While there is a goddess named Ostara, there is
also a holiday. This article is about the holiday,
versus the deity. (To learn more about the being
Ostara, please follow this link.)
Before we get to what Ostara is, I would like to talk about Easter. "What, Easter?" you may ask, "On a heathen site?" Why yes! I think it is interesting, and important to discuss this! Does Easter sound familiar? (Besides it just being a Christian holiday?) Yes? Well it should! Everything about Easter, save the ressurection of Jesus Christ part, was taken from Heathenry. (As were most, if not all Christian holidays). Even the name! Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon name Eostre (See the similarities?).
Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.
Ostara is celebrated on the spring equinox around March 21. This feast marks the beginning of the summer half of the year. It is a celebration of fertility and was known as a fire festival (fire used to represent the sun). It is named after the goddess Ostara (Anglo-Saxon Eostre), who was such an integral part of heathen Germanic culture that the Christians stole and absorbed it as their own spring feast which was adapted for the Paschal holiday, and was converted to the Christian Easter. This was all done to get more heathens to convert to their Christian beliefs. Her name is related to the Germanic words for "east" and "glory"; she was the embodiment of the springtime and the renewal of life.
At the equinox, the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west. In the northern hemisphere, before Ostara, the sun rises and sets more and more to the south, and afterwards, it rises and sets more and more to the north.
Spring equinox is the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. The holiday is a celebration the rejuvenation of the Earth, fertility and growth. Traditional decorations include budding boughs, flowers, decorated eggs and the Rabbit motif. Mating season starts early in the spring especially for rabbits and birds. Male hares could be seen jumping around wildly and acting crazy. This is where the phrase “Crazy as a March hare” comes from.
Heathen folk customs associated especially with Ostara's feast include the painting and hunting of Easter eggs, which, according to German tradition, were brought or laid by the 'Easter Hare'. The Hare was the holy beast of Ostara, slain and eaten only at her blessing. In Germany, bakeries sell hare-shaped cakes at this time of year. Fires were also kindled on the hilltops at dawn, especially in Germany. Another common folk-custom which still survives in rural areas is the performance of plays at which Summer battles with Winter and drives him out, or at which an effigy embodying Winter is beaten, burned, or drowned.
Today, Ostara is seen as the feast to awakening the Earth, the gods and goddesses, and the human soul. Life becomes brighter and more joyful after the Ostara feast has been rightly held.
As a quick summary: "The Festival of Ostara (Eostre),
the Spring Goddess. This is a festival of renewal,
rejoicing and fertility, although for most of the
Northern People, the forces of Winter are still at
full sway. In ancient times, the gift of colored eggs
to one’s friends and loved ones was a way of wishing
them well for the coming season; a magical ritual of
prosperity and fecundity. The rabbit was the symbol
of this festival as well because of it’s re-emergence
during this season, and for its reproductive ability.
These two rituals have survived into the modern holiday of Easter (which derives its name from Eostre) as Easter eggs and the Easter bunny. Like most ancient heathen rituals, they are relegated into the world of children; held for naught among adults; but the race memory lingers on."
Hail Ostara! Hail the Holy Powers of rebirth and fertility! May your Ostara celebrations, however you go about them go well! Hail!