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By WhichPrince
(Written for Ecclasia)

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 everyday life.

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 Lady Day.

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 plans now.

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.

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This page last updated January 2004