It’s SO easy to celebrate Ostara (otherwise known as the vernal or spring equinox) because this ancient pagan festival still has a super-strong foothold in modern western culture. You probably know many traditional Ostara symbols that are now part of our Easter celebrations – eggs, rabbits, hares, and other representations of new life.
Coinciding with warmer weather in the Northern hemisphere, Ostara usually marks a welcome change in the seasons. We can say goodbye to a long winter, and finally, feel a change in the pace of life.
When is Ostara 2023?
The precise date of Ostara can change from year to year, as the exact astrological equinox can vary. It can arrive from March 19 – 23.
Ostara 2023 arrives on Monday, March 20th.
The other cross-quarter days and fire festivals...
Starting with witches' New Year, these are the seasonal festivals and power days in the Celtic wheel of the year, with approximate dates. Note that these can change!
- Samhain (October 31)
- Yule / Winter Solstice (December 21)
- Imbolc (February 1 - 2)
- Ostara / Spring Equinox (March 10 - 21)
- Beltane (April 30/May 1)
- Litha/Midsummer/Summer Solstice (June 21)
- Lughnasadh (August 1)
- Mabon (September 21)
These eight sabbats (or variations of them) have been celebrated all over the Celtic world for many centuries, probably longer. Yet not all of them would have been significant for every community, in every location. Drawing them together like this in a "wheel" or mandala is actually a pretty modern configuration.
What is Ostara? (the origin of Ostara)
Ostara or Spring Equinox has always been a significant time for many cultures and religions around the world. It’s one of the four cross-quarter days, and one of only 2 days in the whole year when day and night are of equal length. It means a perfectly equal 12 hours of daylight, and 12 hours of night, and only occurs when the Sun crosses the celestial equator.
For these reasons, this ancient feast day symbolizes the balance of light and dark, and the new beginnings that come when light triumphs over the darkness, as it does at this point in the wheel of the year.
For modern Pagans, Wiccans, and people who follow other earth-based spiritual practices, Ostara is a time to celebrate inner balance too – a moment to pause, and acknowledge the light and dark we all carry within.
Ostara is also marked by the transit of the Sun into the star constellation of Aries, the very first sign of the Zodiac.
Etymology of Ostara
It’s thought that the word “Ostara” originates from the name of the Western Germanic goddess of spring and the dawn, also Ostara. In anglo saxon, this was Ēostre. And the first written records of Ēostre were made by the English monk Bede in the seventh century. He wrote that April was known as Eostremonath, so named because it was the month when the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre was celebrated.
More recently in the 19th century, Jacob Grimm claimed to have discovered further evidence of a Goddess of the same name in germanic oral traditions.
Scholars still debate these origin stories. Yet the similarity between the words: Eostre, Ostara, and Easter, the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus cannot be denied!
Meaning and Symbolism – WHY is Ostara Celebrated at all?
Even though Eostre has become intertwined with the Christian Easter celebrations, it’s likely the origins of this festival belong to much older times, pre-dating Christianity altogether.
Ostara brings balance
In the northern hemisphere, Ostara is the time of the spring equinox (in the southern hemisphere this date coincides with the autumn equinox) which marks a moment of perfect balance. As mentioned above, levels of light and dark are equal across the globe.
The Sun has just entered the sign of Aries, which sits across the axis of the zodiac from Libra, sign of the scales.
So Ostara offers a rare moment of stillness when all of nature seems to pause, take a breath, and BE in the frequency of harmony.
Light overtakes darkness
Ostara also marks a tipping point in the year – a new season, when the natural world starts to wake up. (yes, this did begin around Imbolc, but not momentum kicks in!)
A quarter turn around the wheel of the year from the winter solstice, Ostara is the moment when light really has triumphed over the dark. There’s no going back!
The horned God is reborn!
In the more ancient pagan traditions, Ostara (vernal equinox) symbolized the moment the horned God was reborn. Also known as Cernunnos, and “king of the wild ones”, this powerful nature deity descends into darkness during the winter months, waiting to be reborn in the Spring.
Ostara means Fertility!
The birds are singing, the bees are humming… Are there any other symbols that fertility is in the air?! From fresh eggs and seeds being planted, to the abundance of baby animals around at this time of year, Ostara has always symbolized new life. This gave our ancient ancestors real reason to celebrate, especially after the cold winters that northern Europe often endures. And it should for us too – life is precious.
But fertility isn’t only about rabbits, hares, and baby bunnies! Symbolically, Ostara is a notable time to set intentions and new projects into motion. The abundance of fertile energy rippling out across the Earth at this time can be harnessed by anyone! Its momentum can be applied to all sorts of real-world situations.
How to Celebrate Ostara aka Spring Equinox: 10 rituals to try
You don’t have to do all of these. In fact, don’t even try! Just pick out one, maybe two that call to you and put them into practice.
1. Welcome the sun
Wake up at dawn, just before the sun rises. Go somewhere beautiful in nature, and welcome the Sun!
One of the most simple Ostara rituals but probably the most beautiful of all.
2. Decorate eggs
The humble egg is a literal symbol of new life. And they also symbolize the Sun – the bright yellow/orange yolk wrapped in the white fabric of the Goddess.
Eggs are so easy and inexpensive to get hold of, they make a perfect ritual addition to any Spring equinox celebration!
Boil your eggs with natural dyes such as onion skins or simply use food dye. For extra decoration, wrap your egg with string or rubber bands, or create patterns with pieces of tape or stickers before dyeing them. You could also use a pencil crayon to write your intentions and wishes for the season, or any symbols, runes, or sigils that mean something to you.
3. Create an Ostara altar
Do you already have an altar in your home?
If you do, then re-curate, re-create, and re-design it to honor this season and this day in particular.
If altars are new to you then this is your chance to get creative and try this life-affirming Ostara ritual.
Suggestions for creating an Ostara ritual altar –
- Fresh flowers – daffodils, tulips, crocuses, and other seasonal bulbs
- White, yellow, green, and gold candles (traditional Ostara colors)
- Eggs (pre-decorated!)
- Seeds and/or seedlings
- Frankincense resin or oil
- Images, carvings, or statues of rabbits, hares, bees, butterflies and ladybirds (all symbols of Ostara)
- Bells – ceremonial tools for driving out negativity and clearing space
- Representations of balance
4. Set an intention
Yes, I say this on every high and holy day – solstices, equinoxes, and fire festivals!
It’s because these power days offer a strong surge of energy that can be harnessed for setting intentions. Plus, for many folks, the new year doesnt’ really feel like it’s beginning until about now!
So create a bit of time to sit down with a pen and your journal, to think carefully about these questions –
- What do you want to call into your life over the next few months?
- What has been going well for you over the past six weeks?
- What didn’t go so well?
- What would you love to do differently?
- What project/idea/task/area of life could do with some momentum to GROW through the coming year?
- What can you do to make that happen?!
5. Spring clean (and make it a ritual)
This is one of those wonderful rituals where the sacred and mundane align.
Spring cleaning needn’t be all hard work. In fact, ritualizing your cleaning, by calling in the Goddess, and honoring the Spirits of home and hearth can turn the most boring of tasks into something special.
Like the other Spring festivals, Ostara invited cleaning, clearing, and purifying on ALL the many layers of your life. Many different cultures encourage this simple act, as a way to foster a new beginning.
- Clear away clutter and tidy up
- Sweep, dust, and vacuum (put on your favorite music and dance it out at the same time)
- Use sound to energetically clear your spaces – band a drum, rattle, ring bells or simply clap your hands to move and disperse stagnant and stuck energy.
- Burn incense, essential oils or dried herbs to clear the air. I use bundles prepared the previous summer from yarrow, rosemary, and mugwort growing close to my home. Be sure to open a window, so the negativity has somewhere to go…
6. Plant seeds and summer bulbs
It’s no coincidence that gardeners still plant their potatoes on Good Friday!
**In the Gregorian calendar, Easter is a “movable feast”. It’s always the first Sunday following the full Moon that occurs on or after the Spring Equinox.
Aligning your seed planting with the wheel of the year can not only give your garden a boost, but allow for the simple ritual act of setting intentions, meditatively, into the soil.
What do you want to grow in your vegetable, flower or herb garden this year?
7. Bake some bread, a cake, or a batch of equinox biscuits
Christians bake hot cross buns at Easter, symbolizing the crucifixion. But baking has always been a deeply feminine craft, guided by the Goddess. Early ovens signified her round, pregnant belly and the mysterious alchemy that occurred within.
So baked goods are the perfect alchemical symbols of transformation, rebirth and renewal – a combination of the four elements (water, air, fire, and earth).
As you add each ingredient, send a wish or intention into the bowl with it. Use the ancient art of kitchen witchery to summon the influence of the Goddess. As you mix and stir, knead, and bake, know that you are creating a powerful potion of intent! You are participating in a symbolic act of alchemy and creation – the beginnings of manifestation.
8 Decorate your home and host a tea party!
Using Spring flowers, decorate your home to welcome the Goddess and her energy of fertility right inside your home.
Short on time, make a simple centrepiece for your table instead.
Invite friends over for simple, delicious food. Cook egg-based dishes such as a frittata or egg salad. Or whip an egg into into a souffle or custard tart. Or if eggs really aren’t your thing, bake a cake decorated with fresh cream and edible flowers.
9. Try egg divination (oomancy)
A super-fun and off-the-wall ritual you can try that’s especially good with kids, is to practice egg divination, also known as oomancy.
It’s a little like reading tea leaves, and relies on the interpretation skills (and imagination!) of the practitioner.
You can try for oomancy yourself by cracking an egg, separating the yolk and the white and then dropping then white into hot water. The shapes formed in the water can then be “read” to foretell the future and receive guidance to a question.
Read more HERE
10. Sit in peace
The Vernal equinox is a moment of balance.
In our western world, we have the collective habit of often rushing too quickly onto the next thing. We’re eager for the next exciting beginning and eager to find opportunities for new birth and growth. But equinoxes are rare opportunities to be in a state of stasis.
With or without meditation, it’s possible to tune into this frequency of balance and stillness, just by BE-ing in it.
If sitting still is too difficult for you, then try going for a beautiful, grounding spring walk or a hike. Do this intentionally, as a moving meditation.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate Ostara?
Let me know in the comments below… and blessed Equinox to you X
Ostara symbols and Correspondances
Whether you’re building an Ostara altar, practicing a little spellwork, or simply weaving some seasonal magic, you can supercharge your efforts using the corresponding ingredients.
Here are the symbols, herbs, plants, colors, and a whole lot more correspondences for Ostara…
Goddess / God
- Eostre, Ostara
- Spring / maiden Goddess
- Rabbits, hares, bunnies
- Seedlings and buds
- Any budding or sprouting plant
- Crocus (all bulbs)
- Cherry Blossom
- Birch tree
- Ash tree
- Any budding or sprouting plants
- Lemon balm
- Rabbits, hares, bunnies
- Eggs and food containing eggs, such as custard tart and pie, quiche, souffle, boiled egg salad
- Leafy greens
- Edible flowers
- Bread, cake, hot cross buns
- Moss agate,
- Clear Quartz, rose quartz
- Moss agate
- Pastel colors
Now have a look at some of these…
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