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.
March 4th was the Greek festival of the Anthesteria, which was a celebration of flowers and dedicated to Flora. To celebrate this Spring festival of flowers, buy fresh flowers for your home. If you have house plants, repot and fertilize them. Burn a flowery incense, such as jasmine, rose or honeysuckle. Wear pastel colors to represent the delicate shades of the new Spring blossoms. Place a pretty bowl of fresh water on your altar and float a light flower in it.
When the moon is up, go to your altar and light a white candle. Sit in the darkness with only the candlelight. Look at the floating flower and think about the wonderful powers of Nature that bring the flowers back year after year. Contemplate the way this power touches your own life.
Feel your “roots” sinking deep down into the Earth, from which you can draw sustaining energy. Feel the energy being fed back to you. Now, reach your arms upward toward the Moon. Feel its energies adding to those of the Earth. Let these energies swirl around and through you, cleansing, healing, balancing. To break the flow, place both hands on the floor. Let the energies sink back into the Earth.
From: Moon Magick
“You’re right to come, Marcher; your days demand their place
and the month that bears your stamp is here.”
March (Martius), the first month of the lunar calendar, was named after Mars and the entire month was dedicated to Him. The festivals reflected a purification and regeneration of the arms and fields, marking a time when farmers had to think of cultivating and protecting their lands. The efficacy of Mars’ divine aid was much needed in preparation for the seasonal crop growth and upcoming military campaigns, as wars often began or were renewed in the spring.
March 1st was the lunar calendar’s New Year’s Day, and may have also been Mars’ birthday. The festival of Quinquatrus (named for its length of five consecutive days) commenced on 19 March when the ancilia of the Salii and the weapons of the whole army were purified.
On 23 March, the Romans venerated Mars during the Tubilustrium, a cleansing ceremony for the trumpets used in sacred rites and the instruments of the entire army. A subsequent purification rite was performed on 19 October during the Armilustrium, and the Salii, commemorating the return of the legions in the fall, made their final procession through the streets of Rome. It signified the end of the military campaign season when arma (arms) and ancilia were purified and laid to rest for the winter.
How do we relate to Mars this month?
With Mars, there is no contemplation before action. The drive associated with Mars differs from that of the Sun in that it is self-assertion rather than assertion of the will; it is raw energy rather than creative energy.
Mars is still the essence of the god from antiquity. He is still the captivating aggressor, the rouser, and the protagonist of destiny; breathtakingly candid in His purpose and deliberate in His bounty. Mars personifies a vigorous energy that carries with it its own reproductive weight, immersed in singular ambition, and seldom outdone. He is the quintessential model of male sexuality; the catalyst for creation Who leaves little doubt that our perpetuation is imminent and our survival inevitable. Yet His artful passion is lucid; a flowing expression steeped in honorific intent and delivered with remarkably unbiased conveyance.
The expression of our basic needs remains the one true constant among all living beings. When we peel back the layers of aspirations and ideals, we reach the crux of the human race with uncanny fidelity; the instinctual drives that have served us so well. It is here, at this center that we find Mars, ceaselessly reminding us that no matter how far we venture from this place, the road back is always nearer than we realize.
How do we honor Mars this month?
Mars represents the instinctive nature still evident in all species: that of survival and protection. In antiquity, Mars’ reigning aspects were interwoven into a society that understood a definable application of pursuit and preservation. The Romans recognized the necessity of this sequence as the occurring truth behind any deliberate progress. These enduring principles are at the very heart of Perpituitas; qualities attributed to our role as the caretakers of our posterity.
In His warrior aspect we associate Mars with iron, but an iron will is of the same caliber. Protection has always been our gift to those we love, and a duty to ourselves. Though we no longer spend our days in the fields, the fruits of our labors still determine the quality of our life.
Pray to Mars when you need to shift into another gear, to bring your purpose from wishful pondering to fruition and culmination. Look to Mars when your spirit needs reawakening and you find yourself lost in the cycle of delay, needing to summon up the courage to act. When the mundane begins to chisel your determination into quiet resignation, let Mars hear your call to arms. His still powerful voice speaks volumes to all who listen. Mars continues to provoke and ignite while craftily providing us with His earthly wisdom; those universal gifts of our own nature which allow us to fully embrace our life’s experience and remain secure in our duration.
Đurđevdan is a major holiday for Roma from former Yugoslavia, whether Orthodox or Muslim. The various Balkan spellings (Herdeljez, Erdelezi) are variants of the Turkish Hıdırellez.
Ederlezi is the Gypsy name for the Bulgarian and Serbian Feast of Saint George. It’s celebrated on the 6th May, a holiday signaling the beginning of spring, occurring approximately 40 days after the spring equinox. This Spring festival is especially celebrated by Roma people around the former Yugoslavia (and elsewhere around the world), regardless of religious affiliation.
This holiday celebrates the return of springtime and is considered most important. The traditions of the Roma Durđevdan are based on decorating the home with flowers and blooming twigs as a welcoming to spring. It also includes taking baths added with flowers and washing hands with water from church wells. Also the walls of the home could be washed with the water. On the day of the feast it is most common to grill a lamb for the feast dinner. The appearance of music is also very important during this holiday. Aside from dancing and singing, traditional Brass bands are popular.
Đurđevdan in Serbian, Gergyovden in Bulgarian or Jurjevo in Croatian and Bosnian, “George’s day”, is a South-Slavic religious holiday, celebrated on April 23 by the Julian calendar (May 6 by Gregorian calendar). The feast of Saint George is attached to the tradition of celebrating the beginning of spring, and is a very important Orthodox Christian custom of honoring a family patron saint.
Saint George is one of the most important Christian saints in Orthodox churches. Christian tradition holds that St. George was a martyr who died for his faith. On icons, he is usually depicted as a man riding a horse and killing a dragon. Jurjevo is mainly celebrated in the rural areas of Croatia, mostly Turopolje and Gornja Stubica whereas every Đurđevdan is celebrated in many Serbian communities, but mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina. In Croatian St. George is called Sv. Juraj while in Serbian he’s called Sveti Đorđe and in Bulgarian- Sveti Georgi.
In Croatia, the Catholic version of St.George’s day, Jurjevo is celebrated on April 23 by the Gregorian calendar. The tradition is mostly celebrated in northern Croatia, in Zagreb County. According to tradition this day marks the beginning of spring. The use of bonfires is similar to Walpurgis Night. In Turopolje, Jurjevo involves a slavic tradition where five most beautiful girls are picked to play as Dodola goddesses dressed in leaves and sing for the village every day till the end of the holiday.
Hidrellez (celebrated on May 6th) is a very significant day, not only for gypsies. It’s been very significant in Anatolia for centuries. The word itself is the combination of names of two prophets: Hizir and Ilyas. Hidrellez signifies a rebirth of nature and is also considered to be the beginning of summer. It is said that whatever you wish for that night comes true!
According to Anatolian people’s beliefs, Hizir and Ilyas are two prophets who drank from the fountain of youth; they are brothers and friends. They have given each other promise to meet on this night of May 5 every year to give rebirth to nature. Hizir is the protector of plants; he gives life to plants. He helps poor people. Wherever he goes, he brings abundance. Ilyas is the protector of waters and according to some, the protector of animals. Wherever he goes, animals become healthier.
People believe that wishes made on this night will come true. They also believe that sick people will become healthier and it will be the end of bad luck and misfortunes. There are also a lot of rituals that people perform.
Some people put a coin inside a red cloth and then hang it on a rose branch. In the morning this money is put into the wallet so that it will bring abundance. It is also believed that if you go out, have a picnic and be in nature on this day, your days in winter will have less hardship. Most city people know this day simply as a picnic day.
Although it is commonly celebrated everywhere in Turkey, its mood is more festive among the Roma community. Apart from Edirne, Istanbul also hosts a major celebration by the Romanis in the historic Ahırkapı district, which was marked with a parade of community members in extravagant and colorful costumes.
Source: Hurriyet Daily News
In Bulgaria and Turkey, the Kakava Festival is celebrated every year on the evening of May 5th and and continues in the dawn of the next day. the morning of May 6th.
The event represents the rebirth of green and the purification of one’s self. The Roma emphasize the dates strongly, as May 6th is celebrated as the Hidrellez Festival. During the Kakava Festival, fires are lit on the eve of May 5th and celebrations are made during the whole night. After lighting the fire and jumping over it, music playing and dancing is performed.
Edirne, Turkey, home to a large Roma community, experiences large celebrations with people from all over the country as well as foreign tourists descending into the city for Kakava, a gathering of the community, for Hıdrellez.
After setting a bonfire in Sarayiçi, a historical district of Edirne, the crowd spends the night dancing. The official part ends after the distribution of rice dish pilaf to the around 5,000 attendees. The celebration continues in the dawn of the next day at the bank of Tunca River. As the sun rises, streams of revelers flock to the river where they wash their faces in the river “for prosperity and health.” They then leave candles on the river after making wishes and tying ribbons to a wish tree. Hundreds also wash their possessions, from clothes to shoes, in the river in the hope that the water from the river will bring good fortune to them.
Collected from various sources