Of Ostara, hares and eggs
Updated: Mar 4
The Spring Equinox.
At Ostara, as at Mabon in September, light and dark achieve a fleeting balance. But unlike Mabon, Ostara stands poised at the brink of growth. The year is waxing now. The Winter measure is passed, the Summer measure is about to begin, and light and warmth quicken the land. Nature is responding to the Turning of the Wheel. Life is surging anew.
This is a time for optimism, a time of growing energy and action; expansive and exuberant.
The month of April was Ostara/Eostre's time, the pre-Christian Germanic goddess worshipped in a pageant of fertility rites. It's appropriate that as the fount of fertility she lent her name in later days to the hormone oestrogen. And the festival we call Easter, as well as bearing more than an echo of her name, has borrowed many of her traditions and symbols.
The Easter Bunny for one. And I'm not being flippant! It’s barely a hop, skip and jump from the Easter Bunny to a hare, and in Celtic tradition the hare was sacred to Ostara/Eostre. The hare, with its nocturnal proclivities, is also associated with the moon and both were believed to die at the brightening of the day in order to be reborn at nightfall. Unsurprisingly the hare became a symbol of immortality and has obvious associations with resurrection. It is also a potent symbol of fertility as it can conceive while pregnant.
The egg, another symbol of the season, signifies potential, indeed it's often regarded as 'all potential'. An egg contains all the stuff required for new life. Its association with fertility, birth and renewal is obvious. As ‘the Cosmic Egg’, it's often used as a symbol of the entire universe and everything in it. Implicit in this is the idea that the totality of material reality is actually but the embryonic form of something yet to be.
And what of Ostara/Eostre? Although there seems to be little or no evidence of a direct connection between the symbol of the egg and the goddess, the medieval practice of abstaining from eggs during Lent meant that when Easter arrived eggs were on the menu again and eagerly consumed as a treat by the gastronomically deprived peasants of Christendom.
I like to approach the Equinoxes as opportunities to identify and reflect on aspects of balance, both in my own life and in the world around. And to look for their corollary, imbalances, of course. I ask myself the questions "What could I do with less of? What with more of? And what is about right? What impacts are my actions, choices and opinions having on my friends and community?"
And whereas at Mabon I might respond to my discoveries contemplatively, using the prevalent seasonal energies of the ‘dormant’ and introspective half of the year, at Ostara I’d be more likely to respond with action; considered action of course, but action none the less. I might start implementing plans I’d made during winter.
But the watch-words are renewal, rebirth and growth. So if you were to ask me how you might celebrate Ostara/Eostre I’d encourage you to identify something in your life that you wish to begin, to nurture or to increase and focus on that. And fill your celebration with energy, light and exuberance. Dance. Sing. Laugh. And rejoice in your capacity to do these wonderful things. And if you can, do them with friends. Light a big bonfire. Wonder at the light, the warmth and the energy. And by all means eat chocolate eggs, and raise a glass to the Mad March Hare.