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Wicca by Justin

Ostara

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"This is the time of the Spring's return; the joyful time, the seed time, when life bursts forth from the Earth and the chains of winter are broken. Light and dark are equal; it is a time of balance, when all the elements within us must be brought into a new harmony. The Prince of the Sun stretches out his hand, and Kore, the Dark Maiden, returns from the Land of the Dead, cloaked in fresh rain, with the sweet scent of desire on her breath. Where They step, the wild flowers appear; as They dance, despair turns to hope, sorrow to joy, want to abundance. May our hearts open with the spring! Blessed Be!"

Eostar, or the Spring Equinox, is the time when day and night are in balance, with the light mastering the darkness. It is basically a Solar festival, and a newcomer to the Old Religion in Celtic and Teutonic Europe. In the past, the Equinoxes were never observed in Britain. Yet they are now a genuine part of modern Pagan tradition, even if their seeds blew in from the Mediterranean, and germinated during the period of the underground centuries.

The problem which faces most witches today, is deciding how to celebrate this Sabbat. The fact is that, many themes associated with the Spring Equinox overlap other Sabbats. For example, the death and resurrection theme, and the sacrificial mating theme.

In Mediterranean Lands, the death and resurrection theme had strong links with the Spring Equinox. The grim festival of the Phrygian Goddess, Cybele was celebrated at this time. Associated with her was the vegetation God, Attis. The Spring festival, which took place between March 22-25, mourned the death of Attis, and rejoiced over his resurrection. This was done by the priests of Cybele, castrating themselves as an offering to the Goddess. It is interesting to note, that one of Cybele's symbols is a crescent Moon, shown in perpetual union with the Sun, again, emphasizing the night and day balance.

In Rome, the rites of Cybele took place on the very spot where St.Peter now stands in the Vatican. In fact, the local Christians used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, in the very places where Attis worship took place. In days of old, bitter quarrels took place between the Christians and the pagans about whose God was the prototype, and which was the imitation.

Easter, Jesus's willing death, decent into Hell and resurrection can be seen as the Christian version of the sacrificial mating theme. In one sense, 'Hell' can be seen as the collective unconscious, the feminine aspect, the Goddess, into whom the sacrificed God is plunged as a necessary prelude to rebirth.

In classical and pre-classical times, spring was the season for another form of sacrificial mating, namely, the 'hieros gamos', or sacred marriage. In this, the woman identified herself with the Goddess, and the man sank himself into the Goddess. Through the woman, the man gave up his masculinity to the Goddess, without destroying it. He would emerge from the experience spiritually revitalized. The Great Rite, whether actual or symbolic, is the witches hieros gamos.

In the North, where spring comes later, the aspects of the sacrificial mating really belongs to Bealtaine. Thus, Eostar gives up it's human-fertility aspect to the Greater Sabbat, and retains it's vegetation-fertility aspect. In the Mediterranean, the Equinox is a time for sprouting, and in the North, it is a time for sowing.

As a Solar festival, Eostar must share with the Greater Sabbats the eternal theme of fire and light. In is interesting to note that this theme has survived strongly in Easter folklore. In many parts of Europe, Easter bonfires are lit on hilltop sites. The fire to light the bonfires is obtained from the priests. It is believed that as far as the light shines, the land will be fruitful, and the homes secure. People jump the dying embers, and cattle are driven over them.

Another interesting point to note, is that the Christian Easter falls anywhere between Eostar and Bealtaine. In fact, the name Easter comes from the Teutonic Goddess Eostre, also called Ostara. Many witches call the Spring Equinox by these names.

 

Some ideas for a fun Ostara activity:

  • Light a fire in the circle during your Ostara rite, or light the fire in a cauldron.
  • Place a lit green candle in a dish full of moist earth, let it burn down and then bury the remainders (except the dish)
  • Plant some seeds in pots or in your garden (if you blessed some seeds for Imbolc and saved them, use those!)
  • Dye or paint eggs with pagan symbols and God/Goddess signs
  • Fill up a dish with green and yellow candies (Jolly Ranchers, Skittles, Jelly Bellies, Gummie Bears... anything!) and leave them out for everyone to enjoy!

Preparations: A wheel symbol stands on the altar; it may be anything that feels suitable a cut out disc painted yellow or gold and decorated with spring flowers, a circular mirror, around brass tray.

The High Priest's robe, if any, and accessories should be symbolic of the Sun; any metal he wears should be gold, gilt,brass or bronze.

The altar, if indoors, should be decorated with springflowers particularly the yellow ones such as daffodils,primroses, gorse, or forsythia. One banquet should be ready forhanding to the Spring Queen, and a chaplet of flowers for hercrowning. The Spring Queen is one of the younger women in the Coven.

The cauldron is placed in the center of the circle, with an unlit candle in it. If outside, and conditions permit, a bonfire is made ready to light. A taper is placed ready on the altar for the Maiden to carry fire to the High Priest.

A phallic wand is on the altar.

Half as many cords as there are people present are ready on the altar, tied together at their center point in a single knot. If there is an odd number of people, add one before dividing by two.

As part of the feasting and offering to the Gods, you can use hard boiled eggs with painted shells. These symbolize the World Egg, laid by the Goddess and hatched by the heat of the Sun of the God.

The High Priest moves to stands in the East, and the High Priestess in the West, facing each other over the unlitbonfire. The High Priestess carries the phallic wand in her right hand. The rest of the Coven distribute themselves aroundthe rest of the perimeter of the Circle.

The High Priestess says:

"We kindle this fire today In presence of the Holy Ones, Without malice, without jealousy, without envy, Without fear of aught beneath the Sun But the High Gods. Thee we invoke, O Light of Life, Be Thou a bright flame before us, Be Thou a guiding star above us, Be Thou a smooth path beneath us; Kindle Thou within our hearts A flame of love for our neighbors, To our foes, to our friends, to our kindred all, To all men on the broad earth. O merciful Son of Cerridwen, From the lowliest thing that liveth To the Name which is highest of all."

The High Priestess holds the phallic wand on high and walks slowly deosil around the bonfire or cauldron to stand in front of the High Priest. She says:

"O Sun, be Thou ready to conquer the Dark!"

The High Priestess presents the phallic wand the High Priestand then steps to one side. The High Priest holds up the wand in salute and replaces it on the altar. The Maiden lights the taper from one of the altar candles and presents it to the High Priest. The Maiden then steps to one side.

The High Priest carries the taper to the bonfire and lights it. He gives the taper back to the Maiden, who blows it out and replaces it on the altar. She then picks up the cordsand gives them to the High Priest. The High Priestess arranges everyone around the fire, man facing woman as far as possible. The High Priest hands out the ends of the cords in accordance with her instructions,retaining on end of the final cord himself and handing the other end of it to the High Priestess. If there is an oddnumber of people, with more men then women, he holds on to two cord ends himself, or if more women then men, the High Priestess does the same. Either way, both of them must be linked with two members of the opposite sex. When everyone is holding a cord, they all pull the cords taut, with the central knot above the fire. They then start circling deosil in the Wheel dance, building up speed, alwayskeeping the cords taut and the knot over the fire. Any chant can be used that sounds good. Then the Coven all sit in a circle round the fire. The HighPriest gathers up the cords, being careful not to let them get burned and replaces them on the altar. The High Priest names one of the women to be the SpringQueen and stands her in front of the altar. He crowns her with the chaplet of flowers and gives her the Five Fold Kiss. The High Priest steps back and calls forward each man in turn to give the Spring Queen the FiveFold Kiss. When the last man has done so, the High Priest presents the Spring Queen with her bouquet. Then, starting with the Spring Queen, everyone jumps over the fire, singly or in couples, not forgetting to wish.