Archive for March 21st, 2011

Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men. –  Chinese proverb

The apparent path of the sun crossed the equator at 23:21 GMT last night, making today the first day of astronomical spring; if you live in the southern hemisphere it’s the first day of astronomical autumn, so perhaps reading my post on Mabon would be more appropriate!  But here in North America, and indeed for most of the world’s population, it is spring so we’ll go with that.

As the Chinese proverb above reminds us, plants recognize the season before humans do, and indeed here in the southern part of the United States we’ve had signs of spring for over a month now.  As soon as the snows of February melted I started seeing little green shoots everywhere in the brown turf, and some of the early wildflowers appeared by the end of the month.  Generally I see jonquils at the end of February, but this year they didn’t bloom until last week; I reckon the unusually cold February weather delayed them.  I’ve grown quite used to seeing them as one of the earliest signs that spring proper has indeed arrived rather than just a spell of unseasonably warm winter weather.  Another sign of spring I recently received were the first kids; when I went to bring in the herd a week ago Saturday there they were with their mother, three of them nursing happily under a tree.  And since then we’ve seen six more from five mothers, good healthy ones by all signs.

That’s one of the nicest things about living in the country; one really gets to see Nature coming back to life in a way that’s hidden from urbanites.  Of course those of you who by choice or necessity live in cities still get the change of weather, but seeing the entire landscape change and the new plants and animals being born is another thing entirely.  The spring is my second-favorite of seasons after the autumn, and for similar reasons; I love the moderate temperatures, the changing scenery and the profusion of color everywhere I look.

When one lives close to Nature, one can really understand the joy our ancestors felt at the coming of spring and the rebirth of the world.  Pagans still celebrate the seasons with festivals drawn from the old traditions, so as is my custom at the sabbats I have invited my witch friend JustStarshine to tell us about the spiritual significance of the holiday.

The Significance of Ostara

Ostara, Eostre and Eoster are names that are believed to have come from Germanic or Old English goddesses of spring; these names being adopted by pagans in the same way that the word “Eoster” has evolved into the Christian “Easter”.  Modern Pagans may use any of  these names for this  festival, or even just refer to it as the Spring Equinox.

Ostara is one of the lesser sabbats and is the Festival of the New Balance and Festival of New Life; it is a time when all the elements of life are being brought into new balance, physically, as day and night attain equal length.

The symbol of the festival is the egg – a sign of rebirth and new beginnings when old ways must be broken down as a new tide of life begins.  The present-day Easter Bunny was originally the hare, symbol of fertility and always closely associated with the Goddess and magic.

It was at this time that our forefathers planted the special ears of corn saved as a corn dolly or kern king, being a symbol of the potency of the Corn King sacrificed at Lammas.

Witches celebrate the sabbats in different ways according to their chosen path.  Mine is Wiccan and after the opening rituals I take the fresh spring flowers placed on my altar to each quarter, from East to North, saying as I go:

East: May there be understanding on earth, new awareness and knowledge of Mother Nature’s needs.  As spring flowers bloom afresh may this blossom.

South: May there be a return of joy in life, in song, dance, love and the beauty of the natural world.  May this blossom.

West: May there be peace on earth.  May this blossom.

North: May the greenwoods return, the freedom and balance of natural life.  May  this blossom.

Later in the ceremony I turn  to each quarter and ask that I may have:

East:  Harmony of Mind
South:  Guidance on vitality and change
West:  Harmony of emotions
North:  Physical harmony.

As is the case with Imbolc, this is a ritual that reflects the optimism and hope engendered by new growth and new life.

I ask for all my readers, no matter what your beliefs, a renewal of joy, health and prosperity.  Blessed Be!

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