Ostara doesn’t quite have the cachet of Beltane or Samhain, but for many of us it’s still a very big holiday. Much of this is because Ostara (the Spring Equinox) truly marks the end of Winter in many places. My formative Pagan years were spent living in the American Midwest where it often snowed into April. However by March 20 or so it was obvious that better weather was right around the corner, heck we usually got some sixty degree days in March which is sandals and shorts weather when you’ve been cooped up in the house for four months.
Depending on where you live Ostara is a holiday that can be many different things. For some it’s Spring in all of her glory (the jasmine just started blooming in my neighborhood) and for others a triumphant end to Winter. Whatever it is in your neck of the woods it’s worth celebrating in a big way. Here are some ideas for your Ostara Ritual or gathering.
Melt Some Snow/End of Winter There’s an old adage in magick that reads “like attracts like,” and it’s advice I’ve always put to use in my magickal workings. Since I generally want to see an end to snow by the Spring Equinox I’ve found that publicly melting it in ritual is a balm to the soul and a good way to manifest a green earth instead of a white one. I know putting a bowl of snow on my altar over a candle isn’t going to get rid of all the snow outside, but watching it melt has always reminded me that brighter days are on the way.
Flowers/Scents My favorite thing about Springtime in Northern California is just how good it smells. Evening walks through my neighborhood are like “scent buffets” and every other block offers a new and wondrous smell. It’s easy to forget just how powerful our olfactory senses are, and just how much they are linked to memory.
The simple act of sharing some Spring flowers during an Ostara ritual can have a powerful impact on people. Sharing several different blooms is sure to conjure up all sorts of memories, emotions, and feelings. I’m not arguing for scratch and sniff rituals, but be sure to have some natural smells around when celebrating Ostara if things are blooming in your area.
Here Comes the Sun As Pagans we are blessed with a ridiculous amount of solar and “return of the light” rituals, so why not add another one? After all the goddess Eostre has “dawn” (Eos) right there in her name! When I lived in the Midwest Imbolc was a nice way to celebrate the lengthening day, but it was still almost always way too cold to go outside and take advantage of that light. Ostara is an “open the door” ritual, it’s now warm enough to get out the grill and spend a little time on the front porch. Eighty degree days in most places are probably out of the question, but at least you can finally crack a window!
In addition the Spring Equinox marks that moment where the day overtakes the night. Our days aren’t just longer, they are triumphant! Get out your party hats, or at least your lawn chairs.
The Child in All of Us In the great Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year drama of the Goddess and God, Ostara is a time to celebrate the Lady in her guise as the Maiden and the Horned God in his role as the young horned god (we call him “Goatboy” at our house). Since it’s a celebration of younger deities the energies in the circle are often younger too. There’s something about Ostara that has always made me feel young inside, like a kid, and I think that’s something to celebrate.
Ostara is also a good time to listen to younger and newer voices in our communities. That could simply mean acknowledging the kids who come with their parents to ritual, or it might involve making sure that everyone in the coven or circle is getting a fair shake. It can be easy to look overlook the college-age kid sitting by herself, but that’s not a kid, that’s an adult, and she should have a voice at our gatherings.
Take Back a Bit of Easter I’m not sure how much of the modern day Easter is ancient pagan, but certainly Jesus has nothing to do with plastic grass and bunnies. Besides, the name is most certainly ours, there was no Christian apostle named Eostre. Many of us have fond memories of Easter as children so why not celebrate them? Perhaps peep-jousting before ritual isn’t your plate of scrambled eggs but it’s good for a laugh.
No one knows exactly where the Easter Bunny came from, but anyone who gives away free candy (socialist!) and celebrates Springtime and fertility is definitely one of our own! Why not plan an Easter Egg hunt with a Pagan theme for Ostara!
Do Some Planting I always try to avoid the same old tropes in ritual, but things are often repeated in ritual because they work. Few things work better at Ostara than a packet of seeds and a bucket of dirt. To me soil has always represented the womb of the Mother, and the water I sprinkle on top of it the blessings of the Horned One. Put a seed in the earth and new life arises due to the intermingling of those two forces.
Beltane is Spring in full-bloom with leaves on every tree. Ostara is the beginning of the cycle with shoots just coming up from the ground. Acknowledging that beginning makes for powerful ritual. Being able to take home a newly planted seed and then watch it thrive and grow is what Ostara is all about. Not all of us garden (and truth be told I did start gardening this week!) but nearly all of us can keep one plant alive from Spring into Summer.
Bake Some Hot Cross Buns I’m not a baker and I’ve never played one on TV, however I do like to bake at Ostara, and I always bake hot cross buns. Hot cross buns are an invention of the Christian era, however there’s lots of magickal lore about them, the kind of lore that fits in well with Witchcraft. Hot cross buns baked on Good Friday are said to never go bad, and due to their religious connotations they’ve been used as medicine over the centuries.
My favorite hot cross bun story involves this rhyme:
“Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be”
Sharing a hot cross bun is a symbol of friendship and goodwill, and ensures those feelings will last throughout the rest of the year. Some legends say that the two people sharing the bun should kiss before eating it! That sounds like a good way to celebrate cakes and ale to me!
Initiations I was initiated into a Witch-tradition near Ostara several years ago, as such I tend to associate this time of year with new beginnings and new journeys. Life begins anew every Spring, why not our spiritual paths? An initiation is a new step forward, as such it seems like an appropriate thing to honor in late March/early April.