This year, 2023, Monday March 20th marks the Spring, or Vernal, Equinox in the Northern hemisphere. It is one of 2 equinoxes of the year, when day and night are equal – the moment in time when the sun stands directly above the equator, and officially marks Winter’s end and the beginning of Spring. The word equinox is derived from Latin and means “equal night”.
Some pagans call this time Ostara, or Eostre, a liminal time, when we feel the Earth pause, day and night are of equal length and in perfect equilibrium, we can feel the balance of all things – light and dark, masculine and feminine, inner and outer self, Yin and Yang.
Our Ancestors were not bound by time and clocks as we are, and so we celebrate this time across a few days from the 20th to the 23rd March, or when you can! There are no “rules” of when you must celebrate, or honour this time, and I think our Ancestors would have taken their cues form the weather. We feel this stirring deep within our souls as a quickening at Imbolc. The ancient wisdom and knowing of our Ancestors is never felt more keenly I believe than at this time – we are longing for this in our bones!
photo credit Wendy Andrew
The gentle stirrings and promise that we felt at Imbolc have gathered strength and we feel and see abundance and growth bursting forth from the once still and silent winter earth. It is time for our hopes and dreams that we sowed at Imbolc to become action! The energy is evident everywhere you look and is inescapable, joyous and exuberant! Not quite the overflowing fertility of Beltane, but it’s getting there!
Meteorological Spring in the UK is around the 1st of March, while astronomical Spring is around 20th March – aka the Spring or Vernal Equinox.
The difference between these dates actually highlights that the shift of the seasons are transitions, that occur over a period of time, depending on weather factors – as we learned last season with the weather around Imbolc, which was fine and dry, enabling the Cailleach to collect more firewood, which would prolong the winter, it’s no surprise to me that we will have a cold spell over this month!! These myths and legends are very much tied into the shifts and changes of the seasonal weather patterns.
Photo Credit: Ostara Wendy Andrew
As with many of our ancient seasonal celebrations, they have been watered down over the centuries, taken over by Christianity and embedded into our culture and activities often without us giving any thought to their origins – the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs for example.
Ostara is so named after the Germanic Goddess Ostara / Eostre, who was traditionally honoured in the month of April with festivals celebrating new life, rebirth, fertility and growth. The land was coming back to life after the long dark days of Winter and this was cause for celebration!
It was from Eostre that the Christian celebration of Easter evolved. Also, the naming of the female hormone Eostrogen, essential to women’s fertility, has its roots within the Goddess.
The symbols of Ostara are, as you would expect, eggs and seeds, which symbolise new life, the promise of new potential. In many cultures the egg is the symbol for the whole Universe / creation…. The Cosmic Egg is the perfect balance of light and dark, masculine and feminine, the white representing the Goddess, and the yellow representing the Sun God.
The Hare is also one of the symbols of Ostara – which in later years has been morphed into the Easter bunny, probably because it is fluffier and cuter, because of the exceptional fertility of rabbits, and because hares gained a negative reputation of being associated with witches as their familiars! However, in Celtic tradition, the hare was revered, and associated with the moon, being a nocturnal creature, and connected with the lunar Goddesses, such as Artemis, Freya, Hecate, but particularly Ostara. The Christian calendar sets it’s Easter date by the phase of the moon.
Because the hare was associated with the moon, our ancestors believed it had supernatural powers, and that, like the moon, it died every morning, and was reborn at night! So, represents rebirth and is a symbol of immortality. Also, because the hare can conceive whilst pregnant, it is also seen as a symbol for fertility and abundance. Over the centuries the hare has become the Easter bunny who brings chocolate eggs for children at Easter, the Christian day of rebirth and resurrection!!
For us now in modern times, many of these ancient traditions have been forgotten, but we can still get back in touch with our roots, set new rituals for ourselves and connect with our inner Goddess. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, Ostara, the Spring Equinox – it is time to plant and nurture what it is we want to manifest and grow in our lives. At Imbolc our seeds were germinating in the dark earth… just waiting for the spark of Brigid to ignite them… at Ostara, the days are lengthening, the sun is warming, and the ideas we sat and nurtured in the darkness are coming to life!
Ostara is a time of balance… a pause of breath… but we know the energy is growing, waxing, the sap is rising, the light and warmth from the sun is stronger. This is a fertile time, and fertility features heavily. Our ancient ancestors would be emerging from the winter filled with hope… it is a busy time, and this is reflected in Nature and Mother Earth all around us – the birds, animals and insects are courting, nest building, preparing… if we want to see the rewards later in the year we need to put the work in now. Nature can still be harsh – the winds and weather bleak and destructive. We cannot expect a rich harvest… no matter what that is, whether it is in our gardens, our crops, or more figuratively, in the world we inhabit, our relationships, our goals, careers, lifestyles etc. unless we put the work in now! Nothing will come of just thinking and dreaming, however important that is, and we know it is vital to dream, plan and manifest – but now is the time of movement, energy, lifeforce. And that can be physically and energetically! …everything is interconnected. If we are self-sabotaging our dreams by telling ourselves we cannot achieve them, then we are energetically telling ourselves we are not worthy…self-care, self-belief and self-worth are all vital at this time. The time of sitting in the dark and healing has come to an end for this cycle – although we are in a constant cycle of self-discovery and healing, life, death, rebirth, this is now a time for action, the time for rebirth!!! So plant those seeds, literally and figuratively, make lists, plan and prepare. And factor in things that you want to do for you!! What will make your heart sing?
Photo Credit: Janie Olsen
The Spring Equinox is very much connected with the energies of cleansing – and where would a witch be without her trusty besom!!??
I attended a workshop last year and made my own besom, growing my collection to 4 now! but you don’t have to have full size ones, you can easily make your own tiny ones from tings like rosemary and lavender. There is a great article here on Gather Victoria about how to make them, as well as some great seasonal recipes and traditions.
Photo Credit: Gather Victoria
Herbs and Plants for Ostara
Healing Teas and Spring Cleansing
Spring is the time of year when we want to shake out the cobwebs, give the house a good clean, but it’s not just the house that benefits from a good spring cleansing, our bodies (physical and energetic!) really need it too, our systems are on their knees, we are lacking sunshine and fresh greens!
And that is where Mother Nature provides us with the right plants at the right time….Nettles, Cleavers and Chickweed are our herbal allies at this time of year, giving our systems a much needed boost. Filled with vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll they nourish, uplift and clean out – detoxing as they go!
The best way to get the most from them is to make a pot of tea, and enjoy after it’s brewed for about 15 minutes. Fresh young nettle tops work best as a daily tea, fresh and light, nettle tea is amazing at keeping allergies at bay if you get a daily cup in from March until May or June when they start flowering. You can read more about nettles and how to work with them in my nettle blog here.
Cleavers and chickweed are best eaten raw, and juiced or in salads – incredible liver cleansers, they will draw all the old stagnant winter gunk out of our systems. They can be an acquired taste and texture so I blitz them in my nutribullet with lime juice, celery, pineapple and or cucumber for a really vibrant zingy spring smoothie.
For me one of the most magical and beautiful plants at this time of the year is the Blackthorn. The hedgerows are now starting to be filled with those delicate billowy white blossoms, that will turn into sloes in autumn.
Blackthorn is one of the most resilient and protective of plants. She is connected with The Morrigan, goddess of war, battle but also protectress of the fallen, one of my totem goddesses and whom I work with a lot as a psychopomp.
On a warm spring day pop one of the blackthorn blossoms in your mouth, they taste of marzipan!
Blackthorn is a fierce protector of boundaries. You can make a simple flower essence with the blossoms.
Flower essences are powerful, but super gentle. Look out for upcoming summer and blogs where I will be sharing how to connect with these amazing energies.
SYMBOLS OF OSTARA – courtesy of a blog by Mabon House
Colors: Green, pink, blue
Foods: Eggs, honey, sprouted greens, baked goods, asparagus
Stones: Aquamarine, amethyst, rose quartz
Symbols: Rabbits, eggs, spring flowers , lambs, clover, baskets
Flowers & Plants: clover, daffodils, crocus, tulips
Deities: Isis, Estotre, Adonis
WAYS TO CELEBRATE OSTARA
Planting seeds for a vegetable garden or flower garden
Spring clean your house
Decorate an Ostara altar to honor your goddess of choice
Make egg based dishes and dessert (custard pie, frittatas, egg salad, etc…)
Take a nature walk with loved ones and look for signs of spring
Host a tea party with a springtime theme
Ukranian egg folk art
Take time to meditate/journal and think about your intentions for the next few weeks as it relates to the goals you want to achieve
Another great website with loads of ideas and inspiration for the solitary pagan, as well as all sorts of information about all the sabbats, gods and goddesses etc is Patheos. Check out their Ostara blog here.
I made a promise to myself at Imbolc that I was not going to rush into planting all the seeds – and to date I haven’t even planted one! Which is really late to me, but something inside is telling me to wait, so I am holding fire until the weekend of the Equinox. I’ve done a bit of tree and shrub tidying and cutting back, but not too much, as we know, it’s important to leave the old dead stalks of last years growth, not only does it serve as protection for overwintering insects like ladybirds, it also provides protection for the tender new shoots of the plants coming through, which could easily be damaged by the still harsh weather.
It always amazes me how shocked we are to get snow and cold weather at this time of year, yet it is quite normal. Sometimes it’s easy to get side tracked by fears of climate change, when in reality it’s always been this way – hence those legends like the Cailleach and her firewood, and the groundhog.
As we move into Spring, the weather can still be extreme – in fact it seems that extremes of weather patterns are more the norm these days, and we are seeing how much we have impacted our Mother Earth with the damage we have done. Earthquakes have been causing devastation around the world – and we can feel so helpless.
What I hope to achieve, in some small way, by sharing these blogs is to help us all to deepen our connection with nature, the seasons, cycles and the earth, that we are all helping to heal, not only ourselves, but also her, our beautiful planet, Gaia.
As always there are so many Goddesses and correspondences that can be associated with this time of year, and, as always, I encourage you to listen to your own inner guidance, to what and who is coming up for you. For me, this cycle of my life, the Celtic Goddesses have been making themselves known to me… and at Ostara, although there is a Germanic Goddess called Ostara, it is Mother Earth who I wish us to connect with and work with at this time. She goes by many names – Danu is the Celtic name, and I do resonate and connect with Celtic energy and Goddesses the most – Gaia is the Greek name for her, Pachamama the Incan, Terra the Roman – she can be nameless and of all names. I usually just call her Mother Earth. She supports us and all life – she has been abused systematically and mercilessly by us, mankind, for all our history, we take from her constantly, and she, like the forgiving nurturing Mother that she is, keeps on giving, supporting us, her children.
It can be hard to keep feeling and sending that love when we are faced with such terrible devastation – but this is the balance that we are asked to hold at the equinox – the light and the dark – the cycle of life death and rebirth.
We as humans see such a small fraction of the bigger picture. We do such dreadful things to Mother Earth and her creatures. At this time of pause and balance, before the earth begins her great exhale and the rush of spring begins, take time to pause, to meditate, to send love and healing to all, people, animals and our beloved Mother Earth.
Be gentle with her, and yourselves,
Much love and Ostara blessings,