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Ostara – Celtic spring beginning on 21st March

NamesOstarûn, Eostre, Eostra, Eostar, Eostrae, Estre, Eastre, Osteria, Ostar, spring equinox, Easter, resurrection, vernal equinox
Importance in the Wheel of the yearBeginning of spring, beginning of the growing period
Symbolsegg, rabbit, ladybird, birch
ColoursEverything colourful (light pastel)
Stonesfluorite, agate, jade
Keywordsgrowing, thriving, new beginnings, fertility

The origin of Ostara

The first written record of the goddess Eostrae comes from Beda Venerabilis, an 8th-century monk from Northumbria, England. Today the authenticity of this goddess is doubted by many, not least because of the efforts of the Christian Church to eradicate paganism. Today, only the writings of Christian scholars can be used as sources of pagan customs. Other sources have disappeared with time. Beda Venerabilis (‘Beda the Venerable’) wrote: “The Eostur Month, now called the Passover Month, was formerly named after one of their goddesses, called Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated that month. Now they call the Passover Month by her name, invoking the joys of the new celebration under the name of the time-honoured goddess worship.” – De temporum Ratione Chap. 15 Some researchers even assume that Ostara is derived from the country name ‘Österreich’ (Austria), the empire of Ostara. We can draw parallels to the Hindu goddess of dawn ‘Ushas’ and the Icelandic goddess of fertility ‘Freya’. To weaken and cover-up paganism (the Christian umbrella term for all non-monotheistic religions), the Catholic Church set its most fantastic festival at the time of the ancient Ostara rituals (that happened in 325 at the Council of Nicaea). This gave rise to the Christian ‘Easter’ with egg hunts and fertility prayers, which always takes place on the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon of spring. Whether and how Germanic and Celtic tribes worshipped a goddess Ostara cannot be proved 100%. The spring festival gained importance again in the neo-paganism of the 19th century—most of the rituals that have been handed down from this time. Ostara is the 4th festival in the Celtic Wheel of the year.

Why do we celebrate?

The goddess Ostara symbolises the awakening of the earth after a long winter. Warming sunrays make snow, frost and cold disappear. Ostara brings fertility; the earth is reborn. It is a time of growth and life. The first seed is sown and begins to sprout. It is a time of new beginnings. Today we live in luxury. Even in winter we have fresh food, heat our home and lighten up the darkness with electric light. Nevertheless, we feel the spring and the awakening in our whole body. We are filled with energy, optimism, and a good mood. Whether with Easter or Ostara – we should adequately celebrate spring and celebrate this time and nature.

How do we celebrate Ostara today?

According to old traditions Ostara was celebrated with a fire ritual at dawn to ask for protection of the crops. Also today a fire ceremony offers an opportunity. After the long wintertime, we let our inner fire rekindle. The plans we have made for Imbolc can now take shape. The increasing light and growth will support our goals. Also, the waxing moon gives us an extra push. Let old things go for good and pay special attention to your dreams, wishes, and thoughts.

Ostara Rituals

Realise Plans

Now it is easier to realise our ideas. Sit down in a quiet place and write down your goals for the coming year (or use your list from Imbolc) Afterwards you can start thinking and researching: What do you have to do to achieve your goals. Draw up a detailed “road map” with all the practical steps that will bring you closer to your destination. Afterwards, it is time to put it into action.

Fresh flowers

If the first heralds of spring are already appearing, you can go for a walk and pick your favourite flowers. It would help if you gave something back to nature when you take something from it. As a small offering, you can leave some milk or honey, or some seeds of a wild-growing herb. If you take and give nothing back, you could upset the nature spirits, and who wants to take home a grumpy troll. By the way, the flowers you choose carry a message. After you have watered them at home, you can search for the meaning of each flower. You can find them in books, on the internet or in yourself.

Colouring eggs

The colouring and decorating of eggs (fertility symbol) is a very ancient tradition of Ostara. You can give the coloured eggs as a gift to family and friends, or you can bury them as a gift to Mother Earth (Gaia)

Baking

A very nice tradition to Ostara is the baking of bread. Bread rolls are baked with an incision in the middle. The incision symbolises the vulva, a sign of fertility. Braided dough plaits are a symbol of the trinity of the goddess Ostara (virgin, mother, old woman).

Fire ritual on 21st March

Also, the custom of the Easter fire has its origin in Germanic paganism. Fires at Ostara are used to drive out the winter finally and to greet the spring and the sun. If you want to make a ritual out of the fire, invite friends and family. You should also make sure that campfires are allowed in your area. It would be a pity if the police stopped your ceremony. If fires are not permitted in your area, you can alternatively work with lanterns and candles. Caution is generally advised when dealing with fire. Fire is a vital element that we cannot always control. You can arrange the ritual according to your wishes. You can thank the fire with some incense or alcohol, provide food and drink for your guests, search for eggs, etc.

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I wish you an eventful Ostara! May your new beginning be full of abundance and joy!

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