The Sabbat of Ostara approaches for the northern hemisphere, and the season of winter wanes into the oncoming season of spring. We celebrate this lesser sabbat when the earth enters the fiery zodiac sign of Aries. In 2018, that potent moment occurs Tuesday, March 20 at 12:15 pm.
Solar holidays are a big deal around The Sojo Circle Coven, and we pull out all the stops for a tribe-wide pot-luck feast before hand, and a relaxed party afterward. While our lunar esbats are small, simple and personal rites that are rarely written out, sometimes entirely impromptu, Sabbats are high-ceremony rituals that are approached more like theater productions. They take lots of advanced preparation, and enough time to do fun things together and relax into the Work.
Ostara is the second sabbat in our Great Work of magick, with the agricultural theme of fertilizing the seeds of intention we planted at Imbolc. We utilize the fires of Aries to germinate and activate the life force within our magick, echoing what is awakening in nature all around us.
We are a largish group, as far as covens go, because as we are an open training circle. While the inner court of initiates is only 14 people, we invite our outer court of dedicants and neophytes to join us, and sometimes special guests, and children. An average sabbat can have 25 folks in attendance. This creates special needs for space, and shared responsibility in order to pull all this off. I’ve made note of who was in charge of what things throughout the ritual script.
As I prepared to post the following ritual (originally written for our 2016 rites) I realized that we have a unique framework of delegation, and there are many internal techniques within these rites that are unique to our practice. At this point, I might take them for granted; however, they may be valuable to the outside reader. In coming posts, I’ll go into more detail about those, including the recipes for the incense and oils I mention.
An Ostara Sabbat Ritual for the Large Coven
(For when its time to pull out all the stops)
High Priestess: Ritual Leader, Calls and releases the Goddess, Cauldron of eggs.
Maiden: Maintains Altar and inner circle organization; arranges egg-dying craft before ritual begins.
High Priest: Ritual Leader, Calls and Releases the God, priapic wand
Summoner: Maintains perimeter and outer circle organization; Calls the Ancestors, leads the dance.
Besomkeeper: Northern gate, calls Earth. Psychic sweeping of circle; provides cakes for simple feast.
Cauldronkeeper: Western gate, calls Water, anoints celebrants at entry; provides anointing oil; offers divination method.
Staffbearer: Eastern Gate, calls air. Smudges the circle and celebrants at entry; provides incense.
Swordbearer: Southern gate, calls fire. Challenges celebrants at the gate, maintains all fires.
Flowering Wand: The High-Priest creates this with stems of spring flowers, bound like a long bouquet with a white ribbon; one stem for each celebrant at least. Lilies are a good choice because they have plenty of messy pollen, but we’ve used stems of carnations, too.
Eggs: The High Priestess arranges the coven cauldron, dressed much like an “easter basket” full of hay or straw, fresh flowers, then the decorated eggs and wrapped chocolate eggs (meant to be eaten.)
Divination method: The Cauldronkeeper (water) provides some sort of divination method to share; for example, plastic eggs with pieces of papers inside like a fortune cookie that have the norse runes or names of the tarot trumps on them, that each celebrant can draw and keep as a remembrance of the sabbat.
Fire: The Swordbearer (fire) sets and fuels the tiki torches at gates and center, needed for illumination.
- Candles: White Spirit Candle, Silver Goddess Candle, Gold God Candle, black ancestor candle.
- Consecration elements: dish of sea salt, dish of water, red fire candle, incense censor and charcoal with hand-blended loose Ostara Incense (Recipe and Instructions here.)
- Altar Tools: Chalice of wine, paten dish with cakes. Athame. Wand.
- Grand tools: staff, besom, cauldron (filled), sword.
- Smudge bundle or stick incense on a dish, with tea-light candle, by the eastern gate; Ostara anointing oil.
- Quarter Tiki Torches lit at the gates, two lit on either side of altar.
- Altar table center/north
- Cauldron full of eggs at center point
- Circle edge, 18′ diameter, outlined in straw and flowers cut from whatever is flowering in our yards.
- A few chairs around outer edge of circle for those who cannot sit on the ground; drums, rattles.
- Eastern gate is left clear for all to enter and exit.
Erecting the Temple:
Challenge at the gate:
Swordbearer speaks to all assembled at gate:You who stand on the threshold between the pleasant world of mankind and the Terrible Domains of the Outer Spaces, do you have the courage to enter? For it would be better to rush upon my blade and perish than to make the attempt with fear in your heart.
(Leveling the sword at the heart of each celebrant in turn) How do you enter?
Celebrant:With perfect love and perfect trust.
Swordbearer:It is good; you may pass.
Celebrants smudged with incense by Staffbearer, anointed on the brow by Cauldronkeeper with their sigil of degree.
After entering, celebrants circle deosil (clockwise) three times to find a place to stand.
High Priestess Leads Grounding, Centering, power flow of all celebrants directed through the hands toward the altar.
Maiden chimes the bell three times, Lights the white Spirit Candle.
High Priestess consecrates the incense and fire candle.
High Priest Consecrated the Water and Salt.
Maiden chimes the bell three times.
Welcome and Ritual intent:
High Priestess: Welcome Friends! Tonight we celebrate Ostara, the spring equinox. The Sun enters the sign of Aries, and with those fires, the earth warms again! We stand in the balance between darkness and light, in a time between times, to celebrate the awakening of Spring. The Goddess and God return from their winter’s rejuvenation in the underworld.
The Maiden Goddess opens the way, waking all life once more, she is the dark soil, made fertile through last year’s compost. The Youthful God grows as the greening of the Earth, his vitality germinating the seeds who now come to bud and are sprouting. They are the new flowers, the waking animals and their new babies; we honor them as the egg and the hare, spreading their fertility upon the earth.
In the pyramid of power, we shift now to the airy powers of Wonderment. We release the stifled barriers of belief and invite the fresh breeze of ingenuity into our lives.
Let us erect the temple.
Hallowing the Temple:
Beginning in the East/Air, proceeding deosil. Maiden/summoner hands the consecrating element to each gatekeeper, by gender.
Gatekeeper then presents the element to the gate, then carries/sprinkles it deosil around the outside of the circle, chanting, “I consecrate this circle by the powers of _____.” After the first chanting, all celebrants chant along, as we visualize the element clearing the space.
Upon returning, gatekeeper addresses the elemental gate once more, “I, your brother/ sister of _____, greet you with _____, and ask that you to blow/burn/wash/ground free any baneful energy from this sacred space. So mote it be!”
All: So mote it be!
Maiden/summoner returns the element to the altar, and continues from there with the next element…
Casting the Circle with the Awen:
“Awen” is Welsh for Divine Inspiration. We chant this word in three syllables, more like ah-oo-wen.
High Priestess: We all take hands, thumbs left creating a chain that will direct energies in a clock-wise direction. We are reminded that we draw energy through the earth/sky/environment and channel that through the body, released on the breath and focused by the resonance of the voice.
We take three deep breaths, and on the third exhale, we begin a long, slow, deep chant of AH-OO-WEN. We do not stop at the end of each word, but blur them together until we run out of breath: aahoooowenaaaoooowenaaaoooowen, but with each repetition, HPs raises the note a half-step, and slightly speeds up the rhythm, celebrants follow along. After we must inhale once more, HPs slowly begins raising her linked hands, faster, faster, higher higher, all arms now at full extension to the heavens, directing into a last cone’s peak of AWEN! And all hands are released and thrown skyward.
High Priestess: Our energy dances around us at the circle’s edge. See it pulsing with light and life–all colors, all vibrations. Together we close the sphere. Hands to the sides, close it above us (bring hand to a peak above our heads) and we draw down the heavens. We close the sphere below us (sweeps hands to close them pointing to the earth) and we draw up the underworld.
The circle is cast. We charge this sphere to be an amplifier of our magick this night, but also our protective container, and magnifier; Naught but love will enter in, naught but love will emerge. We now stand in a temple of our own making, between the worlds, in a time out of time. Blessed be!
All: Blessed be!
Opening the Elemental Gates:
Call the Quarters, inviting the elemental forces to guard and empower our sacred temple between the worlds. All turn to face the direction of the gate, taking the body posture for each elemental call.
Staffbearer: Come spirits of the East, powers of Air! Sail on golden wings of dawn, bringing your wisdom. Blow free the staleness of winter and bless us with your gifts of wonderment. Be with us in our Ostara Rites! Hail and Welcome! (all echo, Hail and Welcome!) Invoking Pentagram drawn.
Swordbearer: Come spirits of the South, powers of Fire! Bring your light to lengthen our days, and heat to thaw the frozen earth. Ignite our Will with your passions; as we surrender! Be with us in our Ostara Rites! Hail and Welcome! (all echo, Hail and Welcome!) Invoking Pentagram drawn.
Cauldronkeeper: Come spirits of the West, powers of Water! Bring your daring, as our spirits flow with the fluidity of your tides. Bless the lands with rain, and our spirits with your lessons of acceptance. Be with us in our Ostara Rites! Hail and Welcome! (all echo, Hail and Welcome!) Invoking Pentagram drawn.Besomkeeper: Come spirits of the North, powers of Earth! Hold us rooted by tree and flower. Bring the fertility of your lush green fields, as the seeds awaken from their silent slumber, and emerge from their wombs of soil. Bless us with your lessons of resonance. Be with us in our Ostara Rites! Hail and Welcome! (all echo, Hail and Welcome!) Invoking Pentagram drawn.
Evocations Above and Below:
Evocation of the Goddess:
High Priestess, standing with arms aloft in goddess position: Great Goddess of Spring, Maiden Goddess with many faces and names, whose fertility renews the earth, awaken our spirits with your effervescent powers of hope and exuberance. Open the way, bless the world with your bright spirit so that all the seeds of our Great Work will manifest in all our lives. Be with us in these Ostara rites. Hail and Welcome! (all echo, Hail and Welcome!) (Lights silver candle.)
Evocation of the God:
High Priest standing with arms aloft in horned god position: Evocation of the Lad/Youth God/Horned God: Great Prince of Light, Green Lord of Spring with many faces and many names, whose vitality awakens us with your lusty powers of survival and procreation; bless the world with your bright spirit so that all the seeds of our Great Work will germinate and thrive in all our lives. Be with us in these Ostara rites. Hail and Welcome! (all echo, Hail and Welcome!) (Lights gold candle.)
Invitation to the Ancestors:
Summoner: (Stamp foot three times) Ancestors of the Land! (Pound chest with fist three times) Ancestors of the Blood! (Clap hands over your head three times) Ancestors of Spirit! All those of good will who guard, guide and inspire us, join us now in our Ostara rites. (Lights black candle.)
Maiden holds the basket of dyed eggs at her belly in the center of the circle.)
High Priestess: These eggs, a symbol of fertility and new life, represent all of our intentions for this turning of the wheel. Since Imbolc, when we blessed the earth, and named the seeds we planted by declaring our dedications, we’ve sought out knowledge and understanding with the outward powers of air. Both our individual Great Work and our coven’s great work of rising in personal sovereignty, of aligning our personal will with highest Divine will, have developed. Like these eggs, they’ve come into a clearer color and vibrancy.
(Empowering the eggs, drawing invoking pentagram over them with the wand.) I open the way; Awaken now to your full potential and nurturance within the Goddess.
HPs With emphasis: Grow with the Power of The Goddess!
All: Grow with the power of the Goddess!
(Summoner holding the cauldron of eggs at the belly, in the center of the circle.)
High Priest: holding bound stems of spring flowers: This Ostara night, we KNOW what work lies ahead, but now we shift like the spring breeze into the inward power of wonderment. If we release all restrictions on what we think we know and open our minds, what new fertile ideas will come? These flowers, like the young god himself, bloom to release their pollen upon those spring winds. They fertilize the earth, so that an abundance of NEW growth, and new blooms of possibility may find their roots. As we enter the cardinal sign of Aries, we unleash the fires of the god’s passion to germinate all our intentions.
(Unbinding the stems, pulling away the ribbon. Gently brushes and taps the eggs with the flowers, spreading pollen over them. ) I open the way; ignite now within these eggs the passion, wisdom and Will of the God. (Drawing the invoking pentagram over the eggs with the athame.)
HP With emphasis: Grow with the power of the God!
All: Grow with the power of the God!
(All celebrants take hands and dance the grapevine step deosil, while in the center of the circle the High Priest beats the drum, and High priestess sings/chants this edited variation of parts of the “The Return,” by Doreen Valiente, (last stanza by Heron Michelle) Chanting at least three times through, each time picking up the pace, until the powers have sufficiently peaked.)
Hear the voice on the wind,
Of the Old Gods returning,
a light and a flame
Of the witch-fires a’burning.
The call of the pipe
And the throb of the drum,
we all dance the Sabbat –
our hour has come!
For life is a spiral
That’s turning and spinning;
We rise, and we fall,
once losing, now winning.
Our Will now awakens
like buds on a tree,
we are never forsaken,
SO MOTE IT BE!
(High Priestess invites all to direct energies into the cauldron of eggs in the center, celebrants then fall to earth, sitting/laying around the edges of the circle.
High Priestess: You may all find a comfortable position for meditation.
(Maiden hands out an egg and Summoner hands out a stem of flower to each celebrant.)
Considering the Egg: We are led in a meditation to open to our minds to wonderment: to open the way for the seeds of our intentions to germinate and grow. Holding the egg in our hands, we consider our Imbolc dedications…and the work to be manifested this turning. What wonders lie ahead? Create a thoughtform vision of what we would like to attain for ourselves? What crown of sovereignty are we putting on? We envision an open channel from crown to root chakras opening as an alignment with Highest Divine Will with personal Will.
Considering the Flower: Where do we go from here? What actions will help to fertilize the growth of our intentions? Is that something that must be released and “composted” to enrich the work? Is there some offering or effort to be made? What “nutrients” must we add to our work to bring them to full fruition?
We vision quest for this information while we drum and rattle for a while.
When finished, we sink all that power into the eggs, then we peel and eat them, internalizing the message.
Divination as a Next Instruction:
CauldronKeeper offers the prepared Divination Messages to each celebrant, who chooses, and reviews them privately.
Cakes and wine are blessed by the High Priest and Priestess, then a libation is given to Goddess, God and Ancestors.
The Priestess serves the priest first, who then passes deosil, each saying to the next person “You are a Goddess/God; May you never Hunger/Thirst.” The recipient answers, “Blessed Be,” takes a sip, or a bit of cake. and passes deosil until the High Priestess is last served…she drains the goblet, and turns the chalice downright on the cake plate, signifying that none of these blessings of the gods will go to waste.
Prayers and Thanksgiving:
Once more the circle takes hands, and we go around offering gratitudes for blessings received, or leading the circle in guided visualization and direction of energies toward the manifestation of personal prayers/intentions.
Deconstructing the Temple:
High Priestess: Blessed Be this Ostara Night!
All: Blessed Be!
High Priest: Our work is complete. Let us dissolve our temple and step back into the flow of time.
Summoner: Releases the ancestors. (Snuffs black candle)
High Priest: Releases the Horned God: Lord of the Light and budding new life, we welcome the growth and beauty that you bestow upon the greening land. Thank you for your presence in our rites. Stay if you will; go if you must. Hail and Farewell! (Snuffs gold candle)
All: Hail and Farewell!
High Priestess: Releases the Maiden Goddess: Lady of Spring we ask that your blessings remain in our hearts, and that we live in harmony with all that dwell on this earth. Thank you for your presence in our rites. Stay if you will; go if you must. Hail and Farewell! (Snuffs Silver Candle)
All: Hail and Farewell!
Closing the Elemental Gates:
Widdershins beginning in the north.
Staffbearer: Spirits of the East, powers of Air! We are grateful for your presence in our rites this Ostara Night. We now release you back to your fair and breezy realms. Hail and farewell! (all echo, Hail and farewell!) Banishing Pentagram drawn with athame, gates closed, we kiss the blade and bow.
Swordbearer: Spirits of the South, powers of Fire! We are grateful for your presence in our rites this Ostara Night. We now release you back to your fair and fiery realms. Hail and farewell! (all echo, Hail and farewell!) Banishing Pentagram drawn with athame, gates closed, we kiss the blade and bow.
Cauldronkeeper: Spirits of the West, powers of Water! We are grateful for your presence in our rites this Ostara Night. We now release you back to your fair and fluid realms. Hail and farewell! (all echo, Hail and farewell!) Banishing Pentagram drawn with athame, gates closed, we kiss the blade and bow.
Besomkeeper: Spirits of the North, powers of Earth! We are grateful for your presence in our rites this Ostara Night. We now release you back to your fair and earthy realms. Hail and farewell! (all echo, Hail and farewell!) Banishing Pentagram drawn with athame, gates closed, we kiss the blade and bow.
High Priestess: All are guided to compress the remaining sphere of our temple’s energy into to a small, dense ball at the center. A prayer of blessing is spoken over the ball to charge it to light the way of all celebrants back to sabbat again for Beltane. Like a jump-shot in basketball, at the count of three, all release it into the cosmos. we clap to break the remaining constructs.
All: The circle is open, but never broken! Merry meet, Merry part and Merry meet again! Circle song!
We usually break into a silly jig and run around hugging everyone while we sing: “May the circle be open, but unbroken. May the love of the Goddess be ever in your heart. Merry Meet and Merry Part and Merry Meet again.” (Spirit candle extinguished. The party of drumming and dancing ensues.)