Putting the Ostara back in Easter

For your consideration, here are 25 historic facts about the 5000 year old holiday many in the US consider ‘Easter’ today.

1.  The holiday Ostara/Eostara, Eostar/Easter is the ancient festival celebrating the resurrection or ‘rebirth of the sun’ at our vernal equinox, when the power of the sun returns & life is resurrected or ‘born again’.

2.  Ēostre is the Saxon Goddess of sunrise, spring, fertility, new life & immortality- as such hares, spring bulbs, eggs & baby animals have always been prominent themes. Ostara is the Norse name for her, Ishtar is her Sumerian name. As with all personifications of the goddesses, she has had many names, in many lands, in many times.

3.  The colored eggs we know today have represented always the sunlight of spring and are made and gifted as offerings to Eoster/Ostara at the equinox in hopes of being blessed with renewing life & joyous abundance.

4.  Ostara is said to have healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare. Still partially a bird, the winged hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts in her honor.

5.  This ancient Germanic ‘Osterhase’ or egg laying hare was said to lay brightly colored eggs into nests made by children to honor her. This is the origin of the Easter basket.

6.  In other countries it is an Eoster Cuckoo, Easter Bilby, or a fox which leaves the colored eggs.

7.  Eggs have been perceived as sacred for millennia and were colored red to represent the life force as early as 5000 B.C. They have been blessed and gifted to promote health & happiness in many cultures for just as long.

8.  Christian tradition states that when Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias, she gave him a red egg as a symbol of new life. Catholic tradition further seems to include details of the egg becoming magical in characteristic.

9.  Ancient Anglo-Saxons, Egyptians & Greeks all placed decorated eggs at grave sites especially as a charm of rebirth. This aligns well with the attributes associated with the solar resurrection and desire for continued blessings.

10.  Hot cross buns were traditionally made at Eoster to honor the goddess & the quarter solar holiday of spring as well as often the four quarters of the moon. (Solar quarters are the two equinoxes and solstices, indicating a change in seasons due to location of the sun in our skies)

11.  The oldest cross buns located were found by archaeologists excavating the ruins of Herculaneum, a city buried under volcanic ash & lava since 79 CE.

12.  Some cross buns were gifted to drive evil sprits away, hung in kitchens to prevent fires, and/or taken on travels as a protective good luck charm… depending on the culture and time.

13.  The pre-Christian people ‘broke bread’ together to be shared along the seams cut into the bread for better rising, breaking it into four pieces for sharing and to promote friendship.

14.  These spiced, berry studded sweet rolls we’re eventually banned from sale in England because of superstitions that the buns carried medicinal and/or magical properties.

15.  The Bible’s old testament references trying to stop pagans from making sweet buns for their idols, and later Chrisitian clergy tried to prevent sacred cakes being made at Eoster, but in the end they gave up & blessed the cake instead.

16.  Cross buns have been adopted as a Christian tradition and were fully institutionalized in Tudor times when the buns were relabeled & reappropriated to the now famous torture device.

17.  300 years after Christianity was popularized, it was decided in the First Council of Nicaea to put Christ’s figurative ‘rebirth of the son’ story atop the traditional vernal literal rebirth of the sun, in an effort to facilitate the peaceful assimilation of adherents of traditional religions to the new death cult. (This happened with the birth of the sun/son/winter solstice -Yule come Christmas- at that time as well). It was at this time that ‘Easter’ became a Christianized holiday.

18.  Christian scholar Bede admitted in his book, De temporum ratione, (The Reckoning of Time) that Easter is derived from the Saxon Eostre specifically to help graft it to the local culture.

19.  Christians originally considered the Eoster hare to bring bad fortune, saying witches (local folk healers) changed into rabbits in order to suck the cows dry.

20.  Later, springing from the old belief that witches are active during Holy Week and that they get together with the ‘Devil’ at a place called “blåkulla”, Swede kids today dress up as Easter witches and go around seeking treats from their neighbors.

 

21.  Yeshua/Jesus is the seventeenth in a string of ‘dying & rising god’s of the ancient world, also known as a death god archetype or of the resurrection god stories of the ancient world. The deity Attis (from the Vatican area, ironically) for example, arrived on the scene @ 1250 BC & was believed to have been born of a virgin, died & had been resurrected three days later, the rememberance of the event occurred each year during the vernal period, generally celebrated at that time near March 22-25.

While Christian apologetics attempt to explain comparative mythology of the Yeshua stories away, the preponderance of evidence left behind is overwhelming to those who have ears that hear and eyes which see.

Photo: Osiris, an ancient Egyptian death & resurrection deity

22.  The concept of ‘deicide’ as a form of redemption made it’s first appearance millennia prior to Christianity as well.

Yet it was through Christianity expliticly that the spring holiday of Eoster/Ostara, which historically consecrated life & renewal in many separate religions, came to instead solemnize human sacrifice & death via deicide among the followers of one religion.

 

23.  It is tradition to use old Yule (Christmas) trees to make the Eoster Fire as a way of bidding goodbye to winter and welcoming spring. (Generally speaking, the four solar quarter holidays are celebrated with fire rituals in honor of the sun & have been for thousands of years)

24.  Many countries have bonfires at Easter time, but in some countries the burning of the yule tree has been changed and instead effigies of Judas are now burned.

25.  Eoster has been celebrated continuously, in one form or another, since 3000 BC & is celebrated worldwide by many people of many different religions.

 

In summary, while the majority of the world’s cultures have already celebrated the vernal equinox and associated Ostara holidays this year, I recognize that the Christianized version of Easter is today. None of the above trivia is a joke intended to fool anyone for April Fool’s. As one of millions of non-Abrahamics of many religions who has already celebrated our holy day earlier in March, I want to make plain that Christians do not, nor ever have they ever had, a corner market on this particular holy day.

We pagans hear about shoving Christ into Yule annually (also known as ‘keeping Christ in Christmas’), and increasingly over the years the pagan community has been faced with only the Christianized version of Easter being acceptable in our society.

The chronic rescripting of history by those in power is damaging & divisive. Luckily, as we know better, we do better. Through education we can learn to focus more about what we have in common than what has historically kept us separate.

As always, please feel free to share.

In Regard,

The Peninsula Pagan

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New Growth

Spring is officially here. Our daylight is now longer than our darkness.  With the changes of the seasons comes a change in attitudes and perceptions.  We spent the winter months holed up in our quiet spaces, enjoying our introspection and we went through periods of spiritual hibernation & physical slumber.  Now though, it’s time to turn over a new leaf.  The energy has shifted.  Can you feel it?  It’s time once again to grow. Let’s do it on purpose.

We both grieve and celebrate each passing year, as it should be. Each lap around the sun leaves us more experienced, more raw, and more honest.  There can be pieces of it we enjoy, and parts of it which leave wounds that will continue to weep as we heal them.  In our pain we are able to distill learning into wisdom.  We step back and reflect. This internal pontificating is necessary.  But, there comes a time to let it go and trudge forward. Gardeners know that pruning in spring causes more hardy plants.  As above so below…we follow this same template as well.  We must let loose the past to make room for the future. Which things in your life make the cut and which do not?  Pruning helps make healthy new growth possible. If you’ve not done this yet, now is he time to do so.

You will advance and you will learn and you will grow, season by season. Given this, you may as well decide intentionally where in your life your new growth will be. Spring is the time to plant your seeds.  I challenge you this spring to begin growing deliberately. Since you have no choice but to move forward, will you be determined enough to progress on purpose? This life is yours after all, you might as well be a conscious creator of it.

We’re here to live the most meaningful life we are able.  We are to use our strengths to uplift both ourselves and others. Stagnation has no place in those of magickal means!  I propose that this spring you balance the scales between ‘what you choose to do’ and ‘what happens to you’.  It’s spring, so plant seeds of growth and change (Ostara!!).  Continue to nurture your budding idea and follow it through to see it’s fruits.  It’s in the sharing of your fruits that others benefit from your efforts as well. When they bear witness to your growth and wisdom, they are empowered themselves. So, plant your seeds for you, knowing that the fruits of your labor will likely be shared. In this way our blessings multiply and continue to give.

seed

Each year I set about learning or doing something intentionally to foster my growth.  I toss out to the universe to aim me toward what will stir my soul in the most potent way for a year.  I’ve committed a year to crystals, a year to meditation, a year to energy healing, a year to writing a book…each time I set a goal and followed it through. I set the intention that my aim is straight and true, that all will occur in the right timing for the right purposes.  My annual focus project doesn’t feel like an assignment, nor a chore to be crossed off a list. In fact, it resonates so deeply that I can’t help but gravitate toward it with childlike wonder.  I’m in my bliss exploring it.

Last year I learned herbology as I’d decided to learn of the many health and magickal uses of the plant kingdom. I gathered plants in the woods, attended talks & walks with others, read botany books, grew strange and wonderful things in my greenhouse  …all in the spirit of exploration and fun.  I had no idea that in the end I would wind up with a legit apothecary in my home chock full of things for spells, poultices, teas, tinctures and such. Last fall I planted deliberately a witches garden that will come up this year when the snow recedes. Once winter hit I headed to the secondhand store and grabbed up a food dehydrator, knowing full well that this year I’ll reap the bounty of what was sown last year. I know my learning on the topic will never cease, yet the culmination of my efforts have already begun to be apparent to me.

This year is another theme of ‘self care’ for me.  I’ve decided to foster my creative side by learning a new musical instrument (ukulele this time), my analytical side by learning a new language (Latin), and my physical body by learning yoga (getting stiff as I age!).  Chances are good that these combined will be easily more than a one year project, but that doesn’t matter much.  It feels good to grow. Each of these new things I add to my bag of tricks I do for myself with only myself in mind. Yet I am aware that the skill set I adopt will become an inherent part of me, and as such, will undoubtedly benefit others. Someone will need an odd herb and I’ll have it to gift, someone will need healing and I’ll be able to offer it, someone will want to learn to meditate & I will teach, someone will need to laugh and I’ll drag out my uke and sing the Scottish Drinking Song at the top of my lungs.  It’s give and take until all returns to it’s source. And I’m good with that.

My life isn’t my own.  And, I love that it isn’t.  We’re all dynamic and part of a whole. We are all intimately connected. When I heal, I help you have the courage to do the same. When I’m challenged you shelter me in turn. We know full well that the rule of three will keep us rebounding into the future but that isn’t what inherently drives us. We are intrinsically community-based and we seek what betters both ourselves and our brethren.   When I become learned on a topic, my education is an asset to our pagan community. I learn and experience specifically on purpose and my life is better for it. I honor life itself in this way. It makes no sense to not take advantage of all that I have within my reach for the betterment of myself and others. And, You could do the same if you like…

This spring, make a point to be deliberate with your thoughts and your actions. Choose what to prune, take a sip of strong whiskey, then just do it.  It will heal, trust me.  If you need help with it, I’m here (and, I have whiskey too lol ).  Ask aloud to that which you hold sacred “What could I learn or do this year that will cause my spirit to soar?  What is the best way for me to go about expanding my experience intentionally?”  Then listen, and laugh at how easily the answers come tumbling in so clear that you probably should have been able to guess them. Create a target, mark your aim. Now is the time to sew your seeds of growth and change.  Plan to tend your new project for up to a year.  Be overt in your stretching of your own boundaries. I thank you for it. I benefit from it. I truly, sincerely do. We all do. Thanks for your bravery, and thanks for being deliberate.

What stirs your soul and how will you choose to grow??  I’m looking forward to bearing witness to it.

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Peninsula Pagan Community blog can be found on WordPress at  https://penpagan.wordpress.com/

What to do on Ostara?

The cornerstones of Ostara are growth and balance.  This sabbat represents the rekindling of life within the Earth and the renewal of fertility of our spiritual selves. It is the vernal equinox, a day of equal light & dark, but also the middle of the three spring holy days. While Imbolc marks spring’s first breath and Beltaine is about springs height & power,  Ostara is about both growth & balance in between.

During this day of celebrating new life, we often plan an activity or walk outdoors. I look for signs of spring, hoping to see the first pussy willows! In effort to bring back balance and renew life, many of us celebrate Ostara by getting ready for growing season by ordering from seed catalogs, craft magickal eggs (dyed, with fortuitous symbols or drawn sprouts), planning our orders for chicks at the local feed stores, or by creating an Eostre altar (eggs, bunnies, cocoons, butterflies, bird’s nests, pastel colors, lambs, honey cakes, sprouts, lilies, daffodils..you know, that which was pilfered for the Christianized holiday of Easter ..and chocolate, don’t forget the chocolate!).  We’re all pretty used to the process of decorating eggs, but have you considered making a charm out of a hard boiled egg? You can decorate it with symbols or write the idea you would like to manifest on it, energize it and eat it.

eggs

Ostara brings us the new promise of life (resurrection of the sun/son), as it represents the union of the fertile Goddess and the God, the creation of life via blending earth matter and spirit.  Therefore, this is a time for planting new ideas to be born. Witches often utilize the time to cast spells for growth, from careers to families, or anything they wish to expand. Our equinox is 2:28 am our time on Monday March 20, to be exact & from that moment on, we will experience more daylight than darkness. The energetic momentum pushes forward to Beltaine. A grande idea is to plant a seed along with any magickal working you do on this day to grow your spell.  You can use this renewal energy to fuel any new project or goal, really.  You could even charge up a bottle of water or oil (three days, from either side of Ostara) to use as ‘growth’ water for spells for the rest of the year..

Likewise, you can perform a ritual to seek balance in your life, and honor both dark & light. This is the first of the four solar or ‘cross quarter’ sabbats that focus on balance and extreme.  Most perceive it as a balance of night & day but one would think of it as a balance of the universal & concrete, masculine & feminine, or balance of physical & spiritual as well. Given as above, so below, we should intentionally seek to rectify balance on this day. One could perform a cleaning ritual to cleanse your home of negativity or head out toward the highway or a park and pick up litter…either way make a point to lose the remains that you no longer benefit from. You could also light both a black and a white candle to meditate. Another good Ostara ritual releasing ceremony by creating an effigy of the dark half of the year and imbue it with the characteristics of this last winter that you’d like to leave behind then drop it in a fire or the nearest watercourse.

Obviously, if you attempt all of these things you’d be too busy to enjoy any of it.  Pick something that jives with your soul and leave the rest.  What about me? I’ll get the offspring off to school, then smudge my house followed by a good airing.  I grew and dried some sweetgrass so am excited to try it out as well. Then I’ll be sewing seeds in my little heated greenhouse for my summer gardens (it’s my meditative space) & head outside if there’s time after I’m finished. Generally, I’d go along the highway and clean up trash.  This year the snow is too deep to do that yet. I’m not too into honey cakes (honey is expensive) but I’ll aim for a carrot cake for dessert.  The kids will appreciate that since it’s the first day back from break.  If nothing else, we could roast a peep in the fireplace at some point (sidebar- they make pretty good s’mores).

If any of you can think of a park or area we could clean up we could all rendezvous on Sunday the 19th and make a project of it. I always am sickened by the trash that is revealed in the melting snow but am not sure where would be a good place where the debris is exposed. I’m happy to give our planet some TLC and every spring it’s sorely needed. Even if we delay the project by a month I’d be happy to facilitate it. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts!

Brightest Blessings,

The Peninsula Pagan