Wheel of the Year: Ostara 2024

Ostara is finally here! Though Toronto has had an extremely mild winter with hardly any snow, it has still felt unusually long and drawn out for me. The spring equinox feels like an old friend showing up at the right time.

 

Recently, I have been revisiting my magical practice and making an effort to reconnect with ideas that are foundational in many branches of paganism (more on this another time). The fact that the first Sabbat during this journey is Ostara feels serendipitous.

 

Ostara is a controversial Sabbat. Created by Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, it is often dismissed by practitioners as less important, and its revellers are even teased and belittled for celebrating it. So I want to make something very clear: you are not less of a witch because you celebrate Ostara. Everything was created by someone at some point, and the sheer number of people who honour this Sabbat each year makes it legitimate no matter what. Not only that, equinoxes and solstices have always been sacred to human beings, regardless of the name we give them.

 

Ostara was supposedly based on a Anglo-Saxon fertility goddess named Eostre. There is no concrete evidence that she existed in ancient folklore and mythology, and only appears in one early text written by a monk named Bede.

 

In the 19th century, different folklorists revived Eostre and included her in stories. You see, folklore and myths were going through a bit of a renaissance during the 1800s, and goddesses have always been a fan favourite in spiritualist-type circles.

 

This is a great article that explores these ideas further: https://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2016/04/ostara-and-the-hare/

 

Now, let's get to the magic!

 

Name: Ostara

When: Spring Equinox

Rank: Minor Sabbat

 

Ostara is a time of year when day and night are of equal length, symbolizing balance and renewal. The sun reinvigorates the earth, awakening it from its winter slumber. As the days grow longer, nature responds —flowers bloom, trees bud, and animals begin their mating rituals. Naturally, this cycle of rebirth and fertility is mirrored in how we celebrate this day. 


Symbols: eggs, hares and rabbits, flowers

There are a variety of symbols associated with Ostara, but most notably, the egg and the rabbit (or hare). The egg, is an emblem of potential and the inception of life, and it aligns with the themes of rebirth intrinsic to this time of year.

Rabbits have long been symbols of fertility due to several key aspects of their biology and behaviour. They have remarkable reproductive capabilities. They can breed multiple times a year, and have large litters. This makes the rabbit an apt symbol for fertility and abundance, representing the potential for life to flourish under nurturing conditions. Rabbits are also known for their incredible ability to adapt and thrive in various environments. This ability to flourish in diverse conditions mirrors how the earth rejuvenates and blossoms in spring.

Activities: egg decorating, seed planting, god and goddess ritual, spring cleaning

Egg Decorating

There are a variety of methods you can use to decorate eggs, but my two favourites are using food colouring or using pressed flowers.

I recommend making these the day before, so you can eat them after. However, if you'd like a permanent altar decoration, you can buy wooden eggs and dye or paint them.

Food Colouring Method:

What You'll Need:

 

  • Hard-boiled eggs (cooled)
  • White vinegar
  • Natural dye materials (e.g., turmeric for yellow, red cabbage for blue, beetroot for pink)
  • Pots for boiling dye materials
  • Strainer
  • Bowls or jars for dye baths
  • Spoon or egg dipper
  • Optional: Rubber bands, stickers, or leaves for patterns

 

      Prepare Your Eggs:

       

      Ensure your eggs are hard-boiled and cooled. It's best to use eggs that are a day old, as they peel more easily if you plan to eat them.

       

      Select Your Dye Materials:
       
      Choose your dye materials based on the colour you wish to achieve. You can use food colouring or make your own natural dye. Common natural dyes include:
       
      • Yellow: Turmeric or chamomile tea
      • Blue: Red cabbage
      • Pink: Beetroot
      • Green: Spinach
      • Purple: Blueberries

         

        Prepare the Dye (if using food colouring):

        1. Fill each cup or bowl with about 1 cup of warm water. The water should be warm but not hot.
        2. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to each cup. Vinegar is essential as it helps the dye adhere to the eggshell.
        3. Stir in about 20 drops of food colouring into each cup. You can adjust the number of drops depending on how vibrant you want the colour. Feel free to mix colours to create new shades!

        Prepare the Dye (if using natural materials):

        1. Chop or shred your dye materials. The more you use, the deeper the colour will be.
        2. Place the dye material in a pot and add about 1-2 cups of water for each cup of dye material.
        3. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to help the dye adhere to the eggs.
        4. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-30 minutes. The longer you simmer, the deeper the colour will become.
        5. Strain the dye into a bowl or jar, removing the solid materials.

        Dye the Eggs

        1. Once your dye is cool, submerge the hard-boiled eggs into the dye.
        2. For a more vibrant colour, leave the eggs in the dye in the refrigerator overnight.
        3. For a lighter shade, keep them in the dye for a shorter time.
        4. Remove the eggs with a spoon or egg dipper and let them dry on a rack or paper towel.

        Pressed Flower Method

        What You'll Need:

         
        • Hard-boiled eggs or wooden eggs
        • Pressed flowers and leaves 
        • Decoupage glue or Mod Podge (pls note: Mod Podge is not 100% biodegradable)
        • A small paintbrush
        • Optional: Egg dye or paint 

         

        Step-by-Step Instructions:

         

        Prepare Your Eggs:

         

        If you plan to dye or paint your eggs, make sure they are completely dry before moving on to the next step. 

         

        Select Your Pressed Flowers:

         

        Choose a variety of pressed flowers and leaves. Make sure they are completely dry and pressed flat. You can press flowers ahead of time by placing them between the pages of a heavy book or using a flower press.

         

        If you're short on time, you can purchase pressed flowers from craft stores (though they may not be as potent as your own).

         

        Arrange Your Flowers:

         

        Before gluing, arrange the pressed flowers on the eggs to plan your design. 

         

        Apply Glue:

         

        Using a small paintbrush, apply a thin layer of decoupage glue or Mod Podge to the area of the egg where you want to place your first flower.

        Carefully place the flower on the glue-coated area. 

         

        Seal the Design:

         

        Once all your flowers are in place, gently apply a thin layer of glue over the entire design to seal it. The glue will dry clear, protecting the flowers and giving the egg a glossy finish.

         

        Allow the egg to dry completely. You may want to set it on a drying rack or a piece of wax paper to prevent sticking.

         

        Display or Use Your Eggs:

         

        Now that your eggs are beautifully dyed or decorated, you can display them as part of your Ostara celebration.


        Seed Planting

        Planting seeds during Ostara is a symbolic act that connects us to the themes of renewal, rebirth, and the awakening of the earth after winter's sleep.

        I recommend planting a variety of herbs that you can use throughout the rest of the year in your spell work.

        Chamomile is often associated with calmness and relaxation, and is commonly used to reduce stress and aid in sleep, but did you know it is also an amazing purification and protection herb?

        Lavender is believed to create a shield that protects people and spaces from negative energy.  It  can also help to increase intuition and psychic awareness. Lavender is an essential tool for divination, clairvoyance, and clearer communication with the ghosts and spirits.

        Mint is a powerful herb believed to have magical abilities to bring good fortune and attract wealth. In the world of magic, mint is often used to boost energy and attract financial abundance. This makes it a popular choice for spells and rituals aimed at success and prosperity.

        Thyme is a herb that has various uses in witchcraft. It is believed to possess protective qualities, promote courage, and improve psychic abilities and divination skills. It is alson often used in rituals that focus on health and wellness to promote healing and prevent illness.

        God and Goddess Ritual

        You can also incorporate your seeding planting into this ritual.

        What You'll Need:

         

        • Two candles. Green for the Goddess, symbolizing fertility and renewal, and yellow for the God, representing the returning light.
        • Seeds 
        • A small pot of soil 
        • Water


        Step-by-Step Instructions:


        Prepare Your Space:


        Cleanse and decorate your altar. 


        Set Up Your Altar:


        Arrange the two candles on your altar, placing the pot of soil between them. Have your seeds and bowl of water nearby.


        Light the Candles:


        Light the green candle to invoke the Goddess and the yellow candle to welcome the God. As you light them, recite the following words:
        Welcome, Goddess of the earth's rebirth,
        Welcome, God, of warmth and mirth.
        In the balance of Ostara, we celebrate your worth,
        Bless us with renewal, from soil to hearth.


        Plant the Seeds:


        Take a moment to hold the seeds in your hands. Think about what you wish to grow and nurture in your life during the coming season.
        Plant the seeds in the soil and cover them with the earth.


        Water the Seeds:


        Next, pour your water over the seeds. As you do this, you can recite the prayer for the Goddess and God.


        Closing the Ritual:


        When you feel ready, express gratitude to the God and Goddess for their presence. Let the candles burn all the way through.
        Keep the pot on your altar until Beltane.

        Spring Cleaning

        Spring cleaning is pretty self explanatory, but you can add a bit of witchiness into it by incorporating herbs, candles, smoke cleansing, etc.

        You can find a variety of ritual salts and powders here.

        Recipes:

        Spring Herb Quiche and Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

        Cooking plays a pivotal role in Sabbat celebrations. Cooking with seasonal ingredients is a way to honour the Earth and the specific time of year. It highlights the connection to the land and its cycles.

        Spring Herb Quiche

        Ingredients:

        • 1 pie crust (store-bought)
        • 4 eggs
        • 1 cup heavy cream
        • 1 cup grated cheese (such as Gruyère or Cheddar)
        • 1 cup chopped spinach, and a small handful of fresh dill and chives
        • Salt and pepper to taste

        Instructions:

        1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). While the oven preheats, prep your pie crust according to its directions.
        2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cheese and chopped herbs/greens.
        3. Pour the egg mixture into the pie crust.
        4. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown.
        5. Let it cool before serving, and don't forget to give a piece to your ancestors and deities.

        Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

        Ingredients:

        • 1 whole chicken
        • 2 lemons, halved
        • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
        • Fresh chopped rosemary and thyme (keep one sprig of rosemary as is)
        • Salt and pepper to taste

        Instructions:

        1. Preheat your oven between 375°F (190°C) to 400°F (204°C). Individual models can vary slightly and you may need to adjust as you see fit.
        2. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Stuff it with the lemon halves and a full sprig of rosemary.
        3. Brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter, then season it with salt, pepper, and your chopped herbs.
        4. Roast in the oven for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh or the chicken is 170 F.
        5. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with a side of spring vegetables.

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