excerpted from Sacred Ceremony by Dr. Steven Farmer
The spring or Vernal Equinox is the time of year when the sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s equator, and day and night are of equal length across the entire planet. Now there’s increasing evidence that the season that was begun on February 1 is blooming much more fully. Since winter is clearly over, now crops can be sown without reservation. Mother Earth is pregnant, and plants and animals are being born everywhere. A belief amongst some Native American peoples is that during this time one must walk very carefully on the Earth because she is swollen and pregnant.
Another name for this seasonal quarter-day is Ostara, also called Oestre or Eostar. An ancient image of Ostara was of a Goddess standing amid the flowers of Spring, holding an egg in one hand, with birds flying all about her and a rabbit hopping around her feet. All of these images appear today during the seasonal festivities as symbols of newborn life. Ostara is also a Northern European name for Astarte, which means “womb,” and is another name for Venus, the Goddess of love, passion, and creativity. It was also known as “Lady Day,” or Eostre, which took place on the first full moon after the Vernal equinox.
Easter, named after this festival, is one of the Christian Church’s “moveable feasts.” It falls near this time, and is calculated by a combination of celestial events and the Gregorian calendar. It occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the equinox, and is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, his triumph over death. Prior to this holiday, members of the Catholic Church prepare with a period of meditation and sacrifice, known as Lent. In its archetypal form, the festival of Ostara is the resurrection of the Light, the triumph of the Sun over winter.
So this festival is the time of renewal and rebirth, of saying a clear and definite farewell to the hibernation that was a central theme of winter and welcoming the increasing light. We notice the obvious signs on the face of the Earth, and as well feel them inside us. Often we start to feel a familiar feeling of restlessness, which sometimes has been called “Spring fever,” especially if your work requires you to be inside for long periods of time. It’s nature’s call to be outside, to renew, to be active and creatively expressive. You’ll find you want to sleep less and feel the urge to get up at dawn to enjoy the day.
Commemorating Spring Equinox–Get outdoors! That’s the simplest and best way to honor this season. Do so as often as you can. Decorate your altar and your home with flowers, colored eggs, and anything else that reminds you of spring.
Planting now, more than at any other time, becomes a way to connect with the earth and with the season. Again, although we think of this time as the beginning of spring, it really is mid-spring. Create a ceremony around the planting. Pray, meditate, and communicate with the earth spirits (or if you prefer, the faeries and plant devas), and ask their help in growing your flowers or your vegetables. Plant a tree, whether in your own back yard or somewhere in the woods. Toss the seeds from any fruit or vegetables you eat, along the roadside, in your backyard, or anywhere this would be appropriate and environmentally compatible.
Letting go of the old and unwanted is also a theme, also known as “spring housecleaning.” Ideally, if you can find an old oak tree near a stream, act out a ceremony of release and renewal. At this season, this is clearly representational of what Mother Nature is doing. She has cleared out winter, and is now birthing anew. Create the ceremony around this theme. Use a biodegradable symbol of the old, and bury it. Find a symbol, something from the natural world, which represents what is showing the buds of manifestation at this time. Visualize what is growing within you and write it out in your journal.
This is one of the best seasonal holidays to do an Earth Renewal Ceremony. It’s a remarkable community event, so persuade some of your friends and family to join in.
Get out at night, somewhere away from city lights, and look at the stars. Learn about some of the springtime constellations, and the movement of the planets. Soak in the nighttime coolness that tells you it’s not yet summer. The next seasonal celebration is the one that will herald the beginning of summer.