The Wheel of the Year – Pagan Ostara Celebration
by Val Tobin
Originally published February 16, 2011 on Suite101
Republished on SNGS December 10, 2013
Ostara is a time of awakening. The Goddess begins to stir in February at Imbolc, and by Ostara, the awakening is complete. It is finally spring, and everything and everyone is coming out of hibernation and experiencing a rebirth with the coming of the sun.
Even in northern climates the chill is receding. While it is not possible to go barefoot yet in circle, it is probable that you can leave the Arctic boots at home and perhaps even the winter coat. It is the perfect time to work some sympathetic magick to receive the Goddess's many blessings.
Ostara Celebrated During Lent on the Vernal Equinox
Ostara is celebrated during the Christian Lent, which leads up to Easter. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. Ostara is celebrated on either March 20, 21 or 22, depending on the position of the sun. On that day, day and night are equal. On the following day, night begins to recede, growing shorter until, at the summer solstice, day reaches its peak.
According to Jeff McQueen, Wiccan and Priest, 1st degree with the Wiccan Church of Canada, for early pagans it was not only a time to look at what the sun was doing, but also a time to look at the moon, to gauge the ideal time for planting. McQueen states, "Looking at the equinoxes and at how the sun moves across the sky, you can draw a lot from that and you can apply it. Yes, it's an equal balance of day and night. [The sun is] on the upsurge, so we're going towards the high point. You can see how the season flows from the sun perspective and from an earth perspective, too. It's within that time frame that farmers are looking to plant. Depending on how they farm, they may be looking at the moon cycles. There is a way of looking at the seasonal cycles for planting."
Ostara Celebration Based on Moon Goddess with a Hare Totem
Planting at this time links to the idea of fertility, birth, rebirth and growth. Ostara, also known as Eostre, is a fertility goddess, and her totem animal is the hare, a symbol of fertility. Ostara and Easter share some common symbols, which originated with the pagan Goddess Ostara. Ostara/Eostre is also associated with eggs, which symbolize birth and life potential. As a moon goddess associated with fertility, Ostara is also connected to reproduction cycles.
McQueen says that at Ostara we have to make sure that the goddess has awakened: "If you personify Ostara or Eostre as such, it is the earth mother waking up again to the horned god who is now a youth prancing around, looking to sow his wild oats. What happens at Ostara is that you want to make sure that she has awakened. So you want to make a little noise and stomp on the ground with the expectation of Beltane coming, where the lady then finds her mate and they go a maying."
Using Sympathetic Magick for Manifesting in the Coming Season
Sympathetic magick is based on the principle of correspondence, where a sympathetic connection allows one object to stand in for, or represent, another. Reiki healers make use of this principle when doing distance healings using a teddy bear or photograph to represent the client receiving the Reiki energy.
During McQueen's Ostara ritual, eggs are used in sympathetic magick to aid in manifesting what participants would like to reap from the coming season. Each person receives a dyed, hard-boiled egg and a marker with which to draw symbols on the egg. When the ritual is completed, people take home their eggs and either consume them or bury them.
Ostara is a beautiful time, full of promise and renewal. As the days pass, they lengthen and become warmer, allowing plants to spring up from the earth and trees to bud. You can take advantage of this time to work some sympathetic magick to boost your abundance, whether that abundance comes in the form of wealth or ideas. The joy and celebration peak at Beltane, the next ritual after Ostara, and one of the two most important Sabbats, Samhain being the other.
Celebrations Before and After Ostara
Imbolc falls prior to Ostara on the pagan Wheel of the Year. It is one of the Greater Sabbats and is celebrated on February 2. The Goddess begins to awaken, even though winter still holds sway in the north. Celebrating Imbolc can help to chase away the chill and it is the precursor to the great awakening that comes at Ostara.
Beltane follows Ostara on the Wheel. It is a favorite for many pagans, as this is the celebration that has the maypole, and is one of the brightest and liveliest celebrations. It also happens at a time of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.
Image: Ostara–Johannes Gehrts via Wikimedia Commons
Bunn, Louise, Book of Shadows: Participant's Handbook for Paganism 101, Vancouver: Louise Bunn, 1998.
Conway, D. J., Wicca: The Complete Craft, Berkeley: The Crossing Press, 2001.
Cunningham, Scott, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, First Edition, revised, Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2006.
McQueen, Jeff, Priest, 1st degree, the Wiccan Church of Canada.
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