By Lady Arsinoe
Can you feel the change? There is a fresh sparkle in the air. The world is being reborn! Life is returning! Flowers are popping up everywhere. Animals are nesting and preparing for the next generation. You may even have a tickle in your tummy that you can’t really explain, that leaves you excited for the new day. Everywhere, signs of rebirth and renewal can be found. Trees are putting on new leaves. Birds are singing. Life is Good!
Axial tilt is the reason for the season. Because the Earth has a tilted axis, we wobble through space. In other words, if we envision a connecting line between the North and South poles projected into space, this line is inclined 23.5 degrees from the vertical. As the Earth rotates around this axis (which also rotates and wobbles), the polestake turns facing the Sun. When the North Pole tilts more directly toward the Sun, the Northern Hemisphere experiences warm weather. Conversely, while the Northern Hemisphere is buying colored eggs and planting tulips, the Southern Hemisphere is bringing out the sweaters and beginning the harvest season of autumn. If there were no axial tilt, we would have no seasonal changes at all. At the point that the Earth begins to rotate back toward the other extreme, the days and nights are of equal length, hence the term ‘equinox’ (‘equal night’).
The changing length of the days and nights caused early people to scratch their heads in curiosity and wonder—why? They embraced mythological accounts to explain the things they saw in the natural world. Winter always follows Summer, Spring always follows Winter, and the cycle repeats. As a result, many spiritual traditions around the world celebrate Resurrection Deities.
These Deities suffer Death, journey through the Underworld or Land of the Dead (winter), and are resurrected to life (spring). After the cold, bitter winter when the Earth seemed dead, the Springtime renewal is a perfect symbol for the return of life. Of these Saviour Gods, the one that most readily springs to mind is Jesus, but there are many others. Osiris was one of the original Resurrection Gods, who according to myth, was killed by His brother Set, His body thrown into the Nile. Isis, Osiris’ devoted wife, sought out His body, and through Her magic, brought Osiris back to life. Therefore, Osiris became associated with the annual flooding of the Nile which brought back life to the dry land. So too, Osiris became associated with resurrection and renewal of the entire world. As Osiris annually rose from the dead, so would those who were in union with Him. I will leave the reader to discover other Resurrection Deities such as Krishna, Mithras, Tammuz, Dionysus, Odin, Persephone, and Inanna (yes, there are female Resurrection Deities).
So, how did colored eggs and bunnies become associated with Easter and spring? In northern Europe, the Goddess Eostre returned each spring bringing new life and vitality to the world. Attending her were putti, little fairy-like creatures, and hares. Rabbits and hares are associated with fertility for obvious reasons (Ever heard the phrase “breeding like rabbits”?). Eggs, likewise, are symbols of fertility and renewal of life. So, it is only natural that these symbols became associated with a celebration of life, fertility, and renewal. The word ‘Ostara’ can be traced to the old Germanic word for ‘east’. In Roman times, the Celtic kingdom that would one day become Austria, Österreich was the name of the “Eastern borderlands.”Ostara, as the direction of the rising Sun, represents the dawn, Springtime, and the rebirth of the day. Combining the Goddess Eostre, Springtime, bunnies, eggs, fertility, rebirth and resurrection, you get the Wiccan celebration of Ostara!
Wiccans, at this time of year, celebrate not only the renewal of the Earth and ourselves, but also the balance inherent in a time when the days and nights are of equal length, and movement from that pivotal point. At Yule, the longest night of the year, the light is rekindled in the darkness, the Sun is reborn, and the days begin to lengthen. At Ostara, the light overcomes the darkness, and the days become longer than the night. Balanced against Yule is Midsummer, when the Sun is it its zenith. Yet also are the seeds of Death sewn. At the Autumnal Equinox in September, as the harvest celebrations begin, we realize the night has again overcome the day and that the time is drawing near to recoup and reflect inward. The turn of the Wheel brings us back to Yule with the rebirth of the Sun. It is a wonderful, powerful, ever renewing Cycle!
The cycling and renewal of life has become so much a part of the human psyche that we have built this idea into our spiritual understanding. Hence, many spiritual traditions have a concept of reincarnation as part of their tenets, even early Christianity. As is evident everywhere in Nature, the renewal of life comes from that which was seemingly dead. The cold dead Earth puts forth new shoots. An exploding star provides the materials for new ones. So, too, the Soul is renewed after the death of the body. Christianity believes the Soul lives on in the glory of Heaven; Hindus believe the Soul is reborn into this life in another body; Wiccans believe the Soul returns to the Mother for renewal to eventually return to this plane of existence. For Wiccans, the existence of consciousness does not end with the death of the body. We, like stars, rejoin All That Is, and eventually return in another form. As the Earth is reborn in Spring, so, too, shall we all be reborn.
Lady Arsinoe’s Bio:
I was initiated into the Wiccan spiritual tradition as a First Degree in 1993. Over the years, I continued my studies and increased my involvement. In 2000, the members of OakSpring (www.HouseOfOakSpring.org) separated from Ravenwood to go our own way. In 2006, I became the High Priestess of OakSpring, with my husband serving as High Priest. OakSpring is large by Wiccan standards, and has been blessed to own and maintain our covenstead on 38 acres of woodland in the Metro-Atlanta area.
Like most Wiccans, my mundane life is similar to anyone else’s: I go to work each day (for a large engineering firm), bear with traffic, and go home to relax with my family and pets. Living a magical life isn’t always about the spells; it’s about living in a way that is harmonious with Nature, the Universe, and ourselves. I do my best to live in accordance with Wiccan principles every day of my life. I think that is the best way to show the world what Wicca is all about.