Ostara marks start of spring and new beginnings

The vernal equinox (arriving Thursday, March 20) is the time of year for new beginnings. We see this phenomenon everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere and primarily in its more temperate regions. It is classically named “vernal” after the Latin term vernus meaning, “of spring” and is called “Ostara” by Wiccans.

Ostara, according to Jacob Grimm (of “Grimms’ Fairy Tales”), was the name of a goddess of the dawn whose day of celebration was on the vernal equinox and is where the origin of the word “Easter” derives.  Easter is marked by the feast of the Passover, which is on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.

An Ostara altar. Photo courtesy of Organic-Momma/Creative Commons

An Ostara altar. Photo courtesy of Organic-Momma/Creative Commons

Games and activities that characterize Ostara traditions are carried down to us from the ancients. Egg painting, egg hiding, egg finding and eggs-a-plenty to eat are only a few things that characterize this time of year for planting, starting and beginning.

Reproduction is often symbolized by rabbits due to their particular procreative nature to multiply readily, and bunny rabbits are no exception. People long ago associated this time of year with fecundity and the mating season, and it is for this reason too that many symbols like the egg and the bunny survive in today’s culture. Sparked by the mating contests of rams, the astrological cardinal sign behind the sun that leads this time of year is reflected in the name of “Aries,” the ram.

The kinds of foods you might find at a Wiccan Ostara Sabbat include sunflower and pumpkin seeds (since they keep well over the winter), sprouted seeds such as alfalfa or broccoli sprouts, green vegetables, eggs of all sorts, flower garnishes of rose or carnation, and one may even find an occasional rabbit on the spit!

Pastel and soft colors characterize the still, yet soft light of the sun; here the sun is only at half strength due to the equal nature of night and day that gives the equinox its name. Wiccans revere the day of Ostara to honor the Goddess and the God, in all of their fruitful ways and in all ways yielding.

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7 Responses to “Ostara marks start of spring and new beginnings”

  1. Michele Joseph

    WoW ! “East” & “Easter” ! Right in front of my nose, and I never noticed it before !
    I’m noticing that nearly everything, Ostara, Easter, Christmas,Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Diwali- they all have to do with light.
    Makes sense, no light, no crops, no harvest. Doom.

  2. Michele Joseph

    I’ve also heard that Easter has roots in the Babylonian goddess Ishtar ,
    the one venerated with the Babylonian Ishtar Gate-one of the wonders
    of the world. She was the goddess of fertility, love, war, & sex.
    It makes sense that spring would be celebrated everywhere.
    I think that towards the end, it might be common to think that you might not make it through.
    This last winter was the one I understand that fear mostly clearly.

    • Denis Eble

      Ha! Great line, Michele! I’ve been chipping ice away from my driveway all morning. This is both nuts as well as scary.

    • Lord Sage

      Yes, I am quite certain that more than a few individuals would think that Pagans and Wiccans “stole” Easter or are somehow attempting to eliminate Christ out of the equation! Personally, I do not dictate to people how or what they should or should not believe…when I converse with people, I like very much to learn about them and the way they think (regardless of what my opinions are). Jahovah’s Witnessess, for example, have worked very hard to eliminate pagan influences altogether from Christianity. They believe that Christ has a message quite different than what pagans were representing. I really admire that quality in the Jahovah’s Witness faith, as I both love and respect my Jahovah’s Witness friends.
      At the same time, I know of pagans and Wiccans who believe that Christianity ripped Easter off from them! I’ve met some very hard-nosed Wiccans who adhere to history so well, that they develop an unbending (and sometimes unsympathetic) will to preserve it.
      What I have learned is that the words “Ostara,” “Easter,” “East,” and the Greek goddess of the dawn “Eos” all come from a P.I.E. root “awes-” meaning “to shine” or “to shed light.” One can see this plainly, as more light is being shed on the subject! And we also know that between the Vernal Equinox and the Summer Solstice is the greater part of light shed upon the Northern Hemisphere; in turn, the Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of that period.
      Finally, we also celebrate the Christian holiday near the pagan/Wiccan holiday due to the relationship of their events and their mutual interconnections–NOT because they are polar opposites. After all, is not the light of the message of Christ displayed by his passion he suffered on the Cross? Is he not seen as a light bearer, brought to light by the reason he suffered?

    • Lord Sage

      I must admit, I was a little afraid we might not see ourselves out of Winter!

  3. Denis Eble

    Grange- I had an odd thought some hours after I posted my comment. You don’t suppose that some ignorant fundamentalist- one who doesn’t know of Ostara- might start preaching that Pagans and Wiccans stole Easter and are attempting to take Christ out of Easter? Further, I wonder if any ban bunnies and colored eggs from their children.

    Far fetched?

    Westboro Baptist Church.

  4. Denis Eble

    Enjoyable and informative article! As a kid I wondered why rabbits were bringing chicken eggs in their baskets. The naive assumption would be that they raided the hen house, but that was the business of the fox. Way too much confusion for a kid looking for chocolate eggs!

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