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Posts Tagged ‘ostara’

(Catching up on the Pagan Blog Project – it’s been a rough two weeks in the Swamp, so I’m a bit behind. I’ll be trying to get caught up to the G’s this week, so you’ll be seeing several posts, hopefully!)

Fertility is one of the virtues of ADF, and you can read my original essay on the subject here. It’s something I am directly trying to increase in my life (not in the “making babies” way but in the “fertility of mind and spirit” way), especially in my career.

This is a very fertile time of year, even here in the Swamp, where things are starting to heat up and it’s now too late to plant vegetables that aren’t okra or hot peppers. I didn’t put in a garden this year (I ran out of time to get the bed prepared), but I am working on fertility in other parts of my life. Career wise, I am looking for new opportunities for growth and change, as what I’m currently doing for my job isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life. In ADF, I’m trying to turn more attention to fertility of mind, as I work on leading my study group and progressing on the IP. (Right now it is a very scattered effort; I have one or two questions answered in several different courses, since I haven’t had time to really prepare well for any one course all at once.)

These two things are, of course, related – both are ways I’m trying to bring the energy of fertility and rebirth into my life, whether it be as a spiritual practice or as a part of my mundane job.

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My Spring Equinox ritual was performed at 4pm on Friday, March 22, 2013, just after I had gotten home from work. This was a solitary ADF style ritual following the full CoOR. Using the published ritual template provided by the Solitary Druid Fellowship for the Equinox, I honored Nerthus as the Earth Mother, Heimdall as the Gatekeeper, and Eostre, Freyr, and Honey bee as the patrons of the occasion. I brought incense for the fire and silver for the well, mead and poetry for the Kindreds and the Beings of the Occasion, and a handful of sweet smelling flowers for Honey Bee.

After my Imbolc ritual, which felt a bit too complicated, I went with a much simpler format – both for the ritual poetry itself and for the offerings. I had a much more solid connection to this ritual than the last one I did, and I really felt like my offerings were received well (though I think the Ancestors liked the brownie better than the mead). I gave myself a good bit of time after I got home from work to decompress before I started the ritual, and that seemed to go very well. I felt very grounded, especially at the beginning of the ritual.

All the offerings, once made into their various bowls, were spread in my gardens as part of the blessing of the coming spring. I hope the added blessings will give lots of oomph to my seedlings, and they will come up strong and stable and produce lots of veggies.

I really liked the SDF ritual format – I was able to do a little bit of improv around some of the shorter sections, where I felt I wanted to fill things out a bit, but I didn’t feel tied down to just “reading” a bunch of poetry. Also I really like the poetry I chose as offerings, some of which I modified to better fit what I wanted to say. I liked doing poetry as an additional praise offering, even if I didn’t fully write it myself, since it gave the ritual more depth. It also made the “focus” of the ritual longer, something I had wanted to do after Imbolc.

I lost focus about halfway through the ritual, but I think that was largely because my neighbor started mowing his yard right by my windows, and it distracted me. While I can’t control that in the future, hopefully as my focus grows I’ll be able to tune out lawnmowers better.

I drew runes as the omen for this ritual and got the following:

  • Kenaz: Torch, Ulcer, Cheer, Pain, Death. Kenaz can be read either as torch (from some rune poems) or ulcer (from other rune poems). As the torch it is power to create your own reality, the power of light. Open to new strength, energy, and power now; the fire of regeneration or the warmth of a hearth fire. It can also be a beacon that draws you home or illumines the dangers of your path. Kenaz provides a clear warning of danger, but danger that can be avoided. It can also be death, a sore that eats away at your insides, a battle that goes poorly. This rune’s dual meanings means it must be read in context, and often is up to a great deal of interpretation.
  • Berkano: Birch, Strength, Flexibility, Resourcefulness. This is the rune of resourcefulness and making something from nothing, and Rev. Dangler speaks of it as the rune of “female strength” (Very Basics of Runes 47). It speaks of birth and rebirth, and physical or mental growth. There is also an element of strength and pride to this rune meaning, alongside the current of fertility and creativity, that you can see in the last two lines of the rune poem. I see self-sufficiency as well, in the first lines of the poem (the tree that brings forth new trees generated from its own leaves)
  • Othila: Stationary Wealth, Ancestors, Completion. This is inherited wealth or property, the kind of wealth that is passed from generation to generation and is stable and secure. Safety, increase, and abundance, or perhaps the completion of a task in such a way that it is stable and secure. Acting from your center, with all the support of your ancestors and your heritage, and being secure in their values.

There are many possible pitfalls on this path, but if you are wary and careful, you will be given the strength and resourcefulness to overcome them, and you will end in a place of completion and wealth.

I swear I mixed the runes up really well, but these are the same runes I’ve drawn for my most recent weekly rune drawings. I can’t help but think there’s a message they’re trying to tell me, but I’m not sure I know what it is.

The question I asked was “What blessings do the Kindreds give to me?”

I’m starting to think I just have a block against interpreting runes. I know what the meanings are (obviously), but actually coming up with how they apply to anything, or make a story together is another thing altogether. Especially when I keep drawing the rune that means “either a good thing or a really bad thing, you figure it out”. I do think there is a middle way to read Kenaz, or at least there could be – it could be that there are dangers and troubles, but that Kenaz will illumine them if you are careful and watchful.

The best sentence I could come up with for this reading is basically a rehash of the rune drawing I did for Imbolc, but with different runes and a slightly more positive spin or outcome. At best, I can take away that I’m going in the right direction, but that hardships aren’t over yet.

Another possibility is that I need to spend some extra time getting in touch with my Disir (Female Ancestors), and that they can help me with this struggle. This particular way of reading could be pointing at some of my mental health problems, though I’m not sure how that specifically answers the “blessings” question.

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I was working on my Ostara ritual last night and just not finding the connection I wanted. I’m going to be using the full SDF ritual this time, instead of trying to piece together my own (more Norse flavored) rite, and I just couldn’t find anything that seemed to be working, from any of the Kindreds, for the ties to the awakening of Spring that I wanted to bring to my offerings.

So I went outside to my gardens and tried to find inspiration there, and it sort of hit me all at once.

Honey bees.

We talk a lot about honoring specific deities in ritual, but it’s always seemed to me like we could do the same with any of the Kindreds (or with a Kindred as a whole, like we honor the Ancestors at Samhain). So while I will still honor Eostre and make offerings to Frey as his energy returns to the earth and brings forth the first plants that will later become his harvest, I am going to make a specific offering to honeybees.

First, because I like bees. I’ve always thought they are cute and fascinating, and I grew up in a family that frequently kept bees for honey and pollination.

Mostly, however, I’ll be making offerings because right now the bees are in trouble (this article is a good starting point if you’re unfamiliar). Whether it’s from a fungus, a virus, a combination of commercial pesticides, climate change, or some massive combination therein, honeybees are in decline, and that’s bad. They’re a crucial part of the food chain, as one of the major pollinators that we have for flowering plants to become the vegetables we eat.  There are a number of theories for what’s behind Colony Collapse Disorder – a phenomenon that has been sharply on the rise for the last decade, where honey bees leave their hive and just disappear, leaving behind a queen and ample storage space and honey. The answer could be any, or some combination of all, of the factors – but the final result is that bees are hurting, and our environment is threatened by the lack of bees. CCD, combined with the devastating effects of a particularly nasty mite that sucks the life out of the bees, is just bad news all around.

So as a response, I’ll be doing both honoring of honey bees as part of the Nature Spirits that are important to this holiday (especially in my area, where everything is blooming *sneezes*), I’ll be offering some of the blessing to them as well. I’ll also be making sure that my bee garden is up to date and planting some new bee-friendly plants to help attract them. My main offering will, of course, be mead, but I’ll also be offering local honey and some sweet smelling flowers from my garden.

It may not be a *historical* way to celebrate Ostara, but to my modern sensibilities, it only makes sense to combine my offerings with my intentions and actions to help the honey bees.

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The spring equinox, commonly called Ostara, is the high holy day that occurs halfway between Imbolc and Beltaine, on the astrological day when day and night are equal – usually around March 21. It mirrors the autumnal equinox, but serves as the gateway into the “light” half of the year.

Commonly, Neo-Pagans celebrate this holiday as the first coming of fertility to the land, with symbols of pastel flowers, rabbits, and eggs (much like the symbols surrounding the secular and Christian celebrations of Easter, which gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, for whom both the Christian and the Pagan holidays are named). The Anglo-Saxon celebration of Eostre in April, though slightly later than our modern celebrations, is the historical basis for this holy day. Eostre is the goddess of the dawn, and her celebration in modern paganism frequently emphasizes the strengthening of the sun. In the secular calendar, March 21 is counted as the first day of spring, which lines up well with the religious celebrations at this time.

This time of year is also the beginning of the rebirth of the agrarian gods, and in the myth of the Goddess and God commonly told in eclectic Wicca, this celebration is when the young God begins his courtship of the Goddess.

Egg decorating is a common custom during this time, for pretty much everyone, and is something I look forward to each year. I’ve decorated eggs since I was a child, and I find that I don’t feel “right” about this time of year until there is a collection of brightly colored eggs in my fridge. I also enjoy decorating my house with birds, nests full of eggs, bunnies, and flowers – symbols that I leave up through Beltaine usually, and the beginning of summer. I have a special connection to rabbits (and have since my childhood), so I enjoy surrounding myself with their imagery for this season.

Also common is the eating of chocolate (and other candy), especially in egg, bean, or bunny shapes, and I will always support holidays that encourage chocolate eating.

This is also one of the few holy days that has a myth that lines up with the agricultural calendar in my area. Though many people are just seeing the first renewed signs of life, it’s not hard to imagine this time of year as one of first plantings and the first fertility of the land (especially with eggs and rabbits as such potent fertility symbols). Since this is the time of year that I plant my spring garden, it’s nice to celebrate the holiday along side celebrating having my garden in the ground. This year the first seedlings will be coming up the week of the Equinox. Planting a garden is a deeply religious experience for me and is a crucial celebration of this season of the year (even if it doesn’t happen right on the actual equinox), and I make a point of channeling the fertility that abounds in Pagan religious celebrations into the ground itself, to increase the yields and fertility of my garden.

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