Wheel of The Year
Ostara (pronounced "O-STAR-ah") is one of the Lesser Sabbats and is celebrated on the Spring Equinox which occurs between March 20th and 23rd. Ostara is named for the Teutonic Goddess of Spring Ôstarâ, however some traditions celebrate this Sabbat as Eostre in honor of Ēostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring and the Dawn. It is the Goddess Ēostre from whose name the Christian 'Easter' was derived.
Ostara or the Vernal Equinox has been celebrated by most cultures throughout history, some archeologists believe as far back as 12,000 years, with the celebrations such as Oestara, Eostre's Day, Rite of Eostre, Equinozio della Primavera (Strega), Alban Eiber (Druidic), Bacchanalia (Roman), Festival of the Trees, Lady Day and Jack in the Green Day. The Christian Church has also appropriated this time of year from the Old Religion to celebrate their holiday of Easter. The date of Easter is actually determined in a very Pagan manner; it is always the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox.
Ostara celebrates the arrival of Spring and balance. Light and dark are equal but the light is growing stronger and the days will soon grow longer. Masculine and feminine energy is also in balance and so Ostara is a time for the celebration of fertility, a time when all of our energies, both within us and around us are brought into harmony. Winter has ended and it is now a time of new life and rebirth, and a day to pave the way for the coming lushness of Summer.
Many of the equinox stories from Greece, Rome, Germany and the Nordic lands tell of the Deity's trip into the Underworld. After being in the land of the dead, they return to Earth and bring new life with them. This death and resurrection theme is a common thread in the stories of Persephone, Hera, Odin, Osiris, Attis, Orpheus, Dagda, Mithras, and even Jesus.
Symbols used to represent Ostara include the egg (for fertility and reproduction) and the hare (for rebirth and resurrection), butterflies and cocoons (transformation and rebirth). The most common colors associated with Ostara are lemon yellow, pale green and pale pink. Other appropriate colors include grass green, all pastels, Robin's egg blue, violet, and white.
The modern tradition of brightly colored eggs being delivered by a rabbit comes from the legend of the Goddess Ēostre. In one variation of the legend the Goddess Ēostre was walking one fine Spring day and came upon a beautiful little bird. The poor bird’s wing was badly injured and Ēostre, feeling great compassion for the little creature, wanted to heal it. But the little bird’s wing was so badly damaged that Ēostre knew it would never be able to fly again even after She healed it. So, Ēostre decided to help the bird by healing it in a way that would give it mobility and a little something more… She turned it into a rabbit!
During the transformation, the rabbit retained the ability to lay eggs. The rabbit was so grateful to Eostre for saving its life that it laid a sacred egg in Her honor, joyously decorated it and then humbly presented it to the Goddess. She was so pleased and so touched by the rabbit's thoughtful gift that She wished all humankind to share in Her joy. In honoring Her wishes, the rabbit went all over the world distributing these beautifully decorated little gifts of life and continues to do so even today.
Another story that is told is one about the Goddess turning Her pet bird into a rabbit to entertain some children. Upon this transformation the rabbit immediately laid several brightly colored eggs, which the Goddess gave to the children. The children were so amused that She had the rabbit continue to lay these brightly colored eggs to entertain the children.