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  • Jennifer Hartman

Ostara for the Family

Updated: Apr 18

Celebrating Ostara: The Dawn of Spring

Ostara is a feast day found on the Wheel of the Year. It is celebrated by new-age Norse Pagans, Wiccans, and some old way Heathens.

The earliest traces of Ostara comes from England in the 600s when Anglo-Saxons celebrated it during Eosturmonath (Eostre Month/Ostara Month) and worshipped the spring goddess Ostara (Eostre). This comes from documentation by an English monk named Bede, who wrote about it in chapter 15 of De temporum ratione. (Side note: Some historians believe Bede elaborated this story and invented the goddess, but others believe he was an honest monk who would have preferred to downplay pagan customs to avoid the worship of a non-Christian deity. Bede's timeline also gives him direct access to the truth compared to the historians who question him; Regardless of this argument, the Ostara celebration has existed since pre-historic times - goddess or no goddess).


Ostara herself is the goddess of the shining dawn, spring and fertility. She is known to bring joy and blessings to her worshippers. She was worshipped during a month named after her (Eosturmonath). It would have been celebrated on the full moon after the spring equinox. This full moon would represent the “pregnant” phase of the goddess heading into the fertile crop season. During the first signs of spring, worshippers would light bonfires, participate in sword dances, play egg games and enjoy pastries in heathen form. At dawn, women would dress in white and show themselves on mountain cliffs.

Etymologists believe there is an older, historical name for Ostara after finding hundreds of inscriptions dating to 150-250 Morken-Harff, Germany. The older name is matron Austriahena, the original name that evolved into several versions leading to Eostre and Ostara. 1800s scholar, Jacob Grimm, backs up this idea by explaining that pagan traditions must have been so firmly rooted in the culture that the governing church had to tolerate them and adapt them to its society. He uses the 'Easter egg' as a specific example, stating preachers used the Heathen-egg tradition to entertain followers by connecting it to Christian stories. For Ostara's connection to love, pleasure, magic and hare, other scholars have linked her to goddesses such as Freya, Aphrodite and Luxuria.


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Ostara and the Hare


Not much is said about the historical significance of Ostara and the hare. Still, it is obvious that the hare has an ancient historical significance during great spring festivals of prehistoric Saxon and British worship.


There are no direct historical links between Ostara and the hare, except they were both worshiped (separately) in the spring and both at the full moon. The hare is seen as a symbol of everlasting renewal, and the maternal goddesses are often portrayed with the animal.


During the German folklore movement of the 19th century, a couple of tales about Ostara and a hare were created.


The first tale explains the hare was once a bird with an injured wing. The goddess Ostara knew it wouldn't fly again even if she healed it. Instead, she transformed it into a four-legged animal known as a hare. To thank Ostara, the hare lays an egg for her every spring on her festival day. A second tale explains the hare was once a bird that delivered messages of spring to Ostara. Ostara transformed the bird into a hare so it could endure the winter. In memory of its former shape, it lays colourful eggs every year for spring.

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Activities for the Family


1. Make natural egg-dye

Pick up or go foraging for berries for natural egg dye, then decorate the eggs and serve them at your Ostara feast!


2. Storytime

Tell your children about the lore of Ostara and the Hare, and have them create their own story around it!


3. Plant Seeds

Using the empty egg cartons, plant some seeds for your garden. The egg carton is nutrient-rich and better for the environment than plastic nurseries you get from garden suppliers.


4. Set intentions

Dress in white and greet the dawn with your intention for the upcoming spring. It is also a great time to explain to children that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This is important because the name 'Ēostre' also means 'eastern,' making her the 'eastern goddess' among other names.


5. Decorate birdhouses

Birds returning from their migration will need a spot to rest and eat. Have your kids paint bird retreats and then go outside to hang them.


6. Make musical eggs maracas

This one is great for babies and toddlers. To make musical egg maracas, grab anything egg-shaped, fill it with rice, tape it up and let them shake, shake, shake!


7. Potluck Feast

A feast day often meant several community members gathered together to eat and drink in ancient times. If hosting a potluck is not an option, try to have each family member contribute to your Ostara feast.


8. Colouring Activity

Have the kids colour in the free Freya printable activity that Run Wild Earth Child gifted. It is available on my site under 'Activities: Featured Artists.' Freya is also worshipped around springtime for her connection with fertility and love.


9. Spring Cleaning

Spring is the time for renewal and energy. Open those windows and chase away all the stuffy energy in the house. If something feels like it is anchoring you to the ground or affecting you negatively, get rid of it! Make sure your cleaning leaves rooms feeling fresh and revived.


10. Bath Meditation

Draw yourself a bath full of Epson salts and springtime aroma. Invigorating and renewing smells include lemon, rose, jasmine, eucalyptus and wild orange. Make sure your bath is created and enjoyed with the intent of leaving the bathroom energized and renewed.


Alternatively, if you are stuck inside due to bad weather, I recommend looking at runwildearthchild.com for their Ostara activity bundle. The package is full of Waldorf-inspired material available to use the moment you print them off. Included in it is the free Freya printable they have gifted here on my site! I hope you enjoyed my Ostara lesson and family activity list. If you have any activities you would like to recommend, please tag me on social media (@pagankids) or add them to the comment section below.

Blessed Ostara, everyone! Sincerely, Jennifer Hartman Pagan Kids pagankids.org


 

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Sources:

Ostara (festival and goddess)

  • http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/%C4%92ostre

Bede's attestation:

  • Chapter 15 (De mensibus Anglorum, De temporum ratione

Ostara and Hare

Matron Austriahena:

  • http://self.gutenberg.org/articles/%C4%92ostre

 

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