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Northern Hemisphere: March 19-21
Southern Hemisphere: September 20-23
Themes: balance, renewal, action, beginnings, hope, new possibilities
Also known as: Alban Eiler, Rites of Spring, Eostra’s Day, Vernal Equinox, March Equinox, Spring Equinox, Lady Day, Bacchanalia
As the first solar Sabbat of the calendar year, Ostara marks the Spring Equinox, one of two points in the Sun’s journey at which day and night are of equal length. The Sun has crossed the “celestial equator,” and will shine on Earth for longer each day until it reaches its zenith at the Summer Solstice. For Earth’s inhabitants, this is a fortuitous moment, as the scarcity of winter comes to an end and the growing season begins in earnest. On the modern calendar, this is the first day of spring. Depending on where you live, there may still be snow on the ground, but the Earth is beginning to thaw and rivers rise and overflow their banks. Green grass and spring flowers emerge, lambs, rabbits and chicks are born, and the promise of further new life is felt on the breeze, which is milder than it was just a few weeks ago.
The waxing light is truly felt now, as the Sun’s power seems to quicken. The lengthening of the days, first perceived at Imbolc, seem to be growing at an even faster rate as the Sun sets later and further north with each passing day. But just at this moment, the light and the dark exist in equal measure, and this gives Ostara its primary theme of balance.
This balance is observed not only between night and day, but also generally in weather patterns—the harsh, bitter cold of winter is behind us and the relentless heat of summer has yet to arrive. In colder climates, it’s not unusual for spring and winter to take turns during these days, with one day feeling more like February and the next more like May. Nonetheless, the fertility of the Earth becomes more and more undeniable as the slow energies of winter give way to the fresh new vibrancy of spring.
This is a time to reunite with the Earth in a tactile way after many months spent largely indoors. Gardening begins in earnest now, as soil is prepared and seed trays are set out in the sunlight to sprout. Those who practice green Witchcraft may perform seed-blessing rituals if they did not already do so at Imbolc. Magical gardens are plotted out in order to grow the herbs, flowers and vegetables that will later be harvested for feasting, ritual and spellwork. As the first green shoots poke up through the soil, we truly begin the active half of the Wheel of the Year, turning our focus to outward action until the inward, passive half begins again at the Autumn Equinox.
Ostara is also a time to reflect on the balance between the male and female energies of the Universe, each of which requires the other to exist. This gender polarity is at the heart of traditional Wicca, with the Goddess and the God in constant co-creation throughout the changing of the seasons. At this point on the Wheel, the Goddess of the Earth is in her fertile Maiden aspect, while the Sun God grows into his maturity. There is a youthful joy between the two as they make their forays into romance and desire.
In some Wiccan traditions, this is considered the time when the divine pair comes together to conceive the next incarnation of the God, who will be born nine months later at Yule. In many others, the coupling of the divine pair happens at Beltane, when the new energies of growth and light have progressed further into wild abundance. Nonetheless, in Nature we see the mating of animals and insects is well underway as “spring fever” takes hold.