Ostara is our Sabbat that falls on the Spring Equinox. It’s the second of the three fertility Sabbats, where we celebrate the Earth’s life-giving energy that is so pronounced in the growing season. I notice that in Austin this is the time of year when flowers really start to come out, however the equinox itself is an astronomical event that the whole planet experiences. Many cultures and religions observe a holiday marking the equinox, so what makes this date so special?
Technically, the word equinox refers to an exact moment when the sun is positioned directly over the equator and the axis of the Earth is exactly perpendicular to the sun, tilted neither towards the sun nor away from it. But colloquially, we know this day to be the time when the daylight hours and nighttime hours are just about equal, marking the half-way point between our journey from solstice to solstice. Although we don’t celebrate it, the day and night that are precisely equal is called the equilux, and this day can subtly drift before or after the equinox depending on latitude.
Equinoxes happen exactly twice per year, once in the range of March 19th-21st, and then again around the range of September 22nd-23rd. The equinox that happens in March is the spring equinox (Ostara) in the northern hemisphere and the autumn equinox (Mabon) in the southern hemisphere. It’s also the moment when the sun goes from the 30th degree of Pisces, the last sign of the zodiac, into 0 degrees in Aries, beginning the cycle anew.
Everyone loves an equinox! Some other holidays celebrated on this day include the Summers Finding of our Heathen Cousins, as well as The Equinox of The Gods, which is the Thelemic new year. Many other modern Pagans and eclectic witches also follow the same wheel of the year we Wiccans do, so they call the Sabbat Ostara, and celebrate it largely the same way we do.
One will notice that the name Ostara sounds awfully familiar to the name of the popular Christian holiday Easter (which some of you may have heard of.) This is because, in pre-Christian England and Germany, they venerated a Goddess of Spring named Ēastre in Old English and Ôstara in old high German, for whom the month of April was named. She was, not unlike our maiden Goddess, a Deity of light and joy and fertility, hence her association with eggs and rabbits. Once Christianity became a dominant faith, Her name survived as the name of a new holiday which took place within her month. This is also why the whole vibe of Easter is so similar to that of our Sabbat, Ostara!
Thank you for learning about Ostara with me! The equinox is very important for us who are Wiccan and care deeply for the Earth and her cycles, as well as to the secular world. I wish you a Blessed Ostara, or happy holidays no matter what you celebrate!
By Alice Quintanilla, AAW Member