Ostara, the Spring Equinox, is always especially beautiful here in Sonoma County, California. This year seems especially nice. Winter’s rains have been lighter than we would like, but they have been gentle and well timed. My farmer friends with whom I’ve spoken are feeling good. Warming temperatures and longer days have brought forth the first abundant flowers, especially the wild mustard that makes it seem as if our craggy valley oaks and vineyards have their feet awash in bright yellow paint. The threats from frost are virtually over.
Our season and Ostara’s symbolism are in perfect harmony.
Wiccan Sabbats celebrate our Wheel of the Year, and the Wheel of the Year, like the phases of the moon, symbolize to us the stages of life, from birth to death to rebirth. Four Sabbats are “Greater Sabbats” originally linked with Celtic agricultural cycles: Brigit, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain. The other four “cross quarter” Sabbats are correlated with the cycles of the solar year, the solstices and equinoxes. On the 21st of this month, Witches and many other Pagans will celebrate Ostara, the Spring Equinox.
Equinoxes are times of balance between day and night, light and darkness. But the balance is dynamic, lasting a day, before shifting into playing a role in that greater balance that is the Wheel of the Year. For me this sense of balance should be the dominant theme of either Ostara, or Mabon, the Fall Equinox. But they are very different Sabbats otherwise, for after Ostara the light will continue to grow, whereas after Mabon, it is darkness that increases.
There is another aspect of balance that comes to mind as a am mulling this post over, that between the universal and the concrete. Solar Sabbats are universal, the Greater Sabbats are specific to time and place. Together, they balance the universal with the variety that is local. So while I think it is important to make sure Greater Sabbats are strongly connected with where we live, it is not as important for the Cross Quarter ones.
With these thoughts in mind, I have a few ideas for celebrating Ostara I want to share. All are suitable for Solitaries.
1. On my altar I will have 4 candles. I will light two, and with sundown, light another. I have tried to figure out a simple but visually beautiful way of symbolizing Sabbats and their meaning, and here is my scheme into which this simple observance fits.
Yule – 1 candle lit during ritual.
Imbolc – 1 candle lit, a second during the ritual.
Ostara – 2 candles lit, a third lit at end of ritual or at sunset.
Beltane – 3 candles, one lit during ritual, making 4.
Midsummer – 4 candles, one extinguished at end of ritual.
Lammas – 3 candles, one extinguished during ritual.
Mabon – 2 candles, one extinguished at sunset or end of ritual.
Samhain – 1 candle lit, but extinguished during ritual.
2. I will fill my place with local flowers. I just spoke with a friend in Maine. The garden I helped plant still looks like a snow drift. Maybe the willows are changing their color as the sap tentatively rises, making for a good altar decoration. If not, it’s good that this is a solar Sabbat!
3 I will watch the dawn, and do some invocations and prayers while I do it. Ostara is said to have been a Goddess of the Dawn as well as spring, so this is fitting, although very little is known of Her. If I was in Fairbanks, I might let this slide.
4. In Pagan times eggs and hares were associated with the creation of life and fertility, for obvious reasons. While it seems all folklore of ancient provenance has disputed origins, regardless of how these customs arose and survived, they are perfectly fitted for symbolizing this time, when almost everywhere spring has arrived or is coming soon. Dyeing the eggs in Spring-time colors, and having a good old fashioned Ostara Egg hunt is a wonderful thing for kids.
5. A good smudging, followed by a good airing if the weather permits. Burning sage is the easiest way to smudge a place, though any cleansing incense is worthwhile. Be sure to get corners and dark places. Energy collects and stagnates in those places, and most of us have had all winter for that to happen.
6. Plant a seed associated with a magickal ritual for something you want to grow. Simple and personal is best. Focus your intent strongly on the seed, then on the pot of soil after you have planted it. Take care of it. I’d recommend a perennial, that you can plant and let continue to flourish with your care, but maybe an annual will do the trick. Depends on your project.
7. If you have a yard, this is a good time to begin getting in touch with the spirits of your place. But as with any relationship, it will normally take some time to grow. The last time I lived for any length of time in a house with a yard, I would make weekly offerings in a out of the way part of my yard, that I otherwise left alone (all the rests was garden). I would leave a small glass of rum, some tobacco, and a votive candle (be very careful about fire if you do this). After some months the ‘feel’ of my back yard began to change in ways I and others liked a lot. But remember, attitude makes or breaks this kind of thing – as with all relationships.
8. If there is a public Sabbat celebration, and you are not part of a coven, try and go. Some are well done, some can seem like ‘ritual abuse,’ but either way, this is a good way to begin meeting other local Pagans. In my view the real magic of what we do is most powerful when we work and celebrate together
I hope you, my readers, will share your own ideas, and perhaps practices if appropritae.