Ostara

Ostara/Spring Equinox /Vernal Equinox March 21-22


A 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 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 - thus 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).


And 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').


The 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!

All Spring Flowers

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

Ostara Colours

Bright green, yellow and purple


Ideas for your Altar

Coloured eggs, seeds, feathers, all spring flowers, green, yellow and purple, all foliage that is sprouting into leaf.


Eggs

There are endless traditions surrounding eggs at Ostara, so here are just a few suggestions! We are awash with chocolate eggs nowadays - if you have children don't forget the Egg Hunt in the garden (our best ever was on top of the Mendip Hills in Somerset), painting boiled eggs and writing wishes on them, sowing cress seeds inside and giving it a face, this is a FUN festival and so very easy to do something. (And when your child becomes a young woman don't make the mistake of thinking she has grown out of Egg Hunts as I did - what a crestfallen face!)

And:

Bury a raw egg by the entrance to your home to ensure abundance for the forthcoming year and fertility in your garden.

Or: Nana Violet's Egg Charm.

Think carefully what you wish for! The general rule of thumb is a brown egg for wishes involving animals and white for wishes involving people and plants, for example healing a sick animal, person or plant. Eggs with white shells are difficult to come by now as chickens are generally given feed which produces the desired brown shell, but in recent years some of the supermarkets are making white eggs available at this time of year so they are worth looking out for.

1. Blow the egg. Using a fat needle, pierce a hole in both ends of the egg, making one hole larger than the other. Using the needle pierce the egg yolk gently and swirl it around to break up the yolk. Place a small drinking straw in one end and gently blow through the other hole to help gravity do its work.

2. Paint Your Egg Talisman. When your egg has thoroughly dried out place it on top of a little mound of blue tack to hold it in place and you are ready to go! Choose a symbol to represent your wish - a heart for love, coin for prosperity, a candle for wisdom, whatever is meaningful for you. Or you can paint the whole egg in a corresponding colour - red for love, green for prosperity, purple for wisdom and so on. Another way to do it is to stick rose petals on for love, or feathers for fertility - again it is what is meaningful to you that is important.

3. When it is ready find a suitable place for it and prepare for it for hanging by threading a thin thread (embroidery thread, thin wool) through the two holes and secure it with a large knot, a bead, or even a matchstick at the bottom to hold it steady.

4. Clear your mind and focus on your desire for abundance/fruitfulness and its place in your life:

'Little charm made of shell as I hang you here may all be well. May all things grow. May all things flow. Blessings for the turning of the Wheel."

Use these words or any others that you are comfortable with - remember this is all about your intention.

Egg charm donated by our Counter Enchantress from her own family traditions.

Ostara Bread

You will need:

3 mugs strong white flour
500 mls buttermilk
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 teaspoons ground almonds (optional)
3 tablespoons golden syrup
juice of 2 lemons
1 small beaten egg for glazing
soft brown sugar for sprinkling

Blend the ground almonds and flour together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk/lemon juice and golden syrup. Now for the messy bit - mix together with a wooden spoon or with your hands - whichever you prefer. As you do so think of the emerging life we celebrate at this time and add the hopes, ideas and wishes you have for the year to come. Repeat three times:

'Out of Earth toward the Light, New Beginnings taking Flight...'

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and pat into a circle. With a sharp knife lightly score the bread into two halves to represent the Equinox. Glaze with beaten egg and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20-25 minutes. When sharing this bread with friends or family you can invite them to add their oen wishes to the loaf before it is divided up for all to share. Brightest Blessings, Debs.

Bake A Cake

Vernal Equinox Cake

Spring tides are rising high
Life cycles turning
Bursts of energy make magic fly
Rebirth is the learning.

Spring and moon magic and the mad March hare, mating and matching, birthing and hatching and all of the energy is there. This cake is the richness of spring, of the vernal equinox brought forth from the rich darkness of winter. It is a light cake of eggs and rises high in its tin, it's whiteness echoes the whiteness of the first blossoms of the thorn in the spring and the reflected light from the moon. It is best decorated simply with a light white icing dressed with blossom petals of primrose and cowslip.

You need:

4 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons cold water
12 oz - caster sugar - 375gms
smidgen under 1/4 pint - boiling water - 125mls
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
8 oz - sieved plain flour - 450gms
few drops vanilla essence
the grated rind of 1/2 a lemon

Grease and line a DEEP 8 inch cake tin and importantly preheat the oven to gas mark two, 300F/150C.

To start beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they are stiff and then put them to one side.

In your cauldron, or large bowl, beat the egg yolks and cold water for at least five minutes.

Think and talk of all the things that Spring and the Vernal Equinox mean to you, gradually beat in the sugar and then the boiling water, your yolks should be getting whiter and whiter.

Now beat in the salt, baking powder and flour beating and concentrating all the time, stir in the lemon and vanilla and gradually slow down until you are able to gently fold in the egg whites and turn the mixture directly into its tin.
Bake the cake for one and a half hours; do not peek for at least 45 minutes.
This cake rises high in its tin and should be very light and white, a breath of fresh spring air.

Recipe donated by M Saille from her wonderful book The Kitchen Cauldron.


Trees of Ostara

Birch

As 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.

Ash

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.

Alder

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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