Ostara: Spring Awakening

Artwork by Josephine Wall – https://josephinewall.co.uk/

Sweet spring is finally upon us as the Wheel of the Year turns once again.

This high holiday is celebrated on the Spring Equinox (March 20-21), marking the beginning of the warm half of the year.

Ostara, or Ēostre, is a Germanic goddess whose lineage goes quite a ways back to the ancient Norse heathens. Some have debated that she is a form of Freyja, others believe she is Idunna, and some believe she never existed at all due to the incredibly limited written accounts of her over the course of history. Keep in mind that a hefty chunk of Norse beliefs and culture is passed down via spoken word, so it’s very possible that she did not need to be committed to papers. If it’s worth anything, in my experience, Ostara is an individual goddess in her own right, hailing from the Vanir tribe of Norse gods.

Ostara is a young maiden, bringing with her the first warm breezes of spring, the songs of birds coming back home from their winter grounds, the fresh green shoots of plants poking up through the dark soil, and the leaf buds on the trees beginning to unfurl. For those of you who don’t have chickens, once the spring comes there’s a substantial uptick in egg production – the amount of eggs that hens produce depends on how much natural light they’re exposed to. So, there’s your first Ostara/egg association! Eggs were an extremely valuable protein source for our ancestors coming out of a dark, cold winter.

Now, this is how the legend goes as I have heard it:

The cold, cruel winter at long last began to loosen its grip on the land,
And the creatures began to stir
The owl, tucked in his feathers on the branch, opened his eyes
The squirrels poked their heads out of their nest
The mother fox peered out of her cozy den
And the birds began to sing their sweetest tunes
Because they knew Ostara was near

They could hear her gentle, quiet footsteps
Crossing over the earth
Her satchel full of medicine
To heal the wounds of winter

Fertilizer, for all the trees, plants, and flowers
Nuts, seeds, and berries for the creatures
Sunlight and warmth for all who came to visit her
And healing hands for all of those in pain

As Ostara meandered through the woods
Bestowing her gifts
She came upon an injured bird
His wings were broken and frozen

She knelt down and began to cry, 
To see this poor, sweet creature in pain
She felt it was her fault
For arriving so late this year

Her tears landed on his feathers, 
Turning gold and silver

She knew that his time was short
But saw a beautiful soul inside
So Ostara placed her soft hands upon his breast
And spoke an incantation in a whisper

The bird, surrounded by a rainbow light, 
Morphed and transformed
Into a beautiful white rabbit
A snow hare

Now he could run and jump
With a fur coat to keep him warm
Inside, his spirit was still that of a bird,
And so to keep a reminder of his origin,
He could still produce eggs
In all different colors

So now, every year
When the signs of spring begin to come
The snow hare is the first one up and awake
To come and greet Ostara
The goddess who transformed his life
And gave him a fresh start

Honoring the Return of Ostara

Ostara’s return to us in the Northern Hemisphere is met with much celebration after the cold winter. Finally, we’re seeing the sun, feeling the warmth, and smelling the Earth as it begins to show us its new growth. It’s a time to honor fresh beginnings, new growth, transformation, spiritual renewal and fertility.

In my personal practice, I celebrate the return of spring in a few different ways. First, I love decorating my house for the season. Eggs, rabbits, pastels…oh yes. However that all has to come after our spring cleaning. There is a huge energy shift that occurs when you really deep clean a space with reverence. Releasing things that no longer serve you into the recycling, to a secondhand shop, or into the trash makes room for new and fresh things to come in. I think it’s something we’ve all experienced before – a clean room with fresh linens and a candle lit? Yeah, that’s the energy I’m talking about!

Taking time to clean up our yard is another big thing I do to welcome in spring. I have a flock of chickens and ducks, so every year at the beginning of fall and spring it’s time for the coop’s deep clean…cleaning up three months worth of bird droppings is not the most pleasant job in the world, but it looks and feels so much better when I’m done, and the girls definitely notice too. I pick up all the sticks and rake up all the leaves in the yard to burn in our fire pit. Burning and purifying the old, using the ashes in the garden. Cleaning up the paths, washing up all my gnome statues (there are quite a few of them…)

Then, it’s time to set up my altar for Ostara, bearing in mind the following ‘correspondences’ or symbols of the season:

Symbolism: rebirth, new life, new beginnings, resurrection, fertility, balance, youth

Symbols: rabbits, birds, eggs, chicks, lambs, butterflies, bees, daffodils, tulips, crocus, sprouts, baskets, ribbons

Colors: pastel green, blue, yellow, pink, purple, white, and gold

Gods/Goddesses: Ostara, Aphrodite, Athena, Cybele, Gaia, Isis, Persephone, Venus, Maiden, Pan, Cernunnos, Green Man, Adonis, Mars, Osiris, Thoth

Crystals/Gemstones: amethyst, clear quartz, green aventurine, opalite, aquamarine, rose quartz, moonstone, angelite, malachite

Herbs: acorns, crocus, daffodil, dogwood, Easter lily, ginger, hyssop, honeysuckle, iris, jasmine, narcissus, peony, rose, violets, forsythia, sandalwood

Food/Drink: hard boiled eggs, deviled eggs, honey cakes, dairy, leafy green vegetables, sprouts, fish, hot cross buns, sweet bread, milk, chocolate, jelly beans, lemonade, fresh fruits

Ostara altar inspiration from @unicornmanor on Instagram.

Ostara Ritual

Ostara is the holiday of new beginnings and life. Fertility magic (especially through the use of eggs) and garden and seed blessings are very common and powerful around this time. Use the energy of this special time to perform energy work to break away barriers, start new projects or inventions, and breathe new life into your home and garden. It’s also a fantastic time to celebrate balance as the stretches of the sun and moon are equal on this day. You can even color eggs to attract different things such as love (pink), happiness (yellow), fertility (white or blue), clarity (purple), wealth (gold), and prosperity (green).

Whatever practice you choose to celebrate Ostara, make sure you create sacred space to do your work in a potent, energetically sealed container.

If you’d like more ideas for seasonal rituals or want to read more lore concerning the Wheel of the Year, I highly recommend checking out Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials Collection. It has a small book for every holiday of the wheel that goes in deep. The Ostara book can be found here.

Happy Ostara for all who celebrate!

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