My familiarity with this lesser sabbat originates
with my Christian up bringing and parochial education. As a
child, I recall the colored eggs, the basket of candy and most
of all the white rabbit. There was also the excitement of a
new dawn, complimented with divine chocolates and the elegant
sweets. Symbols yes, but to a child, a glimpse of hope to the
overwhelming, confusing and frustrating mundane existence of
As a young adult, it was catechism, the forty days and nights
without my favorite sweets and a church day that was three hours
long. Tasks that were constant reminders by my older relatives,
of the blessings that I should be thankful for, the moral structure
of my adolescence and the sacrifices that were made for me all
in the name of religion. Talk about a guilt trip.
Little did I know that this ancient holiday, as
with most other Christian holidays, had its roots in pagan ideology
and tradition. In fact, Easter, as it is well known today, was
a pagan festival. The ancient Saxons were one group that celebrated
the return of spring with this vigilent festival. When the Christian
missionaries encountered the tribes of these isolated peoples,
they attempted to unsuccessfully convert them to Christianity.
At times the missionaries were met with hostilities. So, they
had to resort to other more successful methods of conversion.
Methods of a more deceitful manner.
Alone, and a minority in a pagan culture that was devout in
their religion, it was suicide for the very early Christian
missionaries to celebrate the holy days with observances that
did not coincide with celebrations that already existed. To
protect themselves, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread
their religious message slowly throughout the populations by
allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to
do so in a Christian manner.
As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre, as it was known,
occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance
of the Ressurrection of Christ. It made sense, therefore, to
alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration
as converts were slowly won over. And, the early name, Eastre,
was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter, by the
Christian leaders of that era.
With the effect of a variety of cultures and beliefs throughout
history, this Sabbat has dawned other names, like Oestara, Eostre's
Day, Rite of Eostre, Alban Eilir, Festival of the Trees, and
Now, Ostara, as we have become familiar, is usually celebrated
on the Vernal or Spring Equinox right around March 21. From
what we can extract from limited and vague historical documents
of the age, the name for the Sabbat actually came from that
of the Teutonic lunar Goddess, Eostre. Her chief symbols being
the bunny (for fertility and because the Ancient Ones who worshipped
Her often saw the image of a rabbit in the fool moon), and the
egg (representing the cosmic egg of creation). This is one of
many explanations as to where the customs of "Easter Eggs"
and the "Easter Bunny" originated.
This pagan holiday is a time to celebrate the arrival of Spring,
the renewal and rebirth of Nature herself, and the coming of
lushness of Summer. It is at this time when light and darkness
are in bal;ance, yet the light is growing stronger by the day.
The forces of masculine and feminine energy, yin and yang, are
also at balance at this time.
At this time we think of renewing our thoughts, our dreams,
and our aspirations. We think of renewing our relationships.
This is also an excellent time for prosperity rituals or rituals
that have anything to do with growth.
Ostara is a fertility festival, celebrating the birth of Spring
and the reawakening of life from the Earth. The energies of
nature subtly shift from the sluggishness of Winter to the exuberant
expansion of Spring. Eostre, the Saxon Goddess of Fertility,
and Ostara, the German Goddess of Fertility are the aspects
invoked at this Sabbat. Some Wiccan traditions worship the Green
Goddess and the Lord of the Greenwood. The Goddess blnkets the
Earth with fertility, bursting forth rom Her sleep, as the God
stretches and grows to maturity. He walks the greening fields
and delights in the abundance of nature.
Pagan customs such as the lighting of new fires at dawn for
cure, renewed life, and protection of the crops still survive
in ancient customs upheld in isolated places of the Southern
Americas as well as in Europe. Witches celebrate this festival
in a myriad of ways, on this blessed day, including lighting
fires at sunrise, ringing bells, and decorating hard-boiled
eggs. In those ancient days, eggs were gathered and used for
the creation of talismans and also ritually eaten. The gathering
of different colored eggs from the nests of a variety of birds
has given rise to two traditions still observed today -- the
Easter egg hunt, and coloring eggs in imitation of the various
pastel colors of wild birds. It is also believed that humankind
first got the idea of weaving baskets from watching birds weave
nests. This is perhaps One of many explanations, of the association
between colored Easter eggs and Easter baskets.
There is much symbolism in eggs themselves. The golden orb
of its yolk represents the Sun God, its white shell is seen
as the White Goddess, and the whole is a symbol of rebirth.
The Goddess Eostre's patron animal was the hare. And although
the references are not recalled, the symbolism of the hare and
rabbit's associations with fertility are not forgotten.
For Pagans, Spring Equinox is a time of new beginnings, of
action, of planting seeds for the future grains, and
of tending gardens. Spring is a time of the Earth's renewal,
a rousing of nature after the cold sleep of winter. As such,
it is an ideal time to clean your home to welcome the new season.
"Spring cleaning" is much more than simply physical
work. It may be seen as a concentrated effort to rid your home
of the pproblems and negativity of the past months, and to prepare
for the coming spring and summer. To do this, many Pagans approach
the task of cleaning their homes with positive thoughts. This
frees the home of any negative feelings brought about by a harsh
winter. A common rule of thumb for Spring cleaning is that all
motions involving the scrubbing of stains or the hand rubbing
of floors should be done "clockwise." Pagans believe
this custom aids in filling the home with good energy for growth.
Appropriate Deities for Ostara include all Youthful and Virile
Gods and Goddesses, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, Love Goddesses,
Moon Gods and Goddesses, and all fertility deities. Some Ostara
Deities to mention by name here include Persephone, Blodeuwedd,
Eostre, Aphrodite, Athena, Cybele, Gaia, Hera, Isis, Ishtar,
Minerva, Venus, Robin of the Woods, the Green Man, Cernunnos,
Lord of the Greenwood, The Dagda, Attis, The Great Horned God,
Mithras, Odin, Thoth, Osiris, and Pan.
Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of
the Year include openings and new beginnings. Spell work for
improving communication and group interaction are recommended,
as well as fertility and abundance. Ostara is a good time to
start putting those plans and preparations you made at Imbolc
into action. Start working towards physically manifesting your
The most common colors associated with Ostara are lemon yellow,
pale green and pale pink. Other appropriate colors include grass
green, all pastels, Robin's egg blue, violet, and white. Stones
to use during the Ostara celebration include aquamarine, rose
quartz, and moonstone. Animals associated with Ostara are rabbits.
Sage, strawberry, lotus, violet flowers, orange peel, or rose
petals make very good ingredients for oils and incence.
Foods in tune with this day (linking your meals with the season
is a fine way of attuning with Nature) include eggs, egg salad,
hard-boiled eggs, honey cakes, first fruits of the season, fish,
cakes, biscuits, cheeses, honey and ham. You may also include
foods made of seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame
seeds, as well as pine nuts. Sprouts are equally appropriate,
as are leafy green vegetables.