Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
(The Spring Equinox)
A Young Hare by Albrecht Durer (1502)
Ostara, the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox, is one of the Lesser Sabbats of the Witch’s annual calendar and today, in the northern hemisphere, is celebrated on the 20th March, although this date may vary by a day or two depending upon the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. In the southern hemisphere the equivalent Sabbat is Mabon, the Autumn Equinox. Ostara is the Anglo-Saxon term for Eostre, the Teutonic Goddess of Spring and fertility whose festival of old was celebrated on the day of the Vernal Equinox (the equinoxes are the points in Spring and Autumn at which the Sun’s path crosses the celestial equator, at which time the periods of day and night become equal in length).
the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Ostara is also known by various other names, such as:
Rites of Spring, Lady’s Day, Alban Eilir, Festival of the Trees and
Eostre’s Day. As was to happen
with many popular pagan festivals, when Christianity began to dominate the
worlds religions, Ostara was renamed
and many of its customs and symbolism incorporated into the Christian holiday of
Easter. Easter takes its name from
Eostre, the same Goddess of Spring associated with Ostara, and like Ostara, its
date is variable, being calculated as the first Sunday after the first Full
Moon, after the Vernal Equinox.
In the mythology of the Witch’s Sabbats, Ostara celebrates the return of the Goddess from the Underworld. Warmed by the strengthening light of the Sun she awakes bursting forth from her sleep and blankets the earth with fertility. As the Sun God stretches and grows to maturity, so he and the Goddess walk in the fields and forests and delighted with the abundance of life and nature they inspire all living things to grow and reproduce.
(1901) by Johannes Gehrts.
(The goddess Ēostre/Ostara flies through the
heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light and animals. Germanic
peoples look up at the goddess from the realm below).
Ostara is a time to celebrate the arrival of Spring and the renewal and rebirth of nature after the cold dark days of Winter. Since the early buds of nature appeared at Imbolc, the Sun has continued to climb and gain in strength until now, at Ostara, daylight and darkness are in equal balance. As days lengthen and overtake night, so too does the earth begin to thaw from the last freezing grip of winter. Now is the time our farmers make ready their ploughs and prepare their oxen to pull them, and seed corn saved from the last harvest is checked to ensure its quality and suitability for planting.
To our ancestors the success of the planting season and the harvest to follow was of life and death importance, for the bounty to be gained from the new plantings would be needed to sustain them through the hardships of the next winter. Today while agriculture is still a major contributor to our national economy many of our winter food needs are subsidized by foreign imports, and given modern farming techniques and the mechanisation of the industry, the hardships of the old days are but a distant memory. Despite this, in some of the more remote parts of the country, the customs and practices of our ancestors are still being used.
Ostara is one of the Fire Festivals observed by our ancestors who lit bonfires and torches as a focal point of the celebrations. Fire is especially symbolic of the rising Sun, and of old it was customary to light bonfires on top of nearby hills in his honour. In Germany and Scandinavia, and in the Norse traditions of England, wheels made from wood, straw and branches were assembled at the top of nearby hills. There at the appointed time, normally at sunrise, the wheels would be set aflame and rolled down the hill through the fields below; a ritual performed symbolic of the Sun warming and thawing the earth which would later be ploughed and planted. Charred sticks from the Sun-wheels would then be saved and taken home to protect their properties against fire and lightning. Likewise ashes from the fires would be spread in the fields to protect them against future thunder storms.
Today, more out of health and safety reasons, modern Pagans might use a
Catherine Wheel attached to the top of a pole to symbolise the old Sun-wheel
fires. Likewise, the custom of
rolling a flaming wheel down a hill was replaced, and instead, brightly coloured eggs painted to represent the sunlight of
spring are rolled
down hillsides at Easter. The egg is
a potent symbol of fertility and is one of the sacred symbols associated with
the Goddess Ostara.
The main focus at Ostara was to honour the Gods and Goddesses whose blessings were invoked to promote fertility during the planting season. One of the fertility animals associated with the Goddess at Ostara is the Snake, which emerges from its winter hibernation to bask in the spring sunshine. Due to the constant shedding of its skin, the snake was seen as a symbol of new life. In many of the world’s creation myths, the Goddess in the form of a snake laid the “Egg of Original Beings”, better known as the “World Egg” or the “Cosmic Egg of Creation”, which was split open by the heat of the Sun God. The inside yolk of the egg represents the Sun God, while the outside shell is seen as the womb of the Goddess. The whole, therefore, is uniquely symbolic of creation, birth and new beginnings.
It was an old custom at Ostara to collect eggs, paint them to match those of the local wild birds and place them in baskets woven from straw, imitable of their nests. Birds were commonly believed to be the messengers of the Gods, so these baskets were given away to friends and neighbours as talismans for good luck and prosperity. Eggs were also ritually eaten at Ostara and the shells buried in the fields to promote fertility.
Another fertility animal associated with the Goddess at Ostara was the Hare, this due to its constant mating activity in Spring. Hares mate while they are still very young, and the female can produce several litters each year, from which activity the expression “Mad as a March hare” was derived. The hare has often been regarded as a sacred animal of the lunar Goddess, because an image of a hare can often be seen in the full moon. It was from this illusion that Witches were once believed to shape-shift into hares. Today the rabbit is more prolific and active at this time and is now one of the common symbols of Easter.
As with all Sabbat celebrations, food plays an important part in the festivities. If we turn back the clock and look at the conditions our ancestors survived in, by the time of Spring many of their food stocks saved from the previous years harvest, and meat saved from the last cull of their animals, would now be running out. With the arrival of a new Spring and the renewed regeneration of life in nature, many of their fears for survival were over. Ostara to them marked an end to eating cured and salted meat with dried vegetables. As animals came out of hibernation, fresh game became available, and as the Sun climbed higher, herbs and new young plants replaced the old. As such, the Ostara feast was always one to remember.
- Hares, Rabbits and Snakes.
Crocus flowers, Daffodils, Jasmine, Irish Moss, Snowdrops and Ginger.
Jasmine, Frankincense, Myrrh, Dragon's Blood, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Aloes
wood, Benzoin, Musk, African Violet, Sage, Strawberry, Lotus, Violet Flowers,
Orange peel or Rose petals.
Aquamarine, Rose Quartz and Moonstone.
Food - All food in tune with the season, including: eggs of all types, hard-boiled or in a salad, honey cakes, first fruits of the season, fish, cakes, biscuits, cheeses, honey and ham, and whatever game can be hunted.
In conclusion, metaphysically, Ostara - the Spring Equinox is a time of renewal and new beginnings, a time to plant your seeds and plan for the future. Change is in the air and if you don’t do it now, the year will creep in and you never will. This is the ideal time to clean your home, to Spring clean, get rid of the old and welcome in the new. It may not be easy, but some simple physical work and mental effort can be focused to rid your life and home of negativity, clear the problems of the past, and provide for a brighter future.
things began in order, so shall they end, and so shall they begin again;
according to the ordainer of order and mystical mathematics of the city of
Thomas Browne 1605–82, The Garden of Cyrus (1658) ch. 5).
Written and compiled on the 7th
January 2009 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
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Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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