Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter, Oestara, Estrogen!

Easter always falls on the Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal (Spring Equinox). It is a lunar holiday, in remembrance of its origins as a day honoring the goddess of Spring lustiness and fertility, Ostara (also spelled Oestar, and related, as well, to goddesses Astarte and Ishtar).

Ostara ("Goddess of the Shining Dawn") not only lends Her name to this holy day of resurrection, rebirth, and new beginnings, but also to other modern words such as estrogen. Her sacred animal is the hare (who we can see when we look up at the Full Moon's face on Easter Eve) and her sacred symbol is the Egg. She is the essence of regeneration, of birth, of new life, celebrated to this day with egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, and baby chicks.

Moon goddesses show themselves to us in phases, just like the moon itself. Just as that which we perceive as the moon's light is actually a reflection of a small portion of the sun's light, our perception of each individual goddess is actually a sliver of one much larger energy. However, to comprehend that much magnificence and power is overwhelming and therefore we picture each deity as separate and containing particular qualities.

Ostara represents the generative, abundant, fertile, creative parts of ourselves and of the Universe. She is both the dark, nurturing warmth inside the egg and the courage of the baby chick to fiercely peck through its shell into the never-before-seen light! She is both the nourishing soil, rich with compost from last year's growth, and the green sprout which bravely bursts up into the sunlight. She is the baby lamb who emerges bloody from his mother's womb, She is the blood, and She is the sweet milk that he then stands up on wobbly legs to drink.

Spring is not an easy time of year. It can be violent and intense, like any birth. Its beauty is both in its darkness and in its light. The Vernal Equinox, Ostara, is a celebration and an honoring of this balance: the recognition that the seed first must root further down into the dark mystery of soil before it can sprout up towards the light, that without the dark quiet of the eggshell, the bird could never stretch its wings to fly.

Ostara is a boundary marker. She reminds us that the line is thin between birth and death and light and dark are held here in a delicate, sacred balance.

There is much in which to rejoice at this time of year as we embrace the longer days, the crocuses emerging, the spring rains. But contemplate, too, this question: for which of winter's gifts are you grateful? What teachings have you gleaned from the dark time of year that will empower your growth and transformation in this new season of light?

And what are you ready to let go in order to make new space for the possibilities of spring? Give thanks even for these things you are ready to compost, for though the seed abandons its seed coating once it forms its leaves and though the bird does not carry her shell around with her once she can fly, those gifts of darkness served a powerful, transformative, and necessary purpose.

May your Spring be abundant with creativity and new growth. Blessed Ostara, Happy Easter, and may this season of Equinox bring Balance and Joy to your life.

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