As the newly reborn sun races across the sky, the days become longer, the air warmer and, once again, life begins to return to the land. Twice a year, day and night become equal in length.To the elders of the Olde Way, these times, equinoxes, were markers in which seeds would be planted and then harvested. The first of these, the Spring or Vernal Equinox occurs on or about March 21st.The ancient goddess, Eostre, a Saxon deity who marked not only the passage of time but also symbolized new life and fertility, was the key symbol of the celebration of the Vernal Equinox, which was also known as Ostara. Legend has it that the goddess was saved by a bird whose wingshad become frozen by the cold of winter.
This process turned the bird into a hare.
Yet this was no ordinary bunny; this long-eared rabbit could also lay eggs!
Ostara is a spring
celebration marking the growing vitality of the god, and his mating
with the goddess. The rejoining takes place after the god rises from a
death-like sleep, marking another connection to Easter, which honors
the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Fertility symbols are
important aspects of Ostara, including eggs and rabbits, because of the
connection to mating. Pagans who observe Ostara often decorate their
altars with early spring growth and decorated eggs. The main symbols
for Easter are the egg, for new life or beginnings, and the
rabbit/hare, for fertility. This marks another one of the connections
between the old holiday of Ostara andEaster.
Relationship to Easter
As Christianity spread
across Europe and Britain, these older symbols became incorporated into
the new faith's holiday of Easter; even the name seems to have been a
variant of the Goddess whose festival was originally celebrated with
the arrival of spring. The old rites honoring the planting of new
seeds, the fertility of the land and its people, and the hope of the
new life arising in the world were replaced by solemn displays
commemorating Christ and Christian beliefs.
Even though it is connected
to pagan holidays, the Christian Church acknowledged the significance
of the Vernal Equinox. The Council of Nice decreed in 325 A.D. that
"Easter was to fall upon the first Sunday after the first full moon on
or after the VernalEquinox."
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