"This is the time of the Spring’s return; the joyful time, the seed time, when life bursts forth from the Earth and the chains of winter are broken. Light and dark are equal; it is a time of balance, when all the elements within us must be brought into a new harmony. The Prince of the Sun stretches out his hand, and Kore, the Dark Maiden, returns from the Land of the Dead, cloaked in fresh rain, with the sweet scent of desire on her breath. Where They step, the wild flowers appear; as They dance, despair turns to hope, sorrow to joy, want to abundance. May our hearts open with the spring! Blessed Be!"
Eostar, or the Spring Equinox, is the time when day and night are in balance, with the light mastering the darkness. It is basically a Solar festival, and a newcomer to the Old Religion in Celtic and Teutonic Europe. In the past, the Equinoxes were never observed in Britain. Yet they are now a genuine part of modern Pagan tradition, even if their seeds blew in from the Mediterranean, and germinated during the period of the underground centuries.
The problem which faces most witches today, is deciding how to celebrate this Sabbat. The fact is that, many themes associated with the Spring Equinox overlap other Sabbats. For example, the death and resurrection theme, and the sacrificial mating theme.
In Mediterranean Lands, the death and resurrection theme had strong links with the Spring Equinox. The grim festival of the Phrygian Goddess, Cybele was celebrated at this time. Associated with her was the vegetation God, Attis. The Spring festival, which took place between March 22-25, mourned the death of Attis, and rejoiced over his resurrection. This was done by the priests of Cybele, castrating themselves as an offering to the Goddess. It is interesting to note, that one of Cybele’s symbols is a crescent Moon, shown in perpetual union with the Sun, again, emphasizing the night and day balance.
In Rome, the rites of Cybele took place on the very spot where St.Peter now stands in the Vatican. In fact, the local Christians used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, in the very places where Attis worship took place. In days of old, bitter quarrels took place between the Christians and the pagans about whose God was the prototype, and which was the imitation.
Easter, Jesus’ willing death, decent into Hell and resurrection can be seen as the Christian version of the sacrificial mating theme. In one sense, ‘Hell’ can be seen as the collective unconscious, the feminine aspect, the Goddess, into whom the sacrificed God is plunged as a necessary prelude to rebirth.
In classical and pre-classical times, spring was the season for another form of sacrificial mating, namely, the ‘hieros gamos’, or sacred marriage. In this, the woman identified herself with the Goddess, and the man sank himself into the Goddess. Through the woman, the man gave up his masculinity to the Goddess, without destroying it. He would emerge from the experience spiritually revitalised. The Great Rite, whether actual or symbolic, is the witches hieros gamos.
In the North, where spring comes later, the aspects of the sacrificial mating really belongs to Bealtaine. Thus, Eostar gives up it’s human-fertility aspect to the Greater Sabbat, and retains it’s vegetation-fertility aspect. In the Mediterranean, the Equinox is a time for sprouting, and in the North, it is a time for sowing.
As a Solar festival, Eostar must share with the Greater Sabbats the eternal theme of fire and light. In is interesting to note that this theme has survived strongly in Easter folklore. In many parts of Europe, Easter bonfires are lit on hilltop sites. The fire to light the bonfires is obtained from the priests. It is believed that as far as the light shines, the land will be fruitful, and the homes secure. People jump the dying embers, and cattle are driven over them.
Another interesting point, is that the Christian Easter falls anywhere between Eostar and Bealtaine. In fact, the name Easter comes from the Teutonic Goddess Eostre, also called Ostara. Many witches call the Spring Equinox by these names.