The Spring Equinox has long been celebrated around the world. Occurring in late March in the Northern Hemisphere and late September in the Southern Hemisphere, the Vernal Equinox is the 1st time in the calendar year that lightness and darkness happen in equal measure in the day. It marks the beginning of the lengthening of daylight as Summer quickly approaches. Celebrated as the first day of Spring the world over, modern Wiccans celebrate this sabbat as Ostara, after a German goddess of the season.
Modern Wiccan Traditions
There are many ways modern Wiccans celebrate the Ostara sabbat, and many of them are the same regardless of the hemisphere or country the Witch is in. Though there might be slight variations, the correspondences are usually very similar and are incorporated in different aspects of honoring the sabbat.
Whether decorating your altar, your table for a sabbat feast, your home in general, or an outdoor area for a ritual, the correspondences of Ostara are part of the celebration. From scarves and tablecloths, to candles and incense, there are many ways Witches the world over add to the magick and power of the sabbat.
Color correspondences: Green, pink, yellow, white, pastels
Animal correspondences: Rabbits/hares, butterflies, lambs, chicks, merpeople, dragons
Stone correspondences: Aquamarine, jasper, moonstone, amethyst, rose quartz
Flower correspondences: Tulips, daffodils, violets, any spring wildflower
Incense correspondences: Jasmine, rose, African violet
Herb correspondences: Cinquefoil, honeysuckle, dogwood, acorn
Though you might not be able to tell the difference between a Witch’s altar in Ireland and one in Canada, there are some differences in how Ostara is celebrated in some areas. Most notably, the reverence it is given. In North and Central America and the British Isles, Ostara is typically a lesser sabbat, and Samhain marks the beginning of the Wiccan year. However, in Germany and other areas, Ostara is treated as a major sabbat and for some Witches marks the beginning of their year on the Wheel of the Year.
You’ll also notice that many Ostara rituals and traditions are similar (or exactly the same) as traditions in other religions. Colored eggs, rabbits and hares, fertility rites – many Spring Equinox celebrations contain similar traditions. Here are a few examples from ancient and modern times.
Easter is celebrated the world over, usually around the beginning of Spring (though the date varies and can sometimes be a few weeks after the vernal equinox). Easter traditions are very similar to other Spring Equinox traditions, including colored eggs and floral themes. Colored eggs symbolize rebirth in Christianity, and the resurrection is seen as a rebirth. The Easter Bunny comes from an old Germanic tradition. The Easter Hare acted similarly to Kris Kringle, deciding whether children had been good or bad, bringing treats and toys along with his brightly colored eggs.
Passover is an important Jewish holiday that occurs near the beginning of Spring. A pilgrimage festival, it marks the end of Hebrew slavery in Egypt and the saving of their first borns from the 10th plague of Egypt. The Pesach feast is called a Seder, and involves food, drink, and special readings that include retellings of the exodus from Egypt.
Like German Wiccans, Spring marks the New Year for Iranians. The festival of Nowruz begins just before the spring equinox and it includes many common springtime traditions, such as spring cleaning. The etymology of Nowruz is “new day” and Nowruz marks the first day of the Iranian solar calendar. It is celebrated worldwide by the Persian diaspora.
Cybele began as a Phrygian goddess. The Romans referred to her as Magna Mater, or Great Mother, and she had several iterations. She gained a higher place in the Roman pantheon after an oracle said Cybele would be key in Rome’s second war against Carthage. A meteor shower, famine, and other signs taken as bad omens of Rome’s defeat led to Rome officially adopting Cybele from the Phrygians as one of their own. Because of her status as a mother goddess, the Spring was her time of celebration, as the world was itself giving birth to new life.
Similar to Mardi Gras, Maslenitsa is a Russian festival that happens just before the Great Lent. Though the beginning of Orthodox Lent in Russia, and of Easter, differs from Western Christianity’s dates, the practices of Lent are similar. During the Great Lent, meat, fish and dairy products are prohibited, and it is a somber time meant for self-reflection. Maslenitsa is a time to enjoy those foods about to be verboten for 2 months and to celebrate the coming light.
In Russia, the celebration of Maslenitsa is observed as a time of the return of light and warmth. Blinis are a popular treat to be had during the festival of Maslenitsa, because early, pre-Christian East Slavic people considered them as a symbol of the sun, due to their round form. Prepared at the end of winter to welcome the rebirth of the sun, the tradition held through centuries and is still practiced today.
A localized festival that occurs in Lanark, Scotland, Whuppity Scoorie day is celebrated on March 1st to welcome the coming of Spring. Children run around the local church in a clockwise direction, waving paper balls over their heads. The running is just for fun now, though it used to be a race. After three laps, members of the City Council throw coins for the children to gather. A Storytelling Festival occurs for several days after Whuppity Scoorie day as well. Noted in print as early as the 1850s, Whuppity Scoorie used to be referred to as the “wee bell ceremony” and it is possible it has roots in scaring away Winter spirits to allow Spring to arrive.