Rites of Spring - Ostara

UU church  

My sister, Lin, is a witch. No, you didn't misread that. She's a witch and her earth-centered group, a coven, if you will, met a couple of nights ago to celebrate Ostara, the return of Spring. Ostara aka Eastre or Ēostre in Old English was a pre-8th century German pagan goddess associated with the celebration of Easter. I'm always fascinated with the origins of traditional holidays. Though many holidays have been adopted into traditional religious calendars, their origins usually trace back to natural yearly occurrences. It only made sense for me to accompany her to the celebration. The historic UU church in Milton was a lovely venue for the evening meeting.




When we talk about witches here, we're not talking brooms, black magic and animal sacrifice. I've been to several Wiccan meetings with Lin over the years. They revolve around celebrating nature, especially the change of seasons. The Sun, the Moon, the directions of the compass, the elements of fire, water, air, fire and aether (spirit, that which unites them) ... these all play a major role in the ritual circle celebration. As an “unaffiliated” attendee, I find it fascinating to participate and I'm always welcomed into the circle.

Witchcraft got a bad rap along the way, I think. Historically, when certain phenomenon could not be explained or someone knew the uses and healing nature of herbs and plants, it was easy to label it witchcraft. Then, of course, if you could swim in the early 1600's, that was a sure sign of the presence of witchcraft. Hang 'em high, press them, drown them.





The ceremony consisted of the participants sitting in a circle. A simple altar was laid with wine, pussy willows and seeds sharing the main places of honor. There were readings about the myth of Demeter and Persephone, then some discussion of Spring as the season of renewal and rebirth. We planted seeds, symbolic of the season. We toasted with wine. We feasted. We enjoyed each other's company.

This was a fine way to welcome in the new season ... pagan or otherwise.

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