Ostara was traditionally honoured in April, and has now become blended with Easter. Rose shares her love of the Spring Equinox in this April edition of the ‘Wheel of the Year‘ series.
I wrote this blog on the day of Spring Equinox, 21st March. In the Wheel of the Year, this date marks the coming of my favourite of all the goddesses – Ostara. Sometimes known as Eostre. Resplendent, glorious and full of vitality, she is Goddess of Spring.
She arrives with flowers woven through her golden tresses, birds dancing around her flowing robes, baby rabbits hopping beside her as she moves through the land. Her smile, a ray of sun, warms a wintered landscape, defrosting the earth as life bursts forth to greet her. This is the time of year when Nature begins to fully awaken and gets ready to put on her best frock.
Beloved Ostara, Easter Goddess of fertility, renewal, of birth and of balance. She is the oestrogen in the blood of women. She is beloved patroness of the easter egg. And the chocolate bunny, of daffodils, of hope and new life.
Between Spring and Vernal Equinox, a week apart, night and day fall into equal length, dark and light, masculine and feminine, inner and outer become balanced. Soon the days will lengthen as the Sun asserts his strength and the time of darkness is over.
Ostara was traditionally honoured in April, hence the time of Easter which takes place according to the lunar cycle. As above, so below. Now, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full Moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox.
In pre-Christian times Ostara was thought to have the head and shoulders of a hare, hence the association with easter bunnies.
Her story is very dear to my heart because it was in Whitby, near where I live, that a great Synod was held at the monastery of Abbess Hilda in the sixth century. The heads of the Roman Church came across from Italy to meet with the heads of the Celtic church who came down from from Iona and Lindisfarne. During the Synod the Romans persuaded the Celts to adopt Easter into the Roman Christian calendar. This was one of those many moments when pagan tradition, worship and ritual became appropriated by the church. The Celtic Christians shared a common love and reverance for nature with the pagan peoples of this land and believed in all life as sacred. But the Romans adopted a much harsher and dominant approach, banning all forms of pagan outdoor worship, buring the sacred groves, killing the Druids.
Celtic vs Roman Christianity
There is a famous Whitby legend that Hilda, when she first came to build her monastery on the wild cliff tops at Whitby, was faced with thousands of poisonous snakes swarming over the land. It is said that with her great power and presence and with perhaps a few strange incantations, she drove them off the cliffs. As they fell to the rocks below they were so terrified of her, they became petrified in midair, turning to stone, and so when they hit the rocks below all their heads snapped off.
Hence the famous ammonite fossils to be found strewn along the rocky shores and at the foot of the cliffs are known locally as Hilda’s headless snakes. These famous totems of Whitby folklore feature on the old town crest as three ammonites with a snake sitting above.
But, therefore, as with all myth and legend this tale is purely symbolic. As it was when Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland, and also when Hilda drives the snakes off the cliffs at Whitby. It is symbolic for the driving out of indigenous ways of worship by a Roman Christian authority. They created a split between spirit and matter, claiming the way to God was through the church. Goddess Ostara became the Christian Easter after goddess worship was banned by the church. Some of the more powerful and well-known goddesses became Christian saints. We can also see where some of the other pagan festivals were appropriated into the Christian calendar.
Marriage between Pagan and Christian
Whitby is a town where for centuries the elemental forces of nature have demanded respect. Where many old folk traditions, superstitions, ritual appeasement, invocation and thanksgiving have endured in an albeit God-fearing community. However, many pagan beliefs were never entirely driven away. There has been a long marriage between the Christian and the Pagan for centuries. Today as I celebrated the return of Ostara, I was able to go and sit by the river in the sunshine. From among the daffodils and I came away with a sense of renewal and nourishment, both outwardly and inwardly.
Please watch the video blog for more:
If you have enjoyed this blog look out for Rose’s May blog, coming soon.
Rose is running a series of workshops on the TA Earth theme coming up over the next few months. Click on the links below for more information.
Rose Rylands is a Storyteller and walking guide based where she grew up on the East Coast at Whitby. Her mission is to connect people to the earth as a place of magic, mystery and meaning, to arrest ongoing harm to both ourselves and the natural world.
“My passion is to connect people with the earth as a place of mystery, meaning and magic through story. I suppose I am a sort of cultural custodian of my own small space and beloved bit of earth.”
The next video blog from Rose will be coming out mid-May.
Rose Rylands Workshops
Spiritual Ecology, Tues 15 June 2021 1 – 4pm
What is TA Earth?
TA Earth series explores our connections with our home planet and the world around us. We are inspired by Hayley Marshall and Giles Barrow’s pioneering work, Eco TA. Moving ‘toward an ecological understanding of the individual embedded in relationship with others and the wider natural world’.