October 11, 2012

Eostre: Goddess of Spring

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:43 pm by Babs

The Goddess’ Wheel of the Year: a seasonal ritual drama:

Tired of the emphasis on the heterosexual relationship between The Goddess and the Gods in most ritual drama cycles which celebrate the seasonal Wheel of the Year, some covens have created a mythic cycle which focuses exclusively on different faces of the Goddess and, sometimes the interplay between her different aspects.  Over a year they discussed which Goddesses and their myths were associated with each festival.  From these they selected stories which lent themselves to ritual drama and created a “script” for that festival’s ritual, with one or more women being honored to carry (literally, to be possessed by) the Goddess.  They were also inspired by the wealth of ancient sites in West Cornwall, England in which to enact these sacred dramas.  In part of the series for the Spring Equinox ritual, they dedicated to Persephone, Brigid and Eostre.

Starting the ritual before sunrise, so as to go from dark to light, as in the turning from the dark to the light half of the year,  the altar was set with a red cloth, a red egg, red flowers, daffodils, and a hare figurine.  They then marked out a seven-turn Cretan Labyrinth on the ground with white flour.

After purification and blessing one another, quarters were called and the circle cast.  The Goddess was invoked first into the woman portraying Persephone, who was dressed in dark red and wore dark lipstick, a labrys necklace and a crimson cowl, all symbolizing the passion, power and fertility aspects of the Dark Queen of the Dead.  Persephone walks on down the path (disappearing into the underworld).  The remaining women then invoked the maiden Goddess Brigid into the next woman who was dressed all in white.

Brigid and the women called Persephone up from the underworld, using drums and percussion to build energy, and chanting “Persephone, return to the earth, return, return.” Persephone comes up from the underworld, carrying a bowl of menstrual blood, red flowers and red candles.  She motioned to the young virgin Brigid and to the women to sit.

Persephone proceeded to initiate Brigid into womanhood.  She showed Brigid the menstrual mystery with a white flower which she dipped into the bowl of menstrual blood.  Then, taking the bowl, she marked Brigid’s forehead with the blood.  She gave Brigid an extended version of the five-fold kiss, awakening her sexuality and her power by kissing her lips, shoulders, biceps, heart, breasts, hands, womb, yoni, knees, and feet and saying a blessing on each.

Persephone sings “The Barge of Heaven” (A reclaiming chant, based on Inanna’s hymn of praise to her own vulva from the Enuma Enlil tablets of ancient Sumer) all the way through once.  Then she teaches it to Brigid line by line in a call and response style.  She paints Brigid’s little fingernails scarlet, put her own labrys around Brigid’s neck, and leads her to the entrance of the labyrinth.  There Persephone un-plaits Brigid’s hair, gives her a red flower, and passes aspect by kissing her passionately on the mouth.  Persephone then leaves Brigid the bowl of menstrual blood to meditate upon , and briefly initiates the women, by giving them each a sexual kiss and a red flower.  Persephone then departs and puts down aspect, to return to be another of the women.

When she feels ready, Brigid walks the labyrinth.  At the center she transforms into the Springtime Goddess Eostre, removing her white clothes, stroking, exploring and celebrating her newly aroused body.  She then puts on beautiful red clothes and the daffodil and carnation crown which she found in the center of the labyrinth.

Eostre danced out of the labyrinth and blessed the women with springtime life-lust.  One by one, they then walked the labyrinth, putting on red clothes and flower crowns at the center.  Each emerged to dancing, drums, rattles and general celebration, and Eostre blessed each one, cutting off any red cords worn for protection through the winter.

Power is then raised by chanting: “She changes everything she touches and everything she touches changes” (By Starhawk with Lauren Liebling), and “We are the power in everyone, we are the dance of the Moon and Sun, we are the hope that never hides, we are the turning of the tide.”

Eostre then presides over a feast of red fizzy wine, red grape juice and red food, such as carrot and beetroot salad, velvety red beetroot soup and strawberries.

The Vernal Equinox

As the newly reborn sun races across the sky; the days become longer, the air warmer and once again, life begins to return to the land.  Twice a year, day and night become equal in length.  To the elders of the Old Way, these times, equinoxes, were markers in which seeds would be planted and then harvested.  The first of these, the Spring or Vernal Equinox occurs on or about March 21st.  Eostre (pronounced Es-tra) was an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring to whom offerings of cakes and colored eggs were made at the Vernal Equinox.

Rabbits were sacred to her, especially white rabbits, and she was believed to have taken the form of a rabbit.  She was the goddess of the East, of Rebirth and of Spring.  The ancient goddess not only marked the passage of time but also symbolized new life and fertility, was the key symbol of this celebration which was also  known as Ostara.  Legend has it that the goddess was saved by a bird whose wings had become frozen by the cold of winter.  This process turned the bird into a hare.  Yet this was no ordinary cottontail; this long-eared rabbit could also lay eggs!  The main symbols for Easter are the egg, for new life or beginnings, and the rabbit/ hare, for fertility.

Celebrating the Vernal Equinox

While the Vernal Equinox was an important point of passage in the year, the actual method of marking the festival varied from village to village and people to people.  Rituals and invocations for abundance in the new crops being planted would often be held during the new moon closest to the Equinox (traditionally a good time to plant).  In some places this was also the time when promises were made between lovers for the Handfasting Ceremony that would come at Midsummer.  In a very real sense the ceremony was an expression of hope and trust in the new lives that would blossom in the warmth of summer.

Even the latter-day celebration (comparatively speaking) of Easter acknowledged the significance of the Vernal Equinox.  The Council of Nice decreed in 325 A.D. that “Easter was to fall upon the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox.”  This time of equality between day and night has been, and continues to be, a timekeeper, marking our passage from darkness and cold to warmth and light.

Relationship to Easter

As Christianity spread across Europe and Britain, these older symbols became incorporated into the new faith’s holiday of Easter, even the name seems to have been a variant of the Goddess whose festival was originally celebrated with the arrival of spring.  The old rites honoring the planting of new seeds, the fertility of the land and its people, and the hope of the new life arising in the world were replaced by solemn displays commemorating Christ and Christian beliefs.

Colored Eggs

The Easter egg takes us back to some of the oldest known civilizations on earth where the symbol of an egg played an important part in mythical accounts of the creation of the world.  According to myth, heaven and earth were formed from the two halves of a mysterious World-Egg.  The Easter egg is associated with this World-Egg, the original germ from which all life proceeds, and whose shell is the firmament.  So there is a heathen connection between the egg and the ideas or feelings of birth, new life and creation.

Easter eggs do have a very long ancestry.  In their modern chocolate or cardboard form they date only from the later years of the last century, but giving real eggs, colored or gilded at Easter and also at the pre-Christian spring celebrations are infinitely older.

At the time of the Vernal Equinox, eggs were used for the creation of talismans and were also ritually eaten.  There is little doubt that clutches of eggs laid by many different kinds of birds in the spring were a welcome dietary supplement to early hunter/ gatherers after the sparseness of winter.  It’s also possible that gathering a variety of eggs from nests of birds by our ancestors gave rise to two customs still popular today – the Easter egg hunt and coloring eggs in imitation of the various pastel colors of the eggs of wild birds.  It is also believed by some that humankind first got the idea for weaving baskets from watching birds weave nests.

Long before the Christian era, eggs were regarded as symbols of continuing life and resurrection.  The ancient Persians and Greeks exchanged them at their spring festivals when all things in nature revived after the winter.  To the early pagans converted to “Christianity” under Emperor Constantine’s rule, eggs seemed the obvious symbols of the Lord’s resurrection and were therefore considered “holy” and appropriate gifts at Easter time.  Pope Paul V appointed a pryer in which the eggs were “blessed.”  The eggs cold then be eaten in thankfulness to God on account of the resurrection of the Lord.  The custom of coloring eggs at Easter continued from paganism with only a change of dedication.  These eggs are often red.  Scarlet eggs were given in the spring by pagan peoples centuries before the birth of Christ.  It is probably the favorite color because, like the egg itself, it is an emblem of life.

In the Ukraine, women dye eggs in brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges.  These eggs are called krashanka, and they are eaten to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun and the return of the seasons of plenty.  These krashanka were closely associated with a race of “spirits” called “Kindly Ones” who dwelt in darkness of the banks of the rivers of the world.  On Eostre’s Day, the red shells of the krashanka were thrown into the rivers so that they wold eventually arrive on the banks of this distant island, bringing with them the message that the Sun and the Season of Rebirth have returned.  Another custom was to place a krashanka on the fresh grave of a loved one assuring rebirth and return.

The Ukraine did not accept Christianity as its official religion until 988 C.E. and at that time the Pagan population refused to give up this Pagan art, so eventually the Church had to accept it, give its blessing, and call them Easter eggs.  There is an ancient legend in the Ukraine that tells of a demon monster that would devour the world.  This monster is chained, and as it strains and pulls, the links of its chains strengthened in proportion to the number of  pysanky that were made and exchanged that season.

A more decorative form of colored eggs the pysanky.  The word “pysanky” comes from the root word psaty “to write”, because signs are written on the surface of the egg in a rich language of symbols almost endless in number and variation.  The pysanky were powerful amulets that helped to maintain the balance between dark and light, death and rebirth, and for fertility and prosperity on the personal level.  They were made and exchanged between friends and family during the springtime season of rebirth.

The Easter Rabbit

The hare is the true Easter beast, not the rabbit.  He was sacred to the Spring-Goddess, Eostre.  Hares were sacrificed to her.  The hare was an emblem of fertility, renewal, and return of spring to the heathen.  The egg, in modern American folklore, is the production of the rabbit or the hare.  The story is that this hare was once a bird whom Eostre changed into a four-footed creature.

Hot-Cross Buns

Eating hot-cross buns is one of the Good Friday customs that has taken root in America.  They are pagan in origin, for the Anglo-Saxon savages consumed cakes as part of the jollity that attended the welcoming of spring.  Early missionaries from Rome despaired of breaking them of the habit, and got around the difficulty by blessing the cakes, drawing a cross upon them.  But the cross was a pagan symbol long before the crucifixion. Bread and cakes were sometimes marked with it in pre-Christian times.  Two small loaves each with a cross on them were discovered under the ruins of Herculaneum, a city overwhelmed by volcanic ash in 79 C.E. It is probable that the crosses here had a pagan meaning like those which appeared on cakes associated with the worship of Diana.

Eostre Stats:

Goddess of fertility and new beginnings, we take this opportunity to embrace Eostre’s passion for new life and let our own lives take the new direction we have wanted for so long.

Suggested Mantra: Fresh Start

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I live life without fear
  • My creativity is energized
  • I feel absolutely supercharged
  • Today is my chance to be healthy
  • My vital energy resurfaces naturally
  • I embrace life in its absolute fullness
  • I find my path following my inclinations
  • My whole being reaches for the new dawn

Essence: Ishtar 100% pure essential oil blend.  The Sacral Chakra, located in the abdomen, lower back, and sexual organs, is related to creativity, emotions and sexuality.  It connects us to others through feeling, desire, sensation, and movement.  Linked to the reproductive area of the female body, creativity is heightened when this chakra is awakened.

When to use: Use this bland of five 100% pure essential oils to super-charge and connect with your feminine grace and creativity.  Enjoy being the nurturing mother, inspired companion, playful bed partner, wild woman, wise advisor, artful communicator and insightful leader.  Use when invoking such goddesses as Aphrodite, Bast, Baubo, Ceres, Eostre, Hathor, Iambe, IxChel and Yemaya.

Ingredients: Ylang ylang (used for its anti-depressant qualities) Sweet Orange and Grapefruit (to relieve anxiety) and Patchouli (for its calming effect.  These ingredients work together to lead the user to the center of their creativity and personal power.

Gemstones: Carnelian, Coral, Agate, Brown Jasper (orange stones)

More about Eostre

Eostre was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, from whom “East” and “Easter” got their names.  As the fertility goddess of the Northern European peoples, her legend was manipulated by the invading Romans – newly Christianized, the merged Eostre’s spring legend to coincide with the time of Christ’s resurrection.

She is also goddess Ostara, the maiden, in German mythology, celebrated when night and day are equal and balanced (the spring equinox for the norther hemisphere).  Interestingly, the word “estrus” (referring to an animal in heat) is also derived from Eostre as her consort was a rabbit with an extraordinarily high libido!

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