Eostre – Spring Equinox

wheelA point of perfect balance on the journey through the Wheel of the Year.  Night and day are of equal length and in perfect equilibrium – dark and light, masculine and feminine, inner and outer, in balance.  But the year is now waxing and at this moment light defeats the dark.  The natural world is coming alive, the Sun is gaining in strength and the days are becoming longer and warmer.  The gentle whispered promise of Imbolc is fulfilled in the evident and abundant fertility of the Earth at Ostara.  It is time for the hopes of Imbolc to become action.  The energy is expansive and exuberant.  It is the first day of Spring!  

Ostara takes its name after the Germanic goddess, Eostre/Ostara, who was traditionally honoured in the month of April with festivals to celebrate fertility, renewal and re-birth.  It was from Eostre that the Christian celebration of Easter evolved, and indeed the naming of the hormone Eostrogen, essential to women’s fertility.  The Goddess Ostara has the shoulders and head of a hare. The Symbols of Ostara are:

The Hare

In Celtic tradition, the hare is sacred to the Goddess and is the totem animal of many lunar goddesses such as Hecate, Freyja and Holda – the hare is a symbol for the moon.  The Goddess most closely associated with the Hare is Eostre, or Ostara.  The date of the Christian Easter is determined by the phase of the moon.  The nocturnal hare, so closely associated with the moon which dies every morning and is resurrected every evening, also represents the rebirth of nature in Spring.  Both the moon and the hare were believed to die daily in order to be reborn – therefore the Hare is a symbol of immortality.  It is also a major symbol for fertility and abundance as the hare can conceive while pregnant.  Over the centuries the symbol of the Hare at Ostara has become the Easter Bunny who brings eggs to children on Easter morning, the Christian day of rebirth and resurrection.  Hare hunting was taboo but because the date of Easter is determined by the Moon together with the Hare’s strong lunar associations, hare-hunting was a common Easter activity in England (and also at Beltane).

The Egg

The egg (and all seeds) contains ‘all potential’, full of promise and new life.  It symbolises the rebirth of nature, the fertility of the Earth and all creation.  In many traditions the egg is a symbol for the whole universe.  The ‘cosmic’ egg contains a balance of male and female, light and dark, in the egg yolk and egg white.  The golden orb of the yolk represents the Sun God enfolded by the White Goddess, perfect balance, so it is particularly appropriate to Ostara and the Spring Equinox when all is in balance for just a moment, although the underlying energy is one of growth and expansion.

So what is the association of the hare and the egg?

Let us tell you a traditional story from the West Country…

Once upon a time the Animal Kingdom gathered together for a meeting in a flurry of great excitement.  There was to be a Very Special Party and a Very Special Guest was coming to visit them.  The Very Special Guest was none other than the Goddess herself, and every creature wanted to give her a Very Special Gift.

Now some of the animals were very rich and some were very poor but off they went to prepare their gifts, for only the very very best would do for the Goddess.  Hare was very very excited, he dearly loved the Goddess and although he was very poor he had a big generous heart – he was going to give her the very finest gift he could find!

Hare rushed home to see what he could find to give to the Goddess – he looked everywhere, in the cupboards and under the bed but there was nothing, even the larder was empty, he had absolutely nothing to give Her.  Except for one thing.  On the shelf in the larder was a single egg.  And that was it.   It was the only thing he had left.  Hare gently took the egg out of the larder and lovingly decorated it and took it to the party.

Hare was very worried, all the other animals gave their gifts of gold and silver and precious jewels and all Hare had was the egg.  Eventually all the gifts had been given and Hare was the very very last.  Hare very shyly presented the Goddess with the egg.  She took it and looked at him and saw the true spirit of Hare.  And there and then the Goddess appointed Hare as her Very Special Animal – because Hare had given away everything he had…….

Once told, this is a story you will have to repeat over and over again – be warned! 

The Hot Cross Bun! 

If you are weary of Hot Cross Bun’s this might renew your taste buds.  Think of it as a Celtic Cross, the four equal armed cross of balance within the circle.  You have two Equinoxes crossed by the two Solstices, the four seasons, the four Sacred Directions of North, East, South and West and the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water with Spirit at the Centre.  The circumference represents the cycle of the year, the circle of life, with the still point of balance at its centre.  (Brazenly lifted from Glennie Kindred’s book of ‘Sacred Celebrations’).

awaking-the-dragon-springThe Serpent/Dragon

In some mythologies the goddess Eostre/Ostara is associated with serpent or dragon energy.       At this point in the year the serpent or Kundalini energy is positively exploding! We often include some form of ritual to wake up this energy in our celebrations.

All Spring Flowersspring-flowers-1

Daffodils, primroses, violets, crocuses, celendine, catkins, pussy willow in profusion.

Ostara Coloursspring-flowers-2

Bright green, yellow and purple

 

ogham-celtic-zodiacTrees of Ostara

Birch

ogham-birchAs Birch is one of the first trees to come into leaf it is an obvious choice as representing the emergence of Spring.  Deities associated with Birch are mostly love and fertility goddesses.  Eostre/Ostara, the Celtic goddess of Spring was celebrated in festivities and dancing around and through the birch tree between the Spring Equinox and Beltane.  In the Ogham Alphabet, Birch riles from December 24th-January20th.  Birch twigs were traditionally used to make besoms (a new broom sweeps clean).  It signifies a new start, beginnings and birth.

ogham-ashAsh

In the Ogham Alphabet, Ash rules from February 18-March17.  In Norse mythology the Yggdrasil, the world tree, was an Ash.  Odin hung from it to obtain enlightenment and the secret of the runes.  The spear of Odin was made from the branch of this tree.  This is one of three trees sacred to the druids (Ash, Oak and Thorn).  The cosmic tree, Yggdrasil was the Ash which links the world of men with the realms of spirit and myth, and imparted understanding of the interconnection of all things. Two springs flow from its roots, the sources of Wisdom and of Fate.  Ash teaches that all life is interconnected on all levels of existence – past, present and future, spiritual, mental and physical.  Whatever happens on one level, happens on all levels.  Your thoughts and actions and whatever you do in the physical world will affect all levels of your being.

ogham-alderAlder

In the Ogham Alphabet Alder rules from March 18-April 14.  At this time of the Spring Equinox, the Alder is flourishing on riverbanks, its roots in the water, bridging and holding the magical space between both heaven and earth, holding the space between worlds.  It is sacred to Bran who laid himself down for his men to use as a bridge to cross the sea.

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