What is Ostara?
Ostara, or Spring Equinox, is an astronomical occurrence that marks the onset of Spring, as well as the beginning of the astronomical year. Spring Equinox also refers to the time of the year when day and night are approximately the same length. Ostara is one of the 8 sabbats on the Wheel of the Year; the holiday is celebrated between March 19-21 every year (in the Northern Hemisphere (March 20th this year) as the coming of Spring and a time for balance, joy, and renewal.
The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals observed by many Pagans.
Spring Equinox is when the sun crosses the celestial equator (moves from south to north); the word “equinox” comes from a Latin work meaning “equality of night and day”. The days have been getting longer since Winter Solstice and are now getting closer to being equal the nights in length. Dispersing are the long winter nights and endless darkness…this is the breath of fresh air that promises Spring is coming!
From now until the Summer Solstice, June 21 (the longest day of the year), the days will gradually get longer because the sun is higher in the sky. This means more hours of daylight – and it’s getting warmer too! Anyone else excited to spend some time outside while the days transition from crisp Winter to breezy Spring?? I cannot wait!
History of Ostara/Eostre
For our ancestors, this time marked the return of the light, which meant crops, animals births, etc…general abundance and a reprieve from the cold, dark winter months. Although Imbolc is the sabbat celebrated as the lambing holiday, Ostara promised the returning light, which meant food and warmth. This was generally a jovial time of celebration for families and communities.
Goddess Ostara – also known as Ēostre is the Germanic Goddess of Spring and dawn. (Can you guess what holiday came from that name? The Christian festival EASTER!). She is also known as the Goddess of resurrection, and rebirth (sound familiar?). She is associated with freedom and energy as the animals returned to run their pastures and enjoy outdoor activities.
Historically, families would celebrate by planting crops, lighting candles, and “bringing Spring inside” by way of flowers, greenery, and decorations.
Ostara is celebrated as the beginning of new life, so planting a garden, or even a few seeds, is a great way to celebrate this holiday in the present day as well!
Just like with Easter, eggs are big for Ostara. So get out those egg decorating kits, paint some fancy eggs and use them to decorate all over the house! Egg hunts and celebratory dinners are also considered standard celebrations for this holiday. In the Pagan tradition for Ostara, eggs were considered symbols of fertility and it was thought that whoever found the eggs would be guaranteed fertility, joy, and achievement of their goals and dreams for the year to come.
Symbolic eggs – in the spirit of eggs promising success and fertility as it relates to goals, it could be fun to write some of your goals on eggs in pretty paint pens, e.g. “promotion, relationship, write a book,” etc. You could use these as home decor or even set up a fun egg hunt with your family or a group of friends. If you’re going to do the egg hunt with these symbolic eggs, keep the goals broad and general, like “abundance, joy, success” so everyone has the chance to find something promising for the year to come!
Ostara seems to be a more low key celebration than some of the other sabbats, but here are some ideas for ritual celebration of this day:
- Decorate your home (and your altar if you have one!) with symbols of Spring: flowers like tulips, daffodils, crocuses, etc; green stuff; eggs; other symbols include young animals like lambs, chicks, and calves (wondering if I could get a celebratory calf….anyone else?)
- Go outside-barefoot if you can, and feel the earth, feel the change in the seasons. Sunrise is a really great time to do this. You could, if you felt so inclined, use this time to say thanks to the Earth, any deity you might connect with, or just to feel the deep gratitude for the abundant season that is to come (gratitude and celebration make us healthier too, so take some time to be thankful!)
- Journal about the things in your life that you want to begin or that are currently in progress. Feel the momentum and abundance of the Spring season as you journal about your own plans
- Deep cleaning – Spring cleaning is a thing for a reason, y’all! Clear out the old (excess stuff, cobwebs, dust, etc), open the windows if you can. This helps you start anew while the Earth does the same. If you’re into it, you could smudge the place as well – good to clear out any old, stagnant or negative energy and start totally fresh!
- Candle Ritual – Enjoy a solitary ritual like this one or make your own!
- Tarot Reading – you can use the spread below to set your focus and intention for the new year
Celebration helps us to pause and be mindful, which in turn boosts our emotional and mental well-being…that alone is enough for me! Not to mention food, drinks, and fun with friends and family…seriously, why wouldn’t you celebrate?! Also, by slowing down and focusing on a positive moment, like a holiday celebration, we continue to support the cycle of positive vibrations & energy flowing – which in turn causes more positive things to happen in our lives!
Check out this article for more information about celebrating – it talks about how enjoying the good stuff (celebrating) is super awesome for us! It builds up our “bank” and increases resilience for the difficult times that happen in life. It also makes it easier to deal with stress on the regular and who doesn’t need that?
Does celebrating Ostara make me a Pagan?
It makes you a Pagan in the same way that celebrating Christmas makes you a Christian – which is to say, not at all.
Historically, the changes in the seasons were celebrated as a way to embrace the coming planting, growing, and harvest seasons and as a way to express gratitude to the land and the Sun for the abundance and reprieve from darkness it provided. This was all about seasonal and agricultural significance and a connection to the Earth…something I think is totally healing and energizing for all of us.
The Wheel of the Year is a more modern creation, cited to as recent as the mid-20th Century. While our ancestors celebrated the major equinoxes and solstices as an indication of coming agricultural events, Pagans adopted a larger spread of celebrations represented by the astronomical cycles. The most well known are probably Yule (Winter Solstice), and Samhain (“pronounced “sow-en” and celebrated on or around Halloween), but there are 8 in total, including Ostara.
What IS Paganism?
Paganism is a spiritual practice (likely pre-christian) that revolves around nature cycles, agriculture, and planetary shifts. There are many forms of Paganism, and it often just means you don’t follow one of the “Abrahamic” religions, like Christianity or Catholicism. The term Pagan can refer to spiritual, and sometimes religious, beliefs and practices different than those well known religions, but that most often center around honoring the earth.
We all live on the Earth and appreciate the gifts that nature gives us. It doesn’t matter what, if any, religion you ascribe to – celebrating natural abundance and shifts is a very human thing to do.
Here’s the deal though, you can celebrate the solstices, equinoxes, etc. and it doesn’t make you a Pagan! We all live on the Earth and appreciate the gifts that nature gives us. My feeling is: it doesn’t matter what, if any, religion you ascribe to – celebrating natural abundance and shifts is a very human thing to do. This doesn’t make you Pagan – you’re Pagan if you choose to be, but it doesn’t just sneak up and capture you in its web just because you choose to celebrate Ostara or any other non-christian “holiday”. You do you, though … whatever makes you happy.
Ostara Correspondences – a summary
- Colors: Pastels: pink, yellow, sky blue, mint green, lavender
- Food: Deviled eggs, quiche, lamb roast, green salads, ham, cheeses, honey
- Drink: Fresh squeezed OJ, lemonade, wine
- Crystals: Yellow citrine, moonstone, aquamarine, jasper, amethyst, rose quartz
- Decor: Green sprigs and plants – anything you can find that shows the coming Spring!
- Flowers: Daffodil, iris, peony, tulip
- Oils: Lavender, ginger, rose
- Associations: Balance, fertility, renewal, manifestation, rebirth, femininity
- Host a party: have a fire pit or bonfire
- Paint eggs
- Go on a nature walk
- Plant some seeds
- Spend time in gratitude and planning; journal about goals and actions for the coming year
- Walk barefoot outside and give thanks to the Earth
- Hold a candle ritual like the one above or create your own – recognizing and thanking the earth, the abundance the Spring season will bring, and the rest and renewal the darkness of Winter allowed
Have you ever celebrated Ostara? Will you be celebrating this year? Comment below and tell me all about it!!