Eostar is the goddess of dawn and new beginnings. Her name is similar to the word for the Christian Easter, because that holiday took its name from the ancient pagan goddess of spring and rebirth. Another name in the same family is Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of the morning and evening stars. And let's not forget Esther, the Jewish queen whose story of courage is celebrated at the spring festival of Purim.
The other goddess we associate with the spring equinox is Kore, or Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the Greek goddess of grain and growing things. In the spring, Persephone comes back from the Underworld to be reunited with her mother. A part of the goddess that has been sleeping all winter reawakens with the warming ground of spring. She who has been mother, midwife, and teacher throughout the winter now welcomes back her own daughter-self, the Maiden of Spring. At this time of balance, the goddess is mother and daughter both.
The god of spring is the young god, playful and joyful, the trickster. He is the spirit of everything that is joyful, light, and changeable. Born at winter solstice, nurtured at Brigit, now he's like a young and mischievous child, still wild and new. He is raw, creative energy that has not yet been harnessed, tamed, civilized. He deflates the pompous and laughs at self-importance.
The trickster is an important spirit power in many earth-based cultures. To many of the Native American tribes, he is Coyote. To the First Nations of the Northwest Coast, he is Raven, who creates the world. In parts of West Africa, he is Elegba, the small child-god who as a point of light constantly runs circles around the universe. To African Americans, he is Brer Rabbit, who tricks his way out of trouble.
In European earth-based traditions, he is the Fool of the Tarot, who leaps blithely off a cliff as he follows a butterfly, yet always lands on his feet, because he takes himself lightly. He is spirit taking the plunge into matter, idea manifesting as form. And he is Robin Goodfellow, shape-shifter and wood sprite, child of the Faery King. He comes to us in the spring when all of nature is shifting and changing: seeds poking out of sprouts, butterflies emerging from cocoons, tadpoles growing legs and turning into frogs.
Excerpted from Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions, by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill, with permission of Random House, Inc. Copyright 1998 by Miriam Simos, Anne Hill, and Diane Baker. For online information about other Random House, Inc., books and authors see the Random House website.