Ostara, which falls around March 20 in the Northern Hemisphere and September 22 in the Southern Hemisphere, is the spring equinox. Day and night are about equal. From this point on, the days will begin to grow slightly longer. It’s the beginning of spring, although we may not feel that everywhere. Symbolically, Ostara is a time for renewal, fertility, and balance. It’s also a good time to clarify your desires.
At Imbolc, we were anticipating the coming of spring. We needed to do some cleansing and shine light into the darkness of the mind so that we could prepare the groundwork for initiating goals during this time, Ostara. The earth is going through a renewal process. In some places, it’s the time to plant seedlings and begin preparing the soil for gardening.
The idea behind rebirth makes sense when we consider the cyclical nature of life. In Neo-Paganism (as well as some other spiritual traditions), the year doesn’t begin and end in a linear way, as we tend to think (i.e., begins on January 1 and ends on December 31, with the year getting a new number the following January 1). It’s always going round and round, from darkness (Samhain at the end of October) to light (the height of it at the summer solstice/Litha/midsummer) to darkness again.
Galina Krasskova follows a Heathen path of Neo-Paganism and wrote a three-part series on Ostara in 2011 on the site Patheos, which aims to educate people on various religious traditions. She says that Ostara is about “a rebirth of joy” in that we leave the darkness and death of Samhain and the winter solstice behind and move into the light and growth of spring. Warmth and new possibilities are in the air.
Fertility is an obvious theme for this festival. Rabbits and eggs are major symbols. Ostara is a period for setting the dynamic of growth in motion. Clearly this has meaning for physical growth in a garden, for instance, but it has meaning for us on a psychological level as well. It’s a time to begin to take action, although we’re just starting to get things going, so we need to gently nurture the beginnings of the goals we want to achieve this year.
In the first part of her three-part series on Ostara, Krasskova states that the
[r]abbit is all about tapping into one’s creativity, overcoming fear, and engaging in artistic expression—all good ways to herald in the spring!
It’s not difficult to appreciate how these energetic and extremely fertile critters symbolize our wild creative energies. Why not try some new art form right about now? Or renew (hint: read previous section) one you’ve neglected these many years? The point is to completely ignore issues of good/not good.
The dynamic energy of Ostara, spring, is the perfect time to leap psychologically into the unknown and trust that you’ll be able to handle whatever challenges come your way. In the third part of her series on Ostara, Krasskova states
[i]n its essence, that is what this holy tide is: a calling back to life. It’s a renewal not only of the land, but of the senses, heart, and spirit too.
It’s a time to trust your instincts and the fertile energy that’s moving now through the earth, which radiates into the cosmos and affects us as well. To bring forth birthings is to move with it. To hold back is to work against it and make whatever new things you’d like to manifest later this year that much harder.
“Ostara 2016” by Rainbow Gryphon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
But with all of the energy of spring coming our way during this time of year, we also need to remember that this is a time when light and dark are balanced. Not all of the crap that’s built up over the winter has been cleansed out of our systems. Spring cleaning is as much spiritual and emotional as it is physical. Cleansing began at Imbolc, but abundant rewards in the future demand a thorough cleaning now.
It’s really tempting to get carried away by the dynamic of potential growth that we can feel in the air during this time of year. I see the eagerness to make things happen as a promise of things to come rather than an invitation to actually plow full steam ahead. That time will come, but not just yet. There are still plans to be made to ensure a steady growth that you can nourish as needed so that you don’t rush forth with initial enthusiasm and then find your enthusiasm waning as things start to get tough.
Ostara is a time for the first baby steps in whatever goals we want to manifest in the months to come. It’s a tough time because we have to move but we shouldn’t move too quickly because we may destroy the seedlings that need to come to maturity later in the year. I think of it as dipping a toe in the water. It’s a time to welcome mistakes we all make when venturing initially from our comfort zone and open ourselves up to learning from them with the knowledge that such toe-dipping will make the longer swim easier and less daunting.
Finally, the spring equinox is the time to work at clarifying what you really desire, which is part of the toe-dipping. This is trickier than it seems on the surface. Desire doesn’t begin in the mind. I think many of us fall into the trap of identifying desires intellectually but not really feeling them deep in our heart. We don’t really question how deeply we want them, if indeed we want them at all.
If we did, I think we’d discover that many things that we think we want are head desires rather than heart desires. I know I’ve fallen into that trap many times. Strong desire is unhealthy only when suppressed or ignored. Ostara is a time to let desire into your heart. You can figure out the what, where, when, and how later, when the time is right.
Ostara is actually a scary time for a lot of people because it’s the time to step away from our comfort zone. No more safely hiding beneath blankets of snow. It’s the time to commit to manifesting your desires, knowing that the future is blind. Ostara reminds us that worrying over the future has nothing to do with preparing for it.
Note: CelestialElf is a machinima maker, which means he creates films that are animated in 3-D, like the sort you see on Second Life. He’s made an enchanting video for Ostara that really captures the spirit of growth, hope, and fertility from a Neo-Pagan perspective. Do check it out!