The Wiccan Sabbat of Spring Equinox is known in some traditions as either Ostara or Eostre. The Sabbat name “Ostara” comes from a German goddess of spring, fertility, and rebirth. The name “Eostre” comes from an Anglo-Saxon goddess with the similar attributes. The symbols that most Westerns have come to associate with Easter, that is the rabbit and Easter eggs, were originally symbols of the goddess Ostara. A rabbit is said to have been Ostara’s companion, and helped her to bring spring to the world. As for the eggs, one of the many interpretations of their significance is that they represent the World Egg from which everything began. In Ukrainian culture there are special Easter eggs known as pysanky. These eggs celebrate the rebirth of the Sun, as the days will now become longer then the nights, and the coming of the season of plenty. Pysanky, for all their pagan symbolism, were accepted by the Church when the Ukraine converted to Christianity in 988 BCE, perhaps as an attempt to make the change more palitable to the populous. (Pysanky are quite easy to find in my neighbourhood, as it has a very large Eastern European population.)
In Wiccan terms, the egg is full of strong symbolism. The yellow yolk of the egg represents the Sun God, while the white of the egg represents the Maiden Goddess. Together, with the shell, the egg represents rebirth and creation. It is interesting to note that left to their own devices, hens produce eggs only when they receive 12 or more hours of sunlight a day–Spring Equinox is when the time of day and night are equal, producing ever lengthening days of more then 12 hours.
The Sabbat itself is a celebration to honour the maturing God, and the mating of the Lord and Lady, or the Hieros Gamos. He is seen as the young God and she as the Maiden. It is also a time when Wiccans celebrate the beginning of spring. Here, in South Western Ontario, it is also a time to celebrate the end (we hope!) of the cold winter weather, and the ability to be able to actually go outside without freezing. In a sense, we are celebrating the resurrection of Nature, even though the God was reborn at the Winter Solstice. Perhaps it has taken the Lord and Lady this long to actually thaw out!
As mentioned above, Hieros Gamos, or Sacred Marriage, takes place during this Sabbat (and/or during Beltane, depending on one’s tradition). Some consider Jesus’ Crucification to be a form of this, but rather than mating with woman, he descends into Hell and is resurrected. It seems a tenuous link, but there may be some merit to the connection, since it is believed that in some cases the Hieros Gamos was actually a sacrificial mating, where the male would eventually be killed in order to ensure the fertility of the fields. Jesus, of course, as trying to ensure the fertility of our souls.
Keeping in mind that in Southern Ontario it is still much too cold and windy to go outside, this ritual is written for a solitary Wiccan to perform indoors.
- usual working tools (these are up to the individual)
- potted spring plants (hyacinths, daffodils or tulips would be lovely; have enough to decorate your space)
- hand-dyed eggs (see below)
- seeds native to your area (if you are stuck for ideas, try grass or herbs)
- a small pot with soil
- your “good” Book of Shadows or some nice paper
- a pen you really like to use
First, dye your own eggs for this ritual. It is probably best to empty them first (my grandmother had the neatest little punchy needle tool for this), and to save the insides for eating later. You can make designs using the wax resist method. This list will help you make your colours.
Decorate your altar with the eggs you have dyed, the spring flowers, and other items that remind you of spring. You might want a nest, or an Easter basket (especially if you grew up celebrating with Easter baskets), some hot crossed buns (again, if these have significance for you), etc. Place your seeds in a small dish on your altar, next to your pot of soil. Also, if there is room, place your Book of Shadows and pen on the altar, if not, place them where you can easily reach them.
When you are ready, begin the ritual with your usual Circle opening. (Click here for my Circle opening.)
Once the Circle is cast, it is time to reflect on the meaning of the season. Many rituals will give you the words to say here, but I think it works best if you think about what the Spring Equinox means to you, keeping in mind the roles of the Lord and Lady. Personally, I may say something about the Lord and Lady discovering each other as sexual beings, about the return of Spring, of being thankful for not having a huge snow storm this year, and of the things I want to accomplish before the next Sabbat, asking nicely for the guidance of the Lord and Lady.
Next, take up your favourite egg. Speak out loud, saying what it is you like about it. Now explain how it represents the Lord, Lady and creation. Use your own words to make this meaningful. Hold the egg gently and meditate for a few minutes on the blessings we receive with the coming of Spring, and on the love that the Lord finds in the arms of the Lady.
Place the egg back on the altar and take up your dish of seeds. Talk to the seeds and tell them what you hopes are, what it is that you want to accomplish before the Winter returns. Speak lovingly to them, and to yourself, about your goals. When you have infused them with love plant them in the pot of soil. If you are not using salted water for your Circle casting water them with the water on your altar. (If you are using salted water, make sure you have a small cup of water on your altar to water the plants with. Bless it when you are blessing your other tools during the Circle casting.) Speak words of love to yourself, the seeds, and the Lord and Lady while you are doing this. Place the pot of soil back on your altar.
Next, take up your Book of Shadows or the nice paper you set aside. Write in it a list of things that you believe. For example, you might write “I believe that the world is full of love”, or “I believe I am a good person.” You will be revisiting this list at the Autumn Equinox, after you have written another list during that ritual. You may also want to add the list of things you wish to accomplish, both mundane and magical.
Now it is time to close the ritual. Do your usual Circle closing. (Click here for my Circle closing.) Once you are finished, gentle pick up your pot with the seeds and place it in a sunny window. Be sure to water it and take good care of it while also paying attention to your goals.
If you are planing to make a special dinner for the Sabbat, try to choose foods that are currently in season in your area. In Southern Ontario that would be items like apples, cabbage, carrots, greenhouse cucumber and lettuce, cooking onions, parsnips, mushrooms, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, greenhouse peppers in all colours, bean and alfalfa sprouts, squash, and greenhouse tomatoes. Look for the Foodland Ontario signs when buying your produce. (Produce Availability in Ontario)