For centuries spring has been seen as the season of renewal. Earth-based religions have long recognized the spring equinox as a day of celebration. The day is a celebration of life and renewal.
For many, the celebration comes in the form of Ostara, the Wiccan celebration of the spring equinox.
Mary Ellen Colfer opened Curious Goods in January 1992. The store serves the needs of the local pagan community by offering many of the necessities adherents of various earth-based religions require to practice their faith. This includes creating a space for the celebration of holidays, such as Ostara.
This year, Ostara will be celebrated on March 21. Many within the pagan community will come together at Colfer’s store for the event.
“Many of the earth-based religions follow the cycles of the seasons,” Colfer said. “Ostara is the return of spring. We leave the cold and the dark of winter and come back into the light. Ostara is also considered a fertility festival because chickens are laying their eggs, bunnies are having babies and things are growing so food is more abundant. Our ancestors didn’t have Walmart to go to, so this was a big celebration.”
According to Colfer, Ostara was the name of a Germanic goddess. And it is from this goddess the celebration arose.
“I especially like her story because it is one that has been passed down for a long time,” Colfer said.
The story of Ostara starts with a young girl playing in the woods when she is overtaken by a snowstorm. The girl finds a bird, shivering and cold in the snow, and prays to the goddess to save the bird. The story goes that the goddess appears and the girl pleads for the bird’s life. The goddess transforms the bird into a hare that is able to survive the snow and it gratefully hops away.
“Later, when spring was in full bloom, the hare was so grateful for being saved that it colored eggs and took them to Ostara as a thank you for saving it,” Colfer said. “Ostara thought the eggs were so beautiful she wanted all of her children to have them, hence the bunny bringing colored eggs to everyone.”
Similarly, colored eggs and other symbols of fertility play a role in many Ostara celebrations. Colfer will host one such celebration during this year’s equinox. Just as she has done every year since she opened Curious Goods.
“First of all, earth-based spirituality and food go together, so we have a potluck,” Colfer said. “We cast a circle which we consider a sacred place, it puts you into a mindset to be more spiritual and leave the outside world out there. We mix salt with water and ask the gods to bless it and we use that as the boundary for the circle.”
The salt and water coincide with two of the five elements that are held as sacred in earth-based religions, water and earth. The other three elements-fire, air and spirit-are represented by incense and the practitioners respectively.
“We have druids who participate, Wiccans, and those who just call themselves Pagans. Pagan is an umbrella term. Whereas Christianity is an umbrella term for all of the various denominations, Pagan is one for all of the earth-based ones,” Colfer said.
The next important celebration on Colfer’s calendar will be Beltane, which is celebrated halfway between spring and summer. This year, Colfer will be joining hundreds of other practitioners in an inaugural three-day event sponsored by the Church of Our Lady and held at The Wind and Stone event center in Lone Wolf, Ok.