Easter is a festival of sacrifice and resurrection. We commemorate Christ’s sacrifice on the day he died on the cross as Jesus, the man, only to be resurrected as Christ, the son of God and the redeemer of mankind. However, the cross, which in Christian mythology signifies the crucifixion, is a much older symbol.
In pre-Christian traditions, it symbolised the cosmic order: the four directions, the axis of time and space, and the surrender of the ego, which is bound to the material world.
In the symbolism of the ancient world, sacrifice was not a celebration of death, as it may seem, but of life. It was seen as a way of giving back, so life may continue. Death and rebirth were seen as two sides of the same door. Like the Ouroboros, life feeds on itself, thereby continuously regenerating itself.
For a sacrifice to be meaningful, it had to be of value. It had to be something special. Any old rat would not do! This was meant to be a gift to the Gods!
Originally, only the king himself was worthy of being sacrificed. But in time, Kings were not so keen on being sacrificed and instead of themselves, they offered up their first-born. But in time, that too was deemed too much. Animals now had to play the part. At Ostara, when the Earth renews itself, that sacrificial animal was an innocent lamb – which it still is to this day: a lamb roast serves as the centrepiece of the Easter feast. This is a distant echo of an age-old sacrificial tradition.
Easter is a movable feast – a clear indication that this festival pre-dates Christian times. The exact date changes every year. It always falls on the first Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox (Worm Moon). Originally, Easter, or Ostara, as it was known, was the festival of the Goddess Eostre, a Mother Goddess that is known by many names: Ishtar, Astarte, or the Great Mother Kali.
Her sacred ‘Moon Hare’ (a symbol of fertility) has become the ‘Easter Bunny’. The eggs symbolise life as unborn potential as well as the promise of rebirth. Traditionally, the eggs would have been dyed red, the colour of blood as a conduit of life. A gift of such dyed eggs is a symbolic blessing: A gift of life and abundance! May your potential unfold and blossom!
The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, HaperCollins, 1983
Happy Spring Equinox!
A new cycle is beginning – but what a strange beginning it is, after a seemingly endless winter lockdown! Tentatively, the Earth is awakening from her winter’s sleep. Persephone is on her way, returning to the upper world. Buds are swollen, birds are busy building their nests, and life is ready to burst forth again.
At Spring Equinox, light and dark are hanging in the balance. But with every passing day, the sun is gathering strength, now. Mother Earth has donned her garment of early spring flowers and slowly turns the land verdant and lush, once again.
This is a joyful, busy time, full of expectation. We may not have our full freedom back to mingle, meet and make merry. But the garden is calling nonetheless, eager to receive the seeds as soon as the soil has warmed up enough.
It is time to prepare for the unfolding season, a time of spring cleaning and for purification, of painting and decorating, and sprucing up the home. Locked down or not, these are things we can still do in anticipation of the coming spring.
Physically, that means boosting our energy levels with the fresh vitamins and nutrients of early spring herbs. And we have never needed them more than this year. Boost your immune system and don’t give that virus half a chance!
Mentally, this is a time to focus on the things that matter most. Make sure that the pathway for your intentions is clear. The crisis will pass eventually and there will be a light on the other side. Good planning prepares the way to success.
Spiritually, the Spring Equinox stands for new beginnings. We can turn a page and make a new start. It is also a time to celebrate the eternal life-force and its miraculous powers of self-renewal.
Imbolc is the time of the light maiden Brighid, a virginal Goddess that appears as the returning light. Quite noticeably the days are getting longer, by a few minutes each day. It is still the midst of winter and yet, if you look carefully, the buds are swelling. Some precocious winter flowering plants defy the odds. Here and there some particularly perky wildflowers are peeking through the snow or old leaf litter: snow drops, winter aconite or dwarf crested irises, perhaps. Deep within the Earth, the life-force is stirring, the seeds are soaking up the waters of the thawing snow and begin to germinate. The wheel of the year is turning. Slowly the sap begins to rise once more.
Imbolc, or Candlemass in Christian terminology, is the festival of growing light, of cleansing and purification. It augurs the time of Lent, traditionally a time of abstinence and fasting to purify body and soul.
In the olden days, people would fast or restrict their diets in order to cleanse the body of all the residues of heavy winter foods. To practice a little self-care in this way is to prepare body and mind for the new season.
It is a also a time for scrying and divination, for visualising in your minds eye the possibilities that lay ahead. Take a little time out to prepare yourself for the challenges and opportunities yet to unfold. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, on good and bad habits, and on making a commitment to your soul journey. What kind of nourishment do you need to feel fulfilled? What kind of meaning are you giving your life (or want to give your life)? Are you walking your talk?
Imbolc is a good time to charge the seeds that you want to flourish with intention and to foster your inner flame. Take care of that light through the dark of the night. Soon the sun will soon rise again.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
What a strange and difficult year it has been! The Corona-virus pandemic has dominated the news almost from the very beginning of the year, and right up to the end. We are still in the midst of a devastating spike, with both, the danger of an even more virulent version of the virus now in widespread circulation, and several vaccines ready to be administered.
The virus has affected everybody, but in very different ways, depending on age-group, occupation, pre-existing conditions, and where you happen to live. Not only those who actually got sick with it have suffered. The emotional trauma of losing family members and loved ones, of losing a job and one’s livelihood, of finding yourself alone due to social distancing rules, or, crammed together into too small a space with the kids, and no-where to go…it has all taken its toll. We will pay the psychological price for the events of this year for some time to come.
But it hasn’t been all bad for everybody. Many people have rediscovered the importance of nature and the meaning of the ‘little things’ in life. We have leapfrogged into the digital age as schools and businesses have moved many of their operations online. What would have been unthinkable a year earlier has now become a commonplace reality. Many have discovered new interests and learned new skills with the help of online tutorials and MOOCs.
Meanwhile, wildlife has had a chance to recover, a bit, in places that are normally overrun with tourists.
The big question is, how will we rebuild? My hope, and wish for the new year is that we will learn from this experience and re-build a better, greener, more sustainable, and more equitable future for us all.
In this spirit, I wish you, my lovely reader, hope, health, and happiness for 2021!
P.S. If you are interested in what the stars have in store for us in the New Year, check out my post at Astro-Insights for the year ahead.
Winter Solstice is upon us – the longest night is here!
It has been a difficult year. I hope you and yours have found a way through. The Winter-Solstice marks the darkest point, the longest night of the year.
The trees have lost their leaves and all signs of life have retreated below ground. The countryside is bare. The sun barely rises above the horizon and shines only a feeble light. Birds have departed. The Earth has entered hibernation mode.
Yet, at these dark times, we find cause to rejoice! For deep within the Earth, a tiny light has been born! Fragile as a baby in its crib the new sun-savior god has returned.
We are at the threshold of a new cycle. As yet, we do not know if the baby will grow. Nevertheless, where there is life, there is hope.
In the old days, the 12 days of Christmas marked the time when the veil between the worlds is thinnest – corresponding to the 12 days of Mid-Summer. Spirits and ghosts are passing through, howling frightfully during the night. The period of celebration culminated on January 6th, when, according to the Christian tradition, the Three Kings finally found the stable where the sun-god had been born.
The Solstice is a time of reflection, of sharing the memories of the summer past and of gratitude. The year may have demanded heavy sacrifices from all of us, but it has also let us realise that the things we took for granted are what is truly matters. The crisis is not over, but there is hope on the horizon. During this quiet space we can reflect on what we want to manifest next year and how we can make things better, not just for ourselves, but for the community of which we are a part.
Winter Solstice is a festive time despite being the shortest day and longest night. It marks the turning point and harbors the promise of things to come. Especially so this year as it coincides with the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, which will be visible for the first time in 800 years December 21, 2020.
This is a time to count one’s blessings and to celebrate hope. The wheel of time is turning. The light has returned. Let us cherish this little flame of hope so it may grow strong and return life to Earth once more.