The symbols and rites of Ostara may be ancient, but most remain very familiar today.
Hmm, I wonder how that could be? Can some new, upstart religion perhaps have adopted them – or just stolen them outright – to carry forward through all the centuries while Pagan practices were suppressed? In fact did it need those treasures of old, disguised though they might be, for its very survival?
For the Sun returns, the Sun returns, rising from the darkness of death! Spell its name with an “o” or with a “u,” the message is the same: the triumph of light over darkness as the unconquered sun, Sol Invictus as the Romans called it, bursts from the icy tomb of winter to ascend the heavens once more and enlighten us all.
With its return the world warms again, the days grow longer than the nights, and fertility comes back to field and forest. All around us, in nature but also in TV commercials and in every store Ostara’s ancient symbols are seen again: the rabbits of fertility, the eggs of coming life, the baby chicks that hatch from those eggs, the rayed wheel of the Sun itself, and their representations in cookies and hot cross buns and chocolate and other candy. The bright or pastel hues of flowers and the fresh green of new leaves are now everywhere you look: in nature of course, but also on clothes and yard decorations, in flower bouquets and on those same eggs and pastries and candy, perhaps offered in decorated baskets just as they were offered to the Gods of old.
Even the holiday’s name reflects its ancient history. Modern Pagan traditions call it Ladyday, Ostara, or Eostre. That other, upstart religion borrowed the name, though for reasons of its own changed the date of celebration: not simply on the Vernal Equinox, but on the Sunday after the next Full Moon. This year, since we had the Sap Moon just recently, that won’t be until April ninth.
So: Eostre; Ostara; Ladyday. It seems as long as there’ve been humans to worship Her, there’s been a Lady celebrated indeed on this day, a Great Mother, and Her name remains much the same. Ashirah to the Sumerians; Ishtar in Babylon. Sweet Hathor, the Golden Calf Goddess of Egypt. Ashtart in Canaan; Astarte in Sidon and Tyre. Through time, then, into centuries nearer our own: Eostre to the Germanic peoples, Ostara in Old English, and to that new religion, though it’s banished the Great Mother to some little side chapel, a name that’s still Hers just a little bit misspelled.
But be that as it may: the old ways live on, and by celebrating them we as modern Pagans claim them back again. So salute the Mother and the risen Sun with cheerful spring colors, with the flowers that bear them and with seeds to plant so next year’s may be just as lovely, with real eggs beautifully dyed or with false ones made of sweets, with baskets of offerings, with feasting and song, with bright-colored clothes – or none, depending on your tradition – but most of all, with love and gratitude and joy.