Ostara - Gehrts

“Ostara” (1901) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess Ēostre/Ostara flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals as humans look up from Earth.

The first day of Spring in 2014 is March 20. This spring, or vernal, equinox. At the vernal equinox day and night are approximately 12 hours each with day length increasing as the season progresses.

In spring, the axis of the Earth is increasing its tilt toward the Sun and the length of daylight rapidly increases for the relevant hemisphere. So spring comes to the Northern hemisphere and it will warm significantly causing new plant growth to “spring forth,” giving the season its name.

Snow is known to still appear in northern parts of the hemisphere in March and April, but the melting of snows also causes streams to swell with runoff. Flooding is also most common in and near mountainous areas during this time of year because of snow melt, accelerated by warm rains.

Frosts are still common and the time for gardeners and farmers to safely plant varies greatly by geography.

Early spring is always a time of unstable weather as warm air begins to move from lower latitudes, while cold air is still pushing in from the Polar regions.

Spring and “springtime” refer to the season and more commonly also to ideas of rebirth, renewal and regrowth. If you look at the older rites of spring and traditions, you can see the origins of some of our current traditions. This is especially evident in the appropriation of many Pagan rites into Christianity.

Here are some examples:

Pagan festivals centered around the spring equinox include the Festival of Trees, Alban Eilir and Lady Day.

Goddesses associated with the spring equinox include Athena, Persephone and Isis.

In pre-Christian Northern Europe, it was considered bad luck at Eostre (Ostara) to wear anything but new clothing.

The sacred symbols of the Pagan goddess of spring, Eostre, were the rabbit and the egg. As different cultures adopted her into their belief system, they added their own symbols. For example, the early Christian Romans portrayed Eostre in the heavens surrounded by putti. (Those chubby male children, often nude and sometimes winged -not to be confused with cherubim – seen in artwork.)

lilyLong before Easter was ever celebrated, the “Easter lilly” plant was revered by Pagans a phallic symbol of fertility

It is said the “cross” in hot cross buns symbolized for the Saxons the horns of an ox.

In England, eggs were used in folk magic to bring on fertility.

The Egg Moon is the name given to the full moon before Easter.

While many festivals are on fixed days, Easter is a movable feast and is usually celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon because it is based on the lunar calendar. In Western Christianity, Easter always falls between 22 March and 25 April. In 2014, Easter is on April 20 and the Full Egg Moon is on April 15.

Egg Moon came from the idea that with the longer days, hens are laying more eggs. (Well, that was true on the old-fashioned family farm – not true for factory farms that artificially alter the days and nights.)

Many bird species also lay their eggs in the early spring, so that the young have the longest possible time to prepare for winter and migrations. And so, eggs have long been a symbol of spring, regeneration, rebirth and became associated with Easter.

The ancient Persians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. Sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show people carrying eggs for Nowrooz to the king.

At the Jewish Passover Seder, a hard-boiled egg dipped in salt water symbolizes the Passover sacrifice offered at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Easter gets its name from the Teutonic goddess of spring and the dawn, whose name is spelled Oestre or Eastre. The origin of the word “east” comes from various Germanic and Austro-Hungarian words for dawn that share the root for the word “aurora” which means “to shine.” Modern pagans have generally accepted the spelling “Ostara” to honor this goddess and as the word for the Vernal Equinox.

The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps) is best known as a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was written for the 1913 Paris season and when it was first performed the avant-garde nature of the music and choreography caused a sensation and a near-riot in the audience. The music achieved equal if not greater recognition as a concert piece, and is widely considered to be one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century.

The Rite of Spring‘s subtitle is “Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts” and in the scenario, after various primitive rituals celebrating the advent of spring, a young girl (the “Chosen One”) becomes a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death.