Muin Light: Spring Equinox, C.E. 1995

Eostre, or Ostara is the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring who has given her name to the Spring festival, Easter. A Teutonic variant of Ishtar and Astarte, and ultimately Isis, the original feast of Eostre was celebrated in the Pagan calendar at the Vernal Equinox. Her sacred month was the third lunar month, the Moon of Eostre, which corresponds to the period from mid-February to mid-March solar; it is also called the Month of the Greening of the Earth. In addition to "Easter", this Goddess name is also the source of the word "estrus"- the restricted, recurring period of sexual receptivity in the female mammals. Sexton poets apparently identified with India's Great Mother Kali-Ma. Beowolf speaks of "Ganges" waters, whose flood waves ride down into an unknown sea near Eostre's far home."

The Easter Bunny is much older than Christianity. It is the lunar hare, sacred to the Moon Goddess in both the Orient and in western countries. In China, people gazing at the full moon see in it's shadows the image of the lovely young Goddess Chang-O, holding her pet hare in her arms. In Japan, the people say that the lunar hare constantly crops the grass on the moon's surface, cleaning it so that the moon shines white and not green. In the West, the hare, like the cat, was a common Witch's familiar; and Witches were said to have the power to turn themselves into hares. Irish peasants, to this day, observe the matriarchal taboo on hare meat, saying that to eat a hare is to eat one's grandmother. The Celtic warrior-queen Boadicea of early Britain had on her banners the device of the lunar hare. In Germany, the people recalled the myths of the Moon Goddess Hathor-Astarte who laid the Golden Egg of the Sun, and children were told that, if they were good, the hare would lay eggs for them on Easter Eve.

Like all the church's "movable feasts", Easter shows it's Pagan roots in a dating system based on the old lunar calendar. It is fixed as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, formerly the "pregnant" phase of Eostre as the earth passed into the fertile season. It was the time when the Goddess first slew then reconceived the Savior- the Vegetation God- for a new season. The Christian festival wasn't called Easter until the goddess' name was given to it in the late middle Ages. The Irish kept Easter on a different date from that of the Roman church, probably the original date of the feast of Eostre, until the Roman calendar was imposed on them in 632 AD. Nevertheless, the Columbian foundation and their colonies in Britain kept the old date for another fifty years.

The Persians began their solar New Year at the Spring Equinox, and up to the middle of the 18th century they still followed the old custom of presenting each other with colored eggs on the occasion. Eggs were always a symbol of rebirth, which is why Easter eggs were usually colored red - the life's blood color - especially in Eastern Europe. Russians used to lay red Easter eggs on graves to serve as resurrection charms. In countries where Christian and Pagan religions co-existed, Easter Sunday (sun-day was devoted to honoring Christ and the Christian mysteries, while Easter Monday (moon-day) was dedicated to the Pagan deities. In Bohemia, village girls, like ancient priestesses, symbolically sacrificed the Lord of Death and threw him into the water singing, "death swims in the water, Spring comes to visit us, with eggs that are red, with yellow pancakes; we carried death out of the village, we are carrying Summer into the village."

Another remnant of the Pagan sacred drama was the image of the vegetation God buried in his tomb, then withdrawn and said to live again as the earth begins to turn green. The church instituted a similar custom early in the Middle Ages, apparently in hopes of a reportable miracle. A small sepulchral building having been erected and the consecrated host placed within, a priest was set to watch it from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Then the host was taken out and displayed, and the congregation was told Christ was risen.

A curious 16th century Easter custom was known as "creeping to the cross with eggs and apples," a significant use of the ancient females symbols of birth and death, beginning and fruitation, the opening and closing of circles. The Ceremonial of the Kings of England ordered carpets to be laid in the church, for the honor and comfort of the king, queen, and courtiers as they crept down the aisles on their hands and knees. The penitential implication of the creeping ceremony is clear enough, but the female-symbolic foodstuffs is a bit mysterious. It may represent a sacrificing to the Goddess' ancient sacred symbols to the church--the symbolic triumph of Christianity over the Old Religion.

Germany applied to Easter the same title formerly given to the sacred king's love-death Hoch-Zeit, "the High Time". In English too, Easter used to be called "the Hye-Tide." From these titles came the colloquial description of any holiday festival as "a high old time."

The Easter lily is also deeply rooted in Pagan symbolism. The lily is a sacred emblem of Lilith, the Sumero-Babylonian creation Goddess; the lilu (the lotus or lily) symbolizes her magic genitals. The lily often represents the virginal aspect of the Triple Goddess (the original "Lily Maid"), while the rose represents her maternal aspect. Similarly, the lily was sacred to Eostre-Astarte, Goddess of the "Easter" lilies. The lily as the Goddess' triple yonic emblem can be seen in the French fleur-de-lis, which is stylized lily; and the Celtic shamrock, which is identified with the lily. The shamrock did not originate in Ireland but was a sacred symbol among the people of the Indus Valley some 6000 years before Christianity.

Other Goddesses who claim the lily as their sacred symbol include Juno, Uni, Venus, the Virgin Mary, and Hera. When Hera's milk spurted from her breasts to form the Milky Way, the drops that fell to Earth became lilies. The Easter lily was the medieval pas-flower, from Latin passus, to step or pass over, cognate of pasha. the Passover. The lily was also called Pash-flower, Pasque flower, and Passion flower. Christians understood this last to refer to the passion of Christ; Pagans understood it to represent the Spring passion of the Vegetation God for union in love-death with the Earth Goddess.

"Who on this world of ours their eyes
 In March first o'en shall be wise,
 In days of peril, firm and brave,
 and wear a bloodstone to their grave.
 So many mists in March you see
 So many frosts in May will be."

(The Pagan Book of Days, Nigel Pennick, Destiny Books)

The original feast of Oestre at the Vernal Equinox was a time for ritually blessing the fields and seed. If you wish to participate in the old traditions, try any of the following:

  1. *Wear the color green.
    *Make love in a freshly-plowed field or your newly- turned garden. This is the Great Rite; the woman's body is identified with the land, the Earth Goddess incarnate, and in old Pagan times many conceptions resulted from this night. For a fascinating and entertaining fictional work which treats this theme, see Marion-Zimmer Bradley (1982), The Mists of Avalon, New York, Ballantine Books
    *Ritually plant seeds (choose a special herb or flower symbolic of what you desire) in a Pot, bless them with the four elements, and set them in a sunny windowsill (or whatever exposure your plant likes). As the seeds grow, so will your wishes come true
    *Much Equinox symbolism has become associated, with Easter Sunday. Go out before sunrise on this day and draw water from a running stream. Water gathered in this way is said to be especially holy and healing
    *Dye eggs, decorate with magic symbols and runes, and exchange with friends and loved ones. Leave some in the forest for the spirits, and plow some into your field or garden for a good crop. Place red eggs on the graves of departed loved ones as the symbol of rebirth. Recipe for natural Ester egg dyes; boil any of the following in water (use as much plant material as will fit in a minimal amount of water for the darkest color) for 10-15 minutes, strain, pour into cups, add 1-2 tsp. vinegar to each, and dye eggs. The following list includes some plants and their assorted colors; red cabbage (light blue), cochineal insects (scarlet), gorse blossoms (yellow), saffron powder (yellow), spinach (green), brown onion skins (mottled yellow), cranberries (brown), logwood (rich purple). The cabbage, spinach, or onion skins can be tied around the eggs and boiled for a very interesting effect.
    *On Easter Monday (moon-day), tie together two rowan twigs to form a cross (with red thread), put them in a little box, spit in it to symbolically put your troubles in the box, tie closed with red thread, and throw in a running stream.
    *Another Easter Monday custom is to wear one yellow garter and one black one, starting on this day, for a year and a day. You will receive a proposal of marriage (note the symbolic balancing of light and darkness here).

May you be blessed with fertility (i.e. prosperity and abundance) at Spring-tide and throughout the year. Blessed Be.

Bibliography

Marah (1987 and 1988), The Goddess Calendar, Waco, Texas

Monaghan, Patricia (1981), The Book of goddesses and Heroines, New York, E.P.Dutton

Walker, Barbar G.(1983), The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, SanFransisco, Harper and Row

This article was written by Nilah Foxglove from Scituate, Massachusetts. It appeared in the Winter 91/92 issue of Circle Network News.

Senior Druid's Column

Four of us traveled to the Winterstar festival in Southern Ohio. It was a good festival, and it was nice to see so many friends again. The main theme of the festival was community. Not only the large community that is forming on the Internet, but small groups that are joining together to form their own communities. We talked to people that are forming land trusts to live together and listened to Steven and Ina May Gaskin tell about their community - The Farm - a large community of about 3,000 people, billed as the larges hippie commune still going. If anyone is interested in hearing more about any of these communities, talk to Skip or Phoenix.

Creating Our Own Myths

Heidi Pangrati

Recently I attended a lecture given by Rabbi Stanley Gerstein, of the Temple Beth El located in Utica, N.Y. The title given this discourse was "David and Goliath: Truth or Metaphor." The Rabbi delivered an insightful, provocative look into the fundamentalist approach to interpreting stories given to us from the Bible, as opposed to regarding them as myths to be analyzed from many differing perspectives. I was struck by a passage I had recently encountered upon reading a book by T.M. Luhrmann," Persuasions of the Witch's Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England." This was a sociological study of ritual, researched by a woman sociologist who also became a student and practitioner in various Magikal groups throughout England. What paralleled the discussion given by the Rabbi, was the statement that in most Pagan traditions it seemed that the practitioners created myths to serve their own purposes. It was noted that in order for a magikal tradition to become legitimate, it must gear it's myths to that end.

What religion or tradition does not do this?! As pointed out in discourse following the fundy vs.mythical approach to biblical history, there are many inconsistencies throughout the bible, as well as in many other recorded histories of religious or mystical beliefs. My particular identification with Pagan religion is steeped deep in the archetypal, in the ecstatic. For me, the mysteries involve personal intellectual and emotional elements, things I am unable to find in the "traditional" religions. Myth and the interpretation of stories are personal and draw upon many factors. Each circle or grove is then unique, simply by virtue of it's particular members interpreting and using their own individual creativity and intellect in decyhpering tales and recorded history passed down through either song or text.

I was reminded of the King Author of "The Mists of Avalon", the historical rift between Author the man and Author the myth. This paralleled the controversy surrounding David and Goliath. Did David actually slay the giant Goliath as a youth, was he really a great warrior having just been plucked from the fields as a mere shepard? What is the story anyway? I prefer to relate to the story of Arthur portrayed in the mythical Avalon. Indulging my childlike, creative sense of joy and wonder. Tapping into the mythical, into the mysteries is a way of tapping into our innermost selves. We are then able to draw power from a vaster pool of those who have similarly indulged, becoming a part of what Carl Jung has coined "the collective unconscious."

Mean Earrach

Words and Music by Robin Mac Lir

Though winter's cloak weights heavy on our shoulders and the Sun seems weak and distant in the sky In the meadows you can hear with the waxing of the year the sounds of Spring and the promise of new life

The Goddess now grown young renews her promise that everything must die to be reborn and the woods now come alive our fields again will thrive and her blessings ninefold greater than before and harken to the maiden's wild cry with the days now long you can hear the song grow strong in thanks for the return of Bel The Bright

Now her creatures all awaken from their sleeping

The grass will now be greening on the hillside and the leaves will bud the trees all through the glen all our rivers will flow free twisting gently to the sea taking to her all the offerings we send

All the birds to this place are now returning to sing of nature's glory all the day all our seeds will spring o flower by her fertilizing power to increase the light and wash the dark away

The Cailleach having taken from them fountain transformed from death of winter into life and from the eggs will come with the help of everyone a bounty full of wisdom born of light

(reprise) And in the springtime you will find that from what was left behind comes the fertile soil for our dreams

Spring The Rebirth

Jetta Intelisano

In my mind I wander to the Spring land

But I can't lift the Goddess from her
dark, Winter prison
until this day of Rebirth

While the dead trees, in snowy graves
bring little ones joy
they imagine dancing in fields of snow

striving babies, in nature hide
behind the coldness
they look out and want to play
but cannot,
due to their frozen entrapment

I open my eyes to see
my sight of happiness
the Goddess of Spring
show children Spring's shine
and bloom
playing in fields of color

Pagan Personals

Announcing the Magikal Workings Study Group presented by KiaMarie Wolfe. This Group is for the serious students of Magik only! Please respond as soon as possible so that we can get underway. Our group will meet twice a month in Oneida. Give us a call at 363-7289, leave a message with either Heidi or Kia!

The Gift

I woke up one morning and opened my eyes which still had some sleep weighing them down. When I cleared the sleep from within my eyes, I saw on the window sill a small, shiny brass box. My curiosity was peaked because I have no window with a sill in my room, let alone a small, shiny, brass box. "Well", I thought to myself, "Well". I got out of my bed and my feet touched the cold, stone floor. I stood and my bones sang with an age exceeding my years. "Curious". I walked to the window and was conscious of the slap of my naked feet on the stone floor. I saw the ripples in the glass of the window and felt the sun peering through. I felt it's warm radiance flooding across my flesh, as it did on the small, brass box. I closed my outstretched finger around the box as dread tapped on my shoulder and Pandora whispered into my heart. "What if?" And I thought to myself, "What if all the evil in the world was within the box." I traced my finger along the protruding lip of the small, shiny, brass box. Could this be evil or good, and who is to say either way? I sat pondering, not knowing, and I decided that not knowing, or not trying was the evil and I strove to be good. I took a deep and cleansing breath and shook the small, shiny, brass box back and forth. Not a sound did I hear. I closed, then opened my eyes and opened the small, shiny, brass box.

I blinked once, twice, and a third time. I swallowed and then coughed. I looked and I looked. Inside the small, shiny, brass box was an even smaller piece of paper. T threw caution to the wind and grasped fate with my own hands and took that paper from the small, shiny, brass box. I unfolded the paper and saw words of gold that flowed and undulated before my eyes. I watched and watched as it formed into one word - creation.

On a sill by a window. which the sun peers through, sits a small, shiny, brass box. Now it is covered with dust, for it is rarely opened. For I now and forever more, have the gift of lady Brid with me. The golden gift of creation. A Goddess blessing, a blessing in the guise of a small, shiny, brass box.

Phoenix
Imbolc, 1995 c.e.

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