Ostara – Another Turn of the Wheel of the Year

A Turn of the Wheel of the Year with Panaradia

Ostara  by Diana Paar

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INTRODUCTION

Next up on the calendar is the Vernal Equinox to marks the end of Winter and herald the beginning of the next season. “Vernal” is Spring (matched by the Autumnal in September) and “Equinox” means equal night – and day. For this reason, many pagans approach the equinoxes as a time of balance and therefore can connect with spirit to ease our transition as we move from one season to the next.

MEANING & INTENTION

as astrologers mark the moment the “Sun enters Aries” as the beginning of a new cycle of solar transits. Regardless of your calendar choice, this time of year has been celebrated as birth (and/or rebirth), new life, resurrection, dawn & hoped for fertility since ancient times – and several of us today are working to enliven these practices by acknowledging the power “Spring” still awakens within us.

Many pagans refer to this holiday by its Germanic name Eostre (also Oestre or Ostara) which you may recognize as the root word for “Easter”.   Whether or not Eostre was honored as an actual goddess of new life (her name is derived from the word for “dawn”), the Spring Equinox was certainly celebrated as a holiday for blessing the fields, seeds and newborn animals. Dawn goddesses of other pantheons called on by some pagans include Aurora (Roman), Eos (Greek) and Zorya (Slavic) for the same optimistic reasons. There is also a Teutonic earth mother deity who may have been celebrated at this time of year known as Nerthus whose lore speaks to many of us today. My household has adopted a tradition of burying an image of her in the dirt at the moment of autumn equinox and then “unearthing” it at the moment of spring equinox to celebrate her awakening as mother earth.

For me, the most potent myth cycle of death & rebirth at the equinoxes is the Rites of Eleusis, a mystery religion that was celebrated consistently from about 800 BCE to 1000 CE throughout Mediterranean lands. Telling the story of a mother goddess Demeter (or Ceres – grain), the abduction of her daughter Persephone to the underworld (death) and their eventual reunion at the Spring Equinox it is more than a powerful metaphor for a fallow/fertile agricultural cycle. When celebrated liturgically this seasonal mystery can bring comfort and healing to many with the knowledge that “hope springs eternal” and all that is lost may yet again return.

SYMBOLS, TRADITIONS & PRACTICES

Most symbols of the Spring Equinox represent the magic of Fertility, as well they should, since life at this time of year can still be rather delicate. Awakening from the slumber of Winter, we only began our weaning from her 6 weeks ago at the cross quarter point of Imbolc. One of the most enjoyable things about practicing contemporary paganism is to research symbols of your high days and reclaim things you did in childhood as “cultural” celebrations of the turning of year. As we located the pagan roots of evergreens at Yule, we now rediscover the bunnies & eggs of Spring!

  • EGGS Not just dying hard boiled eggs to play hide & seek with children, the lore of coloring eggs at Springtime is a long held tradition in many cultures. A mysterious yet potent fertility symbol, eggs remind me of seeds since they can be thought of as “vessels of hidden potential” and are a perfect symbol for this season. The eastern European tradition of PYSANKA is rich with meaning to be found in its colors, symbols, patterns & designs – all of which can be used magically when decorating them for good fortune.
  • BUNNIES Of course the most famous rabbit in all of western culture may be the “Easter Bunny” whose origins can be revealed with a quick search as the Sacred Hare of transformation found throughout ancient folklore.       While known as the provider of candy & gifts in baskets, the phrase “breeding like bunnies” reveals the true nature of its association with Spring: fertility and abundance.
  • CHOCOLATE While there is no ancient connection to chocolate at this time of year that I could use to justify this tradition, the “Sweetness of New Life” certainly can be celebrated with feasting & treats.       So why not choose this delicious substance to honor (then consume!) your fertility symbols of eggs, bunnies, lambs or flowers? I continue the tradition of my childhood to have at least one chocolate bunny to bite off the ears and enjoy.

For those of us in Pittsburgh PA, the moment of the 2016 Vernal Equinox will occur at 12:30 AM on Sunday, March 20th at which time I will be unearthing my own personal Nerthus idol, as I have for many years. On Tuesday, March 22nd I will be offering a workshop on the equinox, to be followed by a simple ceremony to celebrate the arrival of Spring at Journeys of Life. Wheel of the Year ceremonies are 7-9 PM.  A suggested donation of $10 is requested. Please call ahead 412.681.8755 to reserve a spot, since space is limited.

Diana is a practicing druid with Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) where she has served as Liturgist, Priestess and Ovates (Seeress) for over 20 years. She is also an initiate of a transformational spiritual path based in western mystery traditions. A professional intuitive and mentor Diana offers consultations, classes and workshops in tarot, astrology and earth spirituality. Note: she is not a scholar although she hangs out with several. Please feel free to do your own research into pagan histories and traditions – this column is about engaged spiritual practice. But you can contact her at [email protected] with a request for resources.