Monday, March 22, 2010

Ostara...It's Not Just For the Kiddies Anymore!

When did our blessed Ostara get to be such a juvenile holiday? I recall being new to the Craft but long attuned to the seasons and cycles of the earth, and smelling the first breath of Spring in the air. There was a subtle shifting of energies, an inward stirring of freshness, possibility and new hope in the air. As a wilderness child, I avidly searched for the first hint that the cold earth had thawed, for the first glimpse of wild dutchmans’ breeches, sweet violets and bloodroot flowers to come pushing up out of the ground. Ostara brought silver minnows swimming in the creek, gusty breezes to coax kites aloft and wish bubbles to be blown out on the wind with a jar and plastic wand.

Somewhere along the way in the Pagan community, Ostara became only a children’s sabbat with grown-ups hovering awkwardly while kids scouted colored eggs. There might be a picnic afterwards, with another avalanche of eggs. What once was heralded as a light-hearted observance of greenings and hatchings and sighings of robins, wrens and hares, has been diminished to Cadbury eggs, jellybeans and egg coloring kits.

For all of us earthlings who are childless, or those whose children have grown, I propose returning Ostara to its roots…and stems and leaves and flowers. If your young ones or grandkids have lost sight of their connection to the earth, and have no idea why there are chocolate rabbits hopping down from every grocery store shelf, this will be an educational outing for them. There is magic and meaning in this observance, whether you are a covener of solitairy. Make of Ostara a day of discovery, of newness in the wild.

If means permit, arrange a weekend camping or cabining trip to a place in nature. Get away from the city’s concrete and steel. Along with other supplies, take your camera, notebook and pen. Once settled in, find a picnic bench or break out your camp chair. Seat yourself comfortably and invoke Ostara, Goddess of Spring:

“Lady of flowers returning, Lady of the earth’s green mantle,

Sweet your presence, blessed your spirit.

Awaken my senses to you, that I might be renewed.”

Now embark upon your great discovery. Beginning with your sense of hearing, listen to the sounds of spring. Is there a gurgling brook or a sunlit creek skipping over small stones? Are there birds in the trees, industriously setting up housekeeping for the year? Listen for as long as you like, then record what impressions came to you.

Next consider the smell of spring. What is the scent of the earth, watered by spring rains? How does the waterfall smell, rushing by? Press your face to a leaf or bend to sniff a wildflower. Tilt your face up towards the sun and drink in the fragrance of the day. Jot down your thoughts or write a poem about this experience.

You may have to take the taste of spring camping with you. Put together a salad of spring greens and herbs. Set a dish of plump strawberries or blackberries for dessert. I dare you to play at face painting by tracing some of the juice across your nose or cheeks! Pour yourself a glass of spring water with a sprig of mint. Dice up an apple and scatter it nearby, that the creatures of the earth might dine too. If you are led to say a pagan grace, it might be something like this:

“Blessed is the earth on which I stand. One Mother, giver of all life, renewed and renewing for time without end. Blessed is the goodness you provide to nurture my body and soul. May I walk gently, ever mindful of your grace. So mote it be.”

Savor your little feast and thank Ostara for feeding you once again. Take time to be grateful. After your meal, see what gift you can give back to the earth. Pick up some aluminum cans or trash. Pour the last of your water at the base of a tree, or bury a few silver coins for the unseen spirits of the land.

Next look around you, visually noticing the colors of spring. Ostara has painted the land with her palette, hoping you have the eyes to see. Notice the changes in light and in shadow this time of year. How many wildflowers have stars outlined in their pastel centers? Like every good artist, the Goddess signs Her work. Choose a single flower or a leaf, and press it in your journal. Stand by a stream and note the patterns on wet stones. Have your camera ready to catch the budding trees’ reflection in the water.

Finally, reach out with both your body and your spirit. Skip a few of those smooth flat stones! Roll up your pant legs and go wading and splashing like the earth child you are! Take your hiking stick in hand and see what’s around the bend. Rake aside a bit of old brush and reveal the seedlings popping through the ground, tiny mushrooms and insects busy at work. Tuck leaves into your hair. Revel in the joy of spring!

When you have returned to your camp, write down anything of special significance to you. Then thank Ostara with words like these:

Here in the heart of nature, my spirit is renewed

And all my senses quickened.

Let me never lose the sight of beauty,

The scent of the breeze,

The taste of all the earth provides.

Let me hear the living earth hum around me

And feel your love in the weaving of nature’s web.

Blessed Be.”

Kiss your hand, then blow a kiss to Ostara on the balmy air. She is all around you, and Her arms encircle the world. List the treasures your day of exploration has revealed, by saying something like:

“For the little chipmunks who came for food, Ostara, I thank you!

For the first butterfly in the meadow, Ostara, I thank you!

For the shiny stone in my pocket, Ostara, I thank you!

Hail to the Mother of Beginnings! I’m betting that Ostara soon becomes one of your favorite sabbats. Here’s to the sweetness of welcoming Spring!

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