It was February 2nd that Phil the Punxsutawney groundhog, Lucy the Nova Scotian lobster, and Ontario’s Wiarton Willie (RIP Fred la Mermotte of Quebec) predicted another six weeks of winter. And here we are, right on schedule, celebrating the coming of spring and the spring equinox. Did that trio of furry rodents and a tough crustacean really know what they were yammering about? Or is it something to do with the sun moving across the celestial equator as it has always done?
This year, the Spring Equinox, otherwise known as the Vernal Equinox or the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the south, took place on March 20, at 4:24 p.m. CST to be exact (3:24 p.m. where I live). That’s six weeks plus a couple of days, so they were pretty much on target. Next year, the first day of spring will fall on March 19th. This was news to me, as I’m from the old school of thought that incorrectly said the first day of spring was March 21. Always. Apparently, that hasn’t been true since 2007, and it won’t fall on March 21 again until the 22nd century! It’s a bit complicated, but it has to do with the 400-year Gregorian calendar cycle. For the coming decades, it will be marked on either March 19 or March 20. If you want to plan ahead, consult this calendar. Go figure. Another misconception about the equinox is that the daytime and nighttime hours are equal. False! It is very close, but it all depends on how the sunrise and sunset are defined. In some areas, it takes longer for the sun to set, so the day is a bit longer than the night on an equinox. Get out a stopwatch and see for yourself!
Scheduling and myth debunking aside, this “major” event signifies the coming of warmer weather in the northern hemisphere and the onset of autumn, or somewhat “colder” temperatures in the southern hemisphere. Colder is a relevant term, right? Give me a chilly plus 15 over a chilly minus 15 any day. Several people I know have bemoaned the fact that the first day of spring still came with lots of snow and minus temperatures. Not me. I’m excited because with spring comes hope. Hope that soon that snow will be gone and the minus temps will be a forgotten memory, a bad one at that. They will be replaced by buds on the trees, flowers, and green! I long for green. I actually went out and bought a bright green sweatshirt the other day just to get me in the mood!
So what is the hype about the spring equinox? You may or may not remember the blog I wrote about Imbolc (and I educated you on the rites of Groundhog Day). Imbolc symbolizes the beginnings of the coming of spring when life underground is starting to awaken after a long, cold winter. Now, we are moving into spring, it is time to celebrate Ostara. Ostara comes from Germanic and Celtic stories of the goddess Eostre, goddess of the dawn. Her name means “east”. It is said that Ostara is the pagan spring fertility festival that honours Eostre, and the time when she met her cohort, Pan, or the Horned God. Other cultures have also celebrated different gods and goddesses associated with the spring equinox. The Romans honoured Cybele, Mother of the Gods, and her consort, Attis. Mayans honoured the serpent deity Kukulkan and Persians continue to celebrate the equinox as Nowruz, or the new year.
I am not a Wiccan nor a pagan, but I am interested in how these celebrations came about. It is also fun to honour them in some small way, even if it means adapting many things. Ostara is celebrated with feasts and merriment. It is also a time to sweep away old habits and bring in renewal. The two main symbols of this time are eggs and rabbits, for obvious reasons! Other symbols include crocuses, violets, daffodils, birds, lambs, and chicks; rhubarb, asparagus, peas, and lettuce; moss, agate, and peridot; and the colours green, yellow, and lavender. I made a simple but delicious meal for my family: 7 Herb Soup, lavender flecked biscuits, quiche, asparagus, and lemon square (Sure, it had been in the freezer for a few months, but we do what we have to, right?) I’m not providing links for these recipes because, by the time I finish adapting them, they are no longer recognizable!
If you’d like to honour Eostre and celebrate Ostara, there are several simple things you can do:
- go for a walk in nature.
- clean your home, clear out those winter cobwebs, and do some decluttering.
- enjoy a cup of dandelion tea.
- cook something with eggs, asparagus, or rhubarb (quiche and rhubarb crisp?)
- plant some seedlings.
- You can even wear a flower crown and write down your intentions for growth and renewal. Hah, with the price of fresh flowers in Saskatchewan right now, I think I’ll stick to just thinking about what my intentions are!
Since spring is a time of rebirth and new growth, it is easy to look at Ostara in a spiritual way. After a long, cold, and dark winter, we now start to see new life springing up. It is a time of renewed energy as we shake off the winter doldrums and start to feel optimistic about the future. It is time to come out of hibernation and be the best that we can be. Really, animals who hibernate are quite smart, don’t you think? This is when we need to nurture our physical and mental selves, replenish our energy resources, and get out and do things. Come alive again. It is also the time when we realize just how sluggish we’ve become, how wearing sweatpants all winter may have been comfortable but sure didn’t help the waistline, and how far behind we have fallen in our fitness routines. Don’t worry, it’s all good. Now we can throw out those potato chips and candy, eat some fresh veggies and go for a walk somewhere other than to the TV. After all, it’s beautiful outside. Bright, blue sky, melting snow, minus 9C (sure, it feels like minus 17, but that’s okay. Just wear a toque.)
Happy Ostara. Happy Spring. I hope you enjoy this wonderful time of the year, no matter where you live. But I must run. I have winter sweaters to put away!
Interesting Reads & Things
All About Ostara, the Spring Equinox (learnreligions.com)
Ostara’s Meaning, Traditions & A Simple Ostara Ritual (otherworldlyoracle.com)
10 Fun Activities to Celebrate Ostara: the Spring Equinox | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Ostara Vlog | How to celebrate | Rituals, Spells, Kitchen Witchery – YouTube
Celebrate Ostara || Traditional Witchcraft || The Rites, Spells and Rituals – YouTube
Music for Ostara – Spring Equinox songs (Winter’s End) – YouTube
HISTORY OF | Spring Equinox – YouTube
Vernal (Spring) Equinox Explained – YouTube
Vernal Equinox Explained: What to Know About Solstices and Seasons – YouTube