The Way of the Witch
Sabbats ~ Ostara ~ Spring Equinox
(20th - 21st March)
OSTARA (Spring Equinox) - around March 21. Christianised as Easter, the date of which incidentally is set as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
It is a time when Cernnunos, Lord of the animal world, and the Green Man, Lord of th e forests, are honoured and a time when the plans made during the dark winter begin to hatch. The Babylonian pagans celebrated their new year at the spring equinox and gave eggs, painted red to symbolise life, as gifts and blessings.
The fertility symbolism of Spring is found in the Easter eggs which are a custom in many parts of the world at this time. These were originally the symbols of the German Goddess Ostara or Eostre, who in Germanic-based languages gave her name to Easter.
March 21, is Ostara the Spring Equinox when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. The two weeks before and after both the Spring and Autumn equinoxes can often be times of stress and great tension. This is because all elements of life are being brought into new balance, physically, as day and night attain equal length. At Ostara Spring equinox, light is gaining, for future days will now be longer than the nights. So a new tide of life begins. But first the old ways must be broken down. Times of transition are, potentially, both stressful and chaotic. Out of this chaos, new ways arise. It isn't always easy to believe it at the time, but from a breaking-up, new life comes.
The main Ostara symbol is the egg which symbolises fertility in nature. It also shows how plans that were being hatched on the inner levels during the winter may now be put into practice in our lives. We may take the first steps towards doing something we have only dreamt about.
Eggs, hard boiled and hand-painted for decoration, should be on the altar. They show the emergence of life from darkness, of ideas from inner levels. They are the Goddess fertile, rich with promise and potential life all symbolic of Ostara the Spring Equinox.
A traditional Vernal Equinox pastime is to go for a walk and randomly collect flowers. Rather than picking them, note what type of flowers they are. When you get home, divine their magical meaning by use of books, your own intuition, a pendulum or any other means. The flowers you have chosen reveal your inner thoughts and emotions during Ostara.
It is important at Ostara to focus on renewed life to plan a walk through gardens, a park, woodlands, forest and other green places. This is not simply an exercise, and you should be on no other mission. It isn't even an appreciation of nature. Make your walk celebratory, a ritual for nature itself.
Other traditional activities during Ostara can include planting seeds, working on magical gardens and practising all forms of herb work - magical, medicinal, cosmetic, culinary and artistic.
Foods in tune with this Ostara could include those made of seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, as well as pine nuts. Sprouts are equally appropriate, as are leafy, green vegetables. Flower dishes such as stuffed nasturtiums or carnation cupcakes also find their place here during Ostara. Find a book of flower cooking or simply make spice cupcakes.
As soon as the soil began t o warm up and be workable, roughly about the time of the Spring Equinox, seed corn and barely would have been laboriously sown by hand. Among it would be the special ears of corn saved as the corm dolly or kern king, a symbol of potency of the Sun God, sacrificed at harvest-tide.
Easter, again named after the Goddess of Spring, is the only one of the Christian festivals which is decided by the phases of the moon, which is why it moves in transit. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the vernal equinox, which is when the Sun enters Aries. It is at the same time as the Jewish Feast of Pesach, or 'Passing Over', when a lamb is slaughtered and eaten in haste, with bitter herbs and cups of red wine. Many European countries derive their name from this festival from 'Pasques' in French, 'Pask' in Dutch or 'Pasche' in Latin, most of these being taken to mean 'Passion', and relate to the Crucifixion. Once again, the symbols linked with the Easter Festival contain many pre-Christian ones. The decorated eggs stand for the rebirth of nature; the chocolate rabbit is the Goddess's scared hare in disguise. The Easter bonnets represent the new set of clothes worn for the first time as spring unfolds her golden daffodils, and the tufts of pussy willow fur the branches in the hedges.
Spring celebrates the coming together of the male and female, Goddess and God. During the Ostara Spring Equinox begins a time of seed-sowing and fertility, when day and night, light and dark, are equal and there is a dynamic and creative tension between the polarities of opposites. Pagan Spring Equinox rites often celebrate the emergence of the young God in the world and his mating with the Goddess.
Isis of nature awaiteth the coming of her Lord the Sun, she calls him, she draws him from the place of the dead known as, The Kingdom of Amenti, where all things are forgotten. When he comes to Isis in his boat, called Millions of Years, and the Earth grows green with the springing grain.
At Ostara, the God has become the warrior, the Champion of the Goddess, and like such heroes as Hercules or King Arthur, he has twelve tasks to perform, each linked with one of the signs of the zodiac. Dancing around the circle, he shows off, in the person of the local hero, or a lad chosen by lot to play the part. He is armed with the Spear of the Sun and the Arrows of Passion, and when he played his part, wooed the Goddess and, with her permission, bedded her, he fires arrows into the setting sun and departs on his great journey.
The God is at his most 'Pan-ish'. At this stage of his development, he is in tune with animals and is himself at his most animalistic. The image of Pan, with horns but human trunk and goat legs, captures this. He is free, careless of responsibility, the adolescent coming into maturity, roaming the forests and heath lands.
At the Spring Equinox, the light equals darkness and this can be taken as bot h a representation of the Goddess meeting the God, but also as an emblem of the God's evolution. It is at this festival that he impregnates the Goddess but, although coupling with her, he does not stay with her. He continues roaming the greenwood, as the Horned Hunter.
Sabbats ~ Ostara ~ Spring Equinox
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