The spring equinox occurs on 20th March; a cyclic event where the Earth’s North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the sun meaning that the sun will rise exactly in the east and travel through the sky for 12 hours before setting in the exactly west. Day and night are of equal lengths. It marks the beginning of spring, a time of renewal by cultures around the world throughout history that actively incorporate rituals and symbols that honour fertility and rebirth.
The spring equinox has long been celebrated by nearly all world cultures as a time of rebirth, fertility and new opportunities. There is a symbolic meaning here, shared by our histories and collective consciousness reflecting renewal and hope. The spring equinox celebrated by the Pagan traditions was known as “Ostara” in early Pagan Germanic countries, usually a celebration of planting the new spring crop. Ostara might not be as well known as other pagan celebrations like Samhain or Beltane, but it is nonetheless an important part of the calendar as one of the eight sabbats, or holidays, pagans celebrate throughout the year.
It’s no coincidence that Ostara and Easter sound alike, share similar symbols and typically fall around the same time. The Christian holiday gets its English name from the goddess Eostre, and early Christianity adopted many of the rituals and symbols associated with the equinox festival because of their popularity which tied well with spiritual teachings of Christ’s Resurrection.Unlike many other pagan holidays, Ostara does not have its roots in Celtic tradition, rather in a more ancient Germanic, Anglo-Saxon beliefs. The holiday derives its name from the fertility goddess Eostre, whose own name comes from the Germanic word for “east.” The goddess is typically depicted as a young woman surrounded by light and budding trees and flowers, symbolising her association with dawn and the coming of light of the spring season. Symbols like eggs, rabbits and spring flowers are also associated with the goddess, speaking to the fertility and renewed life she is believed to bring.
“Eggs, bunnies, candy, Easter baskets, new clothes, all these ‘traditions’ have their origin in practices which may have little or nothing to do with the Christian holiday,” said Peg Aloi, in a commentary for the religion site Patheos. “The traditional colouring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce.”
Pagans celebrate Ostara with various rituals focused on themes of renewal and rebirth. Planting seedlings and cultivating gardens is one of the most traditional celebrations of the holiday, though any engagement with nature, whether lying in grass or hiking through a forest, can be used as an opportunity to meditate on the change of seasons, according to paganism expert Patti Wigington. Egg races, egg hunts, egg eating and egg painting are common activities. A man and a woman might be chosen to act out the roles of Spring God and Goddess, playing out courtship and symbolically planting seeds. The spring equinox is celebrated by eating fresh spring foods like sprouts, dandelion greens, and nettles. Some undertake a fast during this period, to clear away the toxins of the winter. Many Wiccans for example plant a herb garden (for later use in spells) on Ostara. Home altars might feature spring flowers, seeds, jasmine or flowery incense, and the gemstone of jasper.Modern Pagans from all denominations still celebrate the spring equinox as a time of fertility, growth, and the returning of the creative energies of the divine feminine. For Wiccans and some other Pagans, Ostara is the day when the Goddess and God (variously identified as Mother Earth and the Green Man or the Young Maiden and Sun God) join in sacred marriage. The Goddess will conceive, and give birth in nine months. The increased growth and strength of nature in the spring is due to the rising power of the Goddess and God.