8 Ideas for Celebrating Ostara


Ostara Comments

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

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.

Ode to Ostara

Ode to Ostara

Author:   Morgan Ravenwood 

I really feel sorry for those who complain that their lives seem to pass in a blur. One minute it’s winter, the next it’s summer, and so many people never seem to mark the changing of the seasons until the day they look in the mirror, see the lines on their own faces and the gray hair on their heads, and wonder when they acquired them. I feel fortunate that because I am a Pagan I’m not only observing the seasonal changes but am also actually participating in them (or, as I like to put it, “living a conscious life”) , unlike those who simply view them as a spectator or, worse yet, fail to notice them at all. For surely, if life is but a classroom and we are here to learn certain lessons, we can hardly do otherwise and expect to achieve spiritual growth.

While we Pagans are most famous for our celebration of Samhain, which symbolizes the death of the old year and the beginning of the new one, I believe that it is the Spring Equinox that carries a much more important connotation: that of birth and renewal. There is no better place to watch this cycle play itself out than in a garden.

I live in the southwestern desert where we don’t usually get much of a winter, albeit the nighttime temperatures do dip below freezing at times. Despite the mild weather, my small but productive garden knows what the seasons are, and shows its pleasure in the warmer weather with a riotous green display.

I’m like an excited little kid after I first plant the seeds I’ve chosen to grow; every day I anxiously peer into the various pots, barrels and seedbeds, beside myself with curiosity to see if the first seedling has made its appearance yet. Of all the stress-relieving exercises known to man, this has got to be one of the easiest and best. It’s also highly effective for a Pagan in that it offers an opportunity to temporarily abandon the cares of the world and perform a life-affirming activity, which is also one in which they can actually commune with the divine if they will but listen as well as speak. That this can be achieved by performing such a simple activity as tending a garden is part of the deep appeal of Paganism. This is why I feel that every Pagan should attempt to grow something, even if it’s just a houseplant or a few herb seeds in a small pot on a windowsill. It’s also a particularly great way to introduce children to one of the fundamental beliefs of Paganism: that divinity is inherent in all of nature.

In a garden we not only can see the metaphorical drama of the Goddess and God, but of our own lives as well: the seed is planted, it grows to adulthood, produces seed of its own, dies, and is resurrected through its seed, which has been planted in its place. The message is, of course, that nothing is ever truly wasted or dies. Anybody who would argue with that has surely never been a gardener!

This birth-death-resurrection cycle plays in all aspects of organic and biological life. I had an opportunity to meditate on this when my pregnant daughter showed me an ultrasound picture of her baby girl, who was my first grandchild. A myriad of images and emotions swept through me as I gazed upon the image of this tiny little creature lying curled up like a new rosebud. It seemed that I could hear my mother’s voice and see my father’s face and feel their love and pride, and yet above that I also heard and felt the presence of something even greater and more awesome.

Other images flashed before my eyes and mind; I saw myself as a baby and my husband as a child. I thought of the day I learned that I was pregnant with my daughter and saw my husband’s joyful countenance when he held her for the first time. And then I thought how appropriate the term “family tree” is. Whoever coined it must have had some Pagan leanings, to be sure! But most of all, as I looked at that picture, I felt like I’d actually made a difference in this world. And I think that anyone who takes the opportunity-and responsibility–in nurturing a life, whether it’s planting a garden, raising a kitten or having a child, has been given the wonderful opportunity to share a little bit of the divinity—and immortality—that is unique to the gods. For sure, allowing us to share this with them is their greatest gift to us.

The idea of new life springing forward after a long period of silence and stillness is a concept that is shared in most religions today, and it is no secret that all of them have incorporated many elements of the earlier Pagan faiths into their own doctrines. I am betting that many people in these religions today are unaware of the extent of their syncretism. All that most Christians know about Neo-Paganism is that its one and only holiday appears to be “Halloween” (which is known to us as Samhain) . They do not realize that while they are celebrating Easter as a strictly Christian holiday, its roots, as well as its name, originated completely in Pagan faiths.

Ostara, of course, is the holiday that is celebrated at the Vernal Equinox to herald the return of life and light to the world, and its rituals and events largely mirror those of the Christians sans the religious observances in a church, of course. Pagan children need not miss out on the usual springtime celebrations; when my children were still living at home, we always colored and hid eggs for them. We would always plant some seeds or young plants and try to balance eggs on one end at the minute of the Equinox, with which we had a fair amount of luck. The kids loved Ostara because it came earlier than Easter.

However, no children are required for Pagan adults to join in the fun. I still color eggs even when the grandkids can’t visit, and will always continue my seed-planting ritual. The weather around Ostara is usually pretty nice where I live, so I try to get outdoors to spend some time with Nature and observe its rapid changes. After so many years of celebrating our sabbats, it would feel strange NOT to do these things.

I hope I have given some helpful tips on how to celebrate Ostara. May all your celebrations be blessed ones!

Celebrating Spring Equinox

Celebrating Spring Equinox

The spring equinox is one of the four great solar festivals of the year. Day and night are equal, poised and balanced, but about to tip over on the side of light. The spring equinox is sacred to dawn, youth, the morning star and the east. The Saxon goddess, Eostre (from whose name we get the direction East and the holiday Easter) is a dawn goddess, like Aurora and Eos. Just as the dawn is the time of new light, so the vernal equinox is the time of new life.

The Coming of the Spring

Although we saw the first promise of spring at Candlemas in the swelling buds, there were still nights of frost and darkness ahead. Now spring is manifest. Demeter is reunited with her daughter, Kore (the essence of spring), who has been in the Underworld for six months and the earth once again teems with life. The month of March contains holidays dedicated to all the great mother goddesses: Astarte, Isis, Aprhrodite, Cybele and the Virgin Mary. The goddess shows herself in the blossoms, the leaves on the trees, the sprouting of the crops, the mating of birds, the birth of young animals. In the agricultural cycle, it is time for planting. We are assured that life will continue.

Gilbert Murray in Five Stages of Greek Religion writes about the passion behind the Greek celebration of Easter:

Anyone who has been in Greece at Easter time, especially among the more remote peasants, must have been struck by the emotion of suspense and excitement, with which they wait for the announcement, “Christos aneste,” “Christ is risen!” and the response “Alethos aneste,” “He has really risen!” [An old peasant woman] explained her anxiety: “If Christ does not rise tomorrow we shall have no harvest this year.” We are evidently in the presence of an emotion and a fear which, beneath its Christian colouring and, so to speak, transfiguration, is in its essence — a relic from a very remote pre-Christian past.

Resurrection from the Dead

Murray then goes on to recount the myths of the Year Gods — Attis, Adonis, Osiris and Dionysus — who like Christ die and are reborn each year. These gods are always the son of a God and a mortal woman. The son is a savior who saves his people in some way, sometimes through sacrifice. He is the vegetation, dying each year (at harvest) to be reborn in the spring.

In ancient Rome, the 10-day rite in honor of Attis, son of the great goddess Cybele, began on March 15th. A pine tree, which represented Attis, was chopped down, wrapped in a linen shroud, decorated with violets and placed in a sepulchre in the temple. On the Day of Blood or Black Friday, the priests of the cult gashed themselves with knives as they danced ecstatically, sympathizing with Cybele in her grief and helping to restore Attis to life. Two days later, a priest opened the sepulchre at dawn, revealing that it was empty and announcing that the god was saved. This day was known as Hilaria or the Day of Joy, a time of feasting and merriment.

Sound familiar? Easter is the Christian version of the same myth. Even the name Easter is stolen. It comes from the Saxon dawn-goddess Eostre, whose festival was celebrated on spring equinox. The date of Easter is still determined by the old moon cycle. It is always the first Sunday on or after the first full moon after the spring equinox.

On Good Friday, Christ is crucified, a willing sacrifice. Altars are stripped, candles extinguished to represent the darkness of the grave. But on Easter, light springs from darkness, Christ rises from the tomb. If you’ve never attended an Easter vigil, I highly recommend it. (I usually go to a Russian or Greek Orthodox church, so I don’t know what the ceremony is like in other Christian churches.) Shortly before midnight all the lights are extinguished and the thronged church is dark and silent. Everyone is holding an unlit candle. The priest lights the Paschal candle, which has been ritually blessed and inscribed with the year. He then lights the candles of those nearby, who light the candles of their neighbors, until the church is ablaze with light and filled with song.

According to my Catholic missal, one of the prayers used during this part of the service (which is called the Service of the Light) goes like this:

We pray you, therefore, O Lord, that this candle, consecrated in honor of your name, may continue endlessly to scatter the darkness of this night. May it be received as a sweet fragrance and mingle with the lights of heaven. May the morning star find its flame burning, that Star which knows no setting, which came back from limbo. Christ is like the morning Star because he descended into Death (the Underworld) and emerged again, like Attis, like Kore, like Inanna and Ishtar.

Eggs and Seeds

Eggs are one of the symbols of this festival since they represent new life and potential. Folklore tells us (combining two themes of the season) (and Donna Henes has demonstrated in public egg-balancing ceremonies in New York City) that eggs balance on their ends most easily at equinox. Z Budapest in Grandmother of Time says that eggs were dyed red (the color of life) on the Festival of Astarte (Mar 17). The beautifully decorated eggs from the Ukraine (pysanky) are covered with magical symbols for protection, fertility, wisdom, strength and other qualities. They are given as gifts and used as charms.

Seeds are like eggs. While eggs contain the promise of new animal life, seeds hold the potential of a new plant. In ancient Italy in the spring, women planted gardens of Adonis. They filled urns with grain seeds, kept the in the dark and watered them every two days. This custom persists in Sicily. Women plant seeds of grains — lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers — in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the gardens are placed on graves on Good Friday. They symbolize the triumph of life over death.

Celebrating

Blend ideas from the many traditions described above to create your own ceremony to honor the spring. Decorate with budding twigs, flowers, willow catkins, sprouting bulbs. Red and green are the colors of this festival. Red represents blood, the blood of sacrifice and life. Green symbolizes the growth of the plants. Honor various spring deities with their flowers: Narcisus and Hyacinth with those blooms, the red anemone for Adonis, violets for Attis, roses and lilies for the goddesses.

This is the traditional time for a great spring feast and the decoration of the table is as important as the food. There are many traditions from which to choose: Nawruz, Passover, Easter, St Joseph’s Day, Maimuna — all are variations on the theme of the spring feast, in which every item is symbolic.

Helen Farias in her seasonal newsletter, Octava, points out that certain foods are associated with springtime festivals: cheese, butter, eggs, pancakes, wheaten cakes, hot cross buns. Since this is a time when young animals are being born, milk is now available for making cheese and butter. In Poland, according to Dorothy Spicer in The Book of Festivals, a little lamb made of butter or sugar is placed in the center of the Easter table, which is laden with food and decorated with eggs, red paper cut-outs and festoons of green. Eggs symbolize new life, of course, and wheaten cakes, grain. In Italy, colored eggs are baked in braided loaves of bread on Easter, combining the two symbols. Hot cross buns, a traditional Easter food, may be very ancient. A wheaten cake marked with a cross was found in Herculaneum, preserved since 79, and may have been used in the spring rites.

Decorating Eggs

This is one of my favorites ways to celebrate spring. I’ve decorated eggs with nail polish, with food coloring and vinegar, with commercial egg dyes and with natural dyes. Pauline Campanelli in The Wheel of the Year describes many natural substances that dye eggs. One of my favorites is boiling a single onion skin with a few eggs to get a soft orange. A handful of onion skins produces rust, a half teaspoon of turmeric gives a sunny yellow and beet juice and vinegar make pink. If you boil eggs with vinegar and several of the outer leaves of cabbage and allow them to cool overnight, the eggs will be a bright robin’s egg blue, but they must be handled carefully since the dye comes off easily.

A few years ago, I finally purchased the appropriate tool, a kitska (I got mine in the art supply department of our local university bookstore), and started making pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs). You place a bit of beeswax in the funnel of the kitska, then melt it over a candle flame and draw on the eggshell. It helps to have a lathe to hold the egg if you want absolutely even lines. Begin with a white egg and put wax on all the areas you want to stay white, then dye the egg yellow and cover all the areas with wax which you want to remain yellow, and so forth through orange, red and a dark color (brown, purple or black). When the egg is done, place it in a low temperature over for a few minutes to melt the wax, which is then rubbed off to reveal the intricate designs and glowing colors of your egg. I love the delicacy of the designs, the smell of the wax and the candle, and the trance-like quality of the whole process.

This is a great project for doing with a group. In the Ukraine, only women created these special eggs and they did so at night, when the children were asleep. If you want to use the eggs as talismans, they should be raw and whole (not blown out). Decorate them with symbols of the qualities you wish for yourself and your family and friends in the coming year. For example, draw sprouting leaves on an egg and bury it in your garden to help stimulate your plants.

Blessing and Planting Seeds

Several years ago, my family celebrated with a very simple but effective ritual, based on the ceremony suggested by Nancy Brady Cunningham in Feeding the Spirit. Each person chose a seed or bulb that was meaningful to them. We blessed the seeds with a prayer from Campanelli: Now is the dark half of the year passing Now do the days grow light and the Earth grows warm I summon the spirit of these seeds Which have slept in darkness Awaken, stir and swell Soon you will be planted in the earth To grow and bring froth new fruit Blessed be! We sat quietly and visualized our plants in full bloom. Then we invoked each of the four elements necessary for the plants’ growth. We placed the seed in a pot of soil and patted down the earth, poured water on it, breathed on it to represent air and held the pot over a candle (or up to the sun, if outside) to represent the element fire (the warmth of the sun).

Add another layer of meaning to this ceremony by choosing seeds which represent the things you want tog row during the new year- — wisdom, understanding, patience, etc. Visualize those qualities coming into full bloom in your life as you plant your seeds.

Sources
Budapest, Zsuzsanna E, The Grandmother of Time, Harper & Row 1989
Campanelli, Pauline, The Wheel of the Year, Llewellyn 1989
Cunningham, Nancy Brady, Feeding the Spirit, Resource Publications 1988 [I believe this is out of print]
Farias, Helen, Octava no longer exists but some of Helen’s writings on seasonal holidays can be found in back issues of The Beltane Papers.
Murray, Gilbert, Five Stages of Greek Religion, Doubleday 1955

Article Taken from

School of the Seasons by Waverly Fitzgerald

Spring Equinox: When does spring start?

Spring Equinox: When does spring start?

Today the northern hemisphere is celebrating the first day of spring, an event marked by the spring – or vernal – equinox.  Humans have been celebrating this day in various forms for thousands of years, but what actually is an equinox?

In the most basic terms an equinox is when the length of the night and the length of the day are roughly equal. There are two equinoxes (one in March for the beginning of spring and one in September for the beginning of autumn)  and the word itself comes from the Latin for equal (‘aequus’) and night (‘nox’).

The ‘opposite’ of an equinox is a solstice – another pair of biannual events which occur in the middle of winter and summer when the Sun appears at its lowest or highest point in the sky. Each of these four days occur at roughly equal time periods, marking major transitional points as the Earth orbits the sun.

These transitions (and the season themselves) are caused by the Earth’s axial tilt. Axial tilt is best understood with the help of a quick thumbs up.

Hold your hand in a thumbs up position in front of you and tilt it backwards slightly (at a jaunty 23 degree angle if you want to be precise): your fingers are now pointing in the direction of the earth’s rotation and your thumb indicates the north pole. Your hand is still upright, but spinning in a skewed direction.

This tilt means that different parts of the planet are exposed to different amounts of sunshine as the Earth orbits the Sun. It isn’t entirely clear why there is a tilt in the first place; some astronomer suggest it could be to do with the uneven distribution of matter (most of it in the Northern Hemisphere) while others say the Earth was knocked off its axis by an early collision with another celestial body.

Humans living thousands of years may not have known the details of this astronomy, but over generations they certainly learnt that the Earth gets warmer and colder in pretty regular cycles, with the spring equinox marking one point when the Northern Hemisphere begins to shrug off winter’s cold.

Warmer temperatures thaw frozen ground to make it easier for planting crops, increased rainfall waters these and animals that hibernated over winter emerge from their dens. There might not be anything mystical about the coming of the spring time, but in purely biological terms the Earth is indeed coming back to life.

For this reason it’s no surprise spring coincides with Passover in the Jewish faith (commemorating the release of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt) and Easter in the Christian calendar (celebrating the resurrection of Christ after his crucifixion). As the American comedian Robert Orben said : “Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’”

Source:

Big News Network

Astrological New Year

Astrological New Year

A bright new cycle begins with Spring Equinox

Maria DeSimone  Maria DeSimone on the topics of spring equinox, new year, astrology, aries

Happy New Year! Oh wait, wasn’t that in January? Well, sort of. According to the Gregorian calendar, the beginning of an actual new year does fall on January 1. Astrologically, however, the New Year is a rather different concept, and it does not begin until the Spring Equinox on March 20. Those astrologers — they just love to complicate things!

But wait. Before you resign yourself to confusion about when to pop the champagne, why not consider the rich symbolism behind Astrological New Year and what it means.

Now think about the word “equinox.” It literally translates as “equal night.” There are two periods each year when the length of daylight hours is equal to the length of time with no sunlight. This will happen at the Autumnal Equinox (or first day of autumn) and again at the Vernal or Spring Equinox (first day of spring).

At the Spring Equinox the day and night are equal in length, but the daylight hours are beginning to soar. From the moment of the Spring Equinox until the Autumnal Equinox there will be more and more time for us to spend basking in the rays of the Sun. That can only mean one thing: new life.

Everything on our planet and in our hearts is once again encouraged to sprout. Something almost sacred is resurrected in our collective spirits and we tend to feel a dynamic urge to begin again with a fresh, perspective.

New beginnings with the Sun in Aries

How appropriate that we feel this way, because the first day of spring also happens to coincide with the ingress of the Sun into Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. Aries is all about beginnings. This is the sign of the pioneer, the entrepreneur, the self-starter. In many ways this is the baby of the zodiac because Aries is classic tabula rasa (Latin for clean slate).

The traditional New Year celebrated on January 1 might be the start of our new calendar year, and it does tend to have that same feel of new beginnings. Still, have you ever noticed how fleeting it is? Within a week or so we’re all back to our daily grind. January is, after all, the month of hardworking Capricorn.

However, if you pay attention to the energy around the Astrological New Year each spring, you may notice something different. There’s a pungent smell of possibility in the air and it lingers. Everything old has been washed away and we’re busy planting seeds of new beginnings everywhere (along with our flower and vegetable gardens).

This is what “spring fever” is all about! The restless energy we feel that haunts students everywhere is because now that the Sun is out the LAST place they want to be is cooped up inside a classroom. These psychological and physical urges have been documented at this time of year and often bring an increase in vitality — and even your sex drive! Not surprising when you consider that Aries is the sign ruled by passionate, assertive Mars.

It’s time to get out there…

Let’s Talk Witch – So What is Ostara All About?

Ostara Comments

Let’s Talk Witch – So What is Ostara All About?

Ostara or the Spring Equinox when I grew up was always celebrated on March 21. In fact, all the Equinoxes were celebrated on the 21st of their respective months. Now who went and moved it, I don’t know. I do know this has caused some confusion in the Pagan community. How? Well, it is simple. The new generation of Witches & Wiccans are taught Ostara/Spring Equinox is on March 20. The Elders celebrate Ostara on March 21st. See the confusion.

To simplify matters, someone (who I don’t know) decided we celebrate Ostara from March 20th thru March 22nd. I guess this just gives us an excuse to celebrate more days, huh? I practice the Ways of Old, which means I am convinced that Ostara is on March 21st. But the books and other material insist that the Spring Equinox occurs during the previous days.

To me, it is like pick one and stick to it. My tradition dictates to me that we celebrate Ostara on the 21st of March. Your tradition might tell you something else. This brings us to the question, who is right? I am open-minded but I don’t like people changing things such as our Sabbats’ days around. I personally believe that no one in the Pagan community did this. I think you know were I am going with this. The same people who have stolen much of our traditions from us, now you get the idea.

All of this makes me wonder, if the dates were changed on our Sabbats, what was the purpose in doing that? Was it to make our Sabbats seem less important? To me, that seems to be the main idea behind moving these dates. Oh, by the way, our Summer Equinox date has also been changed. It is now marked as being celebrated on the 20th of June. Again, it use to be June 21st. And to get totally off topic here, they have even changed the astrological sign’s date in June. I know this personally because I am married a Gemini. But really he is now a Scorpio. Darn, my sign and his sign aren’t even compatiable. Like I said that is totally off topic. But are you getting my point.

It is time for us to wake up and see what is actually happening. Someone is screwing with our Religion (I don’t like the term, screwing but unfortunately it fits). It is an attempt to divide us, cause confusion, and most of all take away the importance of our Religious Holidays. I am tired of others outside of our Religion playing with it. As far as I am concerned, they can keep their paws off of our Religion. If they want to play with one, mess with their own. I wonder how they would like it if all of a sudden Christmas was celebrate December 18th thru 26th. I don’t think they would. Neither do I like people messing with ours.

I have never argued this point amongst the Pagan community. If I did, it would only cause a fight perhaps, confusion and divide us. That is what they want. I will not argue the point with anyone in our community. Never! I understand we have newcomers and Elders that might have grew up or just learned that the Spring Equinox was on this day or that day. As far as all of us at the WOTC, we will wish you a Happy & Blessed Ostara from March 20 to March 22. The point is simple, I will never let them win or comply to anything that might divide us. All that matters is that we know the truth, we know our history and our teachings. We never, ever let anyone come between us. We stand as one Religion with many Paths & Traditions the compliment each other.

Always remember it is extremely important that we work to bring the Craft back to the mainstream Religions. Then once we are back in its rightful place, we will rewrite our own history. Yes, Our History, we should know it better than anyone else! It is a history and heritage that I am proud to call my own on this first day of Spring (you know really it is March 21st, right, lol!).

May the Goddess bless each and everyone of you in this beautiful season of rebirth and renewal.

 

Source

Lady Of The Abyss

Spring Equinox from The Book of Shadows (1957) by Gerald Gardner

Ostara Comments

Spring Equinox

We kindle fire this day! In the Presence of the Holy Ones
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy.
Without fear or aught beneath the Sun.
But the High Gods.
Thee we invoke: O light of Life:
Be thou a bright flame before us:
Be thou a guiding star above us:
Be thou a smooth path beneath us:
Kindle thou in our hearts within,
A flame of love for our neighbors,
To our foes, to our friends, to our kindred all.
To all men on this broad Earth.
O merciful son of Cerridwen,
From the lowest thing that liveth
To the name that is highest of all.”
 

–The Book of Shadows (1957)

Gerald Gardner

The Witches Almanac for Thursday, March 20th

Ostara Comments

The Witches Almanac for Thursday, March 20th

Thursday (Jupiter): Expansion, money, prosperity, and generosity.

Ostara ~ Spring Equinox ~ International Astrology Day

Waning Moon

The Waning Moon is a time for study, meditation and little magickal work (except magick designed to banish harmful energies).

Moon Sign: Scorpio

Scorpio: Increases awareness of psychic power. Precipitates psychic crises and ends connections thoroughly. People tend to brood and become secretive.

Moon Phase: Third Quarter

Sun enters Aries 12:57 pm

Aries: Good for starting things, but lacks staying power. Things occur rapidly, but quickly pass. People tend to be argumentative and assertive.

Incense: Apricot

Color: Green

Spring Equinox Ritual Potpourri

Spring Equinox Ritual Potpourri

Recipe by Gerina Dunwich

 

A small cauldron filled with homemade potpourri can be used as a fragrant altar decoration, burned (outdoors) as an offering to the old gods during or after a Sabbat celebration, or wrapped in decorative paper and ribbons and given to a Wiccan sister or brother as a Sabbat gift.

45 drops rose oil

1 cup oak moss

2 cups dried dogwood blossoms

2 cups dried honeysuckle blossoms

1/2 cup dried violets

1/2 cup dried daffodils

1/2 cup dried rosebuds

1/2 cup dried crocus or iris

Mix the rose oil with the oak moss, and then add the remaining ingredients. Stir the potpourri well and then store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.

(The above recipe for “Spring Equinox Ritual Potpourri” is directly quoted from Gerina Dunwich’s book: “The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch’s Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes”, pages 161-162, A Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1994/1995.)

 

Source

Ostara Lore

Researched and Compiled by StormWing