god around this time of year, and then gave birth nine months later – at Yule.

The indigenous Mayan people in Central American have celebrated a spring equinox festival for ten centuries. As the sun sets on the day of the equinox on the great ceremonial pyramid, El Castillo, Mexico, its “western face…is bathed in the late afternoon sunlight. The lengthening shadows appear to run from the top of the pyramid’s northern staircase to the bottom, giving the illusion of a diamond-backed snake in descent.” This has been called “The Return of the Sun Serpent” since ancient times.

According to the Venerable Bede, Eostre was the Saxon version of the Germanic goddess Ostara.  Her feast day was held on the full moon following the vernal equinox — almost the identical calculation as for the Christian Easter in the west. There is very little documented evidence to prove this, but one popular legend is that Eostre found a bird, wounded, on the ground late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. But “the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs…the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre.”

Modern Celebrations

This is a good time of year to start your seedlings. If you grow an herb garden, start getting the soil ready for late spring plantings. Celebrate the balance of light and dark as the sun begins to tip the scales, and the return of new growth is near.

Many modern Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Ostara as a time of renewal and rebirth. Take some time to celebrate the new life that surrounds you in nature — walk in park, lay in the grass, hike through a forest. As you do so, observe all the new things beginning around you — plants, flowers, insects, birds. Meditate upon the ever-moving Wheel of the Year, and celebrate the change of seasons.

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Witch Works: Spells and Rituals for Every Season

Witch Works:  Spells and Rituals for Every Season
A Column by Kelly
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Candlemas Edition
Candlemas, or Imbolc, is the Feast of Flames. Usually celebrated on February 2, Candlemas was a celebration of the coming spring with all of its promise and bounty.  Even though the winters were long and the food supply was dwindling by this point of the year, the ancient Celtic people who first celebrated Candlemas still found reason to do just that: celebrate!  Traditionally, Candlemas involved an extinguishing of the all of the lamps, candles and the central home hearth, followed by a relighting celebration which became the Feast of Flames. Below are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate Candlemas. Try them out for yourself or combine them with your existing Candlemas traditions!
Candlemas Altar Decoration
Candlemas is most closely associated with the Celtic Goddess Brigit. If you are not already familiar with Brigit, Candlemas is the perfect time of year to introduce yourself!  Try incorporating Brigit and her sacred symbols into the magick you perform this Candlemas.  Brigit had several animals that were considered sacred to her: the boar, the cow, the fish, the sheep, the snake or serpent, the wolf, the bear and the badger.  If you plan to decorate your altar for Candlemas, try utilizing her sacred animals as well as the colors of Candlemas (red and white) into your decoration theme!
Candlemas Magick
Being that Candlemas is the Feast of Flames, any magick that calls for fire will be especially sacred at this time of year.  If you are not already familiar with pyromancy, divination by fire, there are several formats you can try.
First, there is flame scrying.  Take a white candle and place it in front of a black scrying mirror. Focus on the candle’s flame in the mirror and wait for the images to reveal themselves.  This is a highly effective form of pyromancy. Second, if you plan an outdoor celebration that will include an open pit fire, try sitting beside the fire and meditating on the flames as they dance.  Relax and wait for the dancing flames to reveal their message to you.
Libanomancy, or divination from smoke, is another excellent form of magick to engage in during Candlemas.  You can either use the smoke from stick incense that you have burning or you can burn some herbs on a charcoal brick. Try to divine the images the smoke produces.
A lesser known form of divination is called ceromancy, which is melting max in a traditional manner and pouring the melted wax into a large bowl of water and then looking for symbols and images that the wax produces.
Candlemas Ritual
There are several rituals that go hand in hand with the spirit of Candlemas. The first is a self-blessing ceremony. With the beginning of a new year, some people like to clear themselves and get s fresh start, so to speak. A self-blessing ritual is a perfect extension of that ideology.    A self-blessing ritual you can follow is below, or write your own if you are inspired!
Step 1 – Take a ritual bath and dress yourself in white clothing or go skyclad.
Step 2 – Cleanse the area you are going to work in
Step 3 – Ground and Center
Step 4 – Cast a circle
Step 5 – Call the elements or deities you like to work with. Don’t forget that Brigit would be an excellent choice for this!
Step 6 – With anointing oil or holy water, dip your fingers into the substance and anoint your feet, groin area (not internally!), stomach, heart, throat or lips depending on the substance, eyes and forehead or third eye, repeating a blessing on each part that you anoint. The blessings need not be complicated. You could say “bless my feet that aid my physical earthly journey, bless my loins that bring pleasure and life” etc.
Step 7 – Meditate on clearing yourself and seeing yourself as blessed.
Step 8 – Thank your deities and elements and release them from the circle.
Step 9 – Break down your circle and then rest.
Repeat this ritual as often as needed.
Candlemas is a wonderful time to perform a house/room cleansing or blessing as well.  Clean the house/room thoroughly before you begin. Then you can simply smudge the locale with a smudging stick or incense, repeating a simple house blessing as you smudge, such as “bless this space in the name of The Goddess. Let it be free from negativity and filled with love.”
Also, if you have a personal sanctuary or room for your spiritual practices, now would be an opportune time to clean it out, physically and spiritually. Or, you maybe find your altar is in need of revamping. Spend a little time cleaning it and maybe reorganizing the layout of the altar.  Cleanse and reconsecrate your altar tools as well.
Candlemas Projects
Given its name, Candlemas is my favorite time of year to make candles!  On Candlemas, I like to replenish my candle stock.  I check and see what colors or shapes I am running low on and spend some time making candles for the upcoming Ostara and daily meditation and ritual use.  Candle-making is really simple and an excellent creative outlet! If you have not tried making your own candles before, stop by your local craft store and pick up a few candle molds and experiment!
Have a blessed Candlemas!
About the Author:  Kelly is a solitary practitioner from the Midwest.  She is currently a student at The White Moon School, studying to become a High Priestess. Kelly has been a practicing witch for 4 years and performs tarot readings and long distance energy work via the Internet.
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Fun & Frolick on Imbolc

imbolcwitch

Bake a cake and hide a bean in one portion. Whoever gets the bean becomes the king or queen of the feast, commanding each person to do something silly —                and these commands must be obeyed

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Fun & Frolick On Imbolc (Activity Ideas for the Entire Family)

imbolcwitch

Place a light in each window of your home to show good fortune the way to the your house

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The Witches Magickal Correspondence for Imbolc 2013

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

The  Witches Magickal Correspondence for Imbolc 2013

Colors: White, Pink, Red, Orange, Yellow, Light Green, Brown.

Food: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, muffins, diary products, peppers, onions, raisins, garlic, poppyseed breads and cakes, herbal teas, dairy, spiced wines, potatoes, turnips, bread, rabbit and venison. Use up last of winters supply of food.

Incense: basil, bay, cinnamon, violet, vanilla, rosemary, frankincense,  and wisteria.

Candles: brown, pink and red.

Gemstones: amethyst, garnet, onyx, bloodstone, ruby and turquoise

Deities: All Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, Brighid, Aradia, Athena, Inanna, Gaia, and Februa, and Gods of Love and Fertility, Aengus Og, Eros, and Februus.

Symbols: Brideo’gas, Besoms, White , Candle Wheels, , Priapic Wands (acorn-tipped), lamps, yellow flowers and Ploughs.

Herbs: Angelica, basil, bay, blackberry, celandine, coltsfoot, heather, iris, myrrh, tansy, snowdrop, violets, all white or yellow flowers.

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The Witches Sabbat – Imbolc by Ms. Julie Carol

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