Ostara (also known as the ‘Spring Equinox’) is an ancient pagan celebration that heralds the winter’s thaw and the arrival of warmer, fertile days.
While many pagans associate this celebration with Danu (or other goddesses of the land), heathens most closely relate Ostara to Eostre, the Anglo Saxon goddess of nature and rebirth (some also call her ‘Ostara’ which was her Teutonic name); but for this discussion, I will call her Eostre to avoid confusion with the holiday.
Eostre is widely viewed as a goddess of beginnings; and certainly that equates heavily to fertility, most especially in the Spring. One tale recounts Eostre as having found a small, injured bird…one she promptly healed and put back in its nest. Later on, the bird lay beautiful colored eggs which she left as a gift for the goddess. It’s believed that this tale inspired people to color eggs (a tradition still going strong today) and was eventually absorbed into the Easter celebration as the festival marking Christ’s reputed resurrection took hold throughout Europe (but didn’t completely remove the heathen sensibilities and traditions of the folk).
The association of rabbits with Eostre is straight forward – during the early Spring season when European folks’ food stores dwindled, they went out to hunt game…and in early Spring, young rabbits were frequently seen and easily caught, providing lifesaving sustenance during the planting season.
The historical basis of Eostre comes from the writings of Bede (who, in the 8th century wrote ‘On The Reckoning of Time’). While his view on Eostre was somewhat colored by his Christian beliefs, he did provide a broad picture of her nature; and the people who venerated her during the Spring Equinox.
Some argue that she isn’t a true goddess at all; but rather, a deific personification of widely held animistic belief during the iron and early middle ages. (And, to be fair, her place in the heathen pantheon is also hotly debated though some count her among the Vanir). But the celebration of Ostara, and the gifting of mead, food and flowers in Eostre’s honor is common amongst many heathens (with many using the proximity of the Easter holiday as an opportunity to celebrate openly with others of like mind).
In 2017, the Spring Equinox falls on Monday March 20 (at 6:28 AM).
May your kin find warmth and bounty this Spring and throughout the Summer; and may your Ancestors and the Gods favor you daily.