Sometime between March 19 and 22, the Spring Equinox is celebrated by many pagans as a season of rebirth and renewal, the triumph of the light over the long darkness of the cold season. This is the start of the planting season, and a time of fertility and “spring fever”. Ostara also marks the return of the Maiden Goddess, bringing excitement, vitality and the freshness of youth.
"Ēostur-monath, qui nunc Paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a Dea illorum quæ Ēostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit: a cujus nomine nunc Paschale tempus cognominant, consueto antiquæ observationis vocabulo gaudia novæ solemnitatis vocantes.
Modern English translation:
"Ēosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Ēostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance."
Grimm goes on to cite evidence in the old Germanic languages that suggest the existence of Ēostre. Grimm comments “This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries."
Both hares and eggs are recognized by many as symbols of fertility, and this is definitely the season for fertility! I suspect though, that the pairing of the two is a fairly modern invention. In fact, the "Easter bunny" as we know him today first appeared in literature in late 17th century Germany, and was brought by the Germans to America by 18th century settlers.
And the sweets? One explanation involves those pagans that include faerie traditions in their practice. Baskets of food and drink are left out for the faerie on certain festival nights. They will wreak havoc on your life if no such gifts are forthcoming! The type of food given depends on the festival, and for Ostara, sweets such as honey, mead or candy are the most appropriate.
So how should a pagan celebrate Ostara? Instead of trying to determine what the ancients may or may not have done, think of what this sabbat means to you and create some new traditions! Spring is here, the season of growth, new life, warmth and light. Listen to your heart and soul and celebrate as your spirit guides you.
Get a head start on the spring planting! Set up an indoor greenhouse tray and start your seedlings now. When it’s time to plant them in the garden, they’ll already be sprouted and thriving!
A festival isn’t complete without a feast. Gather some of the first spring greens to add to your meal.
There's a popular urban legend that says at the exact time of the equinox (give or take a few minutes), you can balance an egg upright by just setting it down on a level surface. Does it work? No idea! But it might make for a fun little experiment with the kids!
Decorate eggs! This is something almost every child has done at least once. Though there are many kits on the market to colour your eggs, there are many natural products that can be used as dyes, eliminating exposure to possibly toxic chemicals.
Remember! Don't eat eggs that have been left out of the refrigerator for more than a couple of hours! Some commercial products used to dye eggs can be toxic, so don't eat eggs decorated in this way. Even natural products such as the ones listed below can change the flavour of the eggs. If you wish to keep your eggs for more than a couple of days, it would be best to blow them out rather than hard boil them.
- 1 cup chopped purple cabbage per cup of water — makes blue on white eggs, green on brown eggs
- 1 cup red onion skins per cup of water — makes lavender or red eggs
- 1 cup yellow onion skins per cup of water— makes orange on white eggs, rusty red on brown eggs
- 1 cup shredded beets per cup of water— makes pink on white eggs, maroon on brown eggs
- 2 tablespoons ground turmeric or curry powder per cup of water — makes yellow eggs
- 1 bag Red Zinger tea per cup of water— makes lavender eggs
- Paprika – makes red/pink eggs
- Concentrated grape juice (Welch's works nicely, about half a can) – makes purple eggs
- Coffee grounds – makes beige eggs
- Frozen chopped spinach (1/3 to 1/2 package) – makes light green eggs
- 1 Cup frozen blueberries (with juice) – makes blue eggs
Put the water in a pot, add the dye matter and bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 15-30 minutes. When the dye is a few shades darker than you want the egg to be, the dye is ready. (A few drops on a white dish will help you check the colour.) Let the dye cool to room temperature. Pour it through a fine strainer to remove the dye matter. Stir in 1 tbsp of vinegar per cup of strained dye. Pour the dye into a jar or container deep enough to hold the eggs.
For fancier eggs, try gluing on a leaf, some blades of grass, or some other botanical object, using egg white as the adhesive. Put the egg and leaf into a cut off nylon stocking and tie it up, so that the leaf is held to the shell. Once the egg is dyed, remove the stocking and the leaf, and you have some a gorgeous organic designs.
You can also just use watercolour paint, or some glue and sprinkles or glitter to make some fabulous decorated eggs!