As an Equinox the celebration of Ostara (pronounced “Oh-Star-Uh”) is the festival in celebration of the Vernal Equinox. Based upon the speculated ancient German goddess Ostara, after whom the Easter festival (German: Ostern) could have been named. Ostara may have represented many complex, interrelated beliefs to our ancestors. The sun, or Maiden Goddess, was reborn from its winter banishment to thaw the earth, making it ready for the plow, or handfastings at Beltane. People felt reborn as well, escaping from close, snow-bound confinement into the new warmth. The Gods and Goddesses of fertility were active once again in the land, causing new growth everywhere. Ostara is the brightest and most joyful ceremony of the year. It is the time in which we celebrate the renewed presence of the Gods and Goddesses among us, and their marriages which ensure the fertility of the land.
A modern holiday loosely based on several holidays which were celebrated around the vernal equinox. The modern holiday does not have a strong relation to any known historical Pagan religious observation. A historically correct reconstruction is currently impossible. There is speculation that this holiday owes its roots to the Roman invasion of Ireland. Long associated with Nemetona, who is a Romano-Celtic Goddess of the magickal Grove. Nemetona means ‘grove’, and she holds special significance to the Celts. The woodlands are long thought to be magical and sacred places. Her name is thought to be derived from Nemhedh who in the Book of Invasions was the leader of the third invasion of Ireland.
Balance. The longest day and longest night, not winter and not yet spring, the rebirth of nature and the return of the God who comes to join the Maiden to bring new life and fertility to the coming growing seasons. For pagans, this is a day of preparation. Reconsecrating magical tools, balancing their energies for new work. Blessing seeds for spring planting, or starting your garden by cleaning the area and tilling the soil. It’s a good time for the lady to acquire a new broom and for the gentleman to craft a new staff.
It’s also a time for introspection. Meditation and evaluation of the current events and attitudes in your life. Examine where you might be unbalanced and where you might need to let go of the past and prepare for a fertile future. If you’ve been working extra hard during the winter months, then now you should turn some attention to home and hearth. If you’ve secluded yourself from the world other than school and work, then now turn some attention to family and friends. Too much of a good thing, still has its drawbacks.
Equinoxes are a time of balance. This would be the waxing equinox in which the sun would continue to grow in the sky. Celebrate the fertility of the land, the first flowers of springs. Green/yellow is important colors, Green being vegetative representing earth and yellow being the sun representing balance.
As the days lengthen, the earth thaws and start its greening after the long, dark, cold winter. These are the early days of spring. Our ancestors would be busy now, making final repairs to their plows, preparing their draft animals to pull them, and checking the seed corn to be sure that it was ready to plant. The success of the next year depended entirely on the crop that was about to be put on the earth. Our ancestors knew this and thus turned to our Gods and Goddesses to ensure the fertility of the earth, the viability of the seed, and the growth and abundance of the crops that would keep them alive through the next hard winter.
As the night progresses, decorate your altar with simple symbols and conduct a simple ritual honoring the rebirth of Mother Nature and the coming of spring. Once your honoring has been completed, spend the rest of your evening on introspection. While the world is quiet and at peace, review your current life and take stock of your emotions toward yourself, others, and events in your life. Try not to justify anger or sadness by placing the responsibility of what might be occurring in your life upon someone else. Rather step back without blame and take a look at how you and your actions have contributed to the events, good or bad, in your life. For those things that are working well, commend yourself. Give yourself some credit and think of something you can do as a celebration. For those things that have not been going well, take responsibility for your part in the event and forgive yourself for the actions, words, or even thoughts that may have contributed to the event. Then think of a way to turn things around.
Perhaps the primary function of the rites of Spring is to promote fertility. The timing of Ostara places it after the spring thaw, yet before planting, to maximize the effect of the blessings of the Gods and Goddesses on the fields. Probably the best-known symbol of fertility among our folk is the egg. As one would expect, the egg remains the symbol that modern culture associates most thoroughly with Easter. The egg is symbolic of balance as well as fertility/rebirth. The yolk is representative of the new birth/sun/god with the white shell is the goddess protecting that which grows in her womb (Anu the Maiden).
There are several Ostara traditions that have survived to modern culture and are readily enjoyed by all during March, including; coloring eggs, while an unknown custom in the Celtic Isles. In Western Europe and America, on the other hand, the bakery windows are filled with the most beautifully and elaborately painted eggs each Spring. Egg hunts are another surviving tradition. Anywhere you are Ostara is a time for rejoicing, not a grim and dour rite, so involve your entire family and Kindred in the fun of creating your eggs and other Ostara trappings. Eggs are still used today in a number of fertility rituals, However, another symbol of fertility that our ancestors associated with Ostara is the hare or rabbit. Christian belief has kept the overtly pagan hare as a part of its Easter celebration in the guise of the friendly Easter bunny.
The eggs for Ostara can either be hard-boiled so that they may be eaten, or the eggs may be “blown” while raw, removing the yolk and white while leaving the shell mostly intact for use as hanging ornaments to decorate your home, or to hang on an egg-tree. Preparation of Ostara eggs can begin as much as a month before the actual Ostara rite is held, whenever it seems that winter is starting to end and summer to begin.