Ostara March 20-21 depending on the year
Spring egg hunts have origins in many lands. Some think that the egg hunt was symbolic of our ancestors, who would search for birds nests in early Spring. The eggs in them provided much needed fresh protein to add to the diet after a long, lean winter. Of course, egg hunts also have origins in India and China, where they were tied to the Karmic belief that we must each find our own path in each new life. Egg hunts became popular in the United States thanks to Abraham Lincoln, who, in 1862, invited children form the Washington D.C. area to hunt for eggs on the White House lawn. This tradition continues even today.
Eggs were buried by the Teutons to infuse the Earth with the life-giving properties of the egg. They were planted in fields, flower beds, window boxes and even animal barns for fertility. People would eat eggs in order to gain from the life-giving benefits of the egg.
The Teutons believed it was very bad luck to wear your spring clothes before Ostara. They would secretly work all winter on beautiful new clothing for the Ostara celebration. This is where the tradition of having new, fancy clothes for Easter morning came from. It is also the origin of the 'Easter parade' to show off the new, beautiful clothing you now have.
One activity is to go out to a field and collect wild flowers, or go to a florist and buy a couple that appeal. Take them home and look up their meanings. The flowers chosen reflect your thoughts and emotions.
Other activities can include: Light a fire in the circle during your Ostra rite, or light the fire in a cauldron place a lit green candle in a dish full of moist earth, let it burn down and then bury the remainders (except the dish) Plant some seeds in pots or in your garden Dye or paint eggs with pagan/wiccan symbols on them and God/Goddess signs Fill up a dish with green yellow candies and leave them out for everyone to enjoy
The correct day is the first full moon after the equinox. The reason for this was because the goddess Eostre was highly interwoven with lunar lore.
Many Holidays, Many Names: The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox on March 21. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. Of course, it's also the same time as the Christian Easter celebration, and in the Jewish faith, Passover takes place as well. For early Pagans in the Germanic countries, this was a time to celebrate planting and the new crop season. Typically, the Celtic as a holiday, although they were in tune with the changing of the seasons.
A New Day Begins: A dynasty of Persian kings known as the Achaemenians celebrated the spring equinox with the festival of No Ruz -- which means "new day." It is a celebration of hope and renewal still observed today in many Persian countries, and has its roots in Zoroastrianism. In Iran, a festival called Chahar-Shanbeh Suri takes place right before No Ruz begins, and people purify their homes and leap over fires to welcome the 13-day celebration of No Ruz.
Mad as a March Hare: Spring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature's fertility goes a little crazy. In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol -- this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is super fecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn't enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.
The Legends of Mithras: The story of the Roman god, Mithras, is similar to the tale of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Born at the winter solstice and resurrected in the spring, Mithras helped his followers ascend to the realm of light after death. In one legend, Mithras, who was popular amongst members of the Roman military, was ordered by the Sun to sacrifice a white bull. He reluctantly obeyed, but at the moment when his knife entered the creature's body, a miracle took place. The bull turned into the moon, and Mithras' cloak became the night sky. Where the bull's blood fell flowers grew, and stalks of grain sprouted from its tail.
Spring Celebrations Around the World: In ancient Rome, the followers of Cybele believed that their goddess had a consort who was born via a virgin birth. His name was Attis, and he died and was resurrected each year during the time of the vernal equinox on the Julian Calendar (between March 22 and March 25). Around the same time, the Germanic tribes honored a lunar goddess known as Ostara, who mated with a fertility god around this time of year, and then gave birth nine months later – at Yule. The indigenous Mayan people in Central American have celebrated a spring equinox festival for ten centuries. As the sun sets on the day of the equinox on the great ceremonial pyramid, El Castillo, Mexico, its "western face...is bathed in the late afternoon sunlight. The lengthening shadows appear to run from the top of the pyramid's northern staircase to the bottom, giving the illusion of a diamond-backed snake in descent." This has been called "The Return of the Sun Serpent" since ancient times. According to the Venerable Bede, Eostre was the Saxon version of the Germanic goddess Ostara. Her feast day was held on the full moon following the vernal equinox -- almost the identical calculation as for the Christian Easter in the west. One delightful legend associated with Eostre was that she found an injured bird on the ground one winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. But "the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs...the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre."
Modern Celebrations: This is a good time of year to start your seedlings. If you grow an herb garden, start getting the soil ready for late spring plantings. Celebrate the balance of light and dark as the sun begins to tip the scales, and the return of new growth is near. Many modern Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Ostara as a time of renewal and rebirth. Take some time to celebrate the new life that surrounds you in nature -- walk in park, lay in the grass, hike through a forest. As you do so, observe all the new things beginning around you -- plants, flowers, insects, birds. Meditate upon the ever-moving Wheel of the Year, and celebrate the change of seasons.
The Wheel of the Year holds several purposes, both theological and practical. Theologically, the story of the Wheel often varies depending on the Tradition. The Wheel gives the accounts of the mythological events that repeat throughout the year as well as a vague "history" of the Gods and Goddesses involved within the pantheon. For the newbies, by "Tradition" we mean "denomination"; for example Wiccan, Celtic, Druid, Native American, etc. On the more practical side, the Wheel trains us to be able to deal with death and the inevitability of re-birth that follows. Paganism teaches that death, a natural function of the universe, is a part of life; a dramatic change that is the beginning of a new experience, and something to be celebrated at the proper time not feared (not condoning Suicide!)
Through the ideas of Heaven and Hell, Christianity teaches a deep fear of death, and this spurs our society's horror of death. We are always trying to find new and improved ways to beat death, but we will never succeed.
It is sad our society portrays death as such a terrifying experience; we would certainly have less emotional pain and suffering in the world if death could be seen as what it is: a transformation, nothing more.
In this section you will find a rendition of the upcoming quarter of the Wheel of the Year. Included will be the mythological lore and some traditional practices for the celebration, along with some ideas for activities and decorations.
This minor Sabbat celebrates the Vernal Equinox and the blessed coming of SPRING! After we've managed to freeze our various appendages off for an entire winter, the Pagans of old were always looking forward to this day that heralds the coming of warmth and return of life. The most prominent traces of its origin are in the British Isles but most likely was separately originated in the Southern Mediterranean areas around the same time. This is "properly" celebrated on the date of the Equinox, which tends to vary in-between the period of about 2 days each year. If you really want to get technical, the holiday occurs when the Sun crosses the Equator and enters Aries. In earlier times, before all our fancy technology, it was often celebrated on the fixed date of March 25th. To point out a traditional "mistake," many people use the name Ostara as synonymous with Eostara.
Eostara is in fact the a Esbat (Lunar celebration) and is appropriately applied to the Vernal Moon, the closest Full Moon to the Vernal Equinox. Similarly, Lady Day is sometimes mismatched with Beltane (April 30th). This Sabbat can also be known as: Vernal Equinox, Spring Equinox, Alban Eiler, Eostre ("OHS-truh"
or "EST-truh"), the Rites of Spring, the Rites of Eostre, the Festival of Trees, and Esther.
The quests we set ourselves on at Yule will start showing prominent results now and while we work through them and enjoy we must keep the balance within ourselves. Mirror the equality of the light and the dark, don't shut out "bad" emotions or cling to strongly to the "good" ones.
You're human, you're allowed to feel both. From your newly gained rewards produce more buds of progress, just like the trees will soon start sprouting for Summer magnificence. Energy alignment in favor of relationships and inner growth. It is also a celebration of life over death, both plant and animal surviving the dangers of Winter and pushing forward to a promising heat. Free yourself from obstacles that prohibit progress.
*History/Mythology -- Celtic (and Christian counterparts):
If you have read the Mabinogion myth, this is where the God of Light conquers his darker twin. The Goddess who has become the Maiden again since Candlemas, welcomes her Child and soon to be spouse. She watches him grow proudly. Pagans of old would light fires at dawn for protection of crops to come, renewed life, and cures to aliments they battled with over the hard Winter months.
The Roman Catholic Church adopted two holidays from the pagan celebrations. The first being the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when the angel Gabriel told Mary that she was part of the family (fixed date of March 25th). It was fixed at this date because it needed to be the exact and perfect nine months to December 25th, when the Son of God was said to be born. Even though she was birthing the Son of God, she's still human. I suppose an irregular gestation period would have been seen as Satanic. For this reason many Christians seem to think that any mention of "Lady Day"
refers to this Christian Holiday, when it is referring to Ostara if coming from a Pagan mouth. If you take a closer look this mythology was used before Christian times. The Goddess returning to her Maiden, a.k.a. Virgin (in this case meaning the original 'unmarried'), was already established in Celtic lore. This is the time that the Young God and Maiden mate and conceive a child that will grow to become the Dark God. See any similarities yet?
The second holiday that gets inappropriately combined with Ostara is Easter.
Not so surprisingly, Easter is also a celebration of life over death as Jesus rises again; just like the God of Light rises again to defeat the God of Darkness. Does Easter seem to have an oddly familiar ring to it? That's because it is derived from the Teutonic Goddess Eostre, (which incidentally is where we also get the name "estrogen" from -- yep, the female hormone), who's symbols were the Egg and the Rabbit. I know lights are going off, so yes... exactly where the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs came from. Rabbits are a symbol of fertility (as in 'they are worse than rabbits!' in reference to sexual habits) and Eggs are a symbol of creation. As stated before, Her day is Eostara, the night of the Vernal Full Moon. The Church doesn't do Full Moons, but Easter is on the Sunday after the Vernal Full Moon each year, and that's why it is never set on the calendar. Furthermore, if Easter Sunday did happen to be the Vernal Moon, the Church was very pointed in being sure it was moved to the Sunday after so there would be no suspected associated with "wicked" Pagan holidays. Of course, there was anyway, so why not just stick with a constant schedule? Donno.
Another not so striking similarity between Celtic mythology and Christian mythology: Jesus, after being killed on Good Friday, 'descends into Hell.' After the third day he rises again and proceeds to Heaven. Many Celtic myths of old speak of the Goddess descending into the Underworld for three days, continuing the Trinity trend. Furthermore, it is said to coincide with the Vernal New Moon, which is not visible for three days, both the day before, the day of, and the day after. These myths had existed for many thousands of years before the coming of Christianity.
Furthermore, similar descents into the Underworld are all over folklore and other cultural traditions (including King Arthur).
*Mythology -- Wiccan:
The Goddess transfers her fertility to the Earth and takes on the Maiden aspect. The God grows to maturity and will soon become the Goddess' lover at Beltane. For most Wiccans it is a celebration of fertility and growing Light.
*Decorations and Activities:
Some fun and appropriate traditions could include the classic Painting of "Easter" (really Ostara) Eggs. Always a great hit with the children.
Basket weaving was a common practice until the super market chains swept all the creativity out of it by providing us with plastic as opposed to wicker and fake grass as opposed to hand picked flowers. What is the world coming to?
*smile* I had hoped to find some instructions on construction of weave baskets but my seeking came up short. Therefore, my best suggestion is to check out a book at your local public library. While there you might look up some work on Gardening... Starting your garden work is excellent on this day, and can be even more beneficial if you help your child begin a garden of their own; (perhaps right along side yours) so you can grow together.
Fresh picked flowers are great for altar decorations and household adornment. Lighting fires at sunrise and ringing bells can be worked into ritual also. And never underestimate the spirituality of a simple walk through a garden, wood, or park.
*Symbolic of Ostara:
Foodstuffs: Hard boiled eggs, Honey Cakes, First Fruits of the Season, Nuts, Seeds, Leafy Veggies, and of course CHOCOLATE! (No they didn't have chocolate back then but it's become a grand novelty these days!)
Drinks: Anything you can whip up from the seasonal fruits and berries.
Colors (for those who use Candle Magick): Yellow, Green, and Gold.
Stones: Amethyst, Aquamarine, Bloodstone, and Red Jasper.
Animals: Rabbits! (yep the Easter Bunny is Pagan!), Cougar, Sea Crow, Sea Eagle, Hedgehog, and Boar.
Mythical Creatures: Merfolk and any other Air or Water beings.
Deities: Eostre, Ostara (who can also be connected with Ishtar and Astarte), the Green Goddess, Lord of the Greenwood, Aries, Artemis, Ahtene, Black Isis, Astarte, Cybele, Hecate, Luna, Mars, Minerva, and the Morrigan.
Plants: Roses, Strawberries, Seasonal Fruit Plants, Violets, Honeysuckle, Easter Lily, Dogwood, Daffodil, Iris, Irish Moss, Jonquil, Apple Trees(blossoms specifically), and Alder.
Herbs: Sage, Rose, Jasmine, Strawberries, Acorn, Celandine, Daffodil, Dogwood, Easter Lily, Cinquefoil, Crocus, Iris, Honeysuckle, Tansy, Violets, Broom, High John Root, Yellow Dock, Wood Betony, Irish Moss, and Jonquil.
Incenses would include: Jasmine, Rose, Sage, African Violet, Strawberry, Apple Blossom, and Honeysuckle.
Astrological Signs: Pisces and Aries.
Article by Markus Witchcraft Dawning Webmaster http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/4885/index.html firstname.lastname@example.org Ostara - The Earth Awakens "The Earth Awakens" - Spring Equinox (~ March 21)
Ostara occurs on the Spring Equinox. This is the time of year when the sun is directly over the equator making the night and day equal in length. The Spring Equinox occurs when the Sun enters the sign of Aries. It is on this day that the darkness and light are exactly equal, therefore this Sabbat brings with it feelings of balance. From this day onward, day will dominate the night and the earth will explode with life. Ostara is the first day of Spring.
At Ostara, the Sun/God has grown into a young adult. He is passing into manhood, and his strength and vitality are reflected in the surging growth of plants. He had risen again. With His growing vitality comes the warmth of Spring and the planting of crops. The Goddess is no longer the nursing mother, but is now the beautiful maiden of Spring. She grows in strength as she sees her son growing into manhood. The Earth casts off the snow and ice of winter to reveal her beautiful green mantle, and the surging rivers of her life force. Like the Earth we too plant our own seeds at this time; seed of goals that we will make into reality. We celebrate the changes in our own bodies.
We become more active, sleep less, eat less and spend more time outdoors.
Many traditions come along with Ostara. You will notice that Christianity integrated most of these symbols into the holiday of Easter.
The first and most preserved of the Ostara traditions is the painting and decorating of eggs. If you really think about it, what does painting eggs have to do with Christ's death and resurrection? The answer is simple, it doesn't.
The egg symbolizes the fertility of the Goddess and the God. Decorating them is a way of charging them as magical, objects using whatever color is appropriate for your goal. The eggs are hidden and if found, you will receive your goal that year. Another tradition is the use of a rabbit as symbolism. The rabbit symbolizes the fertility of the Goddess. Think about how fertile rabbits are. The rabbit represents the exploding growth of life on the earth seen at Ostara. The tradition of giving gift baskets actually comes from Beltane, not Ostara.
A tradition which did not exactly move over into Christianity is the tradition of having sex in freshly plowed fields. This tradition came from the pagan farmers who would finish plowing and planting their fields. Once the crops were all planted, the farmer and his wife would go out into the field and make love in it. The idea being that the fertility of their sexual act would help the plants grow into a bountiful crop. Another variant of this is leaping in the fields. Instead of making love in the freshly plowed fields, the farmer and his family would go out into the field and leap as high as they could into the air. The idea being that the crops would grow as high as their leaps into the air. This is a perfect example of imitative magic, where the crops are supposed to imitate the actions of the farmer's family. As you can see, Ostara is a festival of fertility and growth.
Sources: Unknown & Ostara by Edain McCoy
Lilies - These beautiful flowers were a symbol of life in Greece and Rome. During the Ostara season, young men would give a lily to the young woman they were courting. If the young woman accepted the lily, the couple were considered engaged (much like accepting a diamond ring from a young man in today's society).
Lambs - This fluffly little mammal is an eternal symbol of Ostara, and was sacred to virtually all the virgin goddesses of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The symbol was so ingrained in the mindset of the people of that region that it was carried over into the spring religious rituals of the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter.
Robins - One of the very first birds to be seen in the Spring, robins are a sure sign of the fact that warm weather has indeed returned.
Bees - These busy little laborers re dormant during the winter. Because of this, the sighting of bees is another sure sign of Spring. They were also considered by the Ancient peoples to be messengers of the Gods and were sacred to many Spring and Sun Goddesses around the world.
Honey - The color of the sun, this amber liquid is, of course, made through the laborious efforts of the honeybee. With their established role as messengers to the Gods, the honey they produced was considered ambrosia to the Gods.
Faeries - Because of their ability to bring blessings to your gardens, protect your home, and look after your animals, it is beneficial to draw faeries to your life. Springtime is the quintessential season to begin drawing the fae again. You want to be sure to leave succulent libations or pretty little gifts for them. Some ideas for libations or gifts are... honey, fresh milk, bread, lilacs, primrose blossoms, cowslip, fresh berries, dandelion wine, honeysuckle, pussy willows, ale, or shiny coins.
Equal-armed Crosses - These crosses represent the turning points of the year, the solstices and equinoxes and are often referred to as 'Sun Wheels'. They come in many forms such as God's eyes, Celtic crosses, Shamrocks, Brigid's crosses, 4-leaved clovers, crossroads, etc.
Ostara is a joyous festival associated with the rebirth of the Earth and the awakening of Mother Nature. As such a festival, the Ritual should be bright, with many flowers adorning the Altar. Just as Imbolc is a festival of White, Ostaras' colors are yellow and green, springtime colors. Focus should be on the new life budding around you, the trees and flowers and the butterflies and even the caterpillars. Ostara is about Rebirth, and your ritual should focus on and harness that healing and nurturing energy.
Herbs associated with Ostara are:
Acorn- Acorns are said to bring both luck and fertility.
Celandine- An herb of Joy and tranquility, Celandine is also said to protect anyone who carries a sprig with them.
Cinquefoil- Used in ritual baths and for purification, Cinquefoil also brings eloquence and protection to the wearer. Love, power, wisdom, health, and abundance are symbolized by it's five petals.
Dandelion- Dandelion Tea is said to increase psychic ability. It's yellow head and deep green stem and leaves also makes it a great choice for your Ostara Altar.
Dogwood- Use Dogwood leaves, wood, and flowers as a protective charm.. The four petaled leaves are said to represent the four Quarter elements- Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.
Honeysuckle- The flowers of the honeysuckle are said to attract money. They will also heighten psychic ability when rubbed on the forehead.
Iris- A Goddess herb which brings Purity, faith, courage, and wisdom.
Jasmine- Jasmine flowers help to attract wealth, and their scent is said to bring prophetic dreams.
Rose- Rose is used to attract love. Rose hips worn as beads, Rose buds in your bath water, or rose petals worn as a charm are all said to conjure a potential lover. Rose petals are also added to healing potions or spells to enhance them.
Tansy- An herb of Longevity.
Violet- An herb of love and protection.
Candle colors for Ostara are Yellow and Green
Rites of Spring
by Melissa Wiltcher
RITES OF SPRING
GENERAL ASSOCIATIONS & CORRESPONDENCES
Author's Note: The following is the first in a series of articles I
will be publishing dealing with the Season of Spring.
Celebrations: Ostara, Spring Equinox, Easter, St. Patrick's Day,
Vernal Equinox, Oestara, Eostre's Day, Rite of Eostre, Alban Eilir,
Festival of the Trees, Lady Day, Feast of the Annunciation of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, Nawruz (Persian New Year), Good Friday, Day of
Blood, Black Friday, Hilaria, the Day of Joy, Passover, St. Joseph's
Day, Maimuna, Palm Sunday, Pask, Maunday Thursday, Dymmelsonsdagen,
Strinennia, Maslenica, Shrovetide, Krasnaja Gorka, Radunica, Nav Dein
(Day of the Dead), Velykos
Trees: Juniper, Dogwood, Willow, Alder
Flowers: Snowdrop, Violet, Anemone, Crocus, Jonquil, Jasmine,
Hyacinth, Daffodil, Narcissus
Herbs: Yellow Dock, Wood Betony, Broom, Irish Moss, High John Root,
Animals: Snake, Ram, Bull, Boar, Cougar, Hedgehog, Lark, Rabbit,
Goddesses: Cybele, Artemis, Inanna, Isis, Athena, Virgin Mary,
Astarte, Minerva, Morrigan, Luna, Eostre, Ostare, Ostara, Ostern,
Eos, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron, Ausos,
Aphrodite, Demeter, Hathor, Aurora, Ishtar, Kali, Blodeuwedd, Gaia,
Hera, Venus, Persephone, Kore
Gods: Attis, Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, Orpheus, Christ, Robin of the
Woods, Pan, Cernunnos, Narcissus, the Green Man, the Great Horned
God, Lord of the Greenwood, the Dagda, Thoth, Odin, Mithras, Adonis
Symbols: Eggs, the Hare, Fire, Dawn, Grain, Basket, Verba,
Leprechaun, Shillelagh, Tauatha De Dannan, Snake, Shamrock, Four-Leaf
Clover, Resurrection, Youth, Morning Star
Zodiac Signs: Aries, Taurus, Gemini
Colors: Red, Lemon Yellow, Violet, Pale Green, White, Pale Pink, All
Pastels, Grass Green, Robin's Egg Blue
Stones: Rose Quartz, Aquamarine, Moonstone, Bloodstone
Foods: Eggs, Cheeses, Cakes, Ham, Sprouts, Fish, Honey, Butter, Hot
Ostara: Celebration of Life
Ostara, also known as the Spring Equinox or the Vernal Equinox,
occurs in mid March. Ostara is the beginning of spring and is a time
when daylight hours exactly equal nighttime hours. The name of this
celebration comes from the Germanic Goddess Eostre who also lends her
name to the Christian holiday of Easter. Eostre's symbols are the
rabbit and the egg. Germanic lore states that the rabbit so loved and
revered the Goddess that he laid eggs, decorated them beautifully,
and presented the eggs to the Goddess as a gift. Eostre was so
delighted with the gift that she wished all people could experience
her joy. In order to further please his beloved Lady, the rabbit
roamed the world delivering the sacred eggs to humanity. The
connections with modern day Easter are self-evident. (This connection
will be further explored in a forthcoming article.)
At Ostara, the Goddess once again appears in her maiden aspect. The
Goddess and God mate and she becomes pregnant. The God leaves her and
continues roving the wood in his Â`adolescent' journey towards
manhood. The Lady's pregnancy symbolizes the fertility of the spring
season, which begins with Ostara.
The color green is representative of the new growth that begins to
surface at Ostara. Trees begin to produce new leaves. We see the
first flowers beginning to bravely rear their tiny heads. Farmers
make ready their fields and plant the first crops. Ostara is the time
to begin any new project or to completely revive anything that has
gone stagnant in your life. This is the origin of "spring-cleaning."
During spring-cleaning, make a concentrated effort to clear out all
the negativity that has collected over the past several months. Clean
using clockwise motions and fill your home with positive energy.
Prosperity rituals are especially favored at this time. Other Ostara
activities include making bunny dolls, dying eggs, planting seeds
indoors for transplant at a latter date, decorating flower pots, and
making egg shell mosaics.
SPRING CUSTOMS AROUND THE WORLD
Easter Week is an active time for the Swedes. It is believed that
during this week, witches who practice black magic are most powerful.
The belief in Easter Hags has survived into modern times. The hags,
flying on their brooms, meet with the devil on Maunday Thursday and
return the following Saturday. Easter Hags consort with the devil
Thursday and Friday at a placed called blakulla. In order to fly to
blakulla, the hags must first smear a secret mixture onto their
broomsticks. Before leaving for blakulla, Easter Hags often gathered
in a nearby church tower. While waiting to fly off, the hags often
scraped metal filings from the church bells. These filings were then
used, according to one source, in the secret flying mixture.
According to another source, the metal filings were dropped in lakes
as a sign that the Easter Hags were as far away from God as the
filings were from their church tower homes.
Fires were late to be started on Easter morning, as it is believed
that the home's chimney that is the first to produce smoke contains
an Easter Hag. Upon returning from blakulla, it is believed that hags
are often caught in chimneys. In order to make sure that an Easter
Hag is not caught in the chimney, one must burn the wood of nine
deciduous trees in the fireplace.
On Maunday Thursday modern day Swedish children dress as hags and
visit their neighbors. An Easter letter (a small card decorated
festively) is often given to neighbors in hopes of receiving candy or
coins. This is closely mirrored with the American holiday of
Halloween. This practice is most common in the western Swedish
provinces. Another custom prevalent in western Sweden is the bonfire
contest. Villagers compete to see who can build the biggest bonfire.
In northern Sweden, on the Friday before Easter, the village boys
gather armed with birch twigs. The boys go from farm to farm and whip
the young girls until they provide the boys with something to drink.
Most of the time, the drink that was provided was some form of
alcoholic beverage. After visiting the first few farms, often the
boys become intoxicated causing their judgment to cloud. This custom
can be very unpleasant for the young ladies of the village however,
fair is fair and on the night of Easter Sunday the village girls
gather to return the favor.
This custom is practiced on the Wednesday before Easter. On this day,
a silly object is attached to an unsuspecting victim's back. The
point is to have the bearer walk around for the entire day with the
object attached to his/her back. If the bearer notices the object,
the joke is over and considered unsuccessful. This is possibly the
origin of the modern American Kick Me sign.
Slavic (Russian, Belorussian, Ukarainan, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian,
Czech, Polish, Slovene)
Our Dear Maslenica, dear, leli, dear
Came for a while, for a while, leli, for a while
We thought for seven weeks, seven weeks, leli, seven weeks
But Maslenica stayed only seven days, seven days, leli, seven days
And Maslenica deceived us, deceived us, leli, deceived us
To Lent she offered a seat, offered a seat, offered a seat
Bitter horseradish she put out, put out, leli, put out
And that horseradish is more bitter than xren, more bitter than xren,
leli, more bitter than xren.
- Traditional Maslenica Song
Celebrated the week previous to Lent, Maslenica was originally
celebrated on the Vernal Equinox (Ostara). As a celebration of the
return of light, Maslenica is a time for rites of purification and
protection. Contests and games such as mock battles, fistfights, and
horse racing are common occurrences at Maslenica.
To begin the celebration, a representation of Maslenica (Butter
Woman) is chosen. This is generally a corn doll however sometimes a
peasant who has had a little too much to drink, is chosen to be
Butter Woman (though not often). The spirit of Maslenica is invoked
into the representation, which is then dressed in women's clothing
and adorned with bells. Soot is then smeared on the face and
Maslenica is seated on a wheel supported by a pole. The entire
assembly is then placed into a sledge. As many people as possible
would then climb into the sledge. Pastries and wine were then heaped
on top of Maslenica and court. Those not able to pile into the
sledge, crowd around the sleigh and the entire entourage takes off
for a romp around the village, singing, dancing and laughing all the
way. After the procession, bonfires are lit and flaming wheels are
pushed in a circle around the village. Brooms are brought out and
farmsteads are swept, clockwise in a circle three times, creating a
magical circle of protection against evil spirits and illness.
During the week of Maslenica, Slavic families practice their own
spring cleaning. Barns and homes are thoroughly cleaned and decorated
with traditional Maslenica foods such as cottage-cheese bread
(paskha), pancakes (bliny), and kulich (sweet bread). Pastries in the
shape of farm animals, kozuli, are baked and eaten to insure the
propagation of the herds. As a measure of protection against evil
spirits, the farmstead's cattle are fed loaves of bread made
especially for this purpose. Also during Maslenica week, all salt for
the coming year is prepared as well as ritual baths taken in
preparation for fumigation of the fields. Most often used in the
fumigation process are juniper branches. After fumigation, decorated
eggs are rolled through the fields in order to insure fertility
during the coming planting season.
To end the festivities, the corn doll representation of Maslenica is
taken out into the fields and torn apart. The pieces are then
gathered and burned. (This custom is believed to be remaining element
of the earlier cult of the God, Volos.) Individual household dolls
are torn apart and fed to livestock.
SPRING CUSTOMS AROUND THE WORLD
Slavic Continued (Russian, Belorussian, Ukarainan, Serbo-Croatian,
Bulgarian, Czech, Polish, Slovene)
Krasnaja Gorka (trans. red/beautiful hillock) is celebrated the
Sunday following Easter. Facing east, holding a round bread loaf and
a red egg, a Russian woman sings a spring song. The assembled
villagers soon join in. When the song is finished a "Grandmother
Winter" doll or Marzena is destroyed at the edge of the village.
Next, the villagers form a circle. A young woman moves to the center
of the circle and begins to mimic the planting, cultivation, harvest
and spinning of flax. As she does this, everyone sings "Turn out
well, turn out well, my flax.
Turn out well, my white flax."
-- Reeder - "Russian Folk Lyrics"
The Poles have made decorating eggs, one of the most sacred symbols
of spring, into an art form. There are five main forms of egg
decorating among the Poles; drapanka, krashanka, lystowka, krapanka
and pisanki. Drapanka uses a pin or knife tip to scratch designs on a
boiled egg. Krashanka are boiled eggs died a single color, most often
red, and are meant to be consumed by livestock. In lystowka
decoration, leaves are wrapped around the egg and then the egg is
boiled in onionskin water. The leaves form a beautiful relief
pattern. Boiled eggs covered with multi-colored dots are called
krapanka. Perhaps the most common and most beautiful form of Polish
egg decorating is pisanki. Pisanki utilizes raw eggs, beeswax, and
dye. Patterns are drawn on the egg with beeswax. The eggs are then
dipped in the dye. The drawing pattern, dipping process is repeated
until the egg is decorated to the artist's satisfaction. Women are
the traditional creators of pisanki.
Decorated eggs are created in a ritualized atmosphere and are
considered sacred. If the egg is broken during the decoration
process, it is NEVER thrown out. Instead it is buried or given to
water nymphs at the nearest stream or river. Unbroken, decorated eggs
are sown in the fields along with grain and buried among the roots of
fruit trees as a means of propagating fertility. The water in which
the eggs were boiled is poured along property lines as a means of
protection, bathed in, and used to bless beehives, bringing sweet
The conclusion of the yearly celebrations of the dead, the week
preceding Spring Equinox, is called Velykos. The Lithuanian people
use Verbas (woven twigs), which are made on Winter Solstice Eve
Velykos to whip each other as a means of well wishing. Families wake
up extra early on the morning of Spring Solstice hoping to catch
other family members still asleep. The still sleeping family member
is then whipped awake insuring good health. A decorated egg called a
margutis is then given to the whipper by the whippee. In order to
awaken the earth's sleeping plants, verbas are also used to whip
awake the slumbering buds, flowers and seeds. After all the whipping
is done, the used verbas are taken to the edge of a well and used to
bless the water within.
On the morning of the Spring Equinox, hearth fires are put out and
outdoor fires are built. These fires represent the warmth and light
of the Sun, which is required for new growth. Throughout Spring
Equinox day, a game is played among friends. A group of friends will
gather together and throw their margutis eggs on the ground. The
least broken egg wins. The owner of the egg is ensured strength
throughout the next year. Children and young people go from house to
house serenading the inhabitants. Swinging is another popular Velykos
activity. It is believed that swinging also helps to awaken the
Rituals For Springtime Soul Cleansing
© Copyright 2005 Barbara Biziou. (from another group)
Spring is the time for each of us to usher in new growth and possibilities. It is a time to be more open to love and joy. In ancient times, the New Year started at the Spring Equinox. In fact, astrologically it still does. In many traditions, this is the start of the New Year. The Roman year began on the ides of March (15th). The astrological year begins on the equinox when the moon moves into the first sign of the zodiac, Aries, the ram. The Greek god Ares is equivalent to the Roman Mars for whom the month of March is named. This is also the festival of Nawruz, Persian New Year, which falls on the spring equinox.
Now is the time that we are able to renew our hopes, aspirations and dreams. Yet, we cannot do this if we are weighed down by old beliefs that create barriers for opportunities and fulfillment. Loving yourself and appreciating others is a key to achieving your goals in life. The Spring Equinox ushers in a time of new balance. The season invites you to become aware of whatever is out of balance in your life and to put in the corrections.
Take some time to contemplate the following:
Could you change your diet so your body can safely eliminate toxins and regain its natural rhythms?
How much of your time is spent working?
How much of your time is spent worrying?
How much of your time is spent with friends? Family?
How much of your time is spent enjoying yourself?
Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night?
When is the last time you took time for yourself?
How can you grow in a healthy way and become more open, compassionate and accepting?
Can you simplify your life?
When we expend too much energy analyzing, planning and attempting to control the course of our lives, then we need to redress the balance by becoming more spontaneous. It is important to spend time just having fun. This will energize us and bring more creativity and joy into our lives.
If you are finding that you are exhausted and apathetic that usually means that energy is trapped in your heart. Look to where you are still holding on to old resentments and disappointments. Even if you have spent years working on these issues, deeper layers of the same issue can pop up over time. This does not mean that you haven't done your work; it simply means that you are ready to release at a deeper level.
I am always surprised to find that people spend endless hours cleaning the physical (home, body, clothes) but rarely spend the time to purify themselves spiritually.
Would you think of showing up at a special event in dirty clothes without taking a shower and washing your hair? Are you comfortable inviting people to a fancy dinner party at your house when your house is a mess? Probably not.
Safe and gentle purification will bring you countless benefits. I like to purify myself by taking baths in sea salt. Depending on my mood I will add the essential oils of rose (love), jasmine (sensuality) or lavender (relaxation. And occasionally I will add fresh flowers. Don't forget to use your morning shower as a time to release all unwanted thoughts and feelings. As the water runs over you say, I now release all thoughts and feelings of limitation, anger and upset. Be as specific as you like. I release my anger against Susan, I release all fear about making this presentation today, I release all financial worries. When you have finished, imagine the negative energy going down the drain. Notice how much lighter you feel.
You should be guilty if you are not taking care of yourself. All other guilt is useless and a burden. If you have made a mistake do the following:
Take a few deep breaths and allow your body to move into a state of relaxation.
Call in and connect to the Universal Law of Forgiveness and asked to be forgiven for anyone you have hurt in words, deeds or actions. Then ask that the cause of this mistake be released and consumed. This will free you to be in your life completely.
Spend a few minutes sending yourself love and light.
Send energy to anyone you have harmed consciously or unconsciously.
See if there are any concrete steps you need to take to heal or reconcile a relationship.
Take Care of Yourself
Slow down the pace of life as you care for yourself and discover the things that stabilize you. I know that I need quiet time in the morning to meditate and do my spiritual practice. Without this, I tend to go too fast, eat food that does not nourish me and eventually I will crash and burn. What stabilizes you? Meditation, taking long walks, being surrounded by art, calming music, having massages, writing in your journal? Think of yourself as a plant that needs nourishing soil to grow. The trees that have the strongest roots are able to bend with the winds of change. Become aware of what needs to be weeded out in order for your dreams to manifest.
As we move into this sensual spring season, it is a good idea to prepare our bodies and minds for the uninhibited pleasure that awaits us. Remember to celebrate being alive and know that this is an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings of being alive. Make sure you laugh, love and learn. Let the new lover in your life be you.