Posts Tagged With: Spring Equinox

Being An Upside Down Witch – for those Living in the Southern Hemisphere

Goddess Pages
British spiritual magazine

Living in Australia – or anywhere in the southern hemisphere for that matter – can be a little confusing for a witch. All the books about magic print elemental correspondences that are back to front (the fire of the sun is certainly not in the south down here!), and list dates for the sabbats that bear no relation to the actual cycle of our seasons. I’ve met a surprising number of people from the US and UK who didn’t realise that our seasons are six months behind (or ahead, depending on how you look at it) the northern ones. Our Midsummer falls around December 20-23, when the north is blanketed in snow, while our winter solstice falls around June 20-23, the height of summer up there.
Perhaps long ago we may have followed the oft-printed dates and celebrated these rituals along with our northern friends, linking up psychically in December to celebrate Yule and welcome the birth of the sun god, even as here he was about to start fading as summer reached its peak, or doing autumn rituals of harvest and release while our land was quickening with the new growth of spring.
But I don’t know of a single southern witch who follows the northern model. At coven rituals, open celebrations and alone at home, groups and solitary practitioners follow our own seasonal cycle, because paganism and goddess worship are intimately attuned to the heartbeat of the planet and the seasons, and these festivals are prescribed by the movement of the earth in relation to the sun, not a fixed date on a modern calendar. The land, as the embodiment of the goddess, speaks to all of us, and the goddess path is about learning to hear this language of nature, to sense the movement and emotional shifts as the earth moves through its cycles, and feel the rhythm of its turning. And so a spring fertility festival will be marked in spring, when the planet is alive with new life and energy, regardless of what is happening on that day in the other hemisphere.
There has been mention in these pages that it is wrong to import “northern” festivals to the southern lands. But celebrating the beauty and bounty of nature and the dance of the seasons is not anyone’s exclusive right. Maybe people in the Celtic lands can feel historically possessive of the names themselves (Lughnasadh, Beltane), but they have no ownership of the winter solstice or the first day of spring, and this is what these festivals are.
The Wheel of the Year reflects the constant universal cycle of life, death and rebirth. Mythologically it is tied to the story of the god and goddess as she shifts from young lover to mother to crone, and he is born, grows in power, sacrifices himself then is reborn, but literally it refers to the changing seasons – the fertility and vibrant life force of summer, the balance and harvest of autumn, the introspection and endings (death) of winter, and the rebirth of spring. Being in the southern hemisphere doesn’t necessarily change this seasonal pattern, it merely shifts the dates. There are parts of Australia such as the Red Centre – and parts of the northern hemisphere too – where the seasons don’t play out in a standard, balanced rhythm through summer, autumn, winter and spring. Some places experience just two main seasons, wet and dry, yet even there the people living in harmony with the land are able to feel the earth as it surges with new life, grows, becomes ready for harvest then withdraws its energy within the earth again, and celebrate their own personal Wheel that reflects their reality.
But in much of the coastal region of the country, where around eighty per cent of the population is based, the seasons do follow a regular pattern, and many witches celebrate the traditional Wheel of the Year, moved forward six months to reflect their personal experience. Of course it can seem a little strange and out of whack sometimes, because the Christians hijacked so many of the magical sabbats and they have become such a part of western life. So how and when do we celebrate the turning points of the witches’ year Down Under, and how do we deal with the inconsistencies of modern festivities?

The Summer Solstice
As the western world gears up for Christmas and northern witches mark Yule, in the southern hemisphere we are celebrating the summer solstice. In 2008 this fell on December 21, and in 2009 it will fall on December 22. This is Midsummer Day, when the sun reaches its southernmost latitude before it turns and heads back towards the north. In some ways it would be easier to celebrate Yule during this festive season, as our northern hemisphere counterparts do, when everyone is feasting, exchanging gifts and acknowledging the birth of the son of God – or the sun god. But Down Under this is the longest, not shortest, day of the year. The sun is strong (some would say merciless), and the energy is fast and active. It’s a time of abundance, achievement and culmination. Despite the snow-covered decorations, men sweating in Santa suits and hot roast dinners – a legacy of our ancestors – on this day we absorb the solar energy, feast on luscious summer fruits, give thanks for the goals we’ve reached and revel in the strength and heat of the long day of sunshine and the power of the sun god.
Sometimes I go to the beach at dawn and watch the sun rise over the ocean, or climb the hill in the park near my house at sunset, farewelling it as it begins its journey back to northern parts, and its energy starts to wane from this day forward as it begins its descent into the dark half of the year. Sometimes I do a formal ritual with a group, or have a feast of celebration with my magical friends, wrapping pots of sunshiney flowers and summer herbs in gold and red velvet as gifts, and breathe in the scent of orange blossoms, lavender and rosemary. I celebrate Christmas with my family too, but I see no conflict here, as the modern version has little to do with the real Yule in intent or meaning, and I’m quite happy to honour the power of the summer solstice and then a few days later enjoy the spirit of giving of the festive season.

Lughnasadh
In the first week of February we celebrate Lughnasadh, the cross-quarter day that marks the end of summer and the first day of autumn, although where I live it will still be hot and fiery for some time to come. In the north it’s Imbolc, linked to fertility, love and Valentine’s Day, but down here it’s the opposite. The earth is still throbbing with life and energy, but it’s mature, fully ripened and almost over-abundant. This is the first harvest festival, and fruit picking becomes a popular form of employment for many travellers, with farms all over the country taking on seasonal workers. The grape harvest begins, to make the wine that is now internationally renowned, and an abundance of other delicious fruits and vegetables, as well as golden wheat and other cereal crops, are also picked at this time.
As well as a time of feasting and of thanksgiving for the life-giving properties of our crops, and recognition of the cycle of sowing and reaping, Lughnasadh is also about the symbolic things we grow and create in our life. It’s a day of harvesting the fruits of our labours and acknowledging our successes and what we’ve achieved in the past year. A month after New Year’s resolutions are made, it seems a good time to take stock. On this day I perform a ritual to celebrate and acknowledge the goals I’ve reached, making a list of all the things I’ve gained – the gifts I’ve been given, the new talents I’ve developed, the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, the healings I’ve received, the opportunities I’ve pursued – and giving thanks for it all. We may no longer be so connected to the creation and production of our food, as in days gone by, or believe that our prayers or sacrifices influence the success of the crops, but being grateful for what we have and giving thanks is still a beautiful way to live. I also try to pass on some of my good fortune so the energy of abundance continues and is strengthened, by giving time or money to a charity of some kind.

Autumn Equinox
Late March is another strange time for Down Under witches, because the stores are filled with chocolate bunnies and eggs in preparation for Easter, the Christian holiday based on the spring festival of Ostara, which northern hemisphere witches are marking now. While most of the world – both pagan and non-magical – celebrates rebirth, resurrection and new life with the fertility goddess Ostara’s symbols of eggs and hares, in Australia it’s the middle of autumn, a time of crisp, chilly mornings, pale blue skies and a world aflame with colour as the trees turn a hundred shades of red-orange-yellow-brown. Daylight savings ends, and from the autumn equinox onwards, which this year falls on March 20, the days start getting shorter and the weather cooler, but this day of equal light and dark is the moment of balance in nature and within – a time of harmony, joy and gentle calm. While I certainly eat my share of chocolate eggs at this time, acknowledging on some level the energy of Ostara, I also prepare a harvest feast of richly coloured fruits and root vegetables, golden grains and heavy warm breads, and start drying my herbs. I feel immense joy as I skip through the crackling autumn leaves and chart the turning of the seasons by the patterns of leaves on the trees. I give thanks for my metaphorical harvest, honouring my achievements, experiences and wisdom in a way that feels right to me, be it with a big celebration or a personal ritual of gratitude. It’s a time of balance – my world is poised between summer and winter, and day and night are in harmony, which is reflected in the earth’s energy and within me.

Samhain
In the first week of May we celebrate the cross-quarter day that marks the end of autumn and the beginning of the coldness and dark of winter. In the north it’s all hot, fertile love energy, with abundant blossoms, the hatching of birds, bees pollinating flowers and lovers leaping the Beltane fires. But in the southern hemisphere at this time it’s the opposite. It’s the start of winter, a season of introspection and darkness both metaphorically and literally. Traditionally this was the time to store food for the cold barren months ahead; symbolically it’s about rest and renewal, of preparing for what’s ahead and withdrawing a little to conserve your energy. While the grass becomes green and lush at this time with the onset of rain, many of the trees are stripped bare, and bitterly cold winds add to the starkness of the season. This is the time we start readying ourselves for the rebirth we’ll experience at Yule, a time of inner reflection and contemplation, of studying the Mysteries (of our tradition or our life), and scrying for answers and illumination. It’s also the night when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, and we honour our ancestors and commune with the dead. Of course southern witches do find it hard to explain to people that we are celebrating “Halloween” at this time, but if you pay attention to the earth, to nature, to the seasons, it’s very clear that this is our Samhain.

The Winter Solstice
In late June we celebrate the winter solstice; this year it will fall on the 21st. This is our midwinter – the longest night and shortest day of the year, when the sun is as far north as it will get, making it midsummer in the northern hemisphere. Snow falls in some parts of Australia, and in others it’s cold and rainy. Even in the Red Centre, where winter is their dry season, nature is introspective at this time – the seeds are all closed up, waiting for the heat and rainfall of summer to explode into life. Winter, and this midpoint in particular, is a time to rest and reflect, to acknowledge sadness and loss – of dreams, of friendships, of parts of your self – and conserve your energy and life force.
Yet it’s a day of hope too, for the solstice is the turning point in this time of darkness, introspection and dreaming. Considered the dark night of the soul that gives birth to the creative spark, it marks the period when the dark half of the year relinquishes its hold to the light half. From this day forward the days slowly start to lengthen, the sun becomes stronger and the energy within and without increases and builds. On Midwinter’s Night Eve I light a candle to symbolise the sun and its activating energy, and list my dreams for the coming year. Sometimes I stay up all night to await the return of the light, other years I get up for the sunrise and toast the dawn and give thanks for this energetic reawakening. As the sun is reborn I open myself up to the promise of new growth and achievement, the energy of renewal and the rebirth of my own self and creativity.
I’m more inclined to refer to this festival as Winter Solstice rather than Yule, because the latter has connotations of Christmas, which is still six months away for us, yet many southern witches retain the traditional name, particularly in colder areas where open fires and Yule logs are more typical. Interestingly, there is now increasing recognition in Australia that Christmas is based on a winter tradition that involves magic, and many mainstream events are planned to coincide with our winter solstice. The Pagan Awareness Network holds Hollyfrost, an annual Midwinter retreat and ritual, and in the Blue Mountains the Winter Magic Festival is held on the day of the solstice and is open to everyone, regardless of beliefs. And the more touristy than magical Yulefest and Christmas in July are also celebrated around this time, in recognition that here Yule should not take place in December, in the heat of the Australian summer, but in the cool of winter.

Imbolc
In the first week of August, we in the southern hemisphere honour the cross-quarter day that marks the end of winter and the first day of spring. The earth starts to shake off the severity of the cold period and emerge back into the light. Some of our stunning wildflowers, like the delicate golden wattle, explode into glorious bloom, and it’s a time of hope, renewal and fresh starts after winter’s sluggishness. The sun starts to strengthen and the days grow longer, symbolising the return and renewal of the life force of the land and its people. Energetically it’s a time of awakening and new energy, and is the day we sow the seeds of what we want to achieve in the coming year. It’s also a time of purification and cleansing after the long dark of winter, when I feel motivated to physically clean my house and energetically clear my space, sweeping out old energy and thoughts so the new can thrive. Imbolc represents new beginnings, initiations and inspiration, and the budding plants, swooping baby birds and buzzing bees always fill me with vitality, passion and the impetus to start (or rededicate myself to) new projects.

The Spring Equinox
In the southern hemisphere, the spring or vernal equinox falls in late September – this year it’s on the 23rd. It’s a beautiful time of year, with bright blue skies and pale sunshine without the merciless heat of summer… perfect temperate weather. It’s one of only two times of the year when the length of day and night is equal, and on a personal level it’s a time of balance and harmony too, of union between the physical and spiritual as the balance of universal energies is reflected within. It’s also a time of growth and fertility, when crops are sown, the buds on the trees open, birds build nests and lay eggs and new life is celebrated. Energetically it’s also a very fertile time, as the seeds we sowed of our goals begin to sprout and gain momentum. Traditionally the spring equinox is tied up with rabbits, eggs and fertility goddesses, so it does feel a bit strange to be celebrating “Easter” at this time, but the beautifully blossoming and budding earth and the wild energy and vitality make it obvious that it’s the time for it. It’s a celebration of new life, hope, passion, growth and energy, the time of year that I meditate on my metaphorical fertility and my ability to manifest dreams into reality. In many ancient cultures, including the Romans whose calendar ours is based on, the spring equinox was the first day of the year, and the sense of new hope and optimism inherent in this day remains. It hasn’t always fallen around March/September 21 – our dating is a modern invention – and there are still countries where this is the first day of the year. The Ancient Roman year began on the spring equinox, the day they called Martius 1, which is March 21 in Gregorian terms. In the modern Iranian calendar, used in Iran and Afghanistan, each new year begins on the spring equinox as precisely determined by astronomical observations from Tehran and Kabul (making it the perfect solar calendar, because each calendar year corresponds exactly to the solar year, with no leap days necessary). The Baha’i calendar also begins on the spring equinox.
I got married on September 22 – our spring equinox – a few years ago, so we celebrate our anniversary on Ostara each year. Yet we ran away and wed in the northern hemisphere, which means where we were that day was actually the autumn equinox. Thus each year as we celebrate our anniversary at home, in the springtime, we also acknowledge the energy of autumn. I add a few autumn colours to my spring bouquet, and consider not only what seeds we want to plant for the next year of our relationship, but what we have harvested over the previous one. As Mabon and Ostara are the two days of the year when all is balanced, within and without, they are both good days to renew commitments or pledge a new one, be it a vow of love, magic, career or anything else. I feel like I incorporated the best of both worlds by making my wedding day span both festivals.

Beltane
In the southern hemisphere, the first week of November brings the cross-quarter day that marks the end of spring and the start of the heat and energy of summer, and the festival of love. It’s a time of lovers and spells to attract love, and celebrating the fertility of life, not just physically, but also of our dreams and ambitions. Symbolically this day marks the igniting of the fires of creativity and passion, of the fertility of our desires being made manifest, as the universe bursts with a raw energy and power that we can tap in to simply by breathing it in.
In the northern hemisphere Beltane falls around May Day, and while it has no relevance to us in terms of timing, I have been part of a coven ritual that involved a maypole dance, to represent the union of god and goddess at this point in the Wheel of the Seasonal Year. I’ve also leapt over the Beltane fires, although that was before I met my husband, when I jumped over it with friends as part of a personal ritual of purification and preparation, leaping out of my past, burning away the relationship issues that had kept my heart closed, and towards a future where love was possible (I met my partner two months later).
While I’ve been known to dress up as a vampire or a fairy and go to a Halloween party on October 31, privately or with coven members or witchie friends I’m celebrating the new blossoms and the vitality and fertility of Beltane at this time.

So, while it’s perhaps a little easier for northern hemisphere goddess worshippers to celebrate the cycle of the seasons, given that so many of them are actually woven into “normal” life, when you tune in to the earth and the rhythms of nature it is easy to know when it’s the right time to celebrate any of the old festivals. Because whether you live in the north, where they began, or the south, adding your own personal meaning to the traditional forms of celebration, the sabbats are still relevant to our lives. Even today, when we no longer live in harmony with the earth’s rhythms or agricultural cycles, modern pagans celebrate the Wheel of the Year as an honouring of nature and an acknowledgement of the continuing cycle of life, death and rebirth, both literally and symbolically. Becoming aware of the seasonal shifts and the patterns of nature wherever you live, and celebrating these ancient but still relevant festivals, is a simple way to tap in to the magic of the universe and harness it for your own growth. We may no longer grow our own grain or purify the fields with fire, but these celebrations still have power, particularly in the symbolic form – planting the seeds of our dreams in the metaphorical spring, watching them grow and manifest in the world before we give thanks for our literal harvest, then allowing the things that no longer serve us to die off or be released in our own personal winter, then starting all over again with new dreams as we celebrate our own rebirth.
I’ve spent a few sabbats in the northern hemisphere, leaping the Beltane fires in Glastonbury’s Chalice Well Gardens, sitting inside the Great Pyramid on the morning of the summer solstice, watching the sun set over the Hill of Tara at Lughnasadh, and the energy of each season is intense, real and tangible no matter which hemisphere I am in. Whenever I celebrate these magical turning points of our planet I feel so strongly a part of the earth, at one with nature and the universe. And so, regardless of which half of the world I’m in, I always acknowledge the opposite festival as well, in some small way. Perhaps this isn’t as important for those in the north, but for me it seems right to acknowledge the turning seasons all over the world, the beautiful, gracefully balanced dance of light and dark, heat and cold, day and night, that makes up this world that we are all a part of.
We are all connected to the earth, no matter where we live, and we need to learn how to (and accept that we can) follow the seasons of nature in our own unique way, based on the rising and setting of the sun in our own home town, the cycles of the moon as it crosses our part of the sky, and the very personal language of nature that is so different – and yet so similar –according to our own unique landscape.


Serene Conneeley is a healer, writer and witch who lives in Sydney, Australia. She is a reconnective healing practitioner and has studied magical and medicinal herbalism, reiki and many other healing modalities, as well as politics and journalism. Her first book, Seven Sacred Sites: Magical Journeys That Will Change Your Life, has just been published. Visit Goddess Pages magazine here.

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Today Is …

 

Day of Joy of the Ennead and crew of Ra.

Egyptian/Kemetic: Festival of the Ennead, the second day of the high festivals which honors the nine “old gods”, and the boat of Ra, the Sun god, which maintained cosmic order by sailing each day and night through the sky and the underworld. Greek: The 2nd day of each month is sacred to the Agathos Daimon, the “Good Spirit” (roughly equivalent to a combination of the Will and the guardian angel of each person).

The old Pagan custom of “carrying death away” is carried out in certain regions of Germany on this day. In celebration of Winter’s demise, special straw dolls are burned in sacred bonfires or “drowned” in sacred wells.

French Battle of Flowers. Cover your altar in beautiful Spring flowers today.

Thirteenth Outside/Sizdeh Bedar On the thirteenth day after Persian New Year (Spring Equinox), Persians leave their homes before dawn and stay outside all day. All of the greenery of the holiday is removedthe budding branches, the yellowing sprouts. It is considered unlucky to leave them inside as they might offer the devil a hiding place. It is understood that on this day, the spirits will have the run of the house in return for leaving the family alone the rest of the year. According to Elizabeth Luard this helps speed their spirits towards heaven.

The sabzeh, the dish of sprouted seeds, which appeared on the No Rooz table, is taken along and thrown into a running stream or over a garden wall. This is said to rid the home of the evil eye and “divs” or demons. The sprouted seed dishes are similar to gardens of Adonis, an ancient custom still part of Italian Good Friday celebrations.

The mandated day spent outdoors is similar to other spring holidays when people are encouraged to spend the day in the open air: Easter Monday and Maimuna. Luard describes people packing tables, chairs, carpets, cushions, silverware, plates, glasses, portable stoves and richly woven carpets and heading out to the hills. They take along a pot of golden rice pilaf, eggs for making omelets, yogurt which is cooled in the streams, freshly baked bread wrapped in cloth, sherbets, pastries and ices, plus coffee and tea to be made in the open air, using the fire and the samovar.

When dusk falls, the carpets are rolled out and people relax under the stars. Candles are lit, each one representing a death or a birth in the previous year. Luard writes: “Newlyweds look for portentsthe call of a night-bird seven times repeated, seven white flowers shining under the moon, a piece of bread torn into seven piecesthat speak of a new candle to be lit, a new infant to be born, and doubly blessed if conceived under the dome of heaven.”

On the thirteenth day after Persian New Year (Spring Equinox), Persians leave their homes before dawn and stay outside all day. It is considered unlucky to stay inside. On this day, the spirits romp in the empty houses with an understanding they will leave the family alone the rest of the year.

The sabzeh, the dish of sprouted seeds, which appeared on the Nawruz table (see Mar 20), is taken along and thrown into a running stream or over a garden wall. This is said to rid the home of the evil eye and “divs” or demons. The rest of the day is spent outdoors in celebration: dancing and singing, drinking and eating.

The sprouted seed dishes are similar to gardens of Adonis, an ancient custom that is still part of Italian Good Friday celebrations. And the mandated day outdoors suggests other festivals with mandated time outdoors like Lag B’Omer, the Jewish festival in the middle of counting the Omer (May 11 this year), Easter Monday (see Apr 1) and Maimuna (see Apr 8).

http://www.payvand.com/ny/4shanbeh.html
Luard, Elizabeth, Sacred Food, Chicago Review Press
Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

St. Urban According to Reginald Scot, in The Discovery of Witchcraft, written in 1584, superstitious maidens hung up some of their hair before a picture of St Urban, because they believed the rest of their hair would then grow long and golden.
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

Remember the ancient ways and keep them sacred!

Courtesy of GrannyMoonsMorningFeast

 

 

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Deities of the Spring Equinox

Deities of the Spring Equinox

 

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. Lets take a look at some of the many deities associated with spring, rebirth, and new life each year.

 

Asase Yaa (Ashanti)

This earth goddess prepares to bring forth new life in the spring, and the Ashanti people of Ghana honor her at the festival of Durbar, alongside her husband Nyame, the sky god who brings rain to the fields. As a fertility goddess, she is often associated with the planting of early crops during the rainy season. In some parts of Africa, she is honored during an annual (or often bi-annual) festival called the Awuru Odo. This is a large gathering of extended family and kinship groups, and a great deal of food and feasting seems to be involved.

In some Ghanaian folktales, Asase Yaa appears as the mother of Anansi, the trickster god, whose legends followed many West Africans to the New World during the centuries of the slave trade.

Interestingly, there do not appear to be any formalized temples to Asase Yaa – instead, she is honored in the fields where the crops grown, and in the homes where she is celebrated as a goddess of fertility and the womb. Farmers may opt to ask her permission before they begin working the soil. Even though she is associated with the hard labor of tilling the fields and planting seeds, her followers take a day off on Thursday, which is her sacred day.

 

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.

Like Attis, it is said that Cybele’s followers would work themselves into orgiastic frenzies and then ritually castrate themselves. After this, these priests donned women’s clothing, and assumed female identities. They became known as the Gallai. In some regions, female priestesses led Cybele’s dedicants in rituals involving ecstatic music, drumming and dancing. Under the leadership of Augustus Caesar, Cybele became extremely popular. Augustus erected a giant temple in her honor on the Palatine Hill, and the statue of Cybele that is in the temple bears the face of Augustus’ wife, Livia.

Today, many people still honor Cybele, although not in quite the same context as she once was. Groups like the Maetreum of Cybele honor her as a mother goddess and protector of women.

 

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.

According to the stories, she is a goddess associated with flowers and springtime, and her name gives us the word “Easter,” as well as the name of Ostara itself. However, if you start to dig around for information on Eostre, you’ll find that much of it is the same. In fact, nearly all of it is Wiccan and Pagan authors who describe Eostre in a similar fashion. Very little is available on an academic level.

Interestingly, Eostre doesn’t appear anywhere in Germanic mythology, and despite assertions that she might be a Norse deity, she doesn’t show up in the poetic or prose Eddas either. However, she could certainly have belonged to some tribal group in the Germanic areas, and her stories may have just been passed along through oral tradition.

So, did Eostre exist or not? No one knows. Some scholars dispute it, others point to etymological evidence to say that she did in fact have a festival honoring her.

 

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. Freyja was similar to Frigg, the chief goddess of the Aesir, which was the Norse race of sky deities. Both were connected with childrearing, and could take on the aspect of a bird. Freyja owned a magical cloak of hawk’s feathers, which allowed her to transform at will. This cloak is given to Frigg in some of the Eddas.

As the wife of Odin, the All Father, Freyja was often called upon for assistance in marriage or childbirth, as well as to aid women struggling with infertility.

 

Osiris (Egyptian)

Osiris is known as the king of Egyptian gods. 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.

Born the son of Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky), Osiris was the twin brother of Isis and became the first pharoah. He taught mankind the secrets of farming and agriculture, and according to Egyptian myth and legend, brought civilization itself to the world. Ultimately, the reign of Osiris was brought about by his death at the hands of his brother Set (or Seth).

The death of Osiris is a major event in Egyptian legend.

 

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

 

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 super fecund 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 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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An Epic Spring Equinox

 

 

An Epic Spring Equinox

A new season, new year, and New Moon converge March 20, 2015

Tarotcom Staff

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8 Ideas for Celebrating Ostara


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8 Ideas for Celebrating Ostara

 

Ostara, the Spring Equinox, is always especially beautiful here in Sonoma County, California. This year seems especially nice. Winter’s rains have been lighter than we would like, but they have been gentle and well timed. My farmer friends with whom I’ve spoken are feeling good. Warming temperatures and longer days have brought forth the first abundant flowers, especially the wild mustard that makes it seem as if our craggy valley oaks and vineyards have their feet awash in bright yellow paint. The threats from frost are virtually over.

Our season and Ostara’s symbolism are in perfect harmony.

Wiccan Sabbats celebrate our Wheel of the Year, and the Wheel of the Year, like the phases of the moon, symbolize to us the stages of life, from birth to death to rebirth. Four Sabbats are “Greater Sabbats” originally linked with Celtic agricultural cycles: Brigit, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain. The other four “cross quarter” Sabbats are correlated with the cycles of the solar year, the solstices and equinoxes. On the 21st of this month, Witches and many other Pagans will celebrate Ostara, the Spring Equinox.

Equinoxes are times of balance between day and night, light and darkness. But the balance is dynamic, lasting a day, before shifting into playing a role in that greater balance that is the Wheel of the Year. For me this sense of balance should be the dominant theme of either Ostara, or Mabon, the Fall Equinox. But they are very different Sabbats otherwise, for after Ostara the light will continue to grow, whereas after Mabon, it is darkness that increases.

There is another aspect of balance that comes to mind as a am mulling this post over, that between the universal and the concrete. Solar Sabbats are universal, the Greater Sabbats are specific to time and place. Together, they balance the universal with the variety that is local. So while I think it is important to make sure Greater Sabbats are strongly connected with where we live, it is not as important for the Cross Quarter ones.

With these thoughts in mind, I have a few ideas for celebrating Ostara I want to share. All are suitable for Solitaries.

  1. On my altar I will have 4 candles. I will light two, and with sundown, light another. I have tried to figure out a simple but visually beautiful way of symbolizing Sabbats and their meaning, and here is my scheme into which this simple observance fits.

Yule – 1 candle lit during ritual.

Imbolc – 1 candle lit, a second during the ritual.

Ostara – 2 candles lit, a third lit at end of ritual or at sunset.

Beltane – 3 candles, one lit during ritual, making

Midsummer – 4 candles, one extinguished at end of ritual.

Lammas – 3 candles, one extinguished during ritual.

Mabon – 2 candles, one extinguished at sunset or end of ritual.

Samhain – 1 candle lit, but extinguished during ritual.

  1. I will fill my place with local flowers. I just spoke with a friend in Maine. The garden I helped plant still looks like a snow drift. Maybe the willows are changing their color as the sap tentatively rises, making for a good altar decoration. If not, it’s good that this is a solar Sabbat!

3. I will watch the dawn, and do some invocations and prayers while I do it. Ostara is said to have been a Goddess of the Dawn as well as spring, so this is fitting, although very little is known of Her. If I was in Fairbanks, I might let this slide.

  1. In Pagan times eggs and hares were associated with the creation of life and fertility, for obvious reasons. While it seems all folklore of ancient provenance has disputed origins, regardless of how these customs arose and survived, they are perfectly fitted for symbolizing this time, when almost everywhere spring has arrived or is coming soon. Dyeing the eggs in Spring-time colors, and having a good old fashioned Ostara Egg hunt is a wonderful thing for kids.
  2. A good smudging, followed by a good airing if the weather permits. Burning sage is the easiest way to smudge a place, though any cleansing incense is worthwhile. Be sure to get corners and dark places. Energy collects and stagnates in those places, and most of us have had all winter for that to happen.
  3. Plant a seed associated with a magickal ritual for something you want to grow. Simple and personal is best. Focus your intent strongly on the seed, then on the pot of soil after you have planted it. Take care of it. I’d recommend a perennial, that you can plant and let continue to flourish with your care, but maybe an annual will do the trick. Depends on your project.
  4. If you have a yard, this is a good time to begin getting in touch with the spirits of your place. But as with any relationship, it will normally take some time to grow. The last time I lived for any length of time in a house with a yard, I would make weekly offerings in a out of the way part of my yard, that I otherwise left alone (all the rests was garden). I would leave a small glass of rum, some tobacco, and a votive candle (be very careful about fire if you do this). After some months the ‘feel’ of my back yard began to change in ways I and others liked a lot. But remember, attitude makes or breaks this kind of thing – as with all relationships.
  5. If there is a public Sabbat celebration, and you are not part of a coven, try and go. Some are well done, some can seem like ‘ritual abuse,’ but either way, this is a good way to begin meeting other local Pagans. In my view the real magic of what we do is most powerful when we work and celebrate together

Source

Information from Beliefnet

Author: Gus diZerega

Blog: A Pagan’s Blog

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Spring Equinox – Ostara


Ostara Comments

Spring Equinox – Ostara

 

 

Ostara or the Vernal Equinox is also known as Lady Day or Alban Eiler (Druidic). As spring reaches its midpoint around March 21, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother.

 

The Spring Equinox or Ostara is sacred to Eostre, the Saxon Goddess of Spring, Green Earth and Fertility. Ostara is said to be the Greek translation of Eostre’s name. Her two symbols were the egg and the rabbit. The first Easter egg was said to have been decorated for her by a small hare determined to make the egg as beautiful and new as Eostre made the world each spring. Today her symbols are commonly known as the Easter egg and Easter bunny.

 

In nature, hens begin to lay eggs when there is 12 hours or more of daylight. At the onset of spring our ancestors could count on gathering fresh eggs from their chickens and the egg became a reliable symbol of rebirth in the cycle of nature.

 

Herbs and Flowers: Daffodil, Jonquils , Woodruff, Violet, Gorse, Olive , Peony, Iris, Narcissus and all spring flowers

 

Incense: Jasmine, Rose, Strawberry, Floral of any type

 

Sacred Gemstone: Jasper

 

 

Wiccan & Pagan Holidays: An Easy Beginner’s Guide to Celebrating Sabbats and Esbats

Kardia Zoe

 

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Today Is …


Ostara Comments

Today Is …

 

March 20-21 Spring Equinox. Do a ritual bath today for personal “spring cleaning.”

On this day, an annual Spring Harvest Festival was celebrated in ancient Egypt, along the banks of the River Nile, in honor of the Mother-Goddess and the enchantress, Isis.
This day is sacred to the goddess Fortuna, the Morrigan, the Norns, the Three Fates, and the Three Mothers (Lakshmi, Parvati, and Sarasvati).

The Spring or Vernal Equinox – 8:00 P.M. EST. The word equinox is derived from the Latin words meaning “equal night.” The equinox refers to the point at which the Sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s Equator from south to north, making night and day equal length all over the planet, signaling the beginning of nature’s renewal in the northern part of the world. Pagan: The Spring Equinox — called the Festival of Trees, Ostara, and the Rites of Eostre, among many names in many traditions — is a fertility festival celebrating the birth of Spring and the reawakening.
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Southern Hemisphere ~ Mabon  Thanksgiving (Second Harvest) Autumn Equinox ~ Giving thanks, Reflection.

Egyptian: Feast of Sexual Fertility of Min.

March 21  Day Dedicated to Sun Goddesses. Honor the Sun’s role in Spring’s rebirth with incense and flame.

On this date (approximately), the Sun enters the astrological sign of Aries. Persons born under the sign of the Ram are said to be courageous, intelligent, impulsive, and aggressive. Aries is a fire sign and is ruled by the planet Mars.
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Slavic Pagan: Maslenitsa – Suhii (March) 21 – Maslenitsa is a very ancient festival, the holiday of the Spring Equinox and the end of the winter frosts.People enjoy themselves, engaging in much feasting, dancing,wearing of masks, playing on traditional musical instruments, and contests of strength, all to enact spring unbridled, in action and fighting. Traditional pastries are also baked, called blini (a type of potato pancake), to symbolize the sun. More: http://www.irminsul.org/arc/010sz.html

Attis – Attis was the lover and grandson of Cybele, the Attic Goddess who was known as mother of mountains and depicted flanked by lions. When Attis betrayed her, she hunted him down and drove him insane. He tore off his genitals because they had caused him to betray her.

Originally a Phyrgian Goddess, Cybele’s worship was imported to Rome, where she was called Magna Mater (Great Mother). Emperor Claudius popularized the Phyrgian tradition of bringing a young pine tree representing Attis into the city like a corpse, swathed in linen and woolen sashes and decked with violets. Members of the Tree Bearer’s Guild (dendrophori) carried it through the city gate and into Cybele’s sanctuary which stood on Vatican Hill, near where St Peter’s stands now.
Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

Remember the ancient ways and keep them sacred!

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Courtesy of GrannyMoonsMorningFeast

 

 

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