The Ides of March has arrived, and Spring is just upon us. The mornings are feeling warmer and the days are getting longer as we approach the upcoming equinox on March 20th.
As we all know, the equinox occurs when both night and day reach a balance, and it happens twice a year in order to transition us from the cold months to the warmer months and vice versa. The Spring Equinox, in particular, usually happens on the 20th or 21st of March, and marks the first official day of Spring (according to the astronomical calendar).
Seeing as how the astronomical event marks such a key moment in our yearly calendar, it’s no wonder why it has so many celebrations surrounding it. One that particularly stands out is Ostara. Which uses the equinox as a guide for a celebration and serves as a time to reflect and celebrate opportunities, growth, understanding, and, above all, renewal.
It is said that Ostara comes from the Celtic and Saxon spring holidays, and has been adapted into the modern era, the same way it was blended with Christianity’s Easter celebration. Today, Ostara is still celebrated as a time for renewal and growth, as it aligns with the coming of Spring and all it’s blessings. For many of modern-day Pagans, Ostara represents the time when the God and Goddess (varying from religion to religion) join in sacred marriage.
Ostara can be celebrated the day of the equinox, the day after, or at the time of the first full moon proceeding the equinox. The first two are done in celebration of the first day of spring embracing the first sign of warmth and growth, while the last is focused on the reaping of gifts granted by Spring, seeing as how the full moon is the best time to sow or plant out root crops.
Ostara, as a holiday and celebration, centers and focuses on renewal and the opportunities for growth due to the change in circumstances that now favor fertility and development. Having ties of a variety of Pagan gods such as Asase Yaa, Cybele, Eostre, Freya, Osiris, and Saraswati, traces of this spring celebration can be found around the world and throughout time, with ties to fertility, and the new light brought along with the warm months.
Traces of the holiday are also found in Christianity’s Easter, which takes place the first Sunday after the first full moon past the equinox. This year, Easter falls on April 1st, following the full moon on March 31st.
(rabbits are also symbols of Ostara as they represent fertility)
A series of rituals mark this special time of year, most of which are still carried out today. Most of us have celebrated the coming of Spring with different rituals, from little activities we all remember as children, such as egg-hunting and decorating, to more grown-up activities we might be doing unconsciously such as basking in the joy of spring and dedicating time to gardening.
Modern day Wiccans, and all Pagans alike, have their own set of rituals including setting up their altars with fertility symbols, prayers, cleansing rituals, and crafting talismans. A more common occurrence are feasts celebrated among those who celebrate the more nature-based version of Ostara, in which they come together to welcome Spring and reap the rewards of their year-long efforts.
Solitary practitioners also have their own way of celebrating this beautiful holiday. Nori, a fellow undergraduate student at UPRM, is a solitary Wiccan practitioner that celebrates Ostara in her own special way by casting a protection spell and cleansing her space. “[…] basically, I try to take a mental break before continuing with everything. During those days, I study whichever spell or enchantment I want to try. I decorate my space with things that remind me of Spring, and I think of them, which helps me as a guide for that season.” She mentions this as key parts to her celebration.
(Ostara is found in the Wiccan wheel of the year, which encompasses key holidays also known as Sabbaths)
All in all, Ostara serves as a time for reflection of all things we’ve been able to accomplish throughout the hard cold months while contemplating opportunities for renewal not just around us, but inside of us as well.
This year’s equinox takes place this Tuesday, March 20th, so remember to take a moment for yourself and ask, “How can Spring serve as inspiration for my own growth?”