Monday, March 20, 2006

A blessed Ostara!

Ostara comes from the goddess Eostre, “Eastern Star.” Eostre was the Saxon goddess of rebirth and fertility. Such female-based terms as estrus (referring to the menstrual cycle) and estrogen are based on Eostre’s name. The name Esther is also derived from Eostre.

Other Names (or Spellings) for Ostara:
Alban Eiler (Welsh)
Esther’s Day
Lady Day
Spring’s height
Spring (or Vernal) Equinox
Easter (the Christianized term)
Ostara occurs on the astronomical Spring Equinox, usually on or around March 21. It is a time when night and day stand in balance.

The traditional symbols of Ostara are related to fertility and birth:

Eggs: In ancient times the return of the birds meant the return of an important food source for the people. The ability to find eggs often meant the difference between health and hunger in the days before the crops were ready. Eggs correspond with fertility, mysticism, and ancient questions.

Rabbits: Central to mythology worldwide, rabbits are often associated with the moon. In traditional Goddess cultures, rabbits were an important totem animal and eating them was widely prohibited. A Scottish superstition held that eating rabbit was tantamount to eating one's grandmother. Rabbits were used as divining creatures by the Greeks, and also referred to by the Iceni Queen Boadicea, who correctly predicted victory from the direction of a darting rabbit. Since the hare can sleep with its eyes open, the Romans equated it with vigilance and believed that rabbits watched over everything--just as the moon appears to. In European folk belief, the phases of the moon could be seen in the eye of rabbits.

In Asian imagery and myth, rabbits and the moon are virtually synonymous. The Japanese see the Rabbit in the Moon. An enduring Japanese symbol is one of a rabbit pounding rice into flour, and the word mochi means both rice flour and full moon.

Moon and rabbit associations carry across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas, where Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of the moon, midwifery and weaving has a rabbit totem. Mexican panels of 600-900 AD illustrate this moon goddess giving birth to and suckling a rabbit, while another shows the rabbit symbolizing phases of the moon. In North American lore, the rabbit plays the part of the trickster and the embodiment of fertility power. Worldwide, rabbits or hares co-exist with the moon as sacred symbols of vitality, fertility, and the life force. Some cultures associate rabbits with tricksters, shape shifters, and longetivity.

Newborn animals—particularly chicks, bunnies, and ducklings--remind us that we have survived the long dark winter, and that life is beginning anew.

Dairy products—things that are made of milk or milk products—are consistent with the newborn animals and life of spring. Milk corresponds with Goddess energy, mothering instincts, and nurturing behaviors.

Young spring greens, spring flowers, herbs, and flowering bulbs are signs of the Earth’s returning life. Lettuce and young greens correspond with peace and relaxation. Flowers and herbs have unique correspondences—you may want to investigate these further on your own.

Above all, Ostara is a time for rebirth, initiation, and new beginnings. This is a tremendous time to embark upon a new path or set of goals.

Equinox blessings to all!

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