After even the longest, most bitter winter, spring comes with the promise of regeneration. Ice cracks, snow melts, buds swell, and new shoots poke up through the damp earth. All are animated by the primal force of life renewing itself. That power of regeneration, that cycle of birth, growth, death, decay, and renewal, is what Pagans call Goddess.

In the spring, at the equinox (March 20, 21 or 22) when day and night are equal and the sun rises and sets due east and west, we celebrate the earth's regeneration with the festival we call Eostar. Eostar, or Ostara, was the Germanic Goddess of spring, and she has given her name not only to our holiday but also to the Christian Easter, which also celebrates rebirth. The symbols and rituals that mark this season allow us to both aid the powers of renewal and draw strength from them.

The egg, of course, is the prime symbol of birth and beginnings. Decorating eggs at this season of rebirth is an old, widespread custom. Coloring eggs is also something that children understand and enjoy. My women's coven for many years would do our best to replicate authentic Ukrainian "pasenke" eggs, the intricately painted and dyed eggs in beautiful traditional patterns that are a feature of the season throughout Eastern Europe. We would cast a circle, meditate on what we wanted to be reborn in our lives, and what symbols or images might represent our desires. Then we'd paint and dye the eggs in appropriate colors, and place them on our altars as a spring spell.

This holiday is especially beloved by children, and our celebration generally includes a massive egg hunt in a park or a backyard. We try also to use the occasion to teach compassion and generosity: We ask the older children to help the younger ones, or at least hold back and give them a chance to find the eggs. And at the end, just as the Goddess is generous with her gifts, we ask the children to give away one of their egg treasures to someone who doesn't have any.

And that bunny--what is she doing laying those colored eggs? She is, of course, the living symbol of fertility, rabbits being what they are. As well, the hare is an ancient symbol of magic. If you look up at the full moon and squint your eyes, you'll see why Aztec and Mayan mythology place a rabbit in the moon. Hares dash through the fields at night on mysterious errands, and have long been associated with magic. They are sacred to Maeve, Queen of the Faeries, as well as to Ostara.

Birds actually do lay eggs, and they are especially active at this season, moving across the lands in their great migrations, returning to their nesting grounds, claiming their territories with dawn songs. If you can squeeze even a few moments out of your life to walk outside in the early morning, sit or stand quietly and listen, you can hear the chorus and notice how it develops and changes over the next few weeks, as new species arrive, as cock robin successfully attracts a mate and begins to breed, as the show-off mating cries eventually give way to the feeding calls of the young.

Spring-cleaning is one practical expression of the energies of renewal. We clean out the house, clear away the winter's debris from the garden, prepare the soil for planting. And we can do the same in our lives.

Eostar is a good time for self-examination and personal renewal. Here's a simple meditation: Take a bowl of salt water and sit at your altar or, better yet, in the garden or a quiet place outside. Ground: Breathe deeply and slowly and feel your physical and energetic connection to the earth.

Then ask yourself: What do I truly care about? What are the things that are truly sacred to me? Do I spend my life energies, my time, my attention, my money, on what I care most about? Are my best life energies going to serve what is truly sacred to me? If so, is there some support or help or renewal of energy I need? Is there somewhere I can ask for it, or can I make time in my life for it? If not, if my best life energies are not going to support what is truly sacred to me, what might I need to do to make a change? Do I need to change my job, or rethink how I spend my money or my time? What could I simplify? Am I surrounded with clutter (a hazard of Witchcraft!) that also clogs my mind? Am I working too hard for too many things that aren't what I really want or need?

Write in your journal about these questions, or share this meditation in a circle. Do it over several days, or for an entire cycle of the moon. Then go and clean house.

Melusine, a friend and fellow Reclaiming (our tradition of the Craft) teacher, says that if you keep things around that don't matter to you, they become anti-matter, literally a negative energy source that sucks away at your vitality. In their book "Your Money or Your Life," Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robbins outline a plan for looking at our relationship to money, identifying what truly nurtures and feeds us and what doesn't so we can ransom back our time and life energies for what is truly meaningful. The regenerative energies of Eostar can help sustain us in the work of renewing our own sense of hope and commitment to what we most truly love.

And then, treat yourself to the ultimate Pagan Easter movie: "Chocolat," the dramatization of Joanne Harris' wonderful novel about a Witch who moves into a small town in France, opens a chocolate shop, challenges the narrow-minded forces of rectitude in the town, and changes many people's lives. It includes perhaps the ultimate Pagan chocolate Easter window display, which, if you're not careful, will send you scurrying to the nearest chocolaterie. Or read the novel--even better than the movie--or Harris' new book, "Blackberry Wine."

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