Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ostara, History and Lore

Ostara, History and Lore

Oh how spring is quickly approaching! Here in Georgia we skipped spring weather and jumped straight into summer heat. I am so happy to see life come popping out of the ground at our new house. This is the first spring we will be spending in it, and I have found out about some plants I didn't know I had! Unfortunately it looks like I won't be getting around to my garden this year and modifying the existing yard, but more of that in another post. I'm here to talk about the history and lore of Ostara, the wonderful spring equinox!

Ostara is the sabbat of new beginnings. It gets its name from Eostre, the Germanic goddess of spring. Looks a lot like the word Easter doesn't it? That's because the Christian Easter is based on this sabbat. Originally Ostara was celebrated by Germanic pagans, from which the name derives, not Celtic pagans and druids. Today, however, most pagans celebrate the coming of spring with a variety of rituals and festivities.

Some of the earliest records of Ostara date back to the Persian kings, known as Achaemenians, who celebrated the spring equinox with a festival known as No Ruz which means new day. This festival was a celebration of hope and renewal, much like the Christian resurrection of Jesus and the earlier version of this myth regarding the resurrection of the Roman god Mithras. Like Jesus, Mithras is born on the winter solstice, dies, and is resurrected on the spring equinox. Ancient Mayans celebrated the equinox with a great ceremony taking place at a pyramid in El Castillo, Mexico. As the sun sets on this pyramid, the light gives the illusion of a giant serpent making its descent. This phenomenon is known as "The Return of the Sun Serpent" and symbolizes the coming of spring and life.

Many of our modern day symbols for Ostara such as eggs and rabbits, come from both medieval Europe and Persia. The March hare became the symbol of spring and fertility due to their spring behavior. This species of rabbit is largely nocturnal, but during March their mating season begins, and they can be see all day long. In fact, these rabbits are able to super-fecund meaning the females can be pregnant with more than one litter at a time, making them extremely abundant during this period of time. "Easter" Eggs, which are universally regarded as a symbol for new life, originate from Persia's No Ruz festival. For thousands of years, eggs have been painted as part of the celebration and placed on the dinner table. The mother of the family eats one egg for each child she has.

So where does the Easter bunny come from? Well, the character first appeared in 16th-century German writings stating that well-behaved children would be visited by a rabbit who would give them colored eggs on Easter. This tradition was picked up in the 1900s in America with the settlement of German immigrants. The associated of rabbits and eggs, however, is based on the confusion of our ancestors. Rabbits create a nest on the ground and when the babies are grown and the nest is abandoned, plovers, a type of bird, often come in and use the nest as their own. Therefore when locals would find a rabbit nest (known as a form) they would find eggs inside. Thinking the rabbits had laid the eggs, the folklore we hear today was born.

Today, many pagans celebrate Ostara by sowing seeds, tilling gardens for late spring planting, and celebrating the balance of light and dark as the sun begins to tip the scales toward summer. This is the time of renewal, rebirth, resurrections, and new beginnings. Celebrate the coming of spring and life returning to our beautiful Mother Earth.


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