Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ostara, and Vernal Equinox

Spring Equinox ( March 22) is the full manifestation of the return of the vital powers of nature. The name of this celebration was always Teutonic. In Germany the Goddess that reigns supreme at this holiday is known as Ostara. She is the virgin goddess of Spring in ancient Germany. It is for her that this festival is named.

At Ostara, the Teutons honored their goddess of Spring, Eostre - for whom the Christian holiday of Easter is named. It is simply one of the names that the evangelists could not obliterate. Easter falls near Ostara and celebrates another resurrected deity.

Perhaps one of the most lasting symbols of Ostara is the egg. Since ancient times, eggs, being the universal archetype of new life, were held in reverence as symbols of sacred objects and eternal life. They were decorated and placed on Spring altars. They were exchanged as cherished gifts. 

Our present day myth that eggs are delivered by the Easter bunny, comes from the Goddess Eostre, who we honor at Ostara. Legend has it that the rabbit wanted to please this goddess so much that he laid sacred eggs in her honor, beautifully decorated them, then presented them to her.

Eostre was so pleased with the rabbit's gift that she wanted to share her happiness with all of mankind. As a result the rabbit traveled world wide giving out eggs, little decorated gifts of life. 

Wearing new clothes at Easter also comes from an earlier Teutonic pagan tradition. Germanic people would work through the winter in secret sewing elegant clothes for this Sabbat celebration. It was considered bad luck to wear one's new Spring clothes before Ostara. 

At Ostara  the whole pagan community would gather for feasting, games and celebrate religious rituals showing off their new outfits. 

The lamb is a symbol of Ostara. The lamb was sacred to all the virgin goddesses of Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East. This symbol was so ingrained that it carried over into the religious rituals of Christian Easter. 

Many of the Vernal Equinox myths from the Nordic and Germanic lands concern trips by deities into the netherworld, and their struggle to return from the land of Death to the land of living. When they do return to the land of the living, they have a new life, both figuratively and literally. Odin would be one of these resurrected deities.  You can easily see how this theme used the grafting saintly feast days onto any pagan festival they wanted to eradicate. 

The Ostara celebration was nonexistent in Celtic lands until the Vikings, invading these lands, celebrated it, and it became another cherished festival. The Celts renamed it "Ladys Day." It was a time of the Goddess's return after her Winter sleep.

Happy Ostara and Spring Equinox!

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