Eostre: Goddess of Spring, Ostara and the Germanic People
Hear her song carried gently on the Spring breeze. It’s quiet right now, but the sound will grow louder as Ostara (the Spring Equinox) rounds the corner. Eostre Goddess of Spring is ripening and preparing to emerge as the maiden of the Spring Equinox. Full of youth and innocence, and yet ready to become much more.
Who Revered Eostre the Goddess of Spring?
You’ll see quite a few people online poo-pooing on the idea that Eostre was a goddess at all. That she’s a concept “made up” by Bede the Venerable. My response is this – how do we know any god or goddess wasn’t just “made up” by a scholar, historian, or storyteller? We hear their tales from one person or another, see the evidence in archaeology or long-held traditions, and we believe. Or we don’t. For me, I believe Eostre was indeed a deity to the West Germanic people, then taken to England with the Angles and Saxons before the rise of Christianity. Here’s Bede the Venerable’s passage on this Spring Goddess:
Bede’s Passage on Eostre:
“In olden time the English people — for it did not seem fitting to me that I should speak of other people’s observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation’s — calculated their months according to the course of the moon. Hence, after the manner of the Greeks and the Romans (the months) take their name from the Moon, for the Moon is called mona and the month monath.
The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath; May, Thrimilchi; June, Litha; July, also Litha; August, Weodmonath; September, Halegmonath; October, Winterfilleth; November, Blodmonath; December, Giuli, the same name by which January is called.
Nor is it irrelevant if we take the time to translate the names of the other months. …Hrethmonath is named for their goddess Hretha, to whom they sacrificed at this time. Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance. Thrimilchi was so called because in that month the cattle were milked three times a day…”
From De ratione temporum 15. (The reckoning of time, tr. Faith Wallis, Liverpool University Press 1988, pp.53-54) pulled from Roger Pearse’s Pages – The Tertullian Project.
Eostre Goddess of Spring in Maiden Form Today
The Goddess of Spring to pagans (old & new) is Eostre (pronounced O-star-ah). Her name is representative of the Spring Equinox and has been adapted to modern pagan customs. The Spring Equinox is also called Ostara (which is the pronunciation of Eostre’s name). Scholars believe her name means one of the following, “to shine, bright light”, “towards the Dawn”, “morning” or “eastwards”. I find it particularly interesting that Eostre is connected to the sunrise, and Christians in certain churches hold sunrise services on her day (but in the name of their god instead).
Eostre Goddess of Spring represents the Maiden aspect of the Wiccan Triple Goddess – the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The Maiden is young and pure, growing and blossoming in her youth and therefore represents birth and beauty. See Eostre’s face in the newborn lambs and hear her voice in bird-song. See the Goddess of Spring in the blooming tulips and sprouting patches of green grass. Who was Eostre Goddess of Spring to the ancient peoples of Europe? What is her original Ostara (or Easter) story?
Eostre Goddess & The Ancient Story of Spring
Have you ever wondered where the term “Easter” came from? The word isn’t written in the Bible, yet Christians refer to Jesus’ resurrection day as “Easter”. The term “Easter” actually originates with the Goddess of Spring’s name – Eostre. Eostre was the Goddess of the Spring and her reign began on the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. She was worshiped by the Germanic people of Europe before the rise of the Church. In Bede’s eighth century writings, he refers to Eostre as the Goddess who was worshiped in the Spring and by whom the holiday Easter is named after.
How the Church “Won” Easter
The Germanic people celebrated Eostre Goddess with huge feasts the entire month of the Spring Equinox (March). Apparently the merriment continued until the Christian Church spread throughout Europe and sought to convert the pagans to Christianity. Eostre-month had to be erased or diminished in some way to rid the countryside of Pagan Spring customs. So the Christian Church calculated that the first Sunday after the first full moon, directly following the Spring Equinox would be called “Easter” and would honor Jesus’ day of resurrection. What better way to honor his re-birth than to honor it in the Spring when the mother earth is being reborn?
Spring: The Promise of New Life
Spring was when our ancient ancestors celebrated the return of the Sun and its warmth, after surviving the torturous winter months. In particularly harsh winters, the people would gnaw on bones to quench their hunger. When Spring arrived, it offered promise for a new life and happiness. Think of this: it’s below twenty degrees and there’s no getting warm no matter how many furs you throw over you. There’s nothing left to eat but bones and bread crumbs. Then Spring comes. There are animals being born, the animals who have been in hibernation are awake again, and the earth is giving forth food once more. How thankful would you be? That’s how the ancient people of Europe felt, and so they gave thanks to the Goddess of Spring every year.
Eostre, Rabbits, Eggs, and Fertility!
Spring is a beautiful young woman, or Eostre Goddess, flanked by rabbits and a basket of Easter eggs in her hands. But what do the rabbits and eggs represent? Fertility! Eostre Goddess of Spring is also a representation of fertility, the earth’s fruitfulness getting ready to burst forth from the ground. And the rabbit connection goes deeper – in some old Germanic tales, Eostre’s consort is half-rabbit half-man!
How the Goddess of Spring Can Help You
Eostre rules over fertility, ask Eostre Goddess to bring fertility to you if you’re trying to conceive. Fertility doesn’t always relate to conceiving children. Also ask for fertility in your accomplishments (job, passion, endeavors). Eostre Goddess represents new life or rebirth. Are you looking for new beginnings or are you waiting around for creativity to hit you? Invite the Goddess of Spring to your circle and let her guide your creativity and provide new pathways to enlightenment.
Ways to Work With the Goddess Eostre this Spring Season:
Don’t just ask Eostre to aid you this Spring, do her some favors too. Here’s some ways in which you can work with her this Spring season (or any time, for that matter):
1. Make Sacred Space for Eostre
Nearly every god and goddess enjoys having their own sacred space in their devotee’s home. This is as simple as setting up a small corner of your altar and dedicating it to Eostre. Or creating her an altar using a shelf, nightstand, credenza, etc. Then adding her image and things that represent her to the altar like eggs, bird nests, rabbit figurines, flowers, water, etc.
2. Give Eostre Offerings of Gratitude
Eostre, as a Spring goddess, likely favors any offerings to do with Spring including fresh flowers, fresh water (spring water if possible), eggs (painted and in meals), and offerings of food and drinks her people might have enjoyed like traditional German meals, beer and wine. I don’t think she’d be opposed to Easter candy or cookies, either. But that’s just my opinion.
3. Earth Conservation Efforts
Since Eostre is a goddess of the earth, doing something to give back to the earth in her name is appropriate and pleasing. Consider planting a tree, flowers, or vegetables in your garden. Planting seeds on Ostara in her name is a great way to show her your gratitude. Or volunteering to pick up litter and clear out invasive plants in your local area.
4. New Beginnings
As Spring draws near, we begin noticing shifts in our personal lives. Little changes that might bring new beginnings in careers, relationships, and in our home lives. Whatever the Spring brings this year to you, embrace the new beginnings and thank Eostre for her positive, rejuvenating energy in your life.
5. Egg Magick
Since eggs are an ever-present symbol of Spring, they also represent Eostre. Collecting eggshells and making them into a fine powder to use in your magick is an extra-powerful practice when those eggshells are infused with Eostre’s energy. Truly any form of egg magick including painting eggs, spreading eggshells in the garden, or a purifying egg cleanse ritual done in her name are that much more transformative.
6. Celebrate Ostara or Easter
Since Ostara and Easter are named for this goddess, simply celebrating one or both of these holidays is a way to honor her. Easter baskets, Easter bunnies, egg hunts, painting eggs, and more are all in the highest of favors of Eostre. Dedicate your Easter dinner to her and save her a plate and a glass of wine.
7. Rabbit and Bird Rescue
Rabbits and birds fall under Eostre’s guardianship, and so if you decide to volunteer at a local rabbit or bird rescue, you’ll automatically gain her guardianship as well. If you can’t volunteer, consider donating money or resources to these rescues. At the very least, if you come across an injured or sick bird or rabbit, don’t leave it there…call your local wildlife rescue to help the creature. Eostre will be proud.
8. Spring Cleaning
Do you become obsessed with cleaning your house every Spring? This isn’t something new, it’s a tradition as old as time. With the Spring season comes new, fresh air and energy. So it’s out with the old and in with the new. Eostre enjoys being part of your Spring cleaning rituals, particularly when the windows are open to the sun and cool Spring breeze. When you’re singing your heart out and somehow finding joy in dusting at the same time.
9. Watch the Sunrise for Eostre
Eostre’s name is connected to the dawn and sunlight, so waking up before sunrise and watching the sun come up is honorable to her. Plus it might not be something you do often and is almost a enjoyable and spiritual experience.
More on the Magick of SPRING:
- Spring Goddesses and Gods
- Ostara: History, Traditions and How to Celebrate
- Berchta: Ancient Celtic Alpine Goddess
- Egg Magick: 13 Ways to Use Eggs in Witchcraft