Spring Festival: Ostara

Ostara Comments

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Ostara is the Spring or Vernal equinox when days and nights are once again equal in length. It is a time of renewal and rebirth. The name Ostara is believed to be derived from Eostre – the Teutonic lunar Goddess (see more on this below). Her chief symbols are the hare, which represents fertility, and the egg, which is a symbol of rebirth.

(In the Southern Hemisphere, it is Mabon that this being celebrated today at the time, with the balance of daylight about to go in the opposite direction, from more daylight to less.)

Ostara is close in symbolism to the Church festival of Easter, but Ostara is fixed at the equinox while Easter is a moveable feast decided by the phases of the moon. The Jewish holiday of Passover also falls during March or April, depending on the moon phases of each year.
Ostara also falls close to St Patrick’s Day amongst other festivals – there’s more detail in this article: Spring Traditions around the World.

Traditionally this day marks the start of Spring, and is a good time for cleaning in the physical, emotional, and spiritual sense.

This year, Ostara falls on the 20 March.

Correspondences: green, yellow, black/white, pastel colours, eggs, hares, spring cleaning, balance, light/dark, crocus, daffodils, ducklings and chicks, lambs, honey, aquamarine. Recipes and foods involving duck, rabbit, eggs, milk, cheese, fresh spring greens.

Origins and Etymology

Futhermore there is an interesting article “The Ever-Young Goddess” about Ostara vs Easter. Noting that words are polticial, the author examines the various names and concludes that ” Although the majority of English-speaking Paganry has taken Ostara as its term of art—I suspect that Eostre and Eastre seem ‘tainted’ by their proximity to overculture use—some heathens have taken to calling the Lady of Dawn—and her eponymous spring festival—by her modern name, Easter…For all that this usage may occasion confusion to some listeners, it’s indisputable that, had the worship of the Anglo-Saxon gidden (goddess) continued unbroken into our times, we would today name her Easter.”

The Hare

In Celtic tradition, the hare is sacred to the Goddess and is the totem animal of many lunar goddesses such as Hecate, Freyja, the disputed Eostre, and Holda – the hare is a symbol for the moon. The date of the Christian Easter is determined by the phase of the moon. The nocturnal hare, so closely associated with the moon which dies every morning and is resurrected every evening, also represents the rebirth of nature in Spring. Both the moon and the hare were believed to die daily in order to be reborn – therefore the Hare is a symbol of immortality. It is also a major symbol for fertility and abundance as the hare can conceive while already pregnant. Over the centuries the symbol of the Hare at Ostara has become the Easter Bunny who brings eggs to children on Easter morning, the Christian day of rebirth and resurrection. Hare hunting was taboo but because the date of Easter is determined by the Moon together with the Hare’s strong lunar associations, hare-hunting was a common Easter activity in England (and also at Beltane). The Goddess and the Green Man: Ostara

Regarding St Patricks Day, this article looks at the idea that the myth of St Patrick clearing Ireland of snakes is meant to refer to him converting/banishing pagans . Why I Still Celebrate All Snakes’ Day reports that “Celebrating “All Snakes’ Day” March 17 as a protest against St. Patrick’s Day has become a sort of tradition among many of us Neo-Pagans.” The article goes on to refute most of the myths but asks

what does all this have to do with modern-day Pagans and All Snakes’ Day? It has to do with power: specifically, the power of myths and symbols. As commenter Crossing the Abyss states on Daimler’s blog, “mythological histories are far more significant psychologically than actual historical events.”

The article concludes that “For me, then, I will continue to celebrate All Snakes’ Day. Why? To fight myth with myth, symbol with symbol.”

Further Reading

Ostara correspondences, food and rituals

Ostara Customs, Traditions and Folklore

The surprising Middle Eastern, pre-Christian, origins of Easter Eggs

The disputed origins of Eostre

recipe for an Ostara Frittata

Ostara Recipes

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