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[Witch Way] Volume #2 Issue #10 -- Easter and Ostara
March 13, 2010
|Hi, Happy Ostara!
Well, ok, only in the Northern Hemisphere, but itís Spring!
The sun is warming nicely, and at least where I live, the signs are coming fast. I saw the first robin of Spring last weekend, and there seems to be an entire hive of bees hovering around the cottonwood tree out front.
March is our snowiest month here in Colorado, followed closely by April. I grew up with snow, and if you ask me, Iíll tell you I hate it. Itís not the snow I hate, but the need to drive in it with people who have no clue how to. I donít mind Spring snow storms, it could snow three feet today, and be melted tomorrow.
In fact this is the time of year when we get our biggest snow storms. Sometimes with thunder and lightning. Itís an interesting combination.
I love Spring. It gets warm enough to go out without bundling up, yet itís not so hot that it saps you of strength. I wonít have to worry about $200 utility bills anymore, and the women start to wear tank tops and shorts. Now that is a true sign of Spring!
Itís time to open the house and let the sun and fresh air in. Time to clean out the dirt of Winter, and enjoy walking through parks, or natural spaces. Iím really looking forward to taking my walks along the stream again. Last year I did a little exploring, this year I hope to do more.
If you have some long term magickal plans, now is the time to plant the seeds. Do the magick and let it grow with the fertility of the Earth. Now is the time to start projects of all types and sizes. Make good on those New Yearís resolutions you made a couple of months back.
Fertility takes all forms, use it to achieve your goals whatever they may be. Do it for yourself, and donít feel guilty. If you donít know one else will. Being successful in whatever form is not being selfish, itís reaching your potential.
Go out and seek your true potential, then reach it. Not only can you do it, you are the only one who can!
A Monthly Column For Astrological Insight
While there are a couple of astrologically significant days coming up between March 15th and April 15th (as well as Spring Equinox and the deadline for Americans to file their federal income tax), there is only one multi-day transit that bears mentioning during this time.
Weíll start with that, and then analyze the transits occurring the two other astrologically significant days.
The major transit of this thirty day period is Mars in early Leo sextile Saturn in early Libra. A similar transit began February 14th and lasted until February 21st, and as noted in last monthís column a project conceived during the February Mars-Saturn sextile will probably be begun during this March Mars-Saturn sextile, which lasts from March 18th until March 26th.
Although it will be exciting for many of us to be able to start on this new project, it will also mean many months of hard work and attention to detail. Many of us may find we are not as giddy with ďspring feverĒ this Spring as weíve been in other years, but that although we miss the childlike joy in watching new life appear this spring, we will enjoy a much more adult appreciation of how we can contribute to the lifecycle we are part of.
March 15th has a couple of single-day transits happening almost simultaneously, which makes this a potentially notable day. The New Moon--when the Sun and Moon are conjunct--occurs at 3:01 PM Denver time at 25 degrees Pisces. Very close to this time (3:33 PM Denver time) Mercury will conjunct Uranus at 26 degrees Pisces.
This combination of transits indicates that many of us may reach a point in our personal lives today where we feel at one with ourselves, then look out into the world...and jump to illogical (and quite possibly wrong) conclusions about what we see. This is a good day to enjoy time with ourselves, but not take our own thoughts or even feelings too seriously.
Travelling and making long-term decisions should be avoided today, if possible, and even socializing may be more uncomfortable than normal.
This is a very good day for any kind of dramatic or empathic activity, or anything else where you have to be someone else for awhile. The flip side of this is that many of us may find ourselves thinking someone elseís thoughts or feeling someone elseís feelings today without realizing it, which is why travelling, decision-making and even socializing may be risky today.
The other day that has significant astrological potential is April 5th. Early in the morning (5:40 AM Denver time) the Moon will conjunct Pluto in early Capricorn. Pluto and the Moon will then trine both Mercury and Venus in early Taurus all morning, and Pluto by itself will trine both Mercury and Venus all day.
The combination of these transits indicates that today many of us may be subject to compulsive thinking or behavior. Superficial thinking, feeling and answers will be unusually unsatisfying today, and many of us may not rest until we dig deeper and discover whatís really happening.
If you are seeing a therapist or consulting with a spiritual teacher, this is a good day to make an appointment with them, since you will probably have things come up you need to talk about and the answers you get are likely to be particularly profound.
Close relationships will be put under the microscope today, and any buried issues are likely to rise to the surface.
While potentially uncomfortable and possibly obsessive, the Venus-Pluto combination may make for some great sexual encounters (especially in the morning, with the Moon adding its influence). If you are already involved with someone, it might be a good idea to spend the morning with your lover or spouse, so you have the chance to explore any encounters that arise quite thoroughly.
Although this Spring may prove quieter than those in years past, it may be even more productive than those louder, more innocent Springs were. Spring this year may be a time when many of us begin to truly forge our own destiny, for some of us perhaps the first time in our lives.
Grow in health, and peace, and love.
NOTE: This is not a typical ďhoroscopeĒ reading, breaking astrological influences down by Sign for a given period of time. The information in this column should apply to most people, most of the time. If you have any questions, or want specific personalized information on how whatís going on in the heavens affects you, contact Jim Trader.
Time of The Season
Turning the wheel of the year, we come to the Sabbat of Ostara.
This is one of two Sabbats that those new to the Craft are immediately familiar with. The Vernal, or Spring Equinox, March 21st or 22nd, is the time of birth and realized potential of fertility. The rabbit and the egg are both fertility symbols.
The egg is obvious, as it produces a new life at hatching. The rabbit and its capacity to multiply, also make it an obvious choice.
Christians celebrate the equinox without ever realizing it, using the same symbols that the Pagans before them did. Even the timing of the Christian Easter celebration is of Pagan origin.
Unlike Christmas, which is a fixed date every year, Easter travels between March and April, depending on the Full Moon.
According to the Venerable Bede, Eostre was the Saxon version of the Germanic fertility goddess Ostara, from whose name we get the word estrogen. Her feast day was held on the full moon following the Vernal Equinox.
One popular legend is that Eostre found a bird, wounded, on the ground late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. But "the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs...the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre."
This is very likely the origin of the Easter Egg. The other interesting comparison is that the calculation for when to hold Easter, is that Easter is always the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, after the Spring Equinox. Or, it is the first Sunday after the feast day of Eostre.
Even the Christian liturgy for Easter sounds Pagan. This is the day that Christians believe Christ rose from the dead. Isnít that exactly what the plants and trees are doing? They are coming back to life, after the death of Winter. Then there is the fact that the name Easter is derived directly from Eostre.
We get our celebrations of Ostara not from the Celts, but from the Saxons, and Vikings who came later. This makes a lot of sense.
In the far northern climates, this is the time of year when you first really get a taste of Spring. The farther North you go, the shorter the growing season, and the later it starts.
Even in the US, if you live above the 39th parallel, it isnít until March that you really begin to see Spring in all its glory. The more southerly latitudes may have had Spring-like weather since Imbolc, but it isnít until later in March that the rest of the country really comes out of the deep freeze.
A dynasty of Persian kings known as the Achaemenids celebrated the spring equinox with the festival of No Ruz -- which means "new day."
It is a celebration of hope and renewal still observed today in many Persian countries, and has its roots in Zoroastrianism. In Iran, a festival called Chahar-Shanbeh Suri takes place right before No Ruz begins, and people purify their homes and leap over fires to welcome the 13-day celebration of No Ruz.
This Spring celebration can be traced back at least as far as the Akaddians of Mesopotamia. The Akaddians were the precursor to the Babylonians of that same area, and date back to about 3000 B.C.E.
In the Zoroastrian creation myth, the world we know was created in seven layers, each layer an archetype. These layers included the sky, ocean, land, plants, animals, humans, and the last layer was fire and sun together.
This world was static. There was no day or night, the sun never moved. It stayed this way for four periods of 3000 years each, or 12,000 years total. These were years of struggle between the forces of good and evil, that still rage today. At the end of the 12,000 year period, the three archetypes of life were sacrificed.
From the Plant archetype came all the seeds of the world, from the Great Bull, came all the animals of the Earth, and from the Human Archetype, came the first man and woman.
The sun began to move, and it was the first No Ruz, or New Day. From that time forward, all has been as it is now. The feast of No Ruz celebrates the Lord of Wisdom, (who made God, and all that is good) and the Holy Fire at the Spring Equinox.
The saying ďMad as a March hareĒ comes from a species of nocturnal rabbit in Europe. When mating season starts in March, they can be seen all day long.
The female rabbit can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with the first. This makes this particular species of rabbit a super fertility symbol. The males tend to become frustrated when their mate isnít interested in mating, and this behavior is what caused the saying to come about in the middle ages.
The story of the Roman god, Mithras, is similar to the tale of Christ and his resurrection. Born at the winter solstice and resurrected in the spring, Mithras helped his followers ascend to the realm of light after death.
In one legend, Mithras, who was a popular Deity of the Roman military, was ordered by the Sun to sacrifice a white bull. He reluctantly obeyed, but at the moment when his knife entered the body of the Bull, the bull turned into the moon, and Mithras' cloak became the night sky. Where the bull's blood fell flowers grew, and stalks of grain sprouted from its tail.
Animals transforming into plants, other animals, and even the moon are common. Where Imbolc was to celebrate the return of Nature in the form of plants and trees, Ostara celebrates the return of Nature in the form of animals.
It is at this time of the year that just about every animal you can think of, is baring their young. As if in response, the plants that were just budding at Imbolc, are now flowering and in full bloom.
Ostara is said to be a time of balance. It is one of two times in the year that the day and night are equal in length. This is part of the magick of Ostara. It is this balance of Nature that we celebrate. After having been dormant so long through the Winter, Nature is now rebounding with abandon.
The days are warm, but not yet hot, and the nights are cool, but without the edge of Winter. Farmers are ploughing and planting their crops in the fields. It is a time of physical activity and action.
Traditionally, this is the time to do Spring Cleaning. We open our houses for the first time after winter, to gather in the warm Spring breezes, and remove all the dirt accumulated over the Winter.
It is also a time for Spring cleaning in the Spiritual realm.
This time of Balance, when light and dark are equal. People take stock of what they have, and what they want to accomplish. They plotted and planned all Winter, then started to put their plans into action at Imbolc. Now they look at what they have so far, and adjust as needed.
Ostara celebrations usually include flowers. As important and plentiful as fire was at Imbolc, the fires have turned into flowers for Ostara. There is no such thing as too many flowers for this celebration. Nearly as important as the flowers, are games.
Until now it has been too cold to go outside and just play. Part of the basis of the Easter egg hunt, is that it can be done outside.
The weather is warm enough to spend hours just rummaging around in the bushes. Another game that is frequently tried, is balancing an egg on its base.
This game has survived so long because itís easy to try. You may even find local news casts talking about it.
The idea is that because the night and day are in balance, (modern culture has added the idea that the sun's gravitational pull is equal north to south) it helps to bring other things into balance as well. You simply place an egg on its rounded end, on a flat level surface, and try to get it to sit there. Itís not easy, but it can be done.
Ostara, or the Spring Equinox is, and has been celebrated by just about every culture in one form or another.
In Egypt, the Festival of Isis was held as a celebration of spring and rebirth. Isis features prominently in the story of the resurrection of her lover, Osiris. Although Isis' major festival was held in the fall, folklorist Sir James Frazer says in The Golden Bough that "We are told that the Egyptians held a festival of Isis at the time when the Nile began to riseÖ the Goddess was then mourning for the lost Osiris, and the tears which dropped from her eyes swelled the impetuous tide of the river."
In Italy, the ancient Romans held the Feast of Cybele, which was a big deal every spring. Cybele was a mother Goddess who was at the center of a Phrygian fertility cult. Her eunuch priests performed mysterious rites in her honor.
Her lover was Attis (who also happened to be her grandson), and her jealousy caused him to castrate and kill himself. His blood was said to be the source of the first violets. Attis was resurrected from the Underworld by Cybele, with some help from Zeus.
In some areas, there is still an annual celebration of Attis' rebirth and Cybele's power, called the Hilaria, observed from March 15 to March 28.
In Russia, the celebration of Maslenitsa is observed as a time of the return of light and warmth. This folk festival, which is a mixture of Christo-pagan influences, is celebrated about seven weeks before Easter.
During the Lent season, meat and fish and dairy products are prohibited. Maslenitsa is the last chance anyone will get to enjoy those items for a while, so it's typically a big festival held before the somber, introspective time of Lent.
A straw effigy of the Lady of Maslenitsa, is burned in a bonfire. Leftover pancakes and blintzes are tossed in as well, and when the fire has burned away, the ashes are spread in the fields to fertilize the year's crops.
In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated each year on March 17. St. Patrick is known as a symbol of Ireland, particularly around every March.
One of the reasons he's so famous is because he is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland. This event was even credited as a miracle. What most people don't realize is that the serpent was actually a metaphor for the early Pagan faiths of Ireland.
St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle, and did such a good job of it that he practically eliminated Paganism from the country. More than a few Pagans take solace in the fact that modern celebrations of this day are nothing more than an excuse for drunken revelry.
No matter where you are, or how you celebrate, the return of Nature in abundance cannot be denied. This is the basis for each and every Equinox celebration, even if the celebrants donít admit it.
The world has come back to life. The animals are producing young, and many of those animals either through hunting, or cultivation, are food for us.
Ostara is a time of returning abundance, and that is something well worth celebrating. Birds are laying eggs, and bees are producing honey.
Spring has returned.
Last month I was asked to take part in a panel discussion about the role of Pagan Clergy. This was the second such discussion to take place, and I was one of eight panel members. It was the second discussion because in the two hours that the first discussion took, they only got through two of the ten questions.
One of the questions asked this time around was:
So many of our Clergy, after years of leadership in community, and working a day job, burn out and drop out. I have also noticed that a new class of full-time Clergy is emerging, those who publish, travel and teach, or who organize very large events, and who get paid for their time and energy as leaders in community. What are your thoughts on this? What does this say about our religious views on money?
I had expected my point of view to be the contrarian, as it usually is. I decided to let others speak first, to see what they had to say, and possibly work up some points for my argument that the Pagan community should support its Clergy, just as the other Faiths support theirs.
Much to my surprise, every other person on the panel said the same thing I was planning to. This was a panel made up of Witches, Heathens, and Shamans, so it was a good cross section of the Pagan community.
Unanimously we all agreed that we arenít looking to become rich from our Spirituality, but if our community were to support us monetarily, we would be able to do much more for that community.
Magni, our Norse Heathen panelist pointed out that if we were in 725AD, and you wanted your Gothi and Gythia (Priest and Priestess) to help you with a problem, you would take a goat or two with you as payment. If it was a big problem, it might cost you a cow. If you had farm land, you would pay with grain, or depending on the season, vegetables from that farm.
Nothing was done for free, yet most Pagans seem to think that being a Pagan Priest or Priestess requires you to give your services out of the goodness of your heart.
Sure, if I have a stable income, and Iím not worried about where this monthís rent, or tonightís dinner is coming from, I will gladly do whatever I can to help without worrying about payment. Honestly, Iím more than likely to do that even if I donít have a stable income.
So where did this idea that everything should be free come from?
Itís inextricably tied to the Poor Pagan Myth. Somewhere, someone decided that Pagans shouldnít need money to live, that having a good income somehow made you less in tune with Nature, and less Spiritual.
The Pagan movement picked it up from the Hippies of the Ď60s. In the late Ď60s and early Ď70s a lot of the Hippy culture was drawn to Wicca because of its holistic, earth-based philosophy. Somehow they got the idea that Spirituality was tied to money, or more exactly, the lack of it.
Hippies by the VW vanload showed up and started learning about Wicca because they could equate the worship of Nature with the simple and/or communal life they were familiar with. Iím not saying thereís anything wrong with this lifestyle, except that itís a fantasy. I mean, how many Hippies, real hippies, do you know?
The communal lifestyle is only workable of you have an isolated, self sustaining group. If you can provide all the needs for the entire community, and you have no outside influences, the communal model can work. Unfortunately for those trying to create such a system, it canít be done in an urban environment.
The Hippies realized this 40 years ago, and they ceased to exist as a cultural group. Even so, Hippies were not a religious sect, they didnít preach any Spiritual Path.
Some found the eastern teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism, which taught that the more Spiritual the person, the less need they have for material goods. What they didnít seem to comprehend is that it doesnít work the other way around. Being less material does not make you more Spiritual.
So where does this idea that being less material makes you more Spiritual come from? The only group I know of that actually felt that way, were the Franciscans. You know, the guys with the brown robes, rope belts, tonsure and sandals. Friar Tuck.
Since most people coming to this Spiritual Path are trying to leave everything Christian behind them, why is it they bring their Christian baggage with them? Money is not the Root of All Evil. It is a means to an end.
When you get right down to it, all religions or Spiritual Paths are about living to your potential. Trying to be the best person you can be.
Letís face it, if Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans really thought that money was a bad thing, why are there money spells? What about general prosperity spells? Isnít one definition of prosperity, having money?
Witchcraft and Paganism are not anti money. They donít ask you not to use money, and certainly donít require you to give up a good paying job to be a member. In fact youíll find a huge number of Pagans are employed in IT, which isnít known for small salaries.
Money is not now, nor has it ever been the problem. People without money have always felt a need to make excuses for not having it. Somehow, not having money is supposed to make you better, when in reality, it just makes you broke.
The fact that I havenít had a steady job in years, and have nothing to show for my years of work doesnít make me more Spiritual, it only shows that I havenít really found my calling professionally.
Even so, I have been, and continue to work on building my own businesses. Having money would give me the freedom to devote more time to my clerical duties, as long as Iím not punching a time clock.
So I work now to build businesses that donít require constant attention, and can be done from anywhere I can get an Internet connection. This is my solution to not having money. Find something I enjoy, and see if I can make a living at it.
The way I look at it, how can I reach my full potential, if I have to rely on others for my most basic needs? Oh, and one other thing that was mentioned at that panel discussion:
At the end, we took questions from the audience. One well known Priest who was asked, and declined to be on the panel reminded us; ďYou are magical people. If you donít have what you need to live and be Clergy, talk to your Gods. Make them a deal that if they help provide what you need to live, and the time to enjoy it, you will do everything you can to do Their work.Ē
I talked with my God that night. The next day I found a $500 donation to the website in my snail mail.
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Until next month, may you be blessed in all that you do, or as we usually say,
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