Who is the Goddesses of the Spring Equinox?
One goddess most commonly associated with spring is Ostara or Eastra. She is the great Goddess of Northern Europe who ushers in the spring and dawn. (You can see where the Christian modern holiday of Easter got its name! ) Long before the celebration of the resurrection, Spring Equinox was celebrated with festivals in honour of Ostara or Eastra. The word East is related to her name as it is in the east that the dawn’s light arises and the female hormone, estrogen is named for her.
Ostara is usually depicted wearing white with wreaths of flowers or new greenery adorning her body as she dances joyously. However, like spring weather itself her mood can change suddenly solemn. She is the first warm spring winds, the birds that return from their winter retreats, the budding trees and fresh spring herbs and flowers. You can see her presence as the earth comes to life especially through the symbols of rabbits and eggs, both thought to be sacred to her, that appear after the long, dark winter.
During the Ostara sunrise celebrations were centered around growth and renewal and prayers were said to her in order to assure abundant crops. Eggs were eaten and exchanged as talismans. It has been recorded that in early times during the festival holy water in the form of dew, or water collected from brooks, was gathered and those who washed with it were said to have their youth restored.
Why the egg and rabbit?
Spring Equinox is a time of fertility everywhere so it is not surprising that nature gets a bit busy this time of year. The rabbits, which are well known for their ability to reproduce, are often associated with the fertility magic and sexual energy. Did you know that the female of European March Hare can conceive a second litter while she is still pregnant with a first? And if the male hare tends to get extremely frustrated if rebuffed by their mates and bounce all around erratically when discouraged from having sex…thus the saying, “mad as a March Hare.” A side note about the rabbit is its association with being messengers of the underworld due to their constant coming and going in and out of the earth. If you are taking a journey to the underworld in meditation, call upon the rabbit to be your guide. Rabbits are also a totem associated with the moon because they hide away underground during the day and come out at night.
Eggs were especially important because during the shorter days of winter chickens do not lay eggs if they are kept in natural light. The return of this rich protein was cause for celebration!
The following is story about the hare and the egg which you will want to repeat! It is taken from The Goddess and The Green Man website.
Let us tell you a traditional story from the West Country...
Once upon a time the Animal Kingdom gathered together for a meeting in a flurry of great excitement. There was to be a Very Special Party and a Very Special Guest was coming to visit them. The Very Special Guest was none other than the Goddess herself, and every creature wanted to give her a Very Special Gift.
Now some of the animals were very rich and some were very poor but off they went to prepare their gifts, for only the very best would do for the Goddess. Hare was very excited, he dearly loved the Goddess and although he was very poor he had a big generous heart - he was going to give her the very finest gift he could find!
Hare rushed home to see what he could find to give to the Goddess - he looked everywhere, in the cupboards and under the bed but there was nothing, even the larder was empty, he had absolutely nothing to give Her, except for one thing. On the shelf in the larder was a single egg. And that was it. It was the only thing he had left. Hare gently took the egg out of the larder and lovingly decorated it and took it to the party.
Hare was very worried, all the other animals gave their gifts of gold and silver and precious jewels and all Hare had was the egg. Eventually all the gifts had been given and Hare was the very last. Hare very shyly presented the Goddess with the egg. She took it and looked at him and saw the true spirit of Hare. And there and then the Goddess appointed Hare as her Very Special Animal - because Hare had given away everything he had.