So it dawned on me the other day that I really didn’t do a lot of talking about the Sabbat of Ostara, and it got me to thinking a bit more about this day. I’ve done some serious introspection for other sabbats, like Lughnassadh, Samhain and Imbolc… but the others I’ve not given much thought to, so I sat and contemplated it some more. What does the Spring Equinox, Ostara mean to me?
Wow. I’ve never really thought about it beyond the generic sense of it being about balance, light over-taking the dark and the Gods returning to their more youthful aspects.
But it is so much more than that. Yes, the major theme for Ostara is about balance, it occurs on the Vernal (spring) Equinox, the day when there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night on the equator. For those of us in the northern hemisphere this is the perfect moment of balance before the scales tip at long last in favor of the light. We started this journey at Yule, the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. It’s a night where it seems to last forever and in the past our ancestors were afraid that the sun would never return… but it would and we celebrate the Birth of the Sun on the winter solstice, and each day there are a few more minutes of daylight. By Imbolc we see that the Sun has really returned and able to actually notice those extra minutes of daylight that begin at Yule. Imbolc is the Quickening, that first fluttering of life felt in the belly of the Mother. The earliest babies are born at Imbolc and the first of the hardier plants being to peek up from the ground.
And then comes the Spring Equinox. We know that the Sun has been reborn and that light has returned to the earth, but today is the day that the scales tip in favor of light and Spring has finally sprung in completion. The Goddess is envisioned as the Maiden of Spring, and the Young God is the Green Man, or Jack of the Green. Like teenagers in love for the first time they are attracted to one another and begin the courtship that lead to the eventual Marriage at Beltaine, the Heiros Gamos.
This is actually a fertility festival, though many push the fertility aspect off until Beltaine where it’s more obvious, but the hints of the sexual aspect of this day remains in the sayings such as “Mad as a March Hare” or even “Doing it like Bunnies”, lol. March, when the spring equinox is for the northern hemisphere is when many animals begin their mating rituals and seeds are planted to be harvested later in the year by the time Autumnal Equinox arrives. Seeds being planted… hmm… like the “seed” the male “plants” in the female to create new life? Very much so, it’s no accident that a common euphemism for semen is “seed”, and the act of sex and male orgasm is seen as “planting” the seed of life.
So the God begins to court his Lady around this time. Once a few years ago, I was explaining the Wheel of the Year to some acquaintances in the Craft community who were fairly new to paganism and got quite a few laughs for my simplification of the sabbats, as well as explaining how the Goddess could give birth at Yule when She is only married at Beltaine. *laughs* Well, I’m going to tell you how it’s possible by giving you my generic rundown of the sabbats from Yule to Ostara… *laughs evilly*
At Yule, when the sun is at its lowest point and it is the longest night of the year, the Goddess give birth to the Baby Sun God. After this, the days slowly begin to longer and longer. By Imbolc, the Goddess is recovered and is rejuvenated, throwing off Her winter cloak and becoming the Bright Maiden once more. The baby Sun God is no longer a baby, but the Child of Light, He is up longer now, and we celebrate Light. Now at Ostara spring has really begun, and the Goddess and God are like teenagers… really randy teenagers (the kind that can barely keep Their hands off one another), and begin to explore each other, and following the example of the animals (in particular the rabbit) begin a mating courtship of Their own… essentially boinking like bunnies until Their marriage at Beltaine.
Yes, I said that they boinked like bunnies… *laughs again* I remember one of my Coven Sisters laughing hysterically as I continued my Wheel of the Year through Summer Solstice and commented that the Goddess was “preggers”. When we get to this year’s Summer Solstice, I’ll tell you how THAT one worked out, haha, because it was an interesting conversation that came up on how the cycle of the year worked out.
The Christian holiday of Easter is actually based off of more ancient spring practices, and our modern-day use of bunnies, dying eggs and having Easter baskets can be found in many cultures throughout the world… the most famous of which are Ukrainian Easter eggs, called Pysanky, which are beautifully painted eggs with intricate designs and patterns on them. Another theme borrowed from pagan celebrations is that of resurrection. Christians all over the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at this time. His resurrection comes after he returns from three days of death, spent in what is commonly known as the Harrowing of Hell, where he battled for the keys of death.
This story is very similar to other stories of deities descending into the otherworld at this time to learn the mysteries of Life and Death, one of the more famous pagan stories is that of the Descent of Inanna, where she must pass through the Seven Gates of the Underworld to speak with Her Sister, the Goddess of Death Herself, Ereshikigal. More modern retellings use a more generic Goddess who descends to the Underworld and learns from the God the mysteries of Life and Death from Him.
Another famous tale of the resurrection of Life is the Story of Persephone, Demeter and Hades. The myth tells that Persephone was a beautiful maiden goddess, and that Hades, Lord of the Dead became enamored with her beauty and grace and carried her off to the Underworld to become his Bride. Her mother, Demeter, the Goddess of the Earth in grief withdrew her blessings from the world and the land began to die, plants and crops withered and nothing could grow. The goddess traveled the land in search of her child, and eventually stopped in Eleusis and being treated kindly by the rulers of the kingdom, taught them the Great Mysteries. Eventually Demeter learned from the Sun that Hades had carried off Persephone and in rage she demanded the return of her daughter, else the land and humanity would suffer for eternity without her blessings.
The whole time Persephone was in the Underworld she mourned the loss of light and life of the Upperworld, but eventually learned to appreciate the beauty found in death, realizing that death brought peace and rest to souls after life. When Demeter demanded Persephone’s return, Zeus sent the messenger god, Hermes, to fetch her. Before leaving, Hades persuaded Persephone to eat a few seeds of the sacred food of the dead, the pomegranate. Overjoyed at the return of Persephone, Demeter returned her blessing to the world and life began to spring forth again. However, her joy was short-lived as she soon discovered that Persephone had eaten the food of the dead, and thus must be returned to Hades. Zeus, concerned that Demeter would withdraw her blessing once again, stepped in and decreed that Persephone would spend one month for each seed she ate of the pomegranate in the Underworld with Hades, and the rest of the time on Earth with her mother.
There are differing views of how many seeds Persephone ate, but most say she ate six seeds, and it is no accident that the Eleusinian Mysteries are celebrated at the two equinoxes of the year. The Spring Equinox celebrating the return of Persephone, and thus the resurrection of the earth and of all life. At the autumnal equinox we watch as Persephone begins her descent into the Underworld and her mother withdraws her blessings of growth once more in grief until the spring when her daughter returns again.
Wow, there are so many things happening during this sabbat, but most agree that Ostara is a time to celebrate the return of Spring, and balance within our selves and our lives. Many pagans use this time to take stock of their lives and “plant” ideas of growth and change, while “weeding out” the things that no longer serve in their best interest.
I think we saw me doing that with some of my earlier blog posts from a couple of weeks ago… I took a good long hard look at my Self and my Life and realized that it was time for me to do some “weeding” and begin to “plant” the seeds of growth and change and to finally take charge of the “Garden” of my life. It’s a long process, but it has begun and I look forward to the “Harvest” of good things that I know are to come!
Many Blessings to you all in this Spring season, I wish you all love and light and that the blessings of Deity shine down upon you all as we continue our journey through life.