Ostara – The Spring Equinox

The Equinox, which falls this year on Friday 20th March 2015,  is the beginning of Spring. This is also known in Pagan calendars as Ostara – the second solar festival in the Wiccan year. It is a time of welcoming warmth and balance after the long winter slumber. We can feel the Earth’s energy within us starting to ignite as the days now grow longer.

There is potential in the air and bird song everywhere. The trees are in bud and the daffodils and flowers are pushing their way upwards to the sun. With the combined energy of the New Super Moon and Solar Eclipse we feel the potential for new beginnings deep within us. 

The Equinox brings about equilibrium – balance between light and dark, making us aware of the duality of nature and how life balances death. Yin and Yang – balanced polarities.

With new life springing up all around us and with light and dark in perfect balance, the Spring Equinox ushers in a changing of the ages. The zodiac ends with Pisces and starts with Aries and this itself is also a symbol of death and rebirth.

From a Wiccan point of view, this sabbat marks the return of the Spring Maiden as she is reunited with her Mother Goddess. This signals the renewal of life and is reminiscent of the story of Persephone.

It is said that Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, was kidnapped by Hades, Lord of the Underworld to be his bride. Persephone’s mother, Demeter discovered that Zeus had allowed the kidnapping to take place and she was angry and distraught at the loss of her daughter and Zeus’ betrayal. She vowed that until her daughter was returned to her she would not allow the crops to grow and all vegetation would die.

Zeus sent his messenger Hermes to the underworld to negotiate with Hades about releasing Persephone, however Persephone had been tricked into eating 6 pomegranate seeds which meant she was eternally bound to Hades. Hades agreed to allow her to return to Demeter for 6 months of the year and then for the other 6 she was to return as his bride.

Demeter allowed the crops to re-grow and the flowers to bloom in the Spring and Summer while her daughter was returned to her and then weeping in the Autumn and Winter she caused them to die off as Persephone returned to the underworld. This is the Greek Myth of Persephone and Demeter and is symbolic of the seasons of the year. You can clearly see the resonance with the Wiccan theme of the Spring Maiden returning from her slumber.

The Sun God, born at Yule is also growing in vitality at this time, ever growing in strength until his peak at the Summer Solstice in June. For now he is the perfect consort for the Spring Maiden and their love is innocent and perfect. They will consummate their love when the Beltane fires are lit on the eve of May Day.

As previously stated the Equinox is called Ostara in the Wiccan calendar. This is named after the Germanic Goddess Ostara – the Goddess of the Dawn. It is believed that eggs were ritually eaten and exchanged in her honour. Eggs are symbolic of creation and represent the cyclical rebirth of nature.

Another Goddess linked to this time of year is the Saxon Goddess, Eostre. She is the Goddess of Fertility and it is believed that rabbits were sacred to her. She is associated with dawn, rebirth and Spring.

It is easy to see therefore that these Pagan traditions have found their way into our modern celebrations of Easter, with the Easter bunny and Easter Eggs!

It is also interesting to note that in the Christian tradition Easter is a moveable festival, depending on the moon (sounds very Pagan to me!) In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 for the vernal equinox. Easter is delayed by 1 week if the full moon is on Sunday, which decreases the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover.

This year the first full moon after Ostara is on Saturday 4th April so Easter Sunday is therefore Sunday 5th April 2015.

There is no need though to wait for Easter – why not get in touch with the Pagan traditions of the season and decorate some eggs or make Solar Cross Abundance Buns? Making the buns is symbolic of bringing the 4 elements into balance. The earth (flour), water (the liquid you use to mix the dough), air (the bubbles from the yeast) and fire (the oven). By combining these 4 elements you are not only making nutrition for your body but it is symbolic of an offering to the deities of the Equinox. The transformation from raw dough to raised yeast based buns is tangible and is an echo of spiritual transformation. These delicious fruit filled buns have long been a traditional part of Easter. They are emblazoned with an equal armed cross, symbolising the union of masculine and feminine energies, as the cross represents the male principle and phallic symbol and the round bun represents the goddess feminine element. You may know them better as Hot Cross Buns – another Pagan element to the Christian festival of Easter!

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