Vernal Equinox – The Spring Equinox

(Northern Hemisphere March 21st: Southern Hemisphere September 21st)

Every year the pagan Goddess comes to relieve us of the harsh winter.

Ostara is the Pagan celebration of the Vernal (Spring) Equinox.  This is the day when spring begins, according to the solar calendar.  The daytime and the nighttime are of equal length, hence the name “Equinox.”

This is a time for beginnings! The Goddess frees herself from the winter cold and is ready to seed the earth, and the God awakens as a young eager youth!

On the LHP, “Easter” evolved from Astaroth. Originally known as “Ashtar.” Perhaps you should modify the ritual below to dedicate this time to her! This holiday coincides with the Vernal Equinox of spring when day and night are of equal length. Known as “Eastre” to the Anglo- Saxons. As the Goddess of fertility, Astaroth was associated with rabbits and eggs.

There are a variety of gods and goddesses that originate from Egypt and Western Asia that can also be drawn upon when celebrating this time of year. Osiris, Adonis, Tammuz, Attis and their consorts Isis, Aphrodite, Ishtar and Cybele are all deities from these regions that are familiar to many Witches.

The above gods are all sacrificial vegetation deities that represent the yearly cycle of decay and revival, which they show through their death and resurrection.

The goddesses, on the other hand, are really representative of one Great Maternal deity.The rites of spring in a variety of Western Asian cultures seem to have incorporated the common themes of the sacrifice of a god-figure and the sanctified mating (and sometimes prostitution) of women with a variety of lovers.

Some of these events could be decidedly bloody. There was a myth that Attis killed himself by impaling his genitals upon a pine-tree. In Phrygia during the celebrations of his death and resurrection those who were his priests would self- castrate when entering the service of Cybele his lover/mother. Later, when the goddess was adopted by the Romans, the rites of Attis (March the 22nd-24th) became increasingly orgiastic over the ceremonial period, culminating in the Days of Blood where it appears that the priests would mutilate their genitals and bash them against an image of Cybele. This giving up of masculinity seems to have identified the priests with the fate of the god, as well as somehow having been a way of ensuring that the goddess was impregnated with life-giving energy. This perhaps explains why other goddesses such as Artemis of Ephesus and Astarte of Hierapolis were served by eunuchs.

Whilst the extremes of these rituals saw men castrated in the name of a goddess, women seem to have given up their bodies. For example, in Cyprus they were required to prostitute themselves to strangers at the sanctuary of the goddess Aphrodite or Astarte before marriage. In Babylon, regardless of whether a woman was rich or poor, she had to sell herself at least once at the temple of Ishtar and give her earnings to the service of the goddess. Similar practices also took place at Heliopolis and Baalbec in Syria, whilst at Byblus women were given the choice of shaving off all their hair or having sex with unknown men during the mourning period for Adonis. Not always was this sex with strangers, sometimes priestesses would couple with monarchs of city-states in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, as happened in the Sumerian temple of the goddess Inanna. Both participants would have believed that through their union fertility was ensured for themselves, their people and their country. Apparently men and women throughout the realm would try for a baby at the same time, in the hope that there would be winter births when people were away from working on the land.

Through this device the populace was then more able to give attention to their offspring during what would have been a very dangerous stage of life.

Practices such as these were believed to ensure that plants and animals could be aided to reproduce, for these unions on Earth would somehow stimulate the goddesses and gods to mate as well. At root sympathetic magic was being worked.

wheelA Ritual Celebrate Ostara

In the Gardnerian Book of Shadows it states that during the ritual of the spring equinox “The symbol of the wheel should be placed on the altar upright, decked with flowers, flanked with burning candles” . This suggests a link with the solstice fire festivals, where the burning of a wheel that was set in motion down a hill-side was common place.

Another feature, often borrowed from the same work, is the High Priestess’s carrying of a phallic or pinecone-tipped wand, used to emphasize fertility, as well as her ultimate power over masculine forces that must be excited by her if the land is to be fertilized.