The very name sounds romantic, doesn’t it? It slips across the lips, sizzles the teeth, makes a guttural R in the throat. It conjures visions of stars and wistful moonlit nights. Oh. Star. Oh, star, ahhhh. Indeed, spring is a good season for star gazing as the nights get warmer and the constellations clearer.
Ostara is the official Pagan name for the vernal equinox. It marks a 24 hour period when the earth’s angle is tilted to receive equal parts of sunlight and darkness, usually around March 20-23rd. Ostara was first celebrated among ancient Germanic Pagans. It is a feast that honors the goddess Eostre who rules growth and fertility.
The names Ostara and Eostre might sound suspiciously like the Christian holiday Easter, also celebrated at this time of year. No coincidence there. In Christian faith, Easter signifies the day in which Jesus rose from the dead, leaving his tomb rolled open — and empty — to the astonished Mary Magdalene, who was, btw, the only one brave enough to visit her rabbi’s grave. Easter therefore is a celebration of life everlasting.
The name ‘Easter’ is attributed to Saint Bede the Venerable, a 6th century Christian monk. Bede was a great scholar who wrote many spiritual treatises. He was also an expert in chronology and developed a method of dating events relative to Christ’s birth (A.D. and B.C.) Saint Bede the Venerable is thought to have anglicized the name ‘Easter’ from its original Eostre or Ostara.
Easter Sunday is always celebrated in the spring, but the date changes. Ever wonder how this is determined? There is a pattern to it. If you check the calendar you will see that Easter always falls on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. In this year of 2016, for example, the vernal equinox will occur on March 20th, the moon will be full on March 23rd, and Easter Sunday will occur on March 27th. See how that works? It’s the same every year, and has been since the Middle Ages.
Legend has it that Jesus pondered his fate of crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane under a full moon, on a Thursday night (Holy Thursday) after the vernal equinox. He was crucified the next day (Good Friday) and rose from the dead on that Sunday.
Moving on to chocolate! Ever wonder where we got those traditions of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps?
No, not just to give the candy industry extra business, although it is a great marketing tool. They are actually symbols traditionally associated with the goddess Eostre; eggs, chicks and rabbits (yes, for fertility.) Eostre is also associated with early blooming flowers such as daffodils, jonquils, lilies and tulips.
In modern times, it is essential, necessary and fun to celebrate Ostara! Growth and fertility are the building blocks of human life. There are several things we can do to honor this special time:
- Plant a garden, or use starter seeds indoors which can later be transported as the weather gets warmer.
- Dye and decorate eggs. Use pastels, the colors of the rainbow 🙂
- Decorate your home with sweet smelling lilies and bright flowers.
- Be friendly to your local rabbits. Feed them carrots and spring greens. While you are at it, save some for yourself. Replenish your body with vitamin A and C.
- Take a walk in the woods, mountains, beach or local park. Get in touch with Mother Nature.
- Bird watch. You’d be surprised at the amazing things robins are doing these days.
- Eat chocolate bunnies! Chocolate is full of the chemical compound phenylethylamine which releases feel-good endorphins. Dark chocolate can improve heart and brain function.
- Oh, and most importantly! Make love not war 🙂
Have a Blessed Ostara.