March 20th, 2011

Spring is here! Yay! Happy Ostara!

Today is the first day of spring--and after a long, tough winter, I couldn't be happier to see it arrive! Here in upstate New York, it is still cold (and they are calling for an inch or so of snow tomorrow), but the sun is shining and most of the gigantic piles of snow have melted. The red-winged black birds are out in force, the geese have returned to the creek across the street, and buds can be seen on a few of the bushes. Spring is here! Huzzah!

Most cultures have traditionally observed both equinoxes and solstices throughout recorded history. For modern Pagans, the Spring Equinox (also known as Ostara) is one of the eight Sabbats, and a time to celebrate with ritual and feasts.

The spring equinox is one of two days during the year when the day and night are in perfect balance, which makes it an especially good day for working on balance in your own life. It is also a time to plant the seeds (metaphysically speaking, if not actual seeds) for the plans and goals you intend to work on in the year ahead.

Here is an Ostara ritual from my first book, CIRCLE, COVEN AND GROVE. It is written for a group, but can easily be adapted for use by one person.

Spring Equinox Ritual

 For many of us, it is still too cold to celebrate the Spring Equinox outside. This ritual is designed to be performed indoors. If you are lucky enough to be able to do it outside, just skip the part about walking through the curtains.
Supplies needed:
2 curtains or large pieces of cloth—one white (sheets works fine), one flowered.
A bell or gong.
Seed packets (enough for everyone in your circle to get two or three, unless it is a large circle—then one each is good)—20 to 30 total
Slips of paper to attach to seed packets (write on each a different way to grow: see list at end of ritual)—one for each packet
Oil for anointing
Note: You can decorate your altar with fresh flowers, and decorated eggs. We used chocolate malted eggs that looked like robin eggs…fun, and you can eat them when you’re done!
ALL gather in an outer room
Circle member sits in an inner room with a bell. (At my house we went from the dining room into the living room, but you can enter from any space large enough for you all to gather into any space large enough for the ritual)
One by one, participants walk toward two curtains hung in doorway (first white, then flowered). HPS or HP pulls back white curtain and says: “Pass from winter into spring, and blessed be,” then pulls back flowered cloth so that participant can enter the next room.
As people enter the room, a circle member anoints them with oil, saying: “Enter into this sacred space, and blessed be”
he circle member already in the room rings altar bell as each enters. (This is to signal that they have moved into a sacred space.)
Once in circle, participants drum quietly until everyone has entered the circle. (If you have a large group attending, it is not a bad idea to have a circle member go in first and start drumming to set an example)
HPS or HP enters last, is anointed, and then anoints the circle member who anointed her/him. Drumming stops, and all stand.
HPS: “Welcome to our celebration of the Spring Equinox, also known as Ostara. This is a time of hope and renewal, growth and rebirth. As the wheel of the year turns again to bring us out of the darkness of winter, and into the light of spring, we are given the chance to start fresh, and welcome new energy into our lives.”
Pass sage to consecrate and cleanse the circle
Pass salt and water around the circle
HPS/HP casts circle: (walks around circle with /athame) “I cast the circle round and round, from Earth to Sky, from Sky to Ground. I conjure now this sacred place, outside time, and outside space. The circle is cast, we are between the worlds.”
Call the Quarters
HPS/HP invokes God and Goddess:
Great Goddess, Bright Maiden, Lady of the Growing Things, bless our circle with your presence as we celebrate the coming of Spring. Lend us your wisdom and your grace as you help us to grow to our full potential. Welcome, and blessed be.
Great God, Green Man, Lord of the Wild Things, bless our circle with your presence as we celebrate the coming of Spring. Lend us your strength and your determination and help us to become all that we wish ourselves to be. Welcome, and blessed be.

HPS: “Spring is a time of growth. Not just for the grass and trees, but for us as well. Tonight we turn our energy and the energy of this circle to the goal of growing in all the positive and beneficial ways available to us. In this circle, our intent is focused, our power immeasurable. And together, we can invoke positive change, not only in our own lives, but in the world surrounding us.”

Pass a bowl filled with slips of paper that are attached to seed packets. Each person should take a seed packet, read the slip aloud, and pass the bowl to the next person. The HPS starts. (Ex.: “May we grow in spirit” “May we grow in health” – May we grow in…prosperity, wisdom, courage, faith, love, community, forgiveness, power, joy, openness) When the bowl has gone around once or twice (depending on the size of the circle) the HPS finishes, saying: “May we grow in peace” So Mote It Be.

HPS/HP or circle member leads meditation (feeling growth come up from the earth):
Close your eyes. Take a slow deep breath. Feel the peace of the circle surround you. Take another slow breath and let go of the tensions of the everyday world. These things have no place here. Here there is only calm, and silence and love.
Listen to the slow breathing of those around you. If you listen carefully, you can hear the breathing of the earth as she awakens. The birds call. The trees rustle. The earth stirs.
Send your awareness down. Down through the floor, down beneath the house. Move into the earth. Feel the roots of the trees shifting deep within the earth. Feel the small, subtle stirrings of the bulbs and seeds. They have lain dormant all winter, storing their energy, waiting for their time to grow and blossom.
Now that time has come. All around us, the earth is coming back to life, rising, stretching, growing. Reach out for that energy. Feel it with all your senses—full of potential, unlimited, positive and powerful.
Open your whole self to this beneficial energy. Let yourself be filled to overflowing with the potential for change and growth, health, prosperity, abundance and joy.
Send gratitude out to our mother the earth for this gift, and feel yourself filled with the bountiful energy of spring. Feel yourself begin to blossom and grow, and know that all things are possible.

Take a moment of silence, then starts drumming to wake up the earth, and get that energy flowing  -- if you want, you can do a chant [“She changes everything she touches” is a particularly good one for this ritual. See Chapter 17 for more chants.]

When drumming has reached its peak, take the energy deep within, and send what is left out into the universe. Ground any excess energy by putting your hands on the floor and sending it down into the earth.

Pass Cakes and Ale (pomegranate juice is perfect for this ritual, because of its associations with the myth of Persephone, devilled eggs or seed cakes are good too)

Pass the Speaking Stick—each person can talk about how they want to grow or mention some practical plans for self-improvement
Dismiss the Quarters
Thank the God and Goddess
Open the circle

Have a feast!!! (Don’t forget to include spring food and your decorated eggs, if you have them.)

Happy spring, everyone! What are you doing to celebrate?