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Ostara & Equinox: Facts & Traditions Of The Spring Equinox Celebration

Mar 20, 2017

The spring equinox, according to this article from, in the Northern Hemisphere falls on Monday March 20 this year, marking the time when the sun passes over the celestial equator. Wiccans and other neopagans observe the day as Ostara, a festival that celebrates the season’s change from dark winter to brightening spring.

Ostara is one of 8 neopagan sabbats, or holidays, that make up the Wheel of the Year.

Along with Ostara, many Wiccans and neopagans observe Beltane, Litha (or summer solstice), Lughnasadh, the autumnal equinox, Samhain, Yule and Imbolc.

Ostara may be a contemporary revival of ancient spring festivals.

Some pagans say Ostara derives from ancient Celtic and Saxon spring holidays.

Some pagan authors say Ostara derives from ancient Celtic and Saxon spring holidays, later Christianized into the Easter holiday. Others argue this and other neopagan holidays are modern creations. Either way, many religions celebrate holidays during this time of year, including the Hindu Holi, Jewish Purim, Sikh Hola Mohalla and Christian Easter.

For many neopagans, Ostara celebrates the Spring Maiden and Horned God, who represent the characteristics of the new season.

Ostara celebrates the Spring Maiden and Horned God.

Ostara, or Eostra, is an Anglo-Saxon goddess who represents dawn. As a spring goddess she oversees the budding plants and burgeoning fertility of the earth. The Horned God, sometimes envisioned as the god Pan, symbolizes the festive enjoyment of nature through hunting and dancing.

Symbols of fertility and new life play a prominent role in many Ostara celebrations.

Similar to those observed at Easter, symbols for Ostara include eggs, rabbits, flowers and seeds. Many neopagans believe these symbols to represent the fecundity of spring and incorporate them into rituals, altars and celebratory feasts.

There’s a very popular story that circulates on the Internet twice every year at the spring and fall equinoxes, and it’s about eggs. According to legend, if you try to stand an egg on its end on the vernal or autumnal equinox, you’ll be successful, because of the polarity and balance of the earth. However, one thing that no one ever points out is that with the right egg, and plenty of practice, you can do this any day of the year, not just on the equinoxes.

An astronomer named Frank Ghigo actually decided to test this theory nearly thirty years ago. He is referenced in numerous articles, one of which reads, “Ghigo used four samples of a dozen eggs each, which he attempted to balance on their large ends on a Formica tabletop each day between Feb. 27 and April 3, 1984. The spring equinox occurred on March 20, 1984. Ghigo found that eggs have many bumps and irregularities and, with patience, some of them could be made to balance virtually every day - while some eggs would simply never balance, on the equinox or otherwise.

He determined that "the mood and persistence of the balancer has a major effect on the balancing rate. If one is impatient or nervous, the rate is low." Over time, Ghigo found, the percentage of eggs he could balance improved, concluding "I think I got better, just through practice."

So, if you’ve decided you want to try the egg balancing trick on one of the equinoxes, have at it - but keep in mind that it’s a trick you can do any time you like, if you give it a little practice!

In many cultures and society, the egg is considered the perfect magical symbol. It is, after all, representative of new life - in fact, it is the life cycle personified. While many of us take note of eggs around springtime - the Ostara season is chock full of them - it’s important to consider that eggs feature prominently in folklore and legend all year long.

In some legends, eggs - a fertility symbol - are associated with that other symbol of fertility, the rabbit.

How did we get the notion that a rabbit comes around and lays colored eggs in the spring? The character of the "Easter bunny" first appeared in 16th-century German writings, which said that if well-behaved children built a nest out of their caps or bonnets, they would be rewarded withcolored eggs. This legend became part of American folklore in the 18th century, when German immigrants settled in the eastern U.S.

In Persia, eggs have been painted for thousands of years as part of the spring celebration of No Ruz, which is the Zoroastrian new year. In Iran, the colored eggs are placed on the dinner table at No Ruz, and a mother eats one cooked egg for each child she has. The festival of No Ruz predates the reign of Cyrus the Great, whose rule (580-529 b.c.e.)marks the beginning of Persian history.

In early Christian cultures, consumption of the Easter egg may have marked the end of Lent. In Greek Orthodox Christianity, there is a legend that after Christ's death on the cross, Mary Magdalene went to the emperor of Rome, and told him of Jesus' resurrection.

The emperor's response was skeptical, hinting that such an event was just about as likely as a nearby bowl of eggs suddenly turning red. Much to the emperor's surprise, the bowl of eggs turned red, and Mary Magdalene joyfully began preaching Christianity throughout the land.

In some Native American creation tales, the egg features prominently.

Typically, this involves the cracking of a giant egg to form the universe, the earth, or even gods. In some tribes of America’s Pacific northwest region, there is a story about thunder eggs (geodes), which are thrown by the angry spirits of the high mountain ranges.

A Chinese folk tale tells of the story of the formation of the universe. Like so many things, it began as an egg. A deity named Pan Gu formed inside the egg, and then in his efforts to get out, cracked it into two halves. The upper portion became the sky and cosmos, and the lower half became the earth and sea. As Pan Gu grew bigger and more powerful, the gap between earth and sky increased, and soon they were separated forever.

Pysanka eggs are a popular item in the Ukraine. This tradition stems from a pre-Christian custom in which eggs were covered in wax and decorated in honor of the sun god Dazhboh. He was celebrated during the spring season, and eggs were magical things indeed. Once Christianity moved into the region, the tradition of pysanka held fast, only it changed so that it was associated with the story of Christ’s resurrection.

There’s an old English superstition that if you’re a girl who wants to see who your true love is, place an egg in front of your fire on a stormy night.

As the rain picks up and the wind begins to howl, the man you will marry will come through the door and pick up the egg. In an Ozark version of this story, a girl boils and egg and then removes the yolk, filling the empty space with salt. At bedtime, she eats the salted egg, and then she will dream about a man bringing her a pail of water to quench her thirst. This is the man she will marry.

Another British tale was popular among sailors. It suggested that after you eat a boiled egg, you should always crush up the shells. Otherwise, evil spirits - and even witches! - could sail the seven seas in the shell cups, and sink entire fleets with their sorcery and magic.

In American folk magic, eggs appear regularly in agricultural stories. A farmer who wants to “set” his eggs under broody hens should only do so during the full moon - otherwise, most of them won’t hatch.

Likewise, eggs carried around in a woman’s bonnet will provide the best pullets. Eggs placed in a man’s hat for safekeeping will all produce roosters.

Even the eggs of certain birds are special. Owls’ eggs are said to be a sure cure for alcoholism, when scrambled up and fed to someone with a drinking problem. Dirt found under a mockingbird’s egg can be used to alleviate sore throats. A hen’s egg which is too small to bother with cooking can be tossed on the roof of your house, to “appease the witches,” according to Appalachian folklore. If a woman tosses an egg shell into the fire on May Day -- Beltane -- and sees a spot of blood on the shell, it means her days are numbered.

Image:  A mix of modern, diasporan and traditional Ukrainian pysanky eggs - Wikipedia





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