Friday, March 20, 2015

The Beginning of Spring

"Feeding the Rabbits" by Frederick Morgan

Blessed Ostara, or Eostre if you prefer!

Ostara is a holiday based on ancient Germanic traditions and takes place on the Vernal Equinox. This time of year is synonymous with rebirth and rejuvenation in many spiritual traditions. Night and day are balanced, and the Earth is starting to awake from her winter slumber. In Wicca, the Horned God and Great Goddess are a young couple, and this is the time in which the next years Horned God is conceived.

The patron deity for this holiday is obviously Ostara/Eostre. Eostre was the Teutonic goddess of spring and the dawn who frequently took the form of a white hare (see the connection?). Her name is where the words "east" and "Easter" come from. Unfortunately, we don't know a lot about her in terms of how she was honored in ancient times. She is a "lost" deity, we know she existed but we don't know her mythology. All of the stories about her were made recently.

This time of year is a bit of a soft spot for me. I was born on Easter Sunday so a lot of my birthday parties growing up were Easter themed. I just loved the symbolism of the rabbits and the colorful eggs, and it's lucky that that's carried on into my adopted religion. It's cute to be born on a holiday as a child. As I've grown older I've come to like it less and less (you can't exactly do much on your birthday if all your friends are with their families and everything is closed).

In any case, many Ostara traditions are going to look familiar to outsiders:
  • Traditional foods for an Ostara feast are eggs, ham, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, honey, mead, candy, dairy, hare/rabbit, chocolate, and breads. However, a lot of modern Pagans prefer to fast on this day instead, as a way to clear out toxins that were stored in the body during winter.
  • Painting and searching for colored eggs is a beloved tradition. The practice of dying eggs reaches back to the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks. In Europe, eggs were often used in folk magic made to bless women with children, since eggs are such an obvious symbol of fertility. Many modern Pagans try to make their own dye from natural materials. While some believe that the tradition of the Easter Egg hunt might have roots in some nasty history (in particular the trading of money for the eggs), we tend to let it slide.
  • A slight variation to the above tradition is hollowing the eggs out to insert a fortune or confetti (or both!) inside of it. The downside of this is that the lovely painted eggs will have to be broken in order to read the fortunes.
  • Eggs can be used for a whole assortment of crafts. There's eggshell candles, eggshell garden cups, egg wreaths, and egg hats.
  • Since springtime has officially begun, this is a good time to plant seeds or start a magical garden. It's also a nice time to fill your home with baskets of local flowers.
  • I think most children would rebel if there weren't any chocolate bunnies. Why not try making your own? Modern Pagans must remember to leave one on the alter for the Goddess.
Enough of that, on with the names:

Mythical beings associated with the season:

Ostara (Germanic)

Eostre (Teutonic)

Eos (Greek)

Freya (Norse)

Osiris (Egyptian)

Artemis (Greek)

Diana (Roman)

Cybele (Anatolian/Roman)

Aurora (Roman)

Mithras (Zoroastrian)

Coyote (Native American)

Raven (Native American)

Ishtar (Babylonian)

Venus (Roman)

Aphrodite (Greek)

Faunus (Roman)

Pan (Greek)

Kore (Greek)

Isis (Egyptian)

Astarte (Mesopotamian)

Other associations:

Spring

Primavera

March

Jonquil

Xanthe ("yellow")

Xanthus

Coral

Coraline

Coralie

Violet

Iris

Hyacinth

Flavia ("yellow, golden")

Flavian

Ochre

Lourdes ("pale yellow")

Lemon

Crocus

Rabbit

Ester

Harlan ("hare land")

Leveret ("young hare")

Bunny

Catkin

Taliesin

Easton

Dawn

Primrose

Donna ("lady")

Matrona ("lady")

Junius ("youth")

Mabyn ("youth")

Ash

Birch

Shashi ("having a hare")

Sahar ("dawn")

Zora ("dawn")

Alder

Flora

Anemone

Lily

Robin

Narcissus

Narcissa

Forsythia

Pascal

Lark

Serpentine

Bluebell

Woodruff

Olive

Peony

Chloe ("green shoot")

Haru ("spring")

Midori ("green")

Fawn

Undine

Jasper

Moonstone

Fun combo time:

Jasper Harlan

Zora Lark

Pascal Woodruff

Artemis March

Junius Leveret

Midori Fawn

Flora Lourdes

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