Saturday, March 20, 2010
Eostre - goddess of fertilty - Each vernal (Spring) equinox she is celebrated for going to to the underworld, dying and being reborn to bring new life to the world. Her symbols are the egg (union, fertility), the moon (cycles of life, fertility, feminity), and the hare or rabbit that many cultures see in the moon. This ancient celebration surives today with the colourful and cherished Easter bunny (Eostre's hare) tradition.
Ostara (also known as Eostre) is the beginning of the agricultural year. It is time for the Earth to "spring" into action and for us to initiate and celebrate new beginnings. One of the most universal symbols of this sabbat is the planting of seeds and the sprouting of new life from the womb of the Earth Mother. The Vernal or Spring Equinox marks the beginning of the 'light' half of the year, when day gradually becomes longer than night. From now until Autumn, the power of the Goddess dominates our festivities, bringing light, warmth and fertility to the earth. The courtship of the God and Goddess commences with this sabbat and this is an appropriate time to focus on the balance of male and female energies within ourselves.
The word "Easter" is derived from the word "Eostre" and the symbols used to celebrate Easter have pre-Christian origins. The Easter bunny reminds us of the hare, the animal most sacred to the Goddess Diana and the eggs that the hare brings symbolize new beginnings, rebirth, continuity and growth. Have you ever wondered why Easter changes dates and months from year to year? Interestingly it is always the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Spring Equinox!
Some folk customs associated with Ostara are: spring cleaning (new beginnings); sunrise observances (to celebrate the growing light of the sun); sowing and planting done ceremonially; ashes from the Ostara eve bonfire mixed with the planting seed as a fertility charm; eating of cake and cider in the planting fields, burying a piece of the cake then pouring a cider libation to show the earth what it is expected to produce; moon cakes which are round cakes marked on top by a cross dividing it into quarters or 'farls' symbolizing the quarters of the moon and the four elements - they are the original hot cross buns; tree planting. Have fun with your traditions!
A tradition that my Mother passed down to me was the creation of an Easter Tree.
I just love these egg shaped bells I found the other day. A few branches from the garden and a cross shaped piece of driftwood complete my Easter tree for this year.
Here is a ritual you can do to release your burdens or bad habits, utilizing the four elements
The Earth renews herself in spring and so can we. If you have a habit you want to release (like smoking, compulsive eating, or chronic complaining, for example), or if old emotions are weighing on you, the elements of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air–and the power of your own focused intention–can help you to transform these burdens from the past so you can feel lighter and ready to begin anew.
These simple, effective rituals practiced by people from all around the world can help us to let go of our old issues. You can do any or all of these four simple elemental ceremonies. They have worked for thousands of years to help people feel free.
1. First, give some real time and thought to the things you want to release.
2. Now write them on one very small piece of biodegradable paper for every element you want to ask for help. (Really stuck stuff may need all four!)
3. Choose one or more of the following rituals. As you perform each one, be sure to ask the element for help and thank it when you are finished.
The all-embracing Earth takes everything back into herself, slowly transforming all things into the essential elements of which they are made. Bury your paper, marking the spot with a stone, if you like. When you see the stone, be reminded of the process going on underneath it. Earth is slowly helping your issues to transform.
Flowing Water is a wonderful purifier, cleansing and making things new. Take your paper to a river or stream and tear it into tiny pieces, then offer them to the water. If you don’t have moving water nearby, you may flush the papers down the toilet. (Be sure your paper is really small!)
Lively Fire changes everything into itself with lots of lovely light and heat. Burn your paper in a safe receptacle (with proper ventilation and water nearby), watching as the transformative power of fire turns your paper into flame and smoke and ash.
The Air carries our intentions outward, bringing in new hope like a fresh breeze. Take your paper to a high place and tear it into tiny pieces, then release them into the air. Watch as they flutter and float downward.
(By Cait Johnson, author of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air (SkyLight Paths, 2001).