The Vernal Equinox is the time when Spring officially begins. It is also the (approximate) date of the celebrations of Eastre and Ostara. Eastre is not to be confused with the Christian celebration of Easter. While the two holidays share the name and similar themes, the Filianic holiday of Eastre is different from the Christian holiday of Easter. Ostara is celebrated within the pagan community by many different faiths. It is well known in the Wiccan community and derived from the ancient Germanic pagan holiday of the same name. I celebrate Eastre and Ostara around the time of the Equinox, though I am considering moving my observance of Ostara to coincide with the Christian celebration of Easter for the sake of ease.
At Eastre, within the Filianic faiths, we observe the death and resurrection of God1 the Daughter. The Festival of Eastre is a multiple day event. It begins on the last day of the month/season Moura. This day is named for the destroyer face of the angel2 Werde, Kala. Kala is the last day of the liturgical year. It is also the day where the Daughter is slain by the Dark Queen. This is a day that is inauspicious for beginning new activities and planning future events. After Kala is a period that is not part of the liturgical year, as it is considered to be a time outside of time called Hiatus. Hiatus is one day (except during leap years, then it is two) out of the Julian calendar and is the time where the Daughter hangs upon the pillar of the Nether World in absolute death.
At Hiatus, the world is considered to be ended by most Filianic communities and it is a time of mourning. Prayers are made to God the Mother for the return of God the Daughter and the renewal of the world. Hiatus is a time where a taboo is extended for the worshiper of Filianic faiths to not consider the future because technically there is no future at this time. Starting at Kala and through Hiatus, all icons and statues of God the Daughter are veiled to reflect her absence from the world and her death. In my observance of Kala and Hiatus, I veil my icons of the Daughter and extinguish the light that I have for her presence in the world.
This light remains darkened for the totality of this observance to reflect that the Daughter is dead and gone out of the world. I also make a point of not burning any new offering candles during this period. Because I still feel that I should give offerings and candles is one of the few things I can readily afford, I use one big pillar or jarred candle that will last me through out the final week of Moura and into Hiatus. I keep my candles in the liturgical colors for Moura (purple/black). At Eastre proper, the icons are revealed and I dispose of the candle that I had been burning through Moura and Hiatus. I replace it with something in a ‘spring’ color and I try to find one that is floral in scent. (This year a sunny yellow that smells of honeysuckle.)
I also relight my candle/light for the Daughter’s presence in the world because at Eastre, the Mother rescues and revives the Daughter, thus returning her to the world. With the resurrection of the Daughter, all of the world is considered to be renewed. This day is the first day of the liturgical year and a day of celebration.
Eastre does not fall technically on the equinox but it is within the time frame that the equinox happens. Just as spring begins in the solar year and in the Julian calendar, spring in the Filianic calendar begins with Eastre. It is considered an especially auspicious day for starting things.
Ostara comes from the ancient Germanic holiday of the same name. It is a time where the goddess for which this holiday is named brings spring’s renewal into the world. She is accompanied by her sacred animals (the rabbit and birds) and brings warmth and new life with her. At Ostara, I not only honor this ancient goddess but I also celebrate the return of Freyr. During the winter months, he is often considered to be residing in the realm of the dead following his slaying during the autumn harvest. With the renewal of the ‘life’ of plants, I consider it to be when he returns from that time.
For Ostara, I put fresh flowers on the altar and ask that my gardening efforts and houseplants be blessed by both Ostara and Freyr. (I also ask for Gerda’s blessing for good measure as well.) I also give offerings of sweet things, bread, and alcohol. This is also when I do my own little version of the charming of the plough. While the Asatru community celebrates this holiday in February, I observe it at the time of the equinox because this is when farmers in my area are actively preparing for the ploughing and planting of the fields. While I haven’t a plough to bless, I bless my gardening tools (usually one in representative of all) for healthy plants and good harvest.
It is good to note that Eastre, Ostara, and Easter all come from the same linguistic origin. They all are derived from the ancient goddess Ostara (spelled differently for different regions) who was celebrated at this time. When Christianity was in the midst of overtaking native religions in the Germanic regions, the name of this celebration was taken to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. Several ancient practices (such as the egg hunt) were tolerated because they were so deeply ingrained into the culture’s identity.
Both Eastre and Ostara are important parts of my calendar. It is at this time that I celebrate the renewal of the world with the beginning of spring. It is also when I set out to begin changes in my life. Where most people in the secular world begin at the first day of the Julian calendar, I begin at the first day of the Filianic calendar because I wish to ride the magical tide that comes with the equinox and draw to me the blessings of the season as well.
1. This is a direct reference to how the Filianic/Déanic community as reflected by www.mother-god.com refers to the goddess whom I follow known in her three aspects as Mother (Marya), Daugher (Anna/Inanna), and Dark Mother (Deam Mysterium). The conflict over the terms god/goddess will be addressed in another post.
2. I use the term angel rather then the term janya (pl. janyati) because it is more familiar to the community at large. While the terms are not completely interchangeable, it is close enough for my purposes.