Saturday, 30 January 2010
The spring equinox, Ostara, also known as Eostre, occuring between March 19th and March 23rd.
This is a solar festival marking one of the points in the year when hours of light and darkness are of equal balance. At this vernal equinox, the sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for 12 hours and then sets exactly in the west. So all over the world, at this moment, day and night are of equal length hence the word Equinox which means 'equal night'.
Hot cross buns, pagan long before they became a symbol of Christian Easter, represent the "sun wheel" and its perfect balance at this equinox.
For the northern hemisphere it is this equinox that brings us out of winter.
For the southern hemisphere, this time is the autumnal equinox bringing winter weather, hence the view of the Equinoxes as the 'edges' of winter.
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The Second of the fertility festivals when the hidden stirrings of life reverenced during Imbolc are awakened, the light becomes triumphant over darkness & the Earth begins to warm under the returning Sun, the seeds now quicken with new life. It is a time that daffodils and primroses bloom, that tender new leaves appear on the trees, it is time to sow seeds in the newly fertile Earth.
The Virginal (unmarried) Goddess of Imbolc, who welcomed the young Sun God's attentions at Imbolc will now conceive the child to be born at the next winter solstice. Eostre was this maiden goddess whose aspects of renewal and rebirth brought about the reappearance of spring flowers, of new chicks and baby rabbits from their winter dens and signaled the resurgence of the plow in the field. It is said that in some European traditions flowers grew from Eostre's footprints.
This is why she is symbolized by eggs (new life) and rabbits/hares (fertility).
This is also the time of the return of the vegetation god who gave his life in the autumnal harvest in order to preserve our lives during the long, dark times of winter. New grains rise from the fields where winter wheat was sown, wild animals emerge from their winter dens, farm animals begin their lambing, calving and egg-laying seasons. This is why the lamb was another symbol of the Ostara, and was sacred to all the virgin goddesses in ancient Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (which also carried over into the Jewish celebration of Passover and the later Christian Easter).
Further in this celebration of coming life, sexual relations were shared on Ostara eve, as also a communal meal featuring foods associated with fertility, i.e. cake, honey and eggs.
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Regarding Easter eggs;
Since ancient times the egg has symbolized new life and been held in reverence as a sacred object.
The intrinsic symbolism of such ritualised Eggs represented the Sun God (the golden yolk) and Fertility (the white shell symbolizing the White Goddess)...
These eggs were carried as fertility amulets, placed on spring altars and given as cherished gifts.
Many would also celebrate Ostara by burying their painted eggs in the ground, thus insuring that the crops and gardens would be inbued with renewed life.
Decoding the Eostre Egg; What do the Colours mean?
RED: Representing the power of New life, Vitality & Libido.
ORANGE: Evoking the Sun god, the warmth of Summer.
YELLOW: Summoning Creativity and the Wisdom of the Mind.
GREEN: Celebrating the Earth Mother clothed in verdant natural fertility.
BLUE: Representing the cool calming powers of Healing.
VIOLET: Tranquility, the end of disputes
WHITE: As in all traditions, standing for Purification & Protection from negativity.
BLACK: For the Mystery of the Crone Goddess.
SILVER: The Colour of the Triple Goddess, of her symbol The Moon, and of Spirituality.
GOLD: Representing The Sun God, the Light that brings Life.
Of The Easter Rabbit & The mad march hare;
Long known as a symbol of fertility, the rabbit is known for its reproductive predeliction, we still may hear of couples who have many children as 'multiplying like rabbits'. The 'lucky rabbit's foot' goes back to this ancient tradition, as it represents a "phallic symbol with supposed magical powers related to reproduction."
(The Origin and History of the Easter Bunny by Allen Butler)
However, The Easter bunny is not actually a rabbit at all, but is actually a hare. The hare was the sacred animal of the spring goddess Eostre. At this time of the Vernal Equinox, hares are famed for going ‘mad’ and it was traditionally believed that one of Eostre’s hares had madly laid an egg. This Egg became known as Eostres egg of new life - the Easter egg.
The weaving of Easter baskets also evokes the weaving of birds' nests, as necessity prior to egg laying and the continuation of the life cycle.
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On 'Spring Cleaning';
As the Vernal Equinox heralds the arrival of spring, it is also a time of renewal in the home, and so time for another spring-clean. This is more than just a physical activity, it helps to remove any old or negative energies accumulated over the winter and helps to clear the way for the growing energies of spring and summer.
A common belief is that all cleaning/scrubbing should be done in a clockwise motion to fill the home with positive energy for growth.
The tradition of wearing new spring clothes on Easter is also an ancient pagan tradition.
It was considered extremely bad luck to wear new clothes before the Ostara, but Good Luck to wear them on this day. The Teutons would work in secret throughout the winter so that on Ostara they could celebrate in their new finery. The Easter Parade grew out of these beliefs about wearing new clothing. This social event provided a chance to be seen wearing the latest styles.
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As with all the other key Nature-Al festivals of the year, there are many aspects of the Christian celebration of Easter overlayed upon this ancient festival of New Life. In Christian mythology this is the time of year Mary is informed by an angel that she has been impregnated by deity. Christians have designated the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Vernal equinox as Easter Sunday, the date identified as the resurrection of Christ.
Another ritualistic icon that was appropriated by the Christian tradition (in this case and conversely as a symbol of death), was the lily. The Lilly origionally signified life to the pagan peoples and was used to adorn altars and temples to Ostara. Young men would symbolically present a lily to the woman they were courting, and this lilly was considered almost as significant as a diamond ring is today.
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Long before the birth of Christ,
this was also a festival of great importance to the Greeks, Romans, Nordic & Germanic peoples as well as those in the Celtic lands. For example, the Ancient Eygyptians celebrated with the return of Osiris from the Underworld, and the earlier still Sumerians celebrated this time as the return of Tammuz, their grain God, from the land of the dead.
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More important than the name or location of the Deity, would be the meaning that this time conveyed in relation to the Cycles of The Seasons and Ancient peoples sanctification of their Nature based year.
We might learn from this respect for the Seasonal Goddess.
In psychological terms, the unconscious has treasures for us if we can be receptive to its still ancient but ever bright voice.
Listening to the wisdom of the moon can open us to personal ways of imbuing our lives on this bejewelled planet with deeper and lasting meaning.
Ideas & plans (even clothes) made at Imbolc can now begin (or be worn) with confidence....
Now is the time to think of what you'd like to plant and see grow, figuratively or literally, in your life.
Blessed Ostara, Happy Eostre & Welcome to Spring!