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The Sabbats

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

Ostara

(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).

 

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of Love felt everywhere
And each wild flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
The snowdrop and then the violet
Arose from the ground with the warm rain wet
And their breath was mixed with sweet odour sent
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.


Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

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.

 

"Ostara" (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.

 

Fire

 

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.

 

Fertility

 

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.

 

Food

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.

 

Ostara correspondences

Animals  -  Hares, Rabbits and Snakes.

Plants and Herbs  -  Crocus flowers, Daffodils, Jasmine, Irish Moss, Snowdrops and Ginger.

Incense  -  Jasmine, Frankincense, Myrrh, Dragon's Blood, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Aloes wood, Benzoin, Musk, African Violet, Sage, Strawberry, Lotus, Violet Flowers, Orange peel or Rose petals.

Stones  -  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.

 

“All 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 heaven”.

 

(Sir 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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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 GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

 

Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

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 SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A 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 DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

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:

 

Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

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

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:

 

Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom and Inspiration:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /

 

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:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /  Amber KAnna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman Spare /  Biddy Early /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristina Oakley Harrington Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne 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 HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Isaac Bonewits Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” /  Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJoseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen /  Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceMargaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillPaddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip HeseltonRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Robert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir 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 LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna 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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