Ostara, The Symbolic Change

Ostara, The Symbolic Change

 

Ostara is symbolic of the change in the Goddess from Winter’s crone to Spring’s maiden The holiday calls to the youthful spirit within us all, no matter what our age, and celebrates the land’s slow rebirth after the deathlike sleep of winter.

Witches observe the holiday with rituals and feasts, and decorate their altars with the traditional tional fertility symbols of rabbits, chicks, and eggs (no, not actual rabbits and chicks, although you are welcome to try it if you’re feeling brave and don’t mind cleaning up poop).

And if those symbols sound a bit familiar to those of you raised in one of the Christian religions, gions, it is because many of the traditions of Easter were adopted from Ostara. Even the name Easter was taken from a Pagan goddess: Eostre, a Saxon goddess of spring. Think about it: the symbols of Easter all represent fertility (those same eggs, chicks, and rabbits)-much more suitable able for a Pagan holiday than a Christian one. Oh, the things they didn’t tell you in Sunday school …

So adorn your altar with a few beautiful early spring flowers, draw some Pagan symbols on eggs before you dye them, and prepare a feast of traditional spring foods like asparagus and lamb. If you want, you can even plant a few seeds. Then, alone or with other Witches, plant the seeds for the changes you wish to occur in your life during the coming year.

 

Deborah Blake, Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring & Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft

Deities of the Ostara/Spring Equinox

Deities of the Ostara/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.
 

Source

Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert
Article published on & owned by About.com

Prayer for The Resurrection of the Earth

Prayer for The Resurrection of the Earth

 

The death sleep of winter has slowly faded,
the rigor of the ground loosens,
and the earth is once more reborn.
Like Mithras and Osiris,
reborn from death,
life returns again to the land,
springing up as the snow melts away.
As the soil warms and the days grow longer,
dew forms along new sprouts of grass,
bringing life back.
Awaken! Awaken! Awaken!
And rise!
Let the earth come to life again,
and welcome the light of spring!

Author: Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert
Article published on & owned by About.com

Ostara Magic

Ostara Magic

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal as the earth comes back to life. Why not celebrate the themes of the season with a little bit of spring magic?

1. Spring Garden Magic
In the early spring, many of us who follow earth-based spiritual paths begin planning our gardens for the coming season. The very act of planting, of beginning new life from seed, is a ritual and a magical act in itself. To cultivate something in the black soil, see it sprout and then bloom, is to watch a magical working unfold before our very eyes. The plant cycle is intrinsically tied to so many earth-based belief systems that it should come as no surprise that the magic of the garden is one well worth looking into.

2. Serpent Magic and Folklore
Snakes have a long and colorful history in folklore and mythology, as well as in magical practice. Let’s look at some of the amazing customs surrounding snakes in magic and legend!

3. Egg Magic & Mythology
In many cultures and society, the egg is considered the perfect magical symbol. It is, after all, representative of new life – in fact, it is the life cycle personified. While many of us take note of eggs around springtime – the Ostara season is chock full of them – it’s important to consider that eggs feature prominently in folklore and legend all year long.

4. Rabbit Magic & Mad March Hares
Spring equinox, or Ostara, is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature’s fertility goes a little crazy. The rabbit — for good reason — is often associated with fertility magic and sexual energy.

5. Magical Spring Flowers
As spring arrives, our gardens begin to bud and eventually bloom. For hundreds of years, the plants that we grow have been used in magic. Flowers in particular are often connected with a variety of magical uses. Now that spring is here, keep an eye out for some of these flowers around you, and consider the different magical applications they might have.

6. Children’s Ostara Chant
If you have children, you may want to include them in your Ostara celebrations this spring. Teach them this simple rhyming chant, and clap along as you welcome the season of rebirth!

7. Garden Blessing for Ostara Planting Rituals
Getting ready to till the soil and prepare it for spring planting? Say this garden blessing before you begin.

8. Ostara Prayer for the Resurrection of the Earth
While many other religions celebrate the rebirth of Jesus, for those of us in earth-based faiths, the focus is often on the land and the soil. Celebrate Ostara with a simple prayer for the new life that begins as the earth itself is resurrected.

9. Prayer to Honor the Goddesses of Spring
Many Pagan traditions have goddesses that are associated with the new beginnings of the Ostara season. Whether you celebrate Flora or Eostre, use this simple prayer to honor the goddesses of spring.

Source

Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert
Article published on & owned by About.com