For most of us, we are starting to experience the warm, vibrant sunshine that we have not seen for months. We have spent our time playing in the snow and enjoying the hibernation and time of resting that winter has brought us, but now we are ready to see the birth of new growth and all that it offers us. That’s right – it’s almost officially spring! The Spring Equinox, just like the Fall Equinox, is marked by the day and night being the same length, starting the transition into a new, bright season. As the Spring Equinox quickly approaches on March 21st, we begin to start opening our hearts, our minds, and our souls to the sunshine that promises bountiful growth and the changing of the seasons.
What is Ostara?
In Norse Pagan traditions, Ostara – sometimes referred to as Eostre or Eastre – is the Germanic Goddess of spring, dawn, and fertility. Ostara is the Maiden Goddess that represents the opportunity of growth and rebirth into the sunny spring days after the stagnant, cold, and often harsh winters that the Norse endured. The translation of Ostara has a deep and rich history, stemming from the loose translation of her name that derives from the direction East where the morning light rises, creating warmth from the sun and lengthening the days.
Ostara is the basis for many popular Christian traditions that are still practiced today. Originally, the Anglo-Saxon name for the month of April was Eostremonath (and is also sometimes recorded as Ostaramonath), linking the Germanic Goddess with the month that Christians celebrate Easter. Eventually, Christians adopted some of the prominent symbols and practices that were practiced and celebrated for years as a way to honor the Goddess Ostara.
While the annual celebration of the Spring Equinox and the Goddess Ostara was not a huge festival and holiday like Easter is for the Christians, there were still major components to the history of Ostara that the Norse Pagans focused on. Every Spring Equinox, the Celtic peoples focused on honoring the changing of seasons, knowing that fertility of the land was at its best. They would always start sowing their seeds, preparing their chickens, and rejoicing in the rabbits and hares that were appearing in droves every March and April.
These traditions are the basis for the prominent Easter symbols we see today. Have you ever wondered why a bunny hiding eggs is the archetype of Easter? This is because the Goddess Ostara’s animal symbol was a hare and eggs, both of which symbolize fertility, rebirth, and growth.
In medieval societies throughout Europe, the March Hare was a prominent and exciting landmark to see because it always marked the start of spring and birth, mainly because this species of rabbit is nocturnal for most of the year. However, when mating season starts back up in March, the bunnies are running around and reproducing in large numbers all day long. The females are superfecund, meaning that they can become pregnant with a second litter while still pregnant with the first – making it no surprise that this became such a prominent symbol for the Goddess Ostara and the start of the Spring Equinox.
The other major Spring Equinox and Easter symbol is eggs. The origin of Easter Eggs derives from chicken egg production, another sign that the Norse peoples saw every spring as a symbol of fertility and birth brought to them from longer sunny days. When chickens are kept in natural lighting, they drastically decrease how many eggs they are laying in the winter. If they are in extremely cold temperatures, most of the chicken’s bodily resources are being used to keep her warm, also impacting how much they are laying. As the Goddess Ostara brings more light and longer days to the Pagans, their chickens began to lay more eggs, providing nourishing food for them after their harsh winters. As Christians began to adopt some of the practices of Ostara for the Christian Easter, these symbols became the representation that spring is here!
How to Honor the Spring Equinox
The best way to honor the Spring Equinox is by getting outside and enjoying the fresh air! As the warm spring winds stir, new life is blossoming all around us, even if we live in a big city away from nature. Going to a park and relishing in the fresh spring green grass, getting outside and going hiking, or even getting your flower or food garden going are all great ways to honor the Goddess Ostara. By welcoming the longer days and vibrant growth that is all around us, we begin to find peace that connects us to Mother Earth.
Some people may even build alters in their homes, on their porches, or in their yards for the Spring Equinox. These alters may have candles, fresh flowers, a new herb garden, colorful Easter eggs, and fresh spring foods like dandelions and sprouts. Your alter is subjective to what ties you to nature and the Spring Equinox. It is a way to show your love for all that the Earth provides for us, especially with the blessings of spring after a long winter!