Ostara’s Spring: Celebrating the Little Bit of Pagan in All of Us
BY: Debra Moffitt
When spring rolls around there’s an itch to get outdoors, celebrate Mother Earth and enjoy the season. Ostara, the Pagan festival that comes to us from traditions that pre-date Christianity, formalized it. It fetes the arrival of Ostara, the spring. Ostara is personified by the goddess who represents the dawn, the coming of new light and rebirth through many of the rituals, decorations and gifts that we’re familiar with to this day. They include colorful Easter eggs, rabbits, and baskets filled with sweets. Due to the popularity of these symbols in ancient times they were coopted by Christianity from “pagans” (which to them meant anyone who’d not adopted the religion) into what we know as Easter celebrations. Many of us continue to celebrate the season with a little bit of pagan influenced décor and delights.
The festival of Ostara falls around the equinox and is related to spring festivities that celebrate renewal, planting new seeds and fertility. These rites of spring come to us from the Celts and Saxons before they were conquered by the Romans some 2,000 years ago. The spirit of Ostara festivities aimed to inspire gratitude to the earth and environment in a beautiful and meaningful way.
Ostara (or Eostra) is an Anglo-Saxon goddess who represented dawn, and her name derives from the Germanic word for “east.” She’s depicted as a young woman surrounded in light and budding trees and flowers. The Ostara festival falls on the day of the equinox, the day when light and dark are equal. It also marks the time when more light will begin to come in, days will be longer, nights shorter and food will be more abundant. At a time when people had to store food to last the long harsh winters, this festival was particularly anticipated as a time of renewed hope.
Inspired by the equinox where light and dark of the physical day are equal, Ostara is a time to celebrate life and balance. On this occasion it was believed that taking water at dawn from springs and drinking them would restore balance and be beneficial for a body. Villages celebrated with bonfires and often ate the remaining ham that had been stored up over the winter. With the promise of a new beginning in the fresh blossoms in trees and green sprouts of bulbs from the ground, new nourishment was available and a sense of possibility restored