Ostara, the Spring Goddess
Ostara, called Eostre by Anglo-Saxons, is a Germanic goddess related to spring. The Benedictine monk Bede was the first one who spoke about her, whose information was quite widespread, but also quite questioned. Jacob Grimm was the next to take up this topic and supplement information about this forgotten deity in his book Deutsche Mythologie. Grimm makes an approach to the goddess through linguistic reconstructions, associations with other gods, and ancient celebrations, to get closer to the worship of the Goddess of which little was said until then.
In the Anglo-Saxon month equivalent to April, Eostur-mónaþ, pagans used to hold festivals in honor of this goddess, and it was gradually replaced by the Christian celebration of Easter (also, the word “easter” is rooted in the Anglo-Saxon word Eostre). Beyond spring, she is essentially related to the beginning of this season, as well as to fertility, light, rebirth and dawn. Celebrations that take place today are rather linked to the ancient traditions that were celebrated in her honor, such as bonfires, Easter eggs, and the Easter Bunny. Her cult is currently celebrated on the spring equinox, on the pagan fest called Ostara in her honor.
There are several little-known stories associated with this goddess. Among popular stories it is told that Ostara meets the Sun god to bring life to earth after winter. On the other hand, Guido von List states that the Sun god and the Earth goddess got together, and as a result of their union the goddess Ostara (the spring) was born. Stephen Winick made a compilation of some clues that seems to indicate a story about the Goddess and the relation with the hare: at the end of winter the Goddess found a bird whose wings were frozen and couldn’t use them anymore. She took pity on the animal and turned it into a hare to survive. The hare retained her ability to lay eggs like a bird, so every year she laid eggs in gratitude to the Goddess. But also, another story tells that a bird that laid beautiful eggs was so proud that Ostara got upset and turned him into a rabbit, but was so moved by the desperation of the rabbit that he allowed him to lay beautiful eggs once a year (this an Adolf Holtzmann’s speculation). It's understood that rabbits and hares are related to this goddess for their fertility and great reproductive capacity, while the egg symbolizes the sprouting of a new life, the passage from gestation to activity, but Janet and Stewart Farrar say that the egg is actually the world's egg, laid by the Goddess and opened by the heat of the God. The eggs in this case are not related to the hare but to the snakes.
Other sources says that there was a rabbit who asked Ostara for favors, and as thanks he offered her decorated eggs, which the goddess liked so much that she took him around the world distributing those eggs. It’s also said that the Easter bunny was the bird that at one point pulled the carriage of the Goddess of Spring and turned into a hare. However, every year, at the arrival of spring, the hare remembers, and in commemoration of its original bird nature, lays eggs as an offering to spring and the youth that it symbolizes.
Ostara as the spring equinox celebration
The spring equinox is the moment in nature when the day and the night last the same, and at this point the days start to be brighter, as the sun gains ground over the dark and wintry weather.
Before Easter, at this time of year different rites were performed in honor of the beginning of spring. In the Mediterranean, sacrificial intercourse was celebrated in honor of Atis, whose followers castrated themselves as a proof of devotion. On the other hand, Hieros Gamos is also held, a kinder version of this festival, where man and woman unite physically or symbolically as a commemoration of the union of the gods and the fertility of the spring. It’s currently celebrated among pagans with bonfires or any fire to symbolically "fan" the sun and give it strength for the beginning of this new cycle. Also, it’s common to decorate and paint eggs, and for the kids give them gifts inside the eggs or hide them for them to find.
Despite the approaches of different authors to demonstrate that the deity Ostara is an ancient goddess, the evidence that exists is scarce and relatively recent, so the festival in honor of this date is considered a neo-pagan celebration. There’s not a “good” or “bad” way to celebrate this fest then, you can decide what to do and how. You can consider that in this time we want to celebrate the life, the light, and the strength and power of the rising Nature. You can use the fire (with the necessary precautions) to pay tribute to the sun; you can make a ritual with plants, flowers or sow a seed to honor the Nature or take advantage of the energies of growth and empowerment; you can play lively and happy music, spend time alone or with your loved ones, but whatever that makes you feel thankful to be alive. Also, decorate your altar, room, or house with seasonal flowers and food. Also, it’s pretty common to celebrate this fest with banquets, outdoors, and with company. The food that fits the most with this festivity are the eggs, drinks with milk, food with flowers, plants, seeds and fruits of the season.
It’s recommended that before doing any ritual or welcoming this date in any way, a physical and energetic cleansing is done, because in this way space is opened to receive new things. And after that you can ask for wishes related to prosperity, fertility, ambitious projects or matters related to love, always taking into account the gratitude to your deities or to Nature, who allows us to be part of their cycle.
Cunningham, S. (1988). Wicca: Guía para el practicante solitario. file:///home/chronos/u-51da1c6a6088123019b5a20b1e1178feb800130f/MyFiles/Downloads/Paganismo%20y%20Esoterismo/Cunningham%20Scott%20Wicca.pdf
Farrar, J. and S. (1984). La biblia de las brujas,Tomo 1. file:///home/chronos/u-51da1c6a6088123019b5a20b1e1178feb800130f/MyFiles/Downloads/Paganismo%20y%20Esoterismo/La%20Biblia%20de%20las%20Brujas%20(Tomo1).pdf
Wiki Mitología. Ēostre. Retrieved on March 14th, 2021 from: https://mitologia.fandom.com/es/wiki/%C4%92ostre
Winick, S. (2016). Folklife Today. Ostara and the Hare: Not Ancient, but Not As Modern As Some Skeptics Think. Retrieved on March 14th, 2021 from: https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/category/jacob-grimm/
Listen to the story of the Goddess Ostara that Taren S. shared with her daughter every year.
What are you all doing to celebrate the Goddess Ostara and Spring Equinox?