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 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!