Ancient Celebrations – Part 11 – Spring Equinox, Ostara and Easter

Equinox blessings throughout the Earth. May there be Peace and Harmony on this day of balance.

The Equinox is at 15:32 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time-UK) throughout the Earth. This is the exact time the Sun hits the equator directly. In the tropical (or seasonal) zodiac this point is 0 degrees Aries and marks the start of the Western zodiac. The tropical zodiac is split into 12 lots of 30 degrees with the four cardinal signs being represented at the Equinoxes and Solstices.

In the Northern hemisphere it is a time of planting and fertility.
In the Southern hemisphere it marks the time of harvesting.

Day and night are balanced throughout the Earth at this time. With the turbulent events of recent times, let’s hope we see peace and balance restored soon.

Christians and pagans have denounced Ostara or Easter as pagan festivals. However, the facts show that Easter is still very much Christian. Unlike most pagan Orders we will not be celebrating Ostara, but the coming of Spring, typified by Sheela-na-gig.

If you want to call it either of those names, that’s your personal choice, so long as you know there is no factual foundation whatsoever to these festivals.

Linguistically Ostara is an Old High German cognate of Eostre, the ancient spring goddess, worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons, but there have no evidence of a festival to honour Ostara.

Eostre has only one mention by Bede in his ‘Reckoning of Time’, which gave rise to the Anglo-Saxon month Eosturmonath, but there is still more foundation to honour Eostre than Ostara.

“Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance” (Venerable Bede).

It was later replaced by the Christian festival of Easter. It is interesting to note that in other countries Easter is known in its different translations of Paschal (eg Paques in French) so this might give an indication that Eostre was so deeply rooted in the culture of the English peoples of the time that they simply carried the name over.

With regards to Ostara as the Spring Equinox and Mabon as the Autumn Equinox, these were invented by American occult writer, Aidan Kelly, in the 1970s, who also invented a few other things that seemed to have been accepted as traditional within some pagan communities. These inventions seemed to take root in the 1990s in many US neo-pagan and ‘Wiccan’ books and imported to the UK and elsewhere, and as they were presented as fact, many pagans accepted them as true or traditional names.

Here then are some facts to help you make an informed decision about celebrating the Equinox or Ostara:

1) The festival of Pascha was celebrated for centuries before the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons who named it ‘Easter’ in their own relatively small part of the world. (It’s still called Pascha, or a variant thereof, outside those areas.) So no, it wasn’t ‘originally pagan’ or about a Goddess of sex and fertility.

2) Bede, our only source for the Goddess Eostre, states that the festival of Easter was named after the ‘old observance’ of Eostre’s feasts during the month of Eosturmonath. He does not say that anything survived of these feasts except that name. Some scholars have suggested that Bede made her up, and academia is still divided on this point, although it remains unclear what his motive for doing so might have been.

3) Eostre’s symbol wasn’t a hare. That was an unsupported guess made by the folklorist Adolf Holzmann in 1874. Holzmann was baffled by the Easter Hare tradition, finding it ‘unintelligible’, and guessed that ‘the hare was probably the sacred animal of Ostara’. Later writers misrepresented his guess as a statement of fact.

4) Eggs were not symbols of Eostre either. There are no known symbols of Eostre in the single surviving text.

5) Hot cross buns weren’t eaten by the pagan Saxons. That extraordinary claim comes from the long-outdated 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

6) Eostre is not the root of the word ‘oestrogen’, which comes from Latin ‘oestrus’ meaning ‘frenzy’, used in sexual context since 380 BC. Oestrogen was only discovered in the 1920s, the human ovum in 1827.

7) Jehovah’s Witness literature equates Eostre with Ishtar or Astarte. That comes from Christian fundamentalist beliefs that all pagan gods are the same group of demons. Ishtar was ancient Babylonian, Eostre (if she existed) Anglo-Saxon; thousands of miles and many hundreds of years apart.

8) Ostara is not an old name for the Spring Equinox. Only modern pagans use it in that way. The Spring Equinox was first called ‘Ostara’ in the 1970s.

9) Hares and rabbits were introduced to Britain by the Romans and are not an indigenous species, so it is impossible for rabbits to have been sacred to any indigenous Goddess.

People who debunk pagan myths about Easter aren’t all Christians. In fact, many fundamentalist Christians don’t like Easter; they think it’s unbiblical and unchristian to celebrate it. It suits them down to use claims that Easter was originally Pagan. The number of ill informed pagans, sadly, is also growing.

The advice of the Order of Celtic Wolves is always to check the facts before you share them.

Equinox blessings to you 🙏 and Easter also doesn’t fall until the next full moon and we’ve already had one earlier in the week, so Easter will be later this year.

One thought on “Ancient Celebrations – Part 11 – Spring Equinox, Ostara and Easter

  1. I can imagine many (what I call) institutional Christians likely finding inconvenient, if not annoying, trying to reconcile the conspicuous inconsistency in the fundamental nature of the New Testament’s Jesus with the wrathful, vengeful and even jealous nature of the Old Testament’s Creator. Personally, I like to picture Jesus enjoying a belly-shaking laugh over a good joke with his disciples, now and then.

    Also, regardless of whether one believes God required literal blood and pain ‘payment’ from Jesus or anyone else, we all factually know that animals have had their blood literally shed and bodies eaten in mindboggling quantities by Man. Indeed, maybe the figurative forbidden fruit of Eden eaten by Adam and Eve was actually God’s four-legged creation.

    I can see that really angering the Almighty — a lot more than the couple’s eating non-sentient, non-living, non-bloodied fruit. Mainstream Christianity doesn’t speak up much at all about what we, collectively, have done to animals for so long. (FYI: I’m not vegetarian; though I seldom eat mammal meat, I do enjoy eating prawns or shrimp pretty much on a weekly basis.)

    Like

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