Holidays and holy days are better with friends and family. But many Pagans maintain solitary practices. Even if you work with a group, sometimes you can’t be with them for one reason or another. Sometimes your group meets on a convenient day but you feel the need to celebrate on the exact day. Whatever the reason, many Pagans will be celebrating Ostara by themselves.
Ostara is the common Pagan name for the celebration of the Spring Equinox. Jason Mankey has a good essay on the origins of the name, which may or may not be connected to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon Goddess who may or may not be a Goddess of Spring and of the dawn.
As a devotional polytheist I struggled to choose an appropriate deity to honor and petition for this ritual. I have no relationship with Eostre. Persephone is closely tied to Spring, but this working doesn’t relate directly to Her story. Jason suggested that Brighid would be appropriate, but I don’t see Her as a Goddess of fertility. In the end, I chose Danu, partially due to her identification as a Mother Goddess and a Goddess of the Land, and partially due to my long relationship with Her.
You are of course free to choose another deity for this ritual, but if you do please give careful thought at to Who and why.
This ritual requires some thought and planning. Ostara is the beginning of Spring, the season of new beginnings, of renewed life, and of planting. What do you want to plant in your life? What do you want to plant in the wider world? What are you willing to nurture through the growing season?
You will need seeds, a container (flower pot, planter, paper cup), good soil, and water. You can plant flowers, vegetables, or herbs – whatever seems best to you. Think about what you like, but also what you need and what grows best where you live. Read the instructions: how many seeds to plant, how deep, how close together, and how to care for the plants as they grow.
I prefer to do this ritual outdoors during the day, but it can be done any time or anywhere.
Set a main altar in the center of your space with with the seeds, container, soil, and water. You will also need matches or a lighter, a bell, a wand or athame, incense, a small bowl of salt water, bread, and an offering bowl. Set candles in the four directions.
Ostara is a time for making a “clean start” so consider taking a long ritual bath, washing your hands, or just changing your clothes. I rarely wear robes for solitary ritual, but I do like to wear some of my Pagan jewelry. Do whatever puts you in a ritual frame of mind.
Approach the altar and pause for a moment of silent meditation. Ground and center using whatever method you find most effective. Then ring the bell three times.
Say “At this time of balance, at this time of the awakening of the Land, I come to celebrate Ostara, the Spring Equinox.”
Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger. Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle clockwise, drawing the circle as you go. See the circle rising in deep blue light. Make a complete circle, and see the ends joining together. Return to the altar.
Pick up the bowl of salt water. Move to the East, pause, then slowly move around the ritual space clockwise, sprinkling the water as you go, cleansing the space. A sprig of rosemary makes an excellent aspersing branch, but your fingers will do just fine. Make a complete circle, then set the bowl back on the altar.
Pick up the incense. Move to the East, pause, then slowly move around the ritual space clockwise, wafting the incense as you go, blessing the space. A large feather make a nice fan, but again your fingers will do just fine. Make a complete circle, then set the incense back on the altar.
Return to the East and light the quarter candle. Say “Spirits of the East, Spirits of Air, I call to you. Join this celebration, I ask, and share your wisdom. At this time of equal day and night, welcome Air!”
Move clockwise to the South. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, I call to you. Join this celebration, I ask, and share your inspiration. At this time of equal day and night, welcome Fire!”
Move clockwise to the West. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, I call to you. Join this celebration, I ask, and share your love. At this time of equal day and night, welcome Water!”
Move clockwise to the North. Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, I call to you. Join this celebration, I ask, and share your stability. At this time of equal day and night, welcome Earth!”
Move clockwise back to the East, then return to the main altar.
Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, you who were here long before me, I invite you to join this celebration of Spring. Accept this offering of food and drink, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.”
Raise the bread and water in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the water into the offering bowl.
“Land spirits – hail and welcome!”
Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, you whose child I am and on whose foundations I build, because of you I have life. You who marked this day as the renewal of life and the beginning of labor, join me in this celebration of Spring. Accept this offering of food and drink, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.”
Raise the bread and water in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the water into the offering bowl.
“Blessed ancestors – hail and welcome!”
Say “Danu, Mother Goddess, Lady of the Waters, I ask You to join this celebration and bless me with Your presence. Giver of Life, be welcome here. At this, the time of equal day and night, I would join in Your Great Work of creating and nurturing life and love. Mother of Gods, please join me in this celebration of Spring. Accept this offering of food and drink, I ask, given in hospitality and in love.”
“Danu – hail and welcome!”
Pick up the container. Look at it: contemplate its bottom, its walls, its open top. It is not a plant or a seed, it is not soil or water or anything else to feed the plant. Yet without it, the plant cannot grow.
Think about the containers in your life. Do they give your life form and shape? Do they provide boundaries for healthy growth? Or are they constricting and limiting, perhaps even preventing you from getting the air, water, and light you need?
Say “Danu, Great Mother, please bless this container and the containers of my life.”
Set the container down and pick up the soil. Run your fingers through it, feel its texture and substance. Consider what it is: minerals from the rocks below, organic matter that was once living plants and animals, and tiny creatures that live in it now. Consider what it will do: nurture and support the things that live in and on it. Can you sense the spirit of the soil?
What is your foundation? What nurtures and supports your life? What feeds you even though it died long ago?
Say “Danu, Great Mother, please bless this soil, and please bless all the beings who support my life.”
Set the soil down and pick up the water. Take a sip, taste it, feel it refreshing your body. Contemplate the water: this is where life began, and without it life cannot continue. Consider where your water comes from and what would happen if that source was cut off, or if its capacity was exceeded.
Say “Danu, Lady of the Waters, please bless this water and the water that nourishes my soul.”
Set the water down.
Fill the container with soil and set it down. Now pick up the seeds. Hold them in your power hand – that’s usually the hand you write with. Consider what they are: the potential for new life.
What will you plant in the container of your life? What new life will you bring forth into the wider world? Remember that you are not holding “seeds” – you are holding marigold seeds or cherry tomato seeds or English lavender seeds. The more specific you make your intention the greater likelihood that what grows will be what you actually want and need.
Is this the year to plant the seeds of the college education you abandoned years ago? Perhaps you want to plant the seeds of a new magical study group. Maybe you want to plant the seeds of an interfaith community garden, or a non-discrimination ordinance in your town, or the cleanup of a toxic site. Whatever you choose to plant, think of it now and meditate on what it will bring into the world.
When you are ready, plant the seeds into soil. Remember the instructions: how many seeds, how close, how deep. Pour a bit of water into the container.
Hold the container in front of you. In your mind’s eye, see what will happen: darkness, new shoots, a growing plant. See yourself tending the plant, and see the flowers or fruits that will come from it.
As you do, also see what will happen with your metaphysical planting: the seeds of a suggestion, the beginnings of something new, the steps required to make it a reality, and benefits it will bring when it is fully manifest.
Contemplate the growth – all the growth – that is beginning here and now.
Say “Danu, Mother Goddess and Lady of Life, I ask your blessings on these seeds. May they grow strong and true.”
Set the container down. When you are ready, eat some of the bread and drink some of the water. Give thanks for the blessings you have received.
Say “Danu, Mother Goddess, Lady of the Waters, I thank You for your presence and Your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”
Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”
Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”
Say “Spirits of the North, West, South, and East, Spirits of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever. Hail and farewell.”
Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger. Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle counterclockwise, pulling up the circle as you go. See the last of your circle disappear as you return to the East.
Ring the bell three times.
Say “This celebration of Ostara, the Spring Equinox, is complete. Hail and farewell.”
Take a breath. Turn on some music. Drink some water. If you were working at night, turn on the lights. Do something to reorient yourself in the ordinary world.
Extinguish the candles and the incense, then begin to pick up and put away.
Dispose of the offerings in an appropriate manner. I prefer to deposit them outdoors in an inconspicuous place where they’ll be eaten by wild creatures. Depending on where you are, you may need to do something else.
You may wish to write about your experience in your journal, particularly if your experience was strong. Focus on recording the experience, not on your interpretation of the experience. You have the rest of your life to figure out what it all means, but you have only a short time before your recollection of the events begins to fade.
Over the coming weeks, tend your plants. Make sure they get plenty of water and sun, but not too much of either. If you start them indoors you may wish to transplant them once the weather is favorable in your area.
May you have a bright and fertile Ostara, and may the lengthening days bring growth and abundance to you and yours!