Ostara The Vernal, or Spring, Equinox Northern Hemisphere

The Equinoxes, Vernal and Autumnal, are the moments of balance in the Solar year; the moments of balance in the relationship that the Earth has to the Sun; the moments of balance between day and night. That balance is the moment when a new reality comes into focus. However, balance is often not achieved easily, whether in the Cosmic relationship or in real life. The more resistant the old reality is to the change, then the more chaotic and violent the change will be. The scales of balance can swing gently, or swing wildly, depending on how hard the old reality hangs onto its place.

Watch weather patterns during the month of March as Winter truly begins to give way to Spring. The jet streams go into motion with the northern jet stream being force north by the southern jet stream. Warm air begins to move north, forcing the cold air to move north as well. If the cold air masses are stronger than the warm air masses, then storms begin to develop in the air that affects those of us here on the surface. The greater the conflict between Winter’s reality and Spring’s attempt to create a new reality, then the greater and more fierce the storms. Here in North America we have the most tornadoes of any other place on Earth. The action between those air masses creates an area called Tornado Alley in the mid-section of the continent. Spring, and to a lesser degree Autumn, can be very active with storms and tornadoes. That activity can be extremely violent, even destructive and fatal to some. And all because Spring is trying to assert its reality and create a space for new plants and agriculture, a new reality is taking shape in that garden.

Spring arrives and a new reality can begin, but not without some chaos in the creation. It is always tempting to hang on to the old reality, so any new reality has to work hard to come into being. Most people hate change and so there must be some destruction to make room for the new reality. Look back at the weather patterns. This is a time of great movement and change, even in the atmosphere. The new life can not come into being without clearing the ground of the old vegetation. The harder the soil, the more chaos will accompany the tilling of the ground.

Winter turning into Spring has always been an incredibly important time for agriculture, and when everyone was an agriculturist it was celebrated by all peoples. The Hindu world celebrates the coming of Spring as Holi, the festival of colors or the festival of love. The Persian holiday of Nowruz is celebrated in several countries where there is a large Persian population, Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the Kurds in both Turkey and Iraq. The word Nowruz is the Persian word for “New Day” and in these cultures this is seen as the beginning of the new year. The dominant religion of these countries may be Islam, but their Persian history shows up when it is time to celebrate the coming of Spring.

Most likely the best known story of the return of Spring is the Greek story of Demeter, the Mother, and her daughter, Persephone, or Kore. The Romans called them Ceres and Proserpina, but it is the same story. It was such a common theme that it also showed up for the peoples of Russia. Kostroma was a fertility goddess and personification of Spring.  She died at the end of each Spring, only to arise once more at the end of the following winter.

Go further back in time, to the Fertile Crescent, and you find Spring celebrated in many ways. These were the people who discovered domestication of plants and animals, and invented agriculture. So, to them, the deities involved were still pretty close to them. One of the oldest is the Sumerian goddess Inanna, whose husband was Dumuzi. Their story is similar to Demeter and Persephone’s, except in the Sumerian version it is Dumuzi who is taken to the Underworld and is saved by Inanna. Their return to the Upper World begins a whole new reality, along with Spring. The story was retold by the Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians. They called the goddess Ishtar and her husband was Tammuz, but like the Greeks and Romans, the story is the same.

All of the cultures of the World had their own Spring deities. A Goddess of Spring and Agriculture in Eastern Europe was Dziewanna. She was especially honoured by local farmers. Lada was a goddess of Spring and love. She was worshipped throughout Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Then there was Jarilo, a Slavic god of vegetation, fertility, spring, war, and harvest. War and love were often aspects of Spring deities, sometimes in the same deity. Those may seem antithetical abilities, but they were not. Love leads to fertility, and the campaigns of war were often launched in the Spring to ensure the actual war would be finished and the soldiers were home by the time Winter began. What was the most common reason for war? More land for farming.

The Romans had control of most of Western Europe by the time of Christ. Prior to that time the Celts were various groups who inhabited most of northwestern Europe. They, like everyone else at that time, depended on agriculture to survive, so they, too had quite a few Spring deities that had to be placated. The Celts of France worshipped a horned god called Cernunnos. Cernunnos was associated with horned male animals, produce, and fertility. He was so popular that Celtic groups all over northwestern Europe were worshipping him by the time the Romans took the region. The French Celts also celebrated the Spring rites with Nantosuelta, a goddess of nature, the earth, fire, and fertility. The Celts who became the Welsh people had a couple of Spring deities, too. Blodewedd was a Spring goddess created by magic from nine spring flowers. Blodewedd was created to be the wife of the god Llew Llaw. Olwen was a goddess of sunlight. She had a particularly lovely habit of appearing every Spring and leaving behind her a trail of white clover wherever she walked.

The Teutonic peoples who would become the Germans worshipped Freya. Freya was in charge of many things, but she was also a fertility goddess linked with spring growth and flowers. These people also worshipped Ostara. Ostara was the goddess of Spring, fertility, and rebirth.  Painted eggs and white rabbits are Her sacred symbols. Those symbols have been incorporated into the Christian celebration of Easter. Ostara went by another name, Eostre, which is the namesake of the festival of Easter. Pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons had held feasts in Eostre’s honor during the Spring rites. Rabbits and eggs, symbols of fertility, were in much evidence at these rites.

The Western world was not the only place where Spring meant it was time to plant and celebrate. The Chinese told the story of the Twelve Deities of Flowers: Qu Yuan, God of the OrchidLin Bu; God of the Plum Blossom; Pi Rixui, God of the Peach Blossom; Ouyang Xiu, God of the Peony; Su Dongpo, God of the Peony; Jiang Yan, God of the Pomegranate; Zhou Dunyi, God of the Lotus; Yan Wanli, God of the Crepe Myrtle Flower; Fan Cheng, God of the Hibiscus; Tao Qian, God of the Chrysanthemum; Gao Sisun, God of the Paperwhite; and Hong Shi, God of the Osmanthus, which includes olive, jasmine, and lilac.

The Japanese honored two goddesses. Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hime was associated with the Springtime and cherry blossom. Her name means “Lady who makes the trees bloom.”  She is also Goddess of the sacred site Mount Fuji. She was a symbol of delicate earthly life. There was also Rafu-Sen, the goddess of plum blossoms.

The natives of the New World, prior to European contact, also knew that Spring was an important time, so they had their deities, as well. The Aztec honored Xochipilli, god of art, games, beauty, dance, flowers, song, and maize. Maize was their most important crop. The goddess of fertility was Xochiquetzal. She was also the goddess of fertility, beauty, female sexual power, protection of young mothers, of pregnancy, childbirth, vegetation, flowers, and the crafts of women. Finally there is Hare Ke from the peoples of West Africa. Hare Ke was the goddess of the sweet waters fed by the spring rains that brought fertility back to the land.

If you think we’re removed from agriculture, you are wrong. Until the second half of the 20th century and rise of industrial agriculture, we were all dependent of the deities of Spring to make sure that the harvest of the Autumn could feed us through the Winter. Spring is usually celebrated sometime around the first Full Moon in March or April. That first Full Moon is the astronomically indicator that the time of frost is over and planting can begin. The primary theme of Spring is rebirth. The world has been quiet, seemingly dead, and then the weather gets warmer and the plants come back. Animals, and humans, begin to mate. New life is created all around the Earth, rebirth.

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