“Now is the time of awakening. The frosts are drawn back and the earth bursts again into green life. Life is color, warmth and light and the striving for these things. All that is holy we hail, hail to joy and life. May we know the timeless wisdom and strive to give strength and healing. Ostara, may your light shine from us, hail to you fruitful goddess, may we ever love your bounty. This is the time of remaking, the trees unfurl their new foliage. Soon will come the high Midsummer, and we will be reminded of a time years beyond recall, when Earth knew only summers: the dawn time. Sacred Ostara whispers to us of this time and a promise for a bright future we hear. Stir us to achieve that brightness.”
Book of Blotar – Festival of Ostara – Summer Finding
Warmer days, sowing seeds, celebrating life, this is the beauty of Ostara. As the official end of winter, the days are getting warmer, storms are getting shorter and we look towards the high point of Sunna at Midsummer! As a Folk, we feel the kindling and yearning to start anew. We feel the need to “spring clean” and begin our gardens. This isn’t just a coincidence, but rather an ancient kindling of Folk spirit. What are the meanings behind this ancient festival? From whence did Ostara come? Why bunnies, eggs, and babies? Let us discover the rekindling of our Folk Soul in the Festival of Ostara!
Known most commonly by Easter, Ostara or Eostre marks the beginning of Spring with the official Equinox being on or near March 21st. Although Ostara is celebrated in March, the Germanic Folk called April—Ostara. Also, it is thought that this was celebrated on the first full moon after the equinox, which could possibly happen in April. On this special day the Earth sits “upright” on its axis and the day has equal light and dark hours. Everything is in balance. If one is to put an egg on a flat surface at the very minute of the equinox, it will sit upright. Ostara or Eostre literally means East—where the sun rises. It is also thought that it means Dawn or Morning light, which would be consistent with “East”. This was a day of celebration. In many areas of Europe, the winters were harsh. Although Yule is the rebirth of the Sun, Ostara is the victory of warmth over cold. The day when warmth and light would return and the days would be visibly longer. In the psyche of our ancestral Folk, this was a powerful time when the promises of Charming of the Plough would be fulfilled. The dormant Earth, lying asleep would be regenerated and spring forth with new life. The symbols of this time are in everything and everywhere.
The March Hare is a rabbit native to Europe. With the coming of Spring, the female of the species becomes “super fecund”. The species can be found running wild all over the countryside in Europe. This powerful symbol of fertility ushered in the fertile season and became the consort of the fertility Goddess.
The Egg is one of the most recognized symbols of Ostara. Eggs have always been traditionally associated with fertility, abundance and rebirth. In Alchemy the egg symbolized the Cosmos—the egg containing a “little sun” and the yolk holding all of the necessary material to create life. The egg is the visual symbol of all that lies within us. Ostara’s fecund Hare brings eggs as a message of fertility and new life.
Typically animals become pregnant in the fall, to give birth in the Spring. Often around the farm, babies of all species are bouncing around in the warm Spring mornings feeding on the new grasses and foods available. This of course makes sense since animals rely upon what nature provides, and in places that have harsh cold winters, spring promises life for their young. Life reborn! Ostara strides across Midgard with her procession of new life, a reminder of her care for new life in Spring!
After several months of cold, still regeneration, our natural world awakens. From fallen seeds buried deep in the Earth, to the fully matured trees life bursts forth in the continuous cycle. Decorations of new flowers adorn houses and Our People alike. It is Our connection and celebration of the beauty of the reborn season.
This lovely Goddess is depicted as a young maiden who strides gently on the seedlings of Spring. She represents the awakening after a long deep sleep. She is the beauty of life and rebirth which happens at this time of year. Flowers in her hair, babies in her arms, flowing gown, and bright smile, Ostara is the embodiment of the glorious reawakening after a long slumber, the new life after a cold dark, necessary winter.
Although Our Ways are in harmony and unison with Nature, we are also a Way of spiritual enlightenment. Ostara is the time of awakening after a long sleep. Our time during Winter is still meditation. The Runes of Winter are Hagalaz, Nauthiz and Isa, the time to reflect, ponder, and meditate. As our minds awake, we take the regeneration and use it as a catalyst for change and growth. The rebirth of our Soul! Ostara aids in our rebirth with bringing us back to beauty, life and awakening with her gentle touch, like that of a mother waking her children from a long slumber. Hail the reawakening!
In Medieval Germany, children had to leave out nests for Oschter Haws—Ostara’s Hare. This magical Hare would lay colored eggs for the good children that left out a nest for her. Echoing of Yule, this ancient practice lived on even during the Christian dominance over Europe. Ostara again depicted with a fecund Hare that visits the homes of her Folk bringing fertility and joy.
Ancient wisdom, New Ways
Although our Folk honor our Folkways in many ways, there is a common theme that is present in all our celebrations. As modern Odinists, we keep alive many of our ancestral way through modern practices. This begins with the Blot. We honor Ostara and the turning of the wheel into the light half year. Now is a time for light and warmth. We call on Ostara to not only fulfill the promise of a new Spring, a new Dawn, but also awaken our minds and souls, to bring a new dawn in the hearts and minds of our Folk! With her gentle, yet powerful energy she enters our souls and warms it with her embrace. The loving Goddess answers the call of her Folk.
Next we gather to celebrate the coming of a new dawn. This includes many traditional games. The Egg Hunt, ever present in so many celebrations, children hunt for the colorful bounty that Ostara’s Hare has left for them. With each egg found, the light and life for the year is renewed! The Egg Toss is the epitome of a Fertility Rite. Typically, couples gather to slowly toss raw eggs to each other being careful to not drop and break it. The winner never breaks their egg and ensures their prosperity for the coming year.
Although we purposely have these activities at our celebrations, there are many things that also bring good fortune into our lives at this time of year. This was the time to sow seeds into the land. At Yule, we honor the rebirth of the Sun. Next at Charming of the Plough, we prepare Mother Jorth to accept our seed at Ostara. We continue the chain of life and turning of the wheel. Today the reality of our existence is that many of our Folk do not have the land to have gardens and animals, so we honor Nature and her bounty by bringing in flowers for our Altar and perhaps keeping house plants. There are many ways to maintain the connection we have with Mother Jorth and Honor her daughter, Ostara. Families grow small gardens for food, or flower gardens that attract bees and/or butterflies. Others choose to create window gardens or container gardens. It is the intent in these life affirming activities that tie us to our ancient Mother.
This Ostara, as we hunt for eggs, play fertility games as the egg toss, or put lovely flower wreaths in our young girls’ hair. When we work Mother Jorth, plant our gardens, honor our ancestral Folk at our Altars, or nurture our children and animal friends, know that we are reawakening the ancestral spirit. We are exercising our Souls and honoring our Elder Kin at the dawn of the year!
Fair and awesome Ostara, your radiance warms and rouses us. Hail the glory of light, for we are the people of the light and proud shall we be. As you awaken the Earth, so awaken our folk. Hail the new awakening.
~Book of Blotar – Festival of Ostara – Summer Finding
Hail Ostara! May Her gentle touch awaken Our Folk!
Faith, Folk, Family!
The Odinic Rite Book of Blotar, Summer Finding – Festival of Ostara
Circle of Ostara, Ostara available at : http://www.odinic-rite.org/Ostara.htm
About.com, Secret Language of Symbols
About.com, The pagan origins of the Easter Bunny
Wikipedia, Easter Bunny
D.L. Ashliman, Ostara’s Home Page The Germanic Goddess of Springtime