Sunday, November 11, 2012
As the days lengthen, the earth thaws and starts its greening after the long, dark, cold winter. These are the early days of spring. Our ancestors would be busy now, making final repairs to their plows,
preparing their draft animals to pull them, checking the seed corn to be sure that it was ready to plant. The success of the next year depended entirely on the crop that was about to be put in the earth.
Our ancestors knew this, and thus turned to our Gods and Goddesses to ensure the fertility of the earth, the viability of the seed, and the growth and abundance of the crops that would keep them alive through the next hard winter. The rituals that marked the spring planting time are still known by name to us today, called "Easter," or to Asatruar, Eostre, or Ostara in the Anglo-Saxon or Old High German tongues of our ancestors.
Perhaps the primary function of the rites of Spring is promoting fertility. The timing of Ostara places it after the spring thaw, yet before planting, to maximize the effect of the blessings of the Gods and Goddesses on the fields. Probably the best known symbol of fertility among our folk is the egg. As one would expect, the egg remains the symbol which modern culture associates most thoroughly
with Easter. Painted clay eggs (white with black and red stripes) were found in a Germanic cemetery in Worms (ca. 320 CE) as part of a child's burial goods. The egg is, of course, one of the mightiest
symbols of new life, fertility, and "good luck." It should be noted that among modern Germans today, Eier or "eggs" is still a slang term for a man's testicles. Eggs were often associated with the spring
fire rituals that enhanced men's virile power. In the Norse-settled islands north of Scotland (the Orkneys and Shetlands), it was the custom to rub a bull's testes before going out to gather eggs from
the cliffs, saying, "I rub the bull's eggs, and I get the gull's eggs ..." The bird's eggs and the other generative organs (ovaries may be assumed as well as testicles) hold the same store of aldri and
hamingja; they are the very source of life.
Eggs are still used today in a number of fertility rituals. On several days during the Easter season, "Boys went around ... with a mitten begging eggs and would get one or two from each family.... On Sunday a lot of them lit a fire in the hills and boiled their eggs near some plain green, threw up their eggs to see which ones would be longest unbroken, and then ate them." The height of the throws and the "luck" inherent in the unbroken eggs were taken as predictors of the growth of the crops and the luck of the year.
Our ancestors also observed Ostara as one of the "Fire Festivals," in which a bonfire, torches, or other flames became a focal point of the celebrations. The use of fire is directly symbolic of the sun, and
perhaps of Freyr's solar aspects as well, and hence a symbol of fertility. The best survival of fire being used at Ostara, surprisingly, is found among the German-descended inhabitants of
Fredricksburg, Texas, where on Holy Saturday the inhabitants still light bonfires on the tops of nearby hills. In Germany, sun-wheels were made from oakwood, straw, and green branches, and brought to the top of the highest hills. There the wheels were set aflame, and the burning sun-wheel sent rolling down the hill and through the fields of the villages below, literally bringing the might of the sun and the warmth of its rays which thaw the earth into the fields which were to be plowed and sown. This custom remained as at least a dim echo in northern England as well, where instead of a flaming sun- wheel, brightly colored eggs were rolled down hillsides on Easter Monday instead. In both Germany and Czechoslovakia, an egg which was lain on Thursday was taken, colored green for fertility, and buried in the largest wheat field. After burial, the egg was flanked on either side with a burning "hail cross."3 The "Thursday egg" is an obvious remnant of the worship of Thorr, here invoked in his fertility aspect to bless the fields, and as the God of Storm to protect the new crops against springtime hail stones, while the burning cross is a Christianized remnant of the old sun wheel, such as described above. Charred sticks saved from the fires were kept and taken home to protect the home against hail, fire, and lightning, and the ashes of the fires often spread in the fields for fertility. One common belief associated with the fire festivals was that the men alone were allowed to take part, and women were kept strictly away from the vicinity of the fire, suggesting that men will absorb the might and fertility of Freyr or Thorr when they participate in such a rite.
An Ostara Sabbat Ritual for One
For this ritual you will need two small chalices or cups of water or
wine and, if you're working indoors, you will need two bowls in which
to pour the liquid. You will also need two candles and some matches.
A ritual blade or wand is optional.
Place these items on a small altar, table, or other flat surface. In
a pinch I've used the top of my dresser as an altar, or even the
small stand on which I keep a portable stereo. At other times I've
had no trouble using a flat rock or even the ground itself.
Arrange the candles so that one is to the extreme left of the altar
and one to the extreme right. Place the chalices of water or wine
beside the candles. If you are working outdoors, place the bowls on
the ground on either side of the candles.
Begin by offering prayers of thanks to the God and Goddess for the
blessings of Ostara. List aloud each one. Go slow. Be thorough. As
you do this, dip your fingertips in each chalice alternately and
flick the water around your immediate area to impart those blessings.
Use caution if you are indoors or, if you're using wine, go through
the motion of aspurging without actually touching the liquid.
Focusing on the candles, that about them representing the winter
behind you – the time of the year with the greatest darkness – and
I stand at the center and balanced be,
The change of seasons meets here in me.
From wintertime's dark and lonely nights,
to summertime's warm and lively light.
Take the matches and light both candles.
Now at the center at Ostara am I,
Not light or dark to dominate the sky;
But at a time of lengthening light and day,
As we pass from balance to summers day.
Extinguish one candle to represent the balance of light and dark.
Take the chalice to your right and hold it up, saying:
God of the Sun and Lord of Light,
I honor your spirit in which I delight.
Pour the water or wine onto the groud to your right or into a bowl to
be poured onto the ground later. Then take the chalice to your left
and hold it up saying:
Goddess of the Earth and of the night,
I honor your spirit as the earth turns light.
Pour the contents of this chalice onto the earth or into the bowl.
You may spend as much time as you want at your altar, speaking with
your deities, meditation, or just contemplating the meaning of your
ritual and of Ostara. When you are ready to stop, extinguish the
candle with the private word of thanks to your deities. Take any
water or wine collected in the bowls and pour it outside onto the
face of Mother Earth to complete your offering to the deities.
Ostara: Customs, Spells, & Rituals for the Rites of Spring
by Edain McCoy
SIMPLE CANDLE RITUAL FOR OSTARA BY KRIS BRADLEY
No matter how much the busy domestic witch might want to be able to make time to do an elaborate ritual to welcome the first day of spring and the spring season, sometimes it can be hard to work one into our lives. Family needs, household emergencies, work and projects (just to name a few) can eat up time and energy. Many witches have expressed the feeling that if a ritual isn't elaborate it doesn't feel like they are doing it "right".
At Ostara, a time of new beginnings and rebirth, let yourself let go of those feelings that there is a "right" way to honor the seasons and deity and allow yourself to find the simple ways to celebrate each day. Really take notice of the changes happening around you in nature. Take note of the fact that darkness is falling later each day. Pay attention to the birds that land in your yard - are the robins out yet? Say a little prayer of thanks for warmer days, the beginning of the growing season and start looking forward to all those wonderful spring and summer foods that are coming!
Another simple way to honor the day of the season is to hold a simple candle ceremony. Create your own around what you'd like to renew or start or just to honor spring time in general, or use this simple ceremony:
Items needed: Candle of appropriate color or shape, lighter or matches, enough dirt or potting soil to hold the candle securely, a container to hold the dirt and candle
Place the dirt into your container. Place the candle into the dirt, making sure that it is stable and secure.
Sit for a few moments and center yourself. Think of the coming spring and what new beginnings you'd like to start in your own life. When you are ready, light the candle and say these words (or words you've written yourself):
"I light this candle in honor of Ostara, the Spring Equinox! I honor the changing of the seasons, and the reawakening of the earth. With spring comes lighter days, sprouting seeds and new beginnings. With the spring comes my vow to work towards these new beginnings in my own life (state what new beginnings you'll work toward this season). So mote it be!"
Let the candle burn as long as you can (never leave it unattended). Relight it when you are doing something to move forward on your new beginning goals, or when you need a bit of inspiration in moving forward.
Clear a space for a garden, or start flowers, herbs or vegetables
indoors. It's too early in this climate to plant fruits and
vegetables; frosts can happen as late as April in the North.
You can clear weeds, grass and rubbish from the spot where you plan
a garden, or you can start seeds indoors.
Pick up litter at your favorite park or beach. Help the earth
rejuvenate by getting rid of the mess.
Ritually color hard-boiled or blown eggs
Perform oomancy (divination by eggs).
Meditate on the imagery of the seed.
Meditate on the season's flowers. Flowers are the sexual organs of
plants, consider what this says to you.
Perform magick to give back to the earth. Raise and send energy to
return to the Earth, our mother, some of the bounteous energy and
fertility She gives to us.
Meditate on the Moon-Hare, rabbits provide an obvious symbol of
animal fertility and see what comes to you about literal or creative
fertility in your own life.
Honor the spring or Earth goddess or god of your choice, or a
goddess or god of balance.
Light a bonfire at dawn on the Equinox to honor the light half of
Meditate or perform ritual at dawn or sunset.
Meditate or perform ritual for balance in your life and in the
Do a ritual denoting the passing of the year's dark half.
Use the energy of the time of year as you would the first quarter of
the moon. You can use the energy of this time of year to fuel any
new project or goal.
Meditate on beginnings, on the East, on air, on dawn. In meditation,
note how these symbols connect organically and how you relate
personally to them.
Taking a long walk in nature with no intent other than reflecting on
the Magick of nature and our Great Mother and her bounty.
If you don't do your spring cleaning at Imbolc it is an ideal time
to clean your home to welcome the new season.
Offerings of food and milk are left for the fairies and other
spirits who live in and around rocks and are responsible for the
fertility of the land. Leave a few fruits from the last harvest for
the nature spirits.