What is Ostara (as a festival)?
Ostara is a point of perfect balance on the journey through the Wheel of the Year.
Night and day are of equal length and in perfect equilibrium - Dark and light, masculine and feminine, inner and outer, in balance. But the year is now growing and at this moment light eats up the dark.
The natural world is coming alive again, the Sun is gaining in strength and the days are becoming longer and warmer. It is the first day of Spring! It was from Ostara that the Christian celebration of Easter evolved, and indeed the naming of the hormone Estrogen, essential to women's fertility.
Who is Ostara (As a Goddess)?
Ostara, (or Eostre) is the Germanic Goddess of spring and dawn. She is only mentioned once in scholarly writings of the period - Bede the monk states that during Eostre monath (the old Anglo-Saxon names for April), the pagan Anglo-Saxons held festivals in her honour. She is also mentioned in several inscriptions in Germany, and the modern holiday of Easter.
Originally the name for the Spring Equinox, but later incorporated to the Paschal calendar for the Christian resurrection holiday - is named after her. The name "Eostre" (Old Germanic "Ostara"), is related to that of Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn, and both can be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn.
Ostara's origins continue to remain a mystery. Her true mystery, however, is obvious every year. She is the first warm spring winds, the birds that return, the trees that bud and curl forth leaves and flowers.
She is the emergence of earth, rabbits and hares, the eggs that appear after a winter of no light. City folk may not know that chickens who are kept in natural lighting quit laying in the winter, when the days are short, and begin again as the days lengthen.
March/April is their peak time of year, and those eggs were a valued and welcome protein source for our winter-starved ancestors. Ostara's legacy is all those coloured eggs which many of us still hang on trees every year.
Symbols of Goddess Ostara :
The hare is sacred to the Goddess in Celtic tradition and is the totem animal of lunar goddesses such as Hecate, Freyja and Holda.
The hare is a symbol for the moon. The Goddess most closely associated with the Hare is Ostara. 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 - thus the Hare is a symbol of immortality.
It is also a major symbol for fertility and abundance as the hare can conceive while 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.
The egg (and all seeds) contains 'all potential', full of promise and new life. It symbolises the rebirth of nature, the fertility of the Earth and all creation.
In many traditions, the egg is a symbol for the whole universe. The 'cosmic' egg contains a balance of male and female, light and dark, in the egg yolk and egg white.
The golden orb of the yolk represents the Sun God enfolded by the White Goddess, perfect balance, so it is particularly appropriate to Ostara and the Spring Equinox when all is in balance for just a moment.
All Spring Flowers
Daffodils, primroses, violets, crocuses, celandine, catkins, are flowers associated to Ostara.
Bright green, yellow and purple
Trees of Ostara
As Birch is one of the first trees to come into leaf it is an obvious choice as representing the emergence of Spring.
Birch twigs were traditionally used to make besoms (a new broom sweeps clean). Its meaning is a new start, beginnings and birth.
In Norse mythology, the Yggdrasil, the world tree, was an Ash.
Odin hung from it to obtain enlightenment and the secret of the runes. The spear of Odin was made from the branch of this tree. This is one of three trees sacred to the druids (Ash, Oak and Thorn).
The cosmic tree, Yggdrasil was the Ash which links the world of men with the realms of spirit and myth and imparted an understanding of the interconnection of all things.
Two springs flow from its roots, the sources of Wisdom and Fate.
Ash teaches that all life is interconnected on all levels of existence - past, present and future, spiritual, mental and physical. Whatever happens on one level, happens on all levels. Your thoughts and actions and whatever you do in the physical world will affect all levels of your being.
In the Ogham Alphabet Alder rules from March 18-April 14. At this time of the Spring Equinox, the Alder is flourishing on riverbanks, its roots in the water, bridging and holding the magical space between both heaven and earth, holding the space between worlds.
The association of the hare and the egg for Ostara : The story
Once upon a time the Animal Kingdom gathered together for a meeting in a flurry of great excitement. There was to be a Very Special Party and a Very Special Guest was coming to visit them.
The Very Special Guest was none other than the Goddess Ostara herself, and every creature wanted to give her a very special gift.
Now some of the animals were very rich and some were very poor but off they went to prepare their gifts, for only the very best would do for the Goddess.
Hare was very excited, he dearly loved the Goddess and although he was very poor he had a big generous heart - he was going to give her the very finest gift he could find!
Hare rushed home to see what he could find to give to the Goddess - he looked everywhere, in the cupboards and under the bed but there was nothing, even the larder was empty, he had absolutely nothing to give Her.
Except for one thing.
On the shelf in the larder was a single egg. And that was it. It was the only thing he had left. Hare gently took the egg out of the larder and lovingly decorated it and took it to the party.
Hare was very worried; all the other animals gave their gifts of gold and silver and precious jewels and all Hare had was the egg.
Eventually, all the gifts had been given and Hare was the very last. Hare very shyly presented the Goddess with the egg. She took it and looked at him and saw the true spirit of Hare. And there and then the Goddess appointed Hare as her Very Special Animal - because Hare had given away everything he had.
How is Ostara celebrated?
Ideas for your Altar
Coloured eggs, seeds, feathers, all spring flowers, green, yellow and purple, all foliage that is sprouting into leaf.
There are countless traditions surrounding eggs at Ostara, so here are just a few suggestions! We are oversupplied with chocolate eggs nowadays - if you have children don't forget the Egg Hunt in the garden, painting boiled eggs and writing wishes on them, sowing cress seeds inside and giving it a face, this is a FUN festival and so very easy to do something.
Bury a raw egg by the entrance to your home to ensure abundance for the forthcoming year and fertility in your garden.
You will need:
- 3 mugs strong white flour
- 500 ml buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 3 teaspoons ground almonds (optional)
- 3 tablespoons golden syrup
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1 small beaten egg for glazing
- Soft brown sugar for sprinkling
Blend the ground almonds and flour together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk/lemon juice and golden syrup. Now for the messy bit - mix together with a wooden spoon or with your hands - whichever you prefer. As you do so think of the emerging life we celebrate at this time and add the hopes, ideas and wishes you have for the year to come. Repeat three times:
'Out of Earth toward the Light, New Beginnings taking Flight...'
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat it into a circle. With a sharp knife lightly score the bread into two halves to represent the Equinox. Glaze with beaten egg and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20-25 minutes. When sharing this bread with friends or family you can invite them to add their own wishes to the loaf before it is divided up for all to share. Brightest Blessings, Debs.
Vernal Equinox Cake
Spring tides are rising high
Life cycles turning
Bursts of energy make magic fly
Rebirth is the learning.
Spring and moon magic and the mad March hare, mating and matching, birthing and hatching and all of the energy is there. This cake is the richness of spring, of the vernal equinox brought forth from the rich darkness of winter. It is a light cake of eggs and rises high in its tin, its whiteness echoes the whiteness of the first blossoms of the thorn in the spring and the reflected light from the moon. It is best decorated simply with a light white icing dressed with blossom petals of primrose and cowslip.
You will need:
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 12 oz - caster sugar - 375gms
- 1/4 pint of boiling water
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 8 oz - sieved plain flour - 450gms
- few drops of vanilla essence
- The grated rind of half a lemon
Grease and line a DEEP 8-inch cake tin and importantly preheat the oven to gas mark two, 300F/150C.
To start beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they are stiff and then put them to one side.
In your cauldron or large bowl, beat the egg yolks and cold water for at least five minutes.
Think and talk of all the things that Spring and the Vernal Equinox mean to you, gradually beat in the sugar and then the boiling water, your yolks should be getting whiter and whiter.
Now beat in the salt, baking powder and flour beating and concentrating all the time, stir in the lemon and vanilla and gradually slow down until you are able to gently fold in the egg whites and turn the mixture directly into its tin.
Bake the cake for one and a half hours; do not peek for at least 45 minutes.
This cake rises high in its tin and should be very light and white, a breath of fresh spring air.
Goddess Ostara illustration is our shieldmaiden Fox Fae ( Insta : @wildclover_and_the_fox)