Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Celebrating the Spring Equinox (Ostara)

The Spring Equinox is the traditional celebration of the new life that bursts forth with spring.
It has given us the modern celebration of Easter.

Spring Equinox traditionally falls on March 20-21, and is the exact midpoint between the winter and summer solstices. Starting at sundown on March 20, there are exactly 12 hours of night and 12 hours of daylight.

This is a time of huge energy. Nature is waking up after its long winter sleep and everywhere you look there is evidence of new life: trees are in bud, seeds are germinating and animals are preparing to bear their young.

Celebrating New Life

In Wiccan lore, the Oak King, the god of light, wins a victory over the Holly King, god of darkness. As light conquers dark, the great mother Goddess conceives a child. Nine months later, at Winter Solstice, the child will be born and the cycle begins again.

Easter: Spring Equinox in the World

The Easter festival we think of as a Christian celebration is the church's appropriation of this traditional Pagan festival. The resurrection is a tale of new life, but where do the Easter eggs and rabbits feature in the Bible?

Even the name, Easter, has Pagan roots--Eoestre is the goddess of light, who brings the spring. The root of the work comes from "estrus"--the time in an animal's sexual cycle when it is fertile. Eoestre's festival was held on the Spring Equinox full Moon; thus Easter is on the first Sunday after the first full Moon following the Spring Equinox.

Fertility and Rebirth

The Spring Equinox is often represented by a Spring maiden carrying a basket of eggs, the symbol of rebirth. The maiden is accompanied by a hare or rabbit, representing abundant fertility, from which comes our modern symbol, the Easter Bunny.

How to Celebrate the Spring Equinox

There are many simple ways to celebrate the season of rebirth--from spring cleaning your body and your home to cooking up traditional Easter treats for family and friends.

1. Spring Clean Your Home

In springtime, gardeners clear away the debris of winter from the base of plants, allowing room for new growth. So we, too, can make space in our homes for fresh ideas and projects to emerge.

Renew your Home

As the growing light shows up the accumulated dirt of winter, remove it.

*Go into those hidden places, under the sofa and behind the refrigerator, letting in the light and leaving everything fresh and new.

*Clear out any clothes you no longer wear from your closets.

*Wear green to symbolize the shoots of spring;this will remind you of the new beginnings spring represents.

2. Special Spring Food and Drink

Make a celebratory meal to share with your friends--perhaps a picnic outdoors, or inside, if the weather is bad.

Dishes for Spring

Create the following dishes for a symbolic spring meal:

-> Nettle Tea--The first edible green leaves of spring, nettles are rich in minerals such as iron

-> Quiche, the eggs in which are reminiscent of new life.

-> Hot cross buns are reminiscent of the Sacred Marriage. The arms of the cross are of equal length, which in some cosmologies represents the union of male and female.

3. Make Your Own Easter Egg

Traditionally, eggs were painted bright colors to represent the sunlight of spring, or colored scarlet to represent life blood.

Spring Resolutions

As part of your ceremonies, you can paint an egg:

+ Decorate a hard-boiled egg with bright colors, symbols, or affirmations.

+ Write about a new project on the shell. If you are with friends, you can take turns to talk about what your eggs symbolize. Passing the eggs around the group will help to energize them and fill them with positive intent.

+ Absorb the energy you have invested in the egg by ceremonially shelling it and eating the contents.

+ Crush the painted eggshell and bury it--to sow you new hopes into the earth.

4. Spring Clean Your Body

After you have spring cleaned your home and it is clear of the previous season's old, stale energies, you can then cleanse yourself. Spring clean your body's systems by drinking a purifying tea of dandelion leaves and nettle tops.

New Beginnings

then make a spring altar, preferably in your garden to fully benefit from the new air of the season. On it, place spring flowers and fresh greens . Prepare an incense of purification herbs and spices, such as hyssop and juniper. As these offerings burn, meditate on the new projects you are ready to start--the seeds of new plans you wish to sow.

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