Ostara’s Spring: Celebrating the Little Bit of Pagan in All of Us

Ostara’s Spring: Celebrating the Little Bit of Pagan in All of Us

BY: Debra Moffitt

When spring rolls around there’s an itch to get outdoors,  celebrate Mother Earth and enjoy the season. Ostara, the Pagan festival that comes to us from traditions that  pre-date Christianity, formalized it. It fetes the arrival of Ostara, the  spring. Ostara is personified by the goddess who represents the dawn, the coming  of new light and rebirth through many of the rituals, decorations and gifts that  we’re familiar with to this day. They include colorful Easter eggs, rabbits, and  baskets filled with sweets. Due to the popularity of these symbols in ancient  times they were coopted by Christianity from “pagans” (which to them meant  anyone who’d not adopted the religion) into what we know as Easter celebrations.  Many of us continue to celebrate the season with a little bit of pagan  influenced décor and delights.

The festival of Ostara falls around the equinox and is related to spring  festivities that celebrate renewal, planting new seeds and fertility. These  rites of spring come to us from the Celts and Saxons before they were conquered  by the Romans some 2,000 years ago. The spirit of Ostara festivities aimed to  inspire gratitude to the earth and environment in a beautiful and meaningful way.

Ostara (or Eostra) is an Anglo-Saxon goddess who represented dawn, and her  name derives from the Germanic word for “east.” She’s depicted as a young woman surrounded in light and budding trees and flowers. The Ostara festival falls on  the day of the equinox, the day when light and dark are equal. It also marks the  time when more light will begin to come in, days will be longer, nights shorter  and food will be more abundant. At a time when people had to store food to last  the long harsh winters, this festival was particularly anticipated as a time of  renewed hope.

Inspired by the equinox where light and dark of the physical day are equal,  Ostara is a time to celebrate life and balance. On this occasion it was believed  that taking water at dawn from springs and drinking them would restore balance  and be beneficial for a body. Villages celebrated with bonfires and often ate  the remaining ham that had been stored up over the winter. With the promise of a  new beginning in the fresh blossoms in trees and green sprouts of bulbs from the  ground, new nourishment was available and a sense of possibility restored

The name of this Pagan goddess is connected to one of the most sacred  Christian holidays. Ostara’s (Eostra’s) or the traditional Easter festival was transferred to the celebration of  Christ’s resurrection to incorporate the Christian meaning of Easter after  Anglo-Saxons and Germans converted to Christianity. This merging between “pagan”  and Christian festivals occurred throughout Europe, and remnants of it, like the  Easter eggs, remain visible to this day in both European and American cultures.  The “pagan” cultures didn’t deny divinity; they simply celebrated it in a way  that was more closely connected to the earth and Nature in forms like Ostara who  became a deity they worshiped as they saw her powers manifest every spring.

The symbols that surround Ostara include eggs, rabbits and spring flowers  which speak of the fertility and new life she brings. The egg, especially, has  always been a sacred sign of fecundity. Eggs carried the power of becoming, of  creation. Some ancient legends believed that the Earth was hatched from an egg,  and of course eggs abound in birds’ nests at this time of year. They became  natural associations with fertility, birthing and creation. The egg or lingam is  still much revered and often placed on altars in Hindu culture. Rabbits, too,  were associated with the spring festivals because of their great fertility. They  produce a large number of offspring and breed many times during the season.

Modern Pagans celebrate Ostara with feasting and fun.  It’s a joyous celebration that may be combined with rituals to promote balance,  plant new seeds both literally and figuratively, and prepare for a wonderful new  season of rebirth. Even if you’re not Pagan, everyone can enjoy the ancients  rites and rituals of spring that connect us both to the earth and to our  possibilities to grow spiritually. You may want to get some soil and plant seeds  for lettuce; prepare a kitchen herb garden or bring some potted plants into the  house. Bringing in spring colors will help you to connect with spring energy and  move you into a place where you begin to tap into the energy of renewal. Colors  like lilac, pastel pinks similar to the cherry blossoms and bright tulip colors  will add touches of freshness to interior spaces. In ancient times, when  planting took priority as a way to sustain a community, clearing away debris and  weeds was an important step before spring planting. What needs to be cleared  from your house and life to bring in that essential balance so that the seeds  you long to plant can grow? This is an ideal time to take a moment to  contemplate what needs to be brought into balance in your life.