Welcome, welcome to the Ostara episode! I love doing sabbat episodes; they’re my favorite. Sabbats are just the funnest part of being a witch. And the Spring Equinox, or Ostara, is always such a breath of fresh air because it’s the first day of spring, it’s the first major Sabbat after Yule, and the symbolism is so gorgeous and fresh and lovely. The Spring Equinox, just like the Autumn Equinox, marks the day the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are equal length. This is the day when we are officially on the other side of winter, the days from here forward grow longer, the weather gets warmer, the grass gets greener, we can begin to work our gardens. It’s just such a revitalizing time.
And, on certain years, like this year, we get to prolong the Ostara fun, because there is a good couple weeks between Ostara proper and the Christian Easter. In case you didn’t know, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Which, I mean, tell me again how Easter is not a total repackaged pagan holiday. But, regardless, we are going to have a full moon tomorrow, which is only a couple days before the equinox, so the first full moon after the equinox won’t be for another four weeks. And then the Sunday after THAT will be Easter. So we get all these beautiful pink and green and yellow decorations and the chocolate eggs and bunnies for a good long time.
Pagans have celebrated the spring equinox farther back than we even have records for, it was one of the most important celebrations of the year, as it ushered out the cold, bleak, hungry days of winter and ushered in warmer weather, new life, and the coming of the agricultural season. It’s only been in more recent times that neopagans have begun to call it Ostara, and there is a tenuous connection to a Germanic spring goddess called Ostara who according to some sources transformed a bird into a hare which then laid colored eggs for her festival. There are differing opinions about whether this story is the actual source for the Easter Bunny, but in any event, for our purposes the two terms are going to be used interchangeably.
But there are plenty of deities associated with Spring and the Spring Equinox and we can dedicate altars or rituals to any or all of them. The Green Man is a male embodiment of spring and rebirth. He is typically depicted as a man’s face peeking through foliage, and commonly, the foliage is actually a part of his face, especially his beard. Although in modern times, we usually associate him with Celtic Paganism, which is fair because he was and is a very important figure in pagan tradition, there are also instances of Green Man symbolism going as far back as the 2nd century in Lebanon and Iraq, and in fact the Egyptian god Osiris, whose name means Green One, is frequently depicted with a green face, and is the god of fertility, agriculture, rebirth, and vegetation.
Pan and Adonis also come to mind, oh and Odin. Pan and Adonis are Greek, Pan is the god of cattle and male sexuality and fertility, Adonis is the god of vegetation and rebirth. And Odin of course is Norse and he was sort of the supreme god in general. But was traditionally celebrated at the equinox.
And there are of course, dozens and dozens of goddesses associated with Spring. I will run through some of them here that you may want to pay tribute to in your own Ostara celebrations. The actual goddess Ostara, I think, deserves mentioning here. Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love, beauty and pleasure, Demeter, Greek goddess of grain and the fruitfulness of the earth, Artemis, also Greek, goddess of fertility, animals and patron of young girls (or maidens), Persephone Greek goddess of spring, agriculture, innocence and youth, Gaia the goddess mother earth herself, Isis Egyptian goddess of the earth and patron of wives and mothers, Ishtar the Babylonian mother goddess of spring, fertility, love and fate, Hera, Venus, Athena, Diana, Juno, Minerva, Vesta like there are so many goddesses associated with renewal and rebirth and cycles of life. I kind of love it.
So now that we’ve got an idea of which deities we might be inviting to our Spring celebration, let’s get into the dirty work of actually setting the stage to invite all that beautiful Ostara energy in. I think it’s important to get the not-so-fun ritual out of the way first, and it is in my opinion the best way to sort of create space for any other Spring or Ostara rituals you might enjoy. And that is of course, spring cleaning. It is really important and it does help to set the mood, to clear away all the dust, the debris, and make space both physically and spiritually for new energy to come in. And it can also be cathartic for us as well. Letting go of old crap that’s been sitting around taking up space and gathering dust is good for mental health.
So, first things first, open windows, light some incense, put on some music, and clean your space from top to bottom. Get those cobwebs out of the corners, change the A/C filters, donate all the stuff in your Goodwill pile, even rearrange your furniture. Clear off your altar and give that a good dusting as well. Clean out your garden, the flower beds, I know a gal who lives up in the mountains about an hour north of us, who buys a fat bag of native wildflower seeds every year and anytime she’s driving into town, she just tosses handfuls out the window onto the side of the road like Johnny Appleseed, and you know what? There are tons of poppies and feverfews, Indian paintbrush, yarrow, mountain flox and all of these flowers support pollinators and they are beautiful and it’s a really great gesture to spring and to the goddess.
Now there are a lot of traditional Ostara activities like dying eggs and there are a lot of natural dyes that are fun to experiment with, like red onion skins, yellow onion skins, turmeric, red wine, red cabbage, spinach, beets, you can make all kinds of really beautiful natural colors using these methods, although it must be said that little kids really prefer the brighter colors that come from the store bought kits. But that’s fine, they don’t start appreciating the more natural dyes until they’re older.
And if you’re dying eggs, then you’ve got to have an egg hunt for the little ones and we still do this in my family even though my kids are all in their very late teens. Nowadays they help hide the eggs for the littler kids to find and of course we get a bunch of confetti eggs and have a big old egg throwing battle and by the end of it we’ve all got confetti in our hair and it’s all over the yard and we are all exhausted but it’s fun. It’s a celebration.
Ostara isn’t one of the fire festivals, but that doesn’t stop me from making a fire in the fire pit and burning some cedar, some sage, some rosemary, and some frankincense later in the evening. This is a good time to throw any intentions in the flames as well to be carried out to the universe. Leaving some cut flowers on the altar for the Green Man or the Goddess is a lovely way to mark the season. Light some candles
I also like to make a new batch of Florida Water in the spring. It’s not necessarily a Spring custom per se, but it just seems like a good time for it. Florida water is used for all kinds of reasons, like for protection magic or for cleansing. I will use it in protection spells and potions, I keep some in a spray bottle for cleansing spaces when the energy feels bad and especially in spaces where it isn’t safe or permitted to burn incense or candles, I will dab some on a finger to trace protection sigils onto windows and doors, and I even wear it as a perfume that doubles as an energetic barrier against nasty vibes.. Basically the imagination is the only limit. It’s used in many traditions as well, especially the syncretic practices like Hoodoo, Voodoo and Santeria, and also in American Southern Folk Magic, which is my tradition.
I will use all kinds of herbs, plant materials, and spices depending on what I have on hand, but my go-to recipe uses rosemary, juniper berries, whole cloves, cedar, sweetgrass, lavender, rose petals, orange peel, mint, and basil. I throw all those ingredients in a big mason jar and then fill it with cheap, bottom shelf vodka. Put a lid on it and stick it in a cupboard for 4 weeks or so. Just give it a good shake every day or two. Once it’s good and steeped, it takes on a nice color like strong tea and it smells really herbal and fresh, then I just strain everything out and keep the liquid. I like to strain it twice, once with a colander to get the big bits out, and then once again through a coffee filter to get the little bits out. Then you can put it in smaller bottles and use it as needed.
The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Chocolate Bunny and I will post a link to the ritual as it was originally written and created. The ritual itself uses colored jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps and a chocolate bunny to pay homage to the colors and symbols of Ostara. You can take all kinds of liberties in the verbiage and the sorts of candy you use according to your preference and to the ages of the children who may be participating, but the ritual itself is a lot of fun and it’s a breath of fresh air to the stodgy, guilt-ridden religious Easter practices. The short version is this:
You pass out jelly beans, marshmallow peeps, and a chocolate bunny to each participant. And the ritual has a little script that you can print out and customize but you basically pay tribute to the spirit of spring and like, you’ll express gratitude for the warmth of the sun, and eat the yellow jelly beans, then gratitude for the flowers and eat the pink jelly beans, and the fresh new grass and eat the green jelly beans, and so on. Then you’ll express gratitude for the new life that appears in the spring and eat your Peeps, and finally you’ll honor the Great Chocolate Rabbit as the ultimate symbol of the season and eat him. I really should have just printed the ritual out to read, but I didn’t, so I do apologize because I will have gotten a lot of that wrong, but the spirit of the ritual is basically as I said. Anyway, you can see why kids love it.
And it wouldn’t be a pagan party without spirits, would it? I have a book called Blackthorn’s Botanical Brews: Herbal Potions, Magical Teas, and Spirited Libations by Amy Blackthorn that is so cool, it’s just a big recipe book for drinks and it’s got all the correspondences and explanations for different magical properties. And there’s a recipe for lavender simple syrup that you can modify to use in all kinds of drinks, even non-alcoholic drinks and one of my favorite uses for it that’s perfect for Ostara is lavender lemonade. To make the syrup you boil 2 cups of water, turn the heat off and stir in 2 cups of sugar until it dissolves, and then her recipe calls for 2tsp of dried lavender buds, but I use about a ¼ cup because I really want that herbal quality to come through.
Anyway, stir in the lavender flowers and leave it to steep until the whole mixture comes to room temperature. Then strain the flowers out and put your syrup in a jar and keep it in the fridge. It’ll last for a couple weeks that way. And you can add it to lemonade, just a tablespoon or so of the syrup to your own taste, and you can also use it to make other drinks. I substitute it for plain simple syrup in a Tom Collins which is my favorite drink. You can add it to tea as well, hot or cold.
And you can use that method to make all kinds of infused simple syrups. Just make sure the flowers or plants you’re using are food grade, and you can make rose syrup, chamomile syrup, calendula syrup, rosemary syrup, whatever flowers or plants you like that align with your intentions and which are safe to consume, can be processed in this way. And then of course, if you’re baking something like a cake for Ostara, it can be decorated with edible flowers. Just be very sure that you know where the flowers have come from and you’re confident that they haven’t been treated with pesticides. If you’ve grown them yourself, even better.
Edible flowers include but are not limited to begonia, calendula, carnations, chrysanthemums, clover blossoms, cornflower, dandelion, day lily, fuschia, gladiola, hibiscus, Johnny jump-ups, lilac, marigold, nasturtiums, pansy, phlox, roses, snapdragons, sunflowers, and violets. Obviously please take care that you don’t use anything you’re allergic to, and you don’t necessarily need to eat the flowers, but you can. And fresh flowers on cakes are so beautiful. I used to be a cake decorator back in the day, and anytime I could use fresh flowers, I did. It adds such a delicate look, and depending on the flowers you use and how you arrange them, it can be either really elegant or really boho. Either way, it’s very cottagecore, very Practical Magic aesthetic. And I have been like a zombie on Pinterest this past week, just looking at ideas for all this stuff and sorry not sorry, but I have been posting a lot of my favorites. I just love this stuff.
And finally, we talked a lot about the Maiden in the Imbolc episode, and that’s totally apt, but Ostara is definitely a Maiden sabbat. Maiden energy is just bursting forth around us. And even for those of us who are chronologically past the Maiden season, there’s still a lot for us to learn. Because the triple goddess, the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, are not archetypes for only those stages in life. The triple goddess represents cycles. And we can be in our forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond, and be in a Maiden season.
If we are in the process of learning something new, if we are in a new relationship, if we’ve recently made a breakthrough in therapy, if something has happened in our lives that has turned our worldview upside down, any of these circumstances and more, during these times, we can look to the Maiden to support us and walk with us along these unfamiliar roads. I have leaned on the Maiden for support while I’ve navigated starting a podcast, and it has really helped me while I’m dealing with all my insecurities and uncertainties and honestly my fears as well, to be able to take solace and find strength knowing that the Maiden is beside me. And this is not limited to gender either; no matter who you are, if you find yourself in need of the Maiden’s strength, her optimism, her positivity, her fearlessness, her innocence, she is there. She can and will support you when you need her.
And that’s the beauty and the wisdom of the triple goddess. We are never too old or too young or too male for her. So please also consider during this Ostara whether you may want to petition her for help, or even to start something new using the fresh vitality of this season. Because when we celebrate sabbats, we really ride the energy of the season that we are celebrating to propel us forward or to help us more intimately understand the phase that we are in at a given time. Anyway, that’s how I tend to think of it. And as always, please DM me or email me with pictures of your celebrations at firstname.lastname@example.org or a @middleagedwitch. And if I don’t hear from you, then we will talk again next week when we do part 2 of the Birth Chart series and talk about Moon Signs. Until then, my name is Eli, and this has been the MIddle Aged Witch podcast.
Botanical Brews: Herbal Potions, Magical Teas, and Spirited Libations by Amy Blackthorn