stara, also known as Alban Eiler, Eostre, Summer Finding and Vernal Equinox, is a fertility festival celebrated on the spring equinox, which falls sometime between March 20th and March 22nd. On the spring and fall equinoxes, day and night are of equal lengths. Ostara begins with sunrise to celebrate the light overcoming the darkness and the heralding of spring, burgeoning growth and potent prosperity.
The feminine aspect of the Spring Maiden and the masculine aspect of the Horned God are called upon so that we may align with the necessary balance required for gentle growth getting ready to burst forth at Beltane. The external focus of the Ostara season is coaxing new life forth. We recognize that the length of our days have been growing ever so slightly since Yule (even though it does not feel like it at times) and this light is sending signals to the animals, our brains and plants around us to start mating and growing. The balancing act comes in reading the signs correctly. In the witch’s garden hellebore, witch hazel, snowdrops, early crocus and daphne are all blooming, however, if temporary warmth is coupled with too many full sunny days, some plants unable to withstand freeze start popping up and then buds are killed by the frost. If we misread the signs and become too eager to start our gardens, the plants in the end become listless and weak. Just as God and Goddess are learning what it is to grow the masculine and feminine energies necessary for the hieros gamos at Bel; spiritually cycles of woman and man play out similarly as we too learn to be priests and priestess in our own lives and embody the sacred energies.
At this time in the PNW, most of the snow is gone and we welcome yellow forsythia brightening the hedge as well as early daffodils and little purple-blue lungwort. These early risers along with fragrant purple hyacinth, daphne and witch hazel are placed around our homes and spring altars along with pastel-colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, rose quartz, jasper, birch, potted shamrocks, early pussy willow and seeds for blessing. While there are many stories about bunnies once being a bird and transformed to lay an egg on Ostara, there are more practical reasons for the symbology. Bunnies are associated with the goddess due to their gentle nature and nocturnal habits. They tend to be prolific in numbers and make more of an appearance during the day, chasing each other before breeding. Egg laying picks up around February, we tend to see a huge upswing in production around this time, which is welcome after so few eggs in the winter. The allegorical theme arises from the Goddess bringing forth the birthed World Tree egg of life and mystery to be laid bare before the Sun God so the fiery spark of heat and light quickens the seed within.
At this time, we come together to pay homage to the Spring Goddess and Horned God. We align ourselves with the vulnerable tendrils of equinox season, seeking balance before taking our next steps. Additionally, we give an offering of gratitude for the returning light seen in the joyous bright colors and intensely scented blooms. We call for the blessing of our seeds, so that they may be strong, healthy and abundant. New beginnings are cast through the seeds of our Grain Goddesses with plenty of water to nurture us until Beltane.
We dye eggs a brilliant red to represent the life-giving blood of the goddess. Each egg contains a message to guide the potential we have within. The shells are then used to plant wheat and nasturtiums or cast into the garden.
Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
– Charles Reade
What have you planted for the coming year?