Also known as: Oestre, Easter, the Spring Equinox, Vernal (Spring) Equinox, Alban Eiler (Caledonii), Méan Earraigh
- March 20 – 23 Northern Hemisphere
- September 20 – 23 Southern Hemisphere
This is the official return of the young Goddess after her Winter hibernation. As with the other Equinox and the Solstices, the date of this festival may move slightly from year to year, but many will choose to celebrate it on 21 March.
The Spring Equinox is the point of equilibrium – when light and darkness are in balance but the light is growing stronger. The balance is suspended just before spring bursts forth from winter. Night and day are of equal length at the equinox, the forces of male and female are also in balance. Ostara is a festival of balance and fertility.
In keeping with the balance of the Equinox, Oestara is a time when we seek balance within ourselves. It is a time for throwing out the old and taking on the new. We rid ourselves of those things which are no longer necessary – old habits, thoughts and feelings – and take on new ideas and thoughts. This does not mean that you use this festival as a time for berating yourself about your ‘bad’ points, but rather that you should seek to find a balance through which you can accept yourself for what you are.
It is also a celebration of birth and new life. A day when death has no power over the living.
Spring has arrived, and with it comes hope and warmth. Deep within the cold earth, seeds are beginning to sprout. In the damp fields, the livestock are preparing to give birth. In the forest, under a canopy of newly sprouted leaves, the animals of the wild ready their dens for the arrival of their young. Spring is here.
It is no coincidence that the name for this sabbat sounds similar to the word ‘Easter’. Eostre, or Ostara, is an Anglo-Saxon Dawn Goddess whose symbols are the egg and the hare. She, in turn, is the European version of the Goddess Ishtar or Astarte, whose worship dates back thousands of years and is certainly pre-Christian. Eostre also lives on in our medical language in the words ‘oestrous’ (the sexual impulse in female animals) and ‘oestrogen’ (a female hormone).
Today, Oestara is celebrated as a spring festival. Although the Goddess put on the robes of Maiden at Imbolg, here she is seen as truly embodying the spirit of spring. By this time we can see all around us the awakened land, the leaves on the trees, the flowers and the first shoots of corn.
There is some debate as to whether Oestara or Imbolg was the traditional time of spring cleaning, but certainly the casting out of the old would seem to be in sympathy with the spirit of this festival and the increased daylight at this time encourages a good clean out around the home.
The Easter Bunny also is of Pagan origin, as are baskets of flowers. Brightly colored eggs represent the child within.
Traditionally, Ostara is a time for collecting wildflowers, walking in nature’s beauty and cultivating herb gardens. Half fill a bowl with water and place a selection of flowers into it for display in a prominent position in your home.
This is the time to free yourself from anything in the past that is holding you back.
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underworld and cover
blossom by blossom the spring begins.
~Algernon Charles Swinburne
Méan Earraigh marks the spring equinox, when night and day are of equal length and spring officially begins. Birds begin their nesting and egg-laying, and eggs–symbolic of rebirth, fertility, and immortality–are tossed into fresh furrows or eaten by ploughmen. They are also carried by those engaged in spring planting.
A charming custom is painting eggs with symbols and pictures of what one wishes to manifest in the coming year. The eggs can then be buried in the Earth Mother, who hears the cries and dreams of her children. In some communities, eggs are hidden in the stores of seed grain and left there all season to bless the sowing and encourage the seeds to sprout. Dressed as mummers, “pace-eggers” go from house to house and demand eggs and coins in return for a short performance. Men and women exchange clothing for the show.
The eggs given to the pace-eggers have been wrapped in leaves, roots, flowers, and bark before boiling, to impart color. Later the eggs are used in games, such as attempting to strike an opponent’s legs. The eggs might be hidden or rolled down hillsides, after which they are eaten. Blood, ashes from sacred fires, fistfuls of salt, or handfuls of soil from a high mountaintop are scattered on the newly sown fields.
Offerings of food and milk are left for the faeries and other spirits who live in and around rocks and are responsible for the fertility of the land. A few fruits from the previous year’s harvest are left for the nature spirits. Sacred hilltops are visited, and picnics of figs, fig cakes, cider and ale are enjoyed. The figs are symbolic of fertility, the leaf being the male element and the fruit the female.
You can also celebrate the arrival of spring with flowers. Bring them into your own home and give them to others. You do not have to spend a lot of money – one or two blooms given for no other reason than ‘spring is here’ can often bring a smile to even the most gloomy face.
A traditional Vernal Equinox pastime is to go to a field and randomly collect wildflowers (thank the flowers for their sacrifice before picking them). Or, buy some from a florist, taking one or two of those that appeal to you. Then bring them home and divine their Magickal meanings by the use of books, your own intuition, a pendulum, this post on the Magickal Meanings of Flowers, or by other means. The flowers you’ve chosen reveal your inner thoughts and emotions.
In the druidic tradition, Aengus Og is the male deity of the occasion. Son of In Dagda and Boand, he was conceived and born while Elcmar, Boand’s husband, was under enchantment. When three days old, Aengus was removed to be fostered by Midir, god of the Otherworld mound at Bri Leith, with his three hostile cranes. These birds guarded the mound and prevented the approach of travelers, and were said to cause even warriors to turn and flee.
Make an Altar to Ostara.
Ostara, the ancient German Virgin Goddess of Spring, loves bright colors. The light pastels of spring are perfect offerings for Ostara. To represent earth on your altar, choose bright or pastel colored stones like Rose Quartz, Amethyst, or any of the Calcites (blue, red, yellow, or green). If you have some Citrine, be sure to include it. Citrine has long been an aid for mental clarity.
By including an offering of colored eggs on your altar, you will be taking part in an ancient tradition (still performed!) by the Germanic people. Ostara has been honored this time of year with painted eggs for centuries.
To symbolize fertility, in addition to the eggs, you can include seeds or rice on your altar. I like to use rice as a symbol for fertility on my altars.
Incense and feathers are perfect symbols for air on your altar. It is important for Ostara’s altar that you include a symbol for air because Ostara herself is the living symbol for Air. (This must be the way Ostara and Easter became associated with birds, i.e. chickens) Be sure to burn incense at your altar when you are dedicating it to bring in the energy and vibrational qualities of Ostara.
The perfect time to dedicate your altar is at dawn. Choose a day, then plan to dedicate your altar to Ostara at dawn’s first light by lighting incense and repeating an invocation to her as well as a prayer of thanksgiving for all that Ostara symbolizes in your life:
- A clear mind.
- New beginnings.
- Personal renewal.
- Fertility, either for the purpose of bearing a child or for creativity such as arts and crafts, writing, or decorating.
You can include anything you like on your altar to Ostara. You will know by how you feel if an item is appropriate or not. I believe it is important to include symbols for the four elements on my altars. The four elements are Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. The four Calcites on my altar (red/fire, green/earth, yellow/air, and blue/water) represent Mother Earth and the four elements. I have added feathers and other items that symbolize Ostara to my altar as offerings to her.
Last, but not least, it might be nice to include a figure of a rabbit. The rabbit is Ostara’s power animal. I am sure this is because of their propensity for fertility.
- Other names: Damballah Weddo, Da, Papa Damballa, Obatala
- Holiday: March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day)
Associated Catholic Saint Patrick (who drove the snakes out of Ireland), and sometimes also Moses, whose staff transformed into a snake to prove the power of God over that wielded by Egyptian priests, Damballah is the primordial snake Iwa of life, wealth and wisdom. He is venerated in Dahomey as well as Haitian Vodou. He may also survive in the New Orleans folk saint Blanc Dani.
He is one of the most important of all the loa, Damballa is the Sky Father and the primordial creator of all life. He rules the mind, intellect, and cosmic equilibrium. Damballa, as the serpent spirit and “The Great Master”, created the cosmos by using his 7,000 coils to form the stars and the planets in the heavens and to shape the hills and valleys on earth. By shedding the serpent skin, Damballa created all the waters on the earth.
Read more about him here: Damballah
For a very traditional offering, make a bed or hill of white flour on a perfectly clean, pure white plate. Nestle one whole, raw white egg into the center of the flour and serve.
Other offerings could include white candles and white foods like rice, milk, whole raw eggs (leave them plain or rub gently with rose or other mildly scented, fine quality floral water), corn syrup, white chickens, or white flowers. More lavish offerings might include luxurious white fabrics, crystal or porcelain eggs and/or snakes.
He is a stickler for cleanliness. He doesn’t like strong, pervasive odors of any kind, but especially tobacco. If you smoke, then do so far from his altar space or anywhere associated with him. He may object to cleaning products with strong odors too, as well as air fresheners with strong aromas. Rooms should smell clean and fresh. Open a window to aerate them. He does not object to light floral odors, like rose or orange blossom water, and traditionally expresses a fondness for Pompeii Lotion, a cologne product found in botanicas and spiritual supply stores.
From: Encyclopedia of Spirits
Kalevala Day is celebrated in Finland on 28 February, to match Elias Lönnrot’s first version of The Kalevala in 1835. It is an official flag-raising day in Finland, and simultaneously the Day of Finnish culture. The epic poem, Kalevala is celebrated by the Finns with parades and readings from the poem.
- Themes: Creativity; Tradition; Fertility; Beginnings
- Symbols: Egg; East Wind: Poetry
- Presiding Goddess: Luonnotar
A Finno-Ugric creatrix, Luonnotar closes the month of February with an abundance of creative, fertile energy. Her name means “daughter of earth,” and according to legend she nurtured the cosmic eggs from which the sun, moon, and stars developed. In the Kalevala, Luonnotar is metaphorically represented as the refreshing east wind – the wind of beginnings. She also created the first bard, Vainamolen.
To Do Today:
The Kalevala is the epic poem of more than twenty thousand verses that recounts the history and lore of the Finnish people. Luonnotar appears in the creation stanzas, empowering the entire ballad with her energy. If there’s anything in your life that needs an inventive approach or ingenious nudge, stand in an easterly wind today and let Luonnotar’s power restore your personal muse. If the wind doesn’t cooperate, stand instead in the breeze created by a fan facing west.
To generate fertility or internalize a little extra resourcefulness as a coping mechanism in any area of your life, make eggs part of a meal today. Cook them sunny side up for a “sunny” disposition, over easy to motivate easy transitions, or hard boiled to strengthen your backbone!
Another way to celebrate the day would be with a reading from the Kalevala, some of which can be found at Widdershins – just search the tag: Kalevala. There is also a nice Finnish Healing Spell adapted from the Kalevala on Book of Shadows
From: 365 Goddess
Called Feriae Sementivae, this one or two day Roman festival was moveable, but generally began between January 24 and January 26. Sacred to Tellus, and Ceres, this festival was for the protection of seeds, either those sown the previous fall, or those to be sown in the spring. During Sementivae plowing oxen were decorated with garlands, and puppets or masks were hung from tree branches.
This is an excellent time to begin to think about planting a “Witch’s Garden” and to do spellwork involving seeds. Spiritually and metaphysically, this is an optimum time to sow the internal seeds of what we hope to bring forth as the year unfolds.
The ancients honored their midwives today (January 8) as the goddess’s assistants by giving them gifts. In modern times, this might equate to sending a thank-you note to your physician or pediatrician.
- Patron Goddess: Eleithyia
- Themes: Birth; Children; Creativity; Fertility
- Symbols: A Torch; White Flowers
As the aegean goddess of birth, Eleithyia acts as the midwife to your new year, filling it with creative power. Eleithyia’s name translates as “Fluid of Generation,” giving her strong fertile aspects, and she also has a hand in personal fate.
According to myth, Eleithyia was the midwife of the gods and even birthed Eos, the creative force behind all things. When Eleithyia’s hands were closed, birth was delayed. When Eleithyia opened her body, a child arrived effortlessly.
To bring Eleithyia’s fertility to any area of your life, try this spell:
Gather a handful of white flower petals. Work in an area that somehow represents your goal. If you want a fertile garden, for example, cast this spell in your garden; for fertile ideas, perform it in your study. Visualize your goal as you release all but one petal, turning clockwise to the winds, saying:
The wish of my heart, Eleighyia see,
and bring back to me fertility.
Carry the last petal to help the magic manifest.
Source: 365 Goddess
When told by Roman officials to surrender the church’s valuables, St. Lawrence brought the city’s poor and sick. “Here is the church’s treasure,” he said. Rome didn’t find this amusing, and legend says he was put to death in A.D. 258 by being roasted on a grate, although some scholars say he was more likely beheaded. In either case, folks in southern Europe still mark this day.
- It is customary there to eat only cold meat in recognition of the reputed manner of his death.
- Fair weather on St. Lawrence’s Day presages a fair autumn.
In the book 365 Goddess, she has some different ideas about how to celebrate St Lawrence day. They are as follows:
Terra Mater or Tellus Mater was a goddess personifying the Earth in Roman mythology, with both names meaning “Mother Earth” (a common metaphorical expression for the Earth and its biosphere as the giver and sustainer of life) in Latin. She was associated with Ceres in respect to growing crops, was responsible for the productivity of farmland, and was also associated with marriage, motherhood, pregnant women, and pregnant animals. Her Greek counterpart is Gaia.
During the festivities, a pregnant cow was sacrificed, the calf fetus burned and the ashes saved for the Parilia festival (an agricultural festival performed annually on April 21). The whole event was governed by the Vestal Virgins and the Pontifex Maximus.
The purpose of the sacrifice was to assure the fertility of the planted grain already growing in the womb of Mother Earth in the guise of Tellus, to whom the sacrifice was offered. As with certain other rituals over which the Vestals presided, the unborn calf is a liminal or mediating being: not yet born, but living; not a full-fledged victim, but sacrificed. The role of the Vestals emphasizes their importance in linking through the ritual reuse of elements the Earth’s fertility, the health and safety of the flocks, and the security of the city, including and especially its military security against invasion.
A similar spring festival in China was witnessed in 1804 by the British ambassador to China, John Barrow. At the temple of Earth, a large porcelain cow was carried in procession then shattered to reveal several small cow-images inside. These were distributed among the people as tokens of a good growing season. Fowler speculated that the Chinese rite was in origin an animal sacrifice similar to that of the Fordicidia.
The full moon in February is known as the Quickening moon, it marks the official end of winter, and the quickening, the renewal of all things. While the skies are still gray, and the weather is cold, beneath the surface life begins to secretly stir.
This moon phase is a time of abundance, ripening and completeness, heavy with fertility and female divinity. It is a time when the potential of all things begins to stir towards birth in spring, a time to work on our own inner power and confront personal truths in preparation for birth. This moon sheds enough light to help us see into our darkness, so that our energy can make its way to the surface to prepare for growth and healing.
This is the season of Imbolc, the days when we know that if we can just hold on for a few more weeks, we might get lucky and see little green shoots peeking out through the snow and slush.
- Colors: Purple and blue
- Gemstones: Rose quartz, amethyst, jasper
- Trees: Rowan, Myrtle
- Gods: Brighid, Aphrodite, Juno, Mars
- Herbs: Hyssop, sage, myrrh
- Element: Fire
The word Quickening is also used to describe the first moment in pregnancy when a woman feels the movements of her baby. So too, this a time when new life is beginning, but still lies dormant. Pregnant animals, due in the spring, begin to feel the quickening of their unborn young. The earth itself is quickening, as seeds and bulbs far beneath the soil begin their journey towards the light. We know these things are coming — and we know also that this is a good month to make plans for the future. We can dream and hope, and set goals for ourselves. Accept responsibility for mistakes you’ve made in the past, and move on.
Magical workings this month should focus on personal achievements and advancement. This is an excellent time for fertility and childbirth spells.
From various sources