In Spring, when the snow begins to melt, new life bursts into existence, and eager flowers straighten their curved stems to stretch towards the warming sun. Fairies float about the air and…ah…ah-choo!
Those weren’t fairies. That was pollen floating about the air. New life springs forward, and the first cup of nettle tea is poured- relieving those nasty seasonal allergies. This Sabbat is the most colorful on the Wheel of the Year. Seedlings nourished by the churning and nurturing soil burst from the ground, vivid and delicate as they are but infants. This season is for ducklings, morning doves, and chics to hatch. Creatures of the forest are introduced to the babies birthed after Imbolc to the sun.
Meanwhile, we humans embrace the return of the sun. Rainy grey mornings lead to sunny with patchy cloud afternoons, and spritely green trees, meadows, and even the off-shoulder freeways are decorated with various colors of wildflowers.
As I drive along with the windows down, admiring the balanced air purposely playing Chelsea Wolfe’s Green Altar, I contemplate the many ways Spring is celebrated. As an aspiring green witch, I look forward to studying the mushrooms that I intend to forage and the first sips of iced herbal tea while preparing the soil for my late spring planting of herbs. I smile at the approaching return of the Vancouver Farmers Market and the potted plants and flowers and ah… ah…ah…AH-CHOO.
As I pull into my garage, my nose is leaking in anticipation of the Queen Anne’s lace and Dandelions that will beautifully dance about the breezes. As beautiful as it is, Springtime is also the start of my seasonal allergies. Thankfully, I have some great herbal tea specific to my raging histamine issues and prescription-grade Benadryl for extreme allergies and the anxiety of having to discern if they are allergies or covid.
I resort to the Benadryl and tuck in for a good night’s sleep.
As I drift off, I picture myself as the goddess of spring. They’ve called her Eostre which Easter was derived. Oh, Pagan lore. How beautiful and psychedelic it is. I, as Eostre, awakening after a long winter's sleep, dance under the warm sun in a meadow of wildflowers when I happen upon an injured bird. Its eyes widen in fear as I approach it with open hands. I manifest a golden ball of healing energy to place the bird in, but the mushrooms I found and subsequently ate once I left my underground burrow, were making my stomach feel…off. I belched, and the bird turned into a hare. Healed and now even more mistrusting of me, the hare scampered off faster than I could catch it.
Later that Spring, I had heard whisperings of a hare with the ability to lay eggs that had lost its mind and began telling everyone in the forest that he intended to decorate the eggs to lure the goddess of Spring to it. Thinking the colorful eggs were a gift, Eostre wouldn’t be able to resist them, and the hare would then trap Eostre until she changed him back into a bird.
But, Eostre was wise and capitalized on the hare that could lay eggs plight by spreading rumors that he was a sweet bunny that would leave gifts and poop jelly beans for children in and out of the forest. The children would color eggs as an offering to the Easter Bunny.
Humiliated, the Bunny embraced the role and forgot he was ever a bird after thousands of turns of the wheel.
That “Drink Me” moment was my Alice in Underland-inspired rendition of the origins of Ostara. While it’s a loose illusion, the truth is that Ostara has been observed in many ways throughout the world. The coming of spring on either hemisphere is a welcome sign. The birth of light warmth is a comfortable season despite allergies.
The indigenous people of Central America, The Mayans, celebrate “The Return of the Sun Serpent.” At sundown on the day of the equinox, the last of the sunlight would bathe the western face of El Castillo; the ceremonial pyramid would give the illusion of a gem-backed snake winding down the side.
A regime of Persian kings, the Achaemenians celebrated what we witches refer to as Ostara with a festival called No Ruz, “new day.”
Witches like me and you, the intuitive reader, may or may not know that Ostara, as we honor it, isn’t as ancient of a Sabbat as you would imagine. Its mysteriousness has led to historians and witches would have to choose to believe if Ostara was derived from the myth of Eostre or if she existed, as Germanic historians have suggested.
Is there a more perfect place to gather for an Ostara altar, with plenty of places to do each meditation, than Vancouver, Washington and the areas just surrounding it? Don’t answer that unless you’ve witnessed how the ponds turn blue and the chamomile flowers bloom in clusters in the grass on the waterfront. When the Vancouver Farmers Market returns to Esther Short Park and the proof that spring is here when you bite into Black Alchemy’s seasonal tarts and when Dandelion Tea House reveals their tea blend for Ostara.
The mystery of the exact origin of Ostara is exciting because any witch who honors the season can write their ritual to honor Eostre by decorating their altar with lemons, fresh tulips, and various seeds from the market statues and candles and oils and herbs from witches all over the city. And speaking of herbs, how wonderful and representative of the balance of the season by offering a particular witch a potion from the herbs of last spring as a cure for their allergies from this spring.