What is Ostara and Who can celebrate?
Ostara is a modern pagan holiday that celebrates the spring equinox, which typically falls on March 20th or 21st and marks the beginning of spring and the awakening of nature. It is named after the Germanic goddess Ostara or Eostre, who was associated with the dawn and new beginnings. The holiday is often marked with the lighting of fires, the decorating of eggs, and the honoring of nature’s rebirth and renewal.
Ostara is one of the eight Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year calendar. The Wheel of the Year is a cycle of festivals that celebrates the changing seasons and the natural cycles of life. Each festival represents a unique phase in the cycle of life and is associated with different aspects of nature.
Ostara marks the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and is the time when day and night are of equal length, and from this point onwards, the days will become longer and the nights shorter. This is a time of rebirth and renewal when the natural world awakens from its winter slumber. It is a time when we can celebrate the return of the light, the growth of new life, and the renewal of hope. It is also a time when we can connect with the natural world, celebrate the changing seasons, and embrace the ongoing cycles of life.
In the Wheel of the Year calendar, Ostara follows the dark and introspective period of Imbolc, which celebrates the return of the light and the preparation for the coming of spring. It precedes Beltane, which marks the midpoint of spring and celebrates the fertility of the earth and the coming of summer.
The great news is that anyone who wants to celebrate the arrival of spring and the renewal of life can also participate in this holiday, regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs. The focus of the celebration is on the renewal and rebirth of nature, so it can be a beautiful opportunity to connect with the natural world and its cycles.
The History of Ostara
The modern pagan holiday that we celebrate today is based on the ancient Germanic festival of the same name. It was celebrated by pre-Christian Germanic tribes, such as the Saxons, who lived in what is now modern-day Germany.
The holiday was also celebrated by the Anglo-Saxons in England, who called it Eostre or Eosturmonath. There is no evidence that the ancient Greeks or Romans celebrated Ostara, although they did celebrate their own spring festivals, such as the Roman festival of Floralia and the Greek festival of Anthesteria. It was a time to honor the returning sun, fertility, and rebirth.
Some traditional practices of Ostara include:
- Decorating eggs (which symbolize new life)
- Planting seeds
- Lighting bonfires
- Performing rituals to welcome the spring season
- Holding feasts with traditional spring foods
- Gathering flowers and greenery to decorate homes and altars
Honoring the Spring Equinox
Many cultures throughout history have celebrated the Spring Equinox, a time of rebirth and renewal as the days start to get longer and warmer. Here are a few examples of cultures and the structures they built to honor this astronomical event:
Ancient Egyptians – The Great Sphinx: The Great Sphinx of Giza, which was built during the Old Kingdom of Egypt, is believed to be aligned with the rising sun on the day of the Spring Equinox. It’s possible that the Sphinx was meant to represent the Egyptian sun god Ra, who was associated with rebirth and renewal.
Mayans – Chichén Itzá: Chichén Itzá is a complex of ruins located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that was built by the Mayan civilization. The main structure, the Temple of Kukulcan, has 365 steps, one for each day of the year, and is designed so that the sunlight creates a shadow that looks like a snake slithering down the steps on the day of the Spring Equinox.
Persians – Nowruz: Nowruz is the Persian New Year, which falls on the day of the Spring Equinox. The holiday is celebrated with various customs and rituals, including the building of a special table called a “haft-sin,” which includes seven items that begin with the Persian letter “sin,” each of which symbolizes a different aspect of life, such as rebirth, love, and health.
Druids – Stonehenge: Stonehenge is an ancient monument in England that was built by the Druids, a group of Celtic priests who lived in Britain and Ireland. It’s believed that Stonehenge was used as a place of worship and celebration, and that the placement of the stones was designed to align with the rising sun on the day of the Spring Equinox.
These are just a few examples of the many cultures and structures that have honored the Spring Equinox throughout history.
How Did Ostara become Easter?
As we all know, Ostara is a pagan festival that celebrates the spring equinox, while Easter is a Christian holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, some historians and scholars suggest that the Christian Church adopted and adapted many pagan customs and traditions, including the name “Easter.” The word “Easter” is believed to have derived from the Old English word “Ēastre,” which was the name of a pagan goddess of spring and fertility. Over time, as Christianity spread and pagan beliefs faded, the festival of Ostara evolved into Easter, celebrated by Christians worldwide.
What are the symbols of Ostara
Some symbols associated with Ostara include eggs, rabbits, hares, chicks, flowers, and the colors green, yellow, white, and lavender. These symbols represent fertility, renewal, and rebirth, which are the central themes of this holiday. Eggs are a symbol of new life and the potential for growth, while rabbits and hares represent the abundance of the season. Flowers and the colors green, yellow, and white represent the renewal of the earth and the return of spring.
The Plants, Flowers, and Herbs associated with Ostara
There are many plants, herbs, and flowers associated with this seasonal celebration, since this is the time of year when nature comes to life again after the long winter. This is especially true in the Northern parts of the U.S. Some common flowers, herbs, and plants associated with Ostara (the spring equinox) include:
- Daffodils and tulips, which symbolize the return of spring and new growth
- Crocuses, which represent rebirth and renewal
- Primroses, which are associated with youth and new beginnings
- Pussy willows, which symbolize fertility and growth
- Forsythia, which represents transformation and change
- Shamrocks, which are associated with luck and good fortune
- Lilacs, which represent rebirth and new beginnings
- Peonies, which symbolize prosperity and good luck
- Mint, which is associated with abundance and prosperity
- Rosemary, which represents remembrance and fidelity
- Thyme, which is associated with courage and strength
- Dandelions, which symbolize wishes and dreams coming true.
Celebrating Ostara to Connect With Nature
Ostara can help one connect with nature. The festival honors the balance between light and darkness and the renewal of life. Celebrating Ostara can help one connect with nature by fostering a deeper appreciation and connection to the natural world and its cycles. By celebrating Ostara, one can connect with nature by:
Acknowledging and appreciating the beauty and power of nature in its spring form.
Participating in rituals and ceremonies that connect one with the energy and life force of nature.
Planting and tending to gardens, or engaging in other activities that involve working with the natural world.
Practicing mindfulness and gratitude towards the Earth and all its gifts.
Spending time in nature, taking walks, and observing the changes that occur during the season.
10 Ways We Can Celebrate Today
There are many ways to celebrate Ostara, from traditional pagan rituals to modern-day traditions, such as egg hunts and planting gardens. Whether you prefer a quiet, reflective celebration or a more festive gathering with family and friends, there are many ways to welcome the season and embrace the spirit of Ostara. Here are 10 of my favorite ways to celebrate.
- Decorate your home with spring-themed decorations like flowers, pastel colors, and eggs.
- Plant some seeds or start a garden to celebrate the start of the growing season.
- Have a picnic with friends or family to enjoy the warmer weather and fresh air.
- Take a walk in nature and appreciate the new growth and renewal of life.
- Bake some spring-themed treats like hot cross buns, carrot cake, or lavender lemon shortbread.
- Create a spring-themed altar with items like flowers, eggs, and symbols of new beginnings.
- Light candles in pastel colors to honor the balance of light and dark.
- Meditate or do yoga to connect with the energy of the season.
- Perform a ritual to honor the goddess Ostara and the changing of the seasons.
- Practice gratitude for the blessings in your life and set intentions for the new season.