The spring equinox is when the northern hemisphere begins experiencing longer daylight hours, and the official beginning of the spring season. In certain parts of Europe, this coincided with the celebration of the Goddess Eostre. During April, Pagan Anglo-Saxon people would have feasts in her honor. Today, this celebration survives among modern Pagans as the holiday Ostara.
The Origins of Ostara
Nobody's really sure where Ostara came from. Some claim that it is purely an invention of modern Pagans, without any real roots in ancient religions. Others connect Ostara to Eostre, and a Proto-Germanic goddess named Austro. Unfortunately, not much information survives about these entities. All of the information we have about Eostre comes from Saint Bede, an English monk from around the late 7th to early 8th century.
That aside, Ostara and Eostre are theorized to be the origin of Easter traditions like imagery of rabbits and eggs, and even the name "Easter." Today, modern Pagans celebrate Ostara as a festival of spring, fertility, and the beginning of the growing season. Though the holiday itself may not have ancient roots, people have assembled what information and traditions they had left to create something beautiful and meaningful.
There are many ways to celebrate Ostara and the spring equinox. The simplest way is to go for a walk with a quiet, observational attitude. Look for signs of the changing seasons, like new spring flowers, birds, and warmer temperatures. Make a feast of whatever fruits, vegetables, and meats are in season where you live. Begin planning your garden. If the weather is warm enough where you are, and you are past the danger of frost, you can even begin planting it.
You can also choose to celebrate this holiday with a variety of rituals:
Create an Ostara Altar
Find a surface in your home that you pass by every day, but will not be disturbed. Set it with a cloth in green, yellow, or purple, a yellow candle dressed with fragrant geranium oil, images of rabbits, eggs, flowers, and the sun, and a vase for fresh spring blooms. Think of the symbols of this season that fill you with hope and optimism, and include them. In the days leading up to Ostara, take a few moments to light the candle, admire the flowers, and allow these symbols to fill you with joy. Visualize the warm sun on your face, the fresh breeze, and the coming summer. Give thanks, snuff the candle, and continue with your day feeling renewed.
When Ostara is over, save this space for other holidays. You can replace the flowers with other seasonal plants, change the color of the altar cloth, and add or remove symbols as you need to.
Ostara Garden Blessing
If you have a yard, chances are that you have observed changes as the weather warms, the ground thaws, and plants come out of dormancy. Now is a time to honor your garden by cleaning up the beds, offering compost or fertilizer, and performing a simple ritual for protection and blessing. (Even if you do not have a garden, do not worry. This ritual works just as well for a balcony or windowsill!)
Take four tumbled jade stones, one for each corner of your garden. If you have multiple beds, you may wish to use more. Hold them in your hands, and present them to the sunlight. Say...
As you turn your face once again to warm and renew the Earth,
Bless and protect this land and these plants here.
Bury or place each of the jades at one corner of your garden. As you set each one down, say...
May this soil be blessed with abundant fertility.
May the fresh spring rains bring new life.
May the sun feed all that grows here.
May the soil provide nutrients and support.
When you are through, raise your hands above your head and say...
May the warmth of spring,
The golden sunlight,
And the gentle rains
Bless and renew all that grows here.
Ritual of Spring Seeds
In many magical traditions, seeds are one of the bases of energy and growth. Some practitioners include seeds in every spell ritual they perform, based on the principle of sympathetic magic. As the seeds grow, so will the power and effects of the spell.
In this ritual, you can harness the abundant energy of the spring equinox and the growth potential of seeds in order to bring new happiness into your life. You will need a mixture of wildflower seeds from plants native to your area, a green candle, and violet oil. Begin by dressing the candle with the oil. Set it on a table, with the seeds in a dish in front of it. As you light the candle, say...
Green for abundance, and green for prosperity
Let sun and rain bring new life and joy to me.
By this flame, and by these seeds,
As I so will, it must be.
Hold your hands over the seeds as you picture your desires. Feel the energy passing from your hands, into the seeds themselves. When you feel you have filled them with as much energy as you can, snuff the candle and bring the seeds outside to a safe place. Scatter them on the soil. As they grow, so will your blessings.
The spring equinox is a beautiful time to celebrate and be thankful for the return of long days and warm weather. Take this opportunity to get outside, enjoy yourself, and experience the hope and optimism of this season.