Ostara (Spring Equinox)
What is Ostara?
Ostara is a Neopagan festival celebrated on the spring equinox, which is between March 19 and March 22 in the Northern Hemisphere. On the spring and fall equinoxes, day and night are of equal lengths. Ostara celebrates the coming of spring, new growth and fertility.
History and Etymology
The English monk and historian Bede (d. 735) recorded that the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre had a festival lasting several days, and that this name was adopted in England for the Christian holiday of Easter, which falls on the Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox.
Eostre has since evolved into "Easter" in English and "Ostern" in German. The word "Ostara" comes from the German mythologist Jacob Grimm (d. 1863), who said this was the Old High German name for the Easter festival. (All other languages use a variant of "Pascha," a Greek adoption of the Hebrew for Passover, for the Christian holiday.)
The Germanic words Eostre and Ostara probably come from the same root as "East," the direction of the rising sun. They are not etymologically related to the word estrogen, which comes from the Greek oistros, meaning "frenzy."
The Neopagan holiday of Ostara is also known as Lady Day, Egg Day, or Alban Eiler (Druidic).
For Wiccans and some other Pagans, Ostara is the day when the Goddess and God (variously identified as Mother Earth and the Green Man or the Young Maiden and Sun God) join in sacred marriage. The Goddess will conceive, and give birth in nine months. The increased growth and strength of nature in the spring is due to the rising power of the Goddess and God.
Pagans celebrate Ostara with various rituals celebrating fertility, nature and new growth. Egg races, egg hunts, egg eating and egg painting are common activities. A man and a woman might be chosen to act out the roles of Spring God and Goddess, playing out courtship and symbolically planting seeds.
Neopagans also celebrate by eating fresh spring foods like sprouts, dandelion greens, and nettles. Some undertake a fast during this period, to clear away the toxins of the winter. Many Wiccans plant an herb garden (for later use in spells) on Ostara. Home altars might feature spring flowers, seeds, jasmine or flowery incense, and the gemstone of jasper.