The History and Astronomy of Ostara

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

The Truth about St. Patrick’s Day

In the middle of March, we adorn our green outfits, leprechaun hats and drink copious amounts of green beer while we cavort with our friends in the name of St. Patrick. However, how many of us know the history behind St. Patrick’s Day? 

St. Patrick was a Christian bishop in the 5th century who was credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. His death day has been celebrated as the Festival of Saint Patrick since the 17th century for its cultural and religious significance. As a zealous missionary, Saint Patrick struggled to introduce Catholicism to a heavily pagan Ireland. In order to “convert” people to Catholicism, he fused many Irish traditions with his Christian teachings. One of such is the shamrock, revered for its three leaves and representative of pagan trinities like mother-maiden-crone, birth-life-death, mind-body-spirit. Patrick used this sacred pagan symbol to illustrate the Christian trinity of the father-son-holy spirit and as such, it became a national symbol of Ireland. In modern times, this would be called cultural appropriation. While this fusing resulted in the Celtic cross and many other lovely Irish icons, the forced conversion also resulted in many deaths. 

Patrick is famous for ridding Ireland of snakes. Interestingly, fossils and historical naturalist studies have shown that at no time were snakes ever actually present in Ireland. The ‘ridding of snakes’ is a euphemism for the massacre of the druidic peoples who revered the serpent which represents the cycle of life and death. It is estimated that 800 Druids were murdered at the time. 

Patrick is also known for putting a stop to ‘baby sacrificing’ pagan practices at Killycluggin Stone upon which, purportedly, pagans smashed the heads of first borns and used the blood to draw a circle, ensuring a good crop for the upcoming year. Surprisingly, when St. Patrick stopped this practice by ‘smashing the stone and banishing the devil within it ,’ three quarters of Irish men, including two High Kings, were slaughtered while they knelt at their devotions. They were smitten down by their own Gods according to Christian observers. It is fascinating that such a large pagan population was decimated at an annual harvest festival and that the entirety of the events were only ever recorded by Christian observers. 

There is a story that Saint Patrick is known to have ‘baptized’ two Druid priestesses who then immediately died after consuming the eucharist, purportedly saying they ‘wished to see the face of Christ.’ His most holy site, Croagh Patrick formerly known as Cruchan Aigli (Eagle Mountain), was where he performed ‘miracles’ such as casting reptiles, snakes, and dragons over the side of the mountain. Cruachan Aigli, with its quartzite studded, gold-gleaming mountainside, was actually the destination of pagans to worship the God Lugh on Lughnasadh with the magical sunshine and picturesque views of the countryside. These miracles were attributed to Patrick after his death as a way to discourage paganism and the correlation of the holy site with the Sun God/Lugh

Patrick has never formally been recognized by the Pope and much of his miraculous fame stems from stories which revere Christianity and hide the atrocities committed on pagans. It’s important to remember that history is written by the victors and in this instance, the victors were the Catholic church who drove out the common practice of paganism and druidry which abounded at the time in Ireland. 

So if you really want to indulge this St. Patty’s day when you don your shimmery shamrock necklaces and slurp your extra stout Guinness, try drinking in honor of the Goddess Brigid, known to Catholics as the Irish Saint Brigid! She is associated with wisdom, poetry, healing, protection, blacksmithing and domesticated animals. Along with her two sisters, Brigid the Healer and Brigid the Smith, She represents the sacred trinity of Mother-Maiden-Crone. She is celebrated in her Maiden form with ritual and feast on Imbolc (Feb 1) and is correlated with the ushering in of Spring and fertility. You can light some white candles in Her name and perhaps sing a Druidic ballet or recite some poetry in Her honor. And don’t forget to pour one out for the massacred pagan souls in remembrance!

By Gita Nallapati, AAW Member

3.14 Pi Day

It’s March 14! AKA 3/14 AKA Pi Day!

To celebrate this delicious day, Aquarian Age Wicca has dug up the most tantalizing pie recipes for each sabbat for all you kitchen witches and hungry witches out there! Everything is vegan and cruelty free so you can eat to your heart’s content without any guilt! Note: Aquarian Age Wicca has been 100% vegan since 2019. 

Samhain

This coconut pomegranate pie from Use your Noodle is as delicious to look at as it is to eat. It’s a no bake pie, perfect for when the oven is tied up with all your other Samhain dishes baking! Samhain is when the veil is thinnest between our world and the void, the realm of the dead. Pomegranate is known as “the fruit of the dead,” as in Greek mythology, eating of pomegranate seeds is what ties Persephone to Hades as she is made to stay in the Underworld. 

Get the recipe here

Yule

Check out these witchy Wiccan masterpieces from Domestic Gothess! Pentacle topped vegan apple pies are perfect for Yule, the celebration of the birth of the God. Apples symbolize the sun, which in turn is associated with the God. Baked apple desserts are also traditional for wintertime and winter holidays!

Get the recipe here.

Imbolc

When winter’s cold still has a hold and spring is just barely beginning, this vegan shepherd’s pot pie from A Couple Cooks is perfect for Imbolc. This pie has potatoes, a favorite of Brigid, and root vegetables and earthy sage for a hearty Imbolc feast. 

Get the recipe here.

Ostara

Ostara is one of the three fertility festivals and often features eggs as a staple. For a veganized version, Bitter Sweet Blog has a vegan quiche pie with no animals harmed in the making!

Get the recipe here

Beltane

When the veil is the thinnest between our realm and the fae realm, we can honor the fae with a strawberry rhubarb pie from Bianca Zapatka. The bright red and pink of this pie pair well with the ribbons of the May Pole you’ll dance around this May Day celebration. 

Get the recipe here

Litha

Reward yourself from all the dancing and drumming you’ll do at Litha with a good, old fashioned vegan and gluten free cherry pie from Unconventional Baker. Nothing says the height of summer like cherries!

Get the recipe here

Lughnasadh

This late summer harvest festival is perfect for a Blackberry oat crumble pie from Moon and Spoon and Yum. The baked perfection of the in season fruit blackberries and the crunchy, heartwarming oats will comfort your soul as you celebrate the God Lugh. 

Get the recipe here.

Mabon

For Mabon, AKA Witches Thanksgiving, Vegan Kitchen Magic has a delicious classic: pumpkin pie! As we celebrate this harvest festival, no Thanksgiving or Mabon feast spread is complete without it!

Get the recipe here

This post is making me so hungry so I’m off to indulge in some deliciousness for Pi Day. Post what delectable dishes you got into on this 3.14 in the comments!

By Gita Nallapati, AAW Member

The missing health factor in my life: Spirituality

In my mid twenties, I experienced a debilitating streak of migraines just after accepting my new job at a big tech company. I was ecstatic to have a job which would make me financially independent from my parents and would allow me to live the life I had dreamt of since childhood. Everything seemed to be going well, except for the daily presence of migraines which slowly took over my livelihood. No longer could I get in my morning workouts, nor could I lounge in the fluorescent lighted coworking space. My evening hours after work went from exercise, art classes and socializing to laying in bed with no light nor sound and an icepack on my forehead. Every approach I tried from prescription migraine meditation to various diets to essential oils and antihistamine and xanax did nothing to banish the ever present threat of immense pain in my head. 

Then someone suggested I enroll in the free meditation classes offered at my workplace. Being raised a Hindu, I had grown up with the praises of meditation and its healing values but I had never actually bothered to formally learn the methods. Through my meditation studies, I discovered that of the formula for health, I was addressing exercise and healthy diet but forgoing an essential element. The holy trinity of health, composed of mind, body and spirit, I was in severe need of developing my spiritual practice. There was only so much I could do with regulating my emotions and cognitive behavioural therapy. In order to keep making progress and advance my studies, I had to open myself up to a Path which allowed my spirit to grow and a way to connect to the greater Oneness of the universe and all of its inhabitants. 

Once this realization took place, I fervently engaged in theosophical studies in order to find a Path that would be most in line with what I was searching for: Spirituality. I considered my upbringing of Hinduism, and while I live my life by many of its religious tenets, the intertwining of the caste system and patriarchy based misogyny made immersing myself in Hinduism less tantalizing. I read about many other faiths, still coming across the lack of gendered egalitarianism which prevented me from a wholehearted embrace until I came across Wicca. As a child of seven, I had flirted with the Wiccan Path and its alluring aspects of witchcraft, spells and strong female figures whose power stemmed from within rather than a male counterpart. As had happened then, I was again drawn to the way in which all genders are celebrated and revered and the empowering nature of directly communing with the God and Goddess. I found that my desire for spirituality was finally sated with the knowledge that Wicca could fill the hole I had had for far too long in my life. 

As a practicing Wiccan, my daily meditations were complemented with offerings to the God and Goddess, a healthy and kind community, and a teacher in the form of my High Priestess. Through regular classes, I learned cognitive behavioural therapy and how to truly feel the connection between my energy and that of the surrounding world. I was taught that in order to truly serve the God and Goddess, I must exude kindness and mindfulness in all aspects of life-including myself! I had been struggling with self doubt and crippling anxiety which led to tension migraines but with the realization that self work included spirituality, I began to make headway to a healthier life. I acknowledge that just finding spirituality does not instantly solve all my issues, but it provides a well trodden path to finding the cure for my ailments. As I continue this journey to better my health through spirituality, I am grateful for finding Wicca and I encourage you to find the Path that is right for you!

By Gita Nallapati, AAW Member

200 Days

 

For 200 days, I’ve been Vegan. In that time, 200 lives have been saved. In that time, I’ve discovered countless ways of eating plant based and cruelty-free. Many questions with heavy implications have been asked of me: “How long will you be vegan?” “How much weight have you lost?” “Why would you give up meat?” “How will you get your protein?”, and many more. I’m not annoyed by the questions or comments. I actually embrace them and take advantage of the teaching opportunities. Most don’t understand my decision, and that is fine by me. I’m not here to tell others what to do. I’m here to lead by example. 

My dad, grandpa, and great grandpa were all butchers. I grew up in slaughter houses and butcher shops. I knew no other options. I also knew that unless my dad cooked the meat I was eating, I would not eat it. I never really liked eating animals. Unfortunately, I felt that I didn’t have any other options. 

Once I became a part of AAW and was taught very briefly about vegan lifestyle, I was intrigued. I did my research and learned all kinds of ways to live your life without hurting animals. During one ritual we did, while reciting the Wiccan Rede, the mantra “Do no Harm,” really hit me. I had this tightness in my stomach and I just was not able to shake it. I woke up the next morning and said “This is it, no more harm!”. On Sunday December 4th, 2019 I told myself that I would do no harm. From that point on I made sure that with every walk, with every thought, with every word, and with every meal I would do everything in my power to harm none. 37 years old and I have managed to break a life long habit. 

With that said, here are the answers to the questions. “How long will I be vegan?”, I will always be vegan. “How much weight have you lost?”, I have lost the weight of 200 animals that are still able to live and breathe because of my choice. “Why would you give up meat?”, I don’t feel like I’m giving up anything. I’m giving animal lives an opportunity to breathe. “How will you get your protein?”, “I will get my protein from plants and eating a variety of plant based meals.” 

I love all and live to protect all. Just because animals can not communicate with us clearly does not give us license to harm them. They still feel, they cry, they scream, and they deserve to live.

Written by Janine Portillo https://linktr.ee/Janineportillo

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