Between mid-2018 and January 2020, I had the pleasure and honour of being a monthly guest writer for the website, The Witch of Lupine Hollow.
For my final guest post there, I shared 10 Free and Low-Cost Ways to Celebrate Imbolc.
In that post I stated:
“I am a firm believer that celebrating and working with the sabbats should be accessible and open to anyone who wishes to do so, regardless of their personal budget.”
This is certainly the case and it’s a mindset and approach to witchery and Paganism (as well paper crafting, for that matter) that is both central to my own path and which will permeate throughout this blog for as long as it is online.
When I penned that post, especially as it was to be my last for TWOLH, I didn’t automatically think of turning it into a multi-part series.
With the next beautiful sabbat of Ostara rounding the bend in a few days time, the idea of doing so – with the other seven sabbats being covered here on Witchcrafted Life – popped into my head faster than the first crocuses and tulips of the season making their way through the damp soil of spring.
The number of entries may vary from post to post (aka, some posts may include fewer or greater numbers of entries than ten), and the posts themselves may end up all being penned in 2020 or might be spaced out over multiple years.
Each will be linked, as they are shared online, to the others so that you can easily read as many of them as you’d like in one handy go.
Today we will be taking a look at 10 free and low-cost ways of celebrating Ostara, the second of the different three springtime sabbats (with Imbolc and Beltane being the other two, respectively).
What is Ostara?
Ostara is named for the goddess Eostre and is one of the eight sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year. It takes place in the third week of March each year, as spring stirs and new life begins to return to our world with force, beauty and purpose.
Because Ostara celebrates and honours the spring equinox, it is – much like Easter – directly linked to many elements and symbols of springtime.
These include, but are not limited to, rabbits, chicks and birds in general, eggs, baby animals of all sorts, blossoms and flowers, fresh green grass and plants, the first fruit, vegetables and herb offerings of the season; light, warmth, and soft, bright colours.
Even if the weather has other plans in some areas, Ostara gets the ball rolling on spring.
It invites us to give thanks for the winter we just experienced and all that it hopefully taught us, brought our way, and meant to our lives and to, in turn, open our hearts and spirits up to the magnificent beauty and sense of prosperity that spring houses.
At Ostara, we are just starting to enter the light-filled chapter of the world (in the Northern Hemisphere). From here on out, we can most likely look forward to at least a few months of sunshine, bountiful flowers and food crops, warmth, and vibrant energy.
It is an invigorating, terrific point to reach and one that encourages us to take our cues from nature and to focus on areas such as balance and harmony, planting new seeds and setting fresh goals in our lives, fertility (which can simply mean areas that we wish to have multiple; it does not have to mean literal procreation of new human or animal life), growth, hopefulness, lightness of being and spirit, and things that warm our innermost hearts as much as the glorious spring sunshine does the outdoor world.
Many who connect and work with the concept of the divine Goddess and God, see Ostara as the point in the year where the two are wed or handfasted. A union that heats up and manifests itself even more intensely at Beltane, at the start of May.
Ostara is also linked to the Maiden aspect of the classic Maiden, Mother, Crone iteration of the Goddess.
Not everyone, naturally, relates to this concept or feels that it applies to their path (and that’s totally okay!). In general though, spring does have a certain undeniably youthful quality to it that can help us to feel especially jovial and young at heart.
When is Ostara?
Ostara is the second sabbat to fall after the Gregorian New Year. It is often observed on the Spring Equinox, which has a floating date (north of the equator) of March 19th to March 21st.
As with most Pagan and Wiccan sabbats, there is some leeway and personal interpretation in terms of when one chooses to observe Ostara.
Generally, there will be a “season” that buffers both sides of a sabbat, meaning that its energy, spirit, correspondences, and ancient gifts are with us for a few days or longer.
Some people – myself included – feel that these elements of a given sabbat carry forth to a degree until the next sabbat (which, in this case, is Beltane).
Thus workings and manifestations done during this period of the year that tap into Ostara’s correspondences, sense of fertility, balance of light and dark, and blossoming newness are especially potent during the height of the sabbat itself and straight on through the next few weeks.
This year (2020), the spring equinox occurs on March 19th.
In the following three years (2021, 2022, and 2023) the spring equinox will fall on March 20th.
What does the word equinox mean?
Rooted in ancient Latin aequus nox, equinox means “equal night” and denotes the fact that on both the spring and fall equinoxes, the length of the day and the night are relatively equal to one another.
This happens because at these points in the year, the sun is shining directly on the equator. From the spring equinox onward, the sun will once again cross the celestial equator, heading south to north until the fall’s return.
Are Ostara and the Spring Equinox the same thing?
The spring equinox, also called the vernal equinox, March equinox, or Northward equinox, is the first astronomical day of spring. As mentioned above, its precise date varies slightly from year to year, yet no matter what date it falls on, the spring equinox marks the official astrological start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
While plenty of Pagans use the terms “Ostara” and “spring equinox” interchangeably and choose to celebrate the former on the later, technically speaking, Ostara is a Pagan sabbat and the spring equinox is an astrological occurrence that launches the beginning of spring.
The world goes through the vernal equinox each year and its occurrence not a matter of personal belief, whereas Ostara is a Pagan celebration that people can to either opt observe and celebrate or not. In that respect, the two are not entirely the same thing.
Is the spring equinox the first day of spring?
Yes and no! 😊 Weather conditions aside, the spring equinox is the first official day of spring from an astrological standpoint, however meteorologically speaking, spring begins on March 1st and runs until May 31st each year.
Meteorological seasons are determined based on annual temperature cycles, not the earth’s position in relation to the sun
A lot of us, Pagan and non-Pagan alike, work in terms of the astrological arrangement of the seasons that start with the two equinoxes (spring and autumn) and two solstices (summer and winter) that occur at roughly three-month intervals throughout the year.
However, if you prefer to align with spring’s start at the beginning of March, that’s a-okay as well and still ensures that Ostara will be the second of the year’s three sabbats (proceeded by Imbolc and followed by Beltane).
10 Free and Low-Cost Ways to Celebrate Ostara
1. Create a butterfly feeder. Butterflies are immensely important to our planet’s ecosystem (heartbreaking, the populations of some types of butterflies, including monarchs, are rapidly declining), while also being gorgeous creations and poignant symbols of spring alike.
Help to attract more butterflies to your yard by putting a butterfly feeder of your own. Doing so is relatively easy and need not break the bank. You may already have some or all of the material required to hand and if not, dollar stores should have most of what you need.
Here’s a handy tutorial on how to make a butterfly feeder. I would add, just remember not to place the feeder in an area that is likely to be a popular hunting ground for cats, birds, reptiles or other critters that might look upon the increase in butterflies their own personal buffet.
When possible, spend time watching your butterfly feeder, taking note of what species appear, and letting the gentle spirits and great beauty of these incredible insects inspire you this Ostara season.
2. Connect with and honour the genus loci in your area. Genus loci is the inherent spirit of a location that is specific to that particular part of the world. In a sense, you can think of it as the protective soul of the natural world as it exists in each unique or different corner of the globe.
Every area had its own fascinating, powerful, and engaging genus loci. This year, as spring emerges anew and nature bursts forth with vitality and incredible beauty, why not establish or further deepen your knowledge of, and connection to, the natural settings and protective spirts that exist where you reside?
3. Work on your balance. While this could also apply literally to your posture, in this instance, I’m referring to the sense of balance and harmony in your life.
As touched on above, spring equinox is one of the two days of the year when day and night are viewed as being equal (the other is the fall equinox). This harmony between these two forces which are prevalent in, and necessary to, an unimaginable number of things in our universe invites us to look for ways to create deeper balance in our own lives.
What can be banish or let go of? What to do we need to invite more into our world? How could we shift the metaphorical weighs so that both sides of the scale are more even?
While perfect balance in all areas of our lives is most likely impossible, chances are that most of us have certain things we need to better balance right here and now. Ostara is a superb time to take stock and begin setting actions, including magickal workings, into motion to help create the balance that you seek and need.
4. Make a rainbow in a jar. In many parts of the world, spring means ample rain and if one is lucky, at least a rainbow or two before the dog days of summer come calling again.
No matter if rainbows are almost as rare as the mythical pots of gols associated with their ends or if they’re almost daily occurrence in your area during the months of spring, there’s rarely such a thing as too many rainbows. If you’re looking to add another, why not create your own?
Making a rainbow in a jar is relatively simple and straightforward – while also be an awesome activity to do with kids or groups in general (each person could make their own rainbow at the same time, for example), including covens.
Rainbows hold great meaning, significance and magickal energy. They’ve been revered since time immemorial, are vital to the chakra system, and suit the vibrancy of spring’s return superbly.
In creating your own form of a rainbow in a jar, you can imbue your rainbow with all manner of magickal blessings, intentions, hopes and desires.
This craft can also be used for spellwork, manifestation, to adorn your altar at Ostara, to honour those – especially pets – who have crossed over the rainbow bridge, to celebrate LGBT+ pride and community, and as a way of working with colour magick – amongst other possible uses.
5. Greet the dawn and draw down the sun. While the amount of daily sunlight technically began to increase back at Yule (the Winter Solstice), we often start to see and feel a more noticeable bump in sunshine from mid-March onward.
This season, much like life on Earth itself, is hugely dependant on sunlight. It helps to grow the food that we eat, the trees that we rely on for many different purposes, and plays a roll in the natural mating cycles of scores of different animal species.
If possible, stay awake or set an alarm and wake up early enough (check local sunrise times in advance) to greet the dawn on Ostara.
Give thanks to the sun for its return and warmth, for the many ways it supports existence and for the incredible beauty it produces year after year.
One magnificent way to celebrate the dawn on Ostara morning is to draw down the sun.
Similar to the more common and widely known practice of drawing down the moon, drawing down the moon involves standing outside beneath the sun (as always, avoid staring straight into the sun as that can do serious damage to your eyesight) and allowing the warmth and radiant energy of the sun to fill your body and soul alike.
Let it permeate your whole being. Open your mouth (or visual doing so) and allow the light to quite literally enter into your body. Absorb the strength, vitality, and luminosity of the sun and use it to help filter unwanted or stagnant energy from your being.
Connect with or speak to any deities or spirit allies that correspond with the sun and/or your path and feel right to you for this particular solar-powered act.
When you feel this meaningful ritual is complete, extend heartfelt thanks to the sun for all that it is, gives, and brings to your life and world at large.
6. Connect with Pisces season. Fascinating, depending on whether the spring equinox falls on March 19th, 20th or 21st, it will either land in the month of Pisces or Aries.
This year the spring equinox takes place on March 19th, which means that it is still technically part of the month of Pisces. However, if you personally observe Ostara later in March, you will be working with Aries from March 20th onward.
The placement of Ostara at the cusp of both the last and first, respectively, signs of zodiac system brings an immense amount of celestial energy, rebirth and newness to the Spring Equinox.
These themes are ones that are inherent to Ostara itself, so the double dose means now is a phenomenal time to embrace change, new starts, plant seeds for long-term magick and manifestations, shake up your routine, and embrace the watery energy of Pisces and the fiery energy of Aries.
As Pisces is a water sign, water magick and rituals are especially well suited to this sabbat. I love gathering rain (or snow, depending on what Mother Nature is up to in our Canadian neck of the woods at this point in the year), charging it, and using it in various springtime workings.
Cleansing, purification, renewal, empowerment, and liberating magick, as well as magick and rituals that include water (including rain, snow, storm, river, lake, ocean, and that which has been magickally charged) are all strong natural fits for the month of Pisces.
And for more great ideas to help you connect with the twelfth sign of the zodiac, check out Uncustomary’s post featuring 25 Ways to Celebrate Pisces Season.
7. Go bird watching. The ever-increasing sunlight of spring is largely responsible for watch triggers birds the world over to sing. And, let’s face it, plenty of humans feel like busting out into a merry tune as the days grow longer as well!
Weather and location permitting, consider going bird watching in your area. You do not need to be a hardcore ornithologist to engage in birdwatching or buy any special equipment (though a good pair of binoculars is, objectively, quite handy).
Many parts of the world have dedicated bird (or more general wildlife) sanctuaries, parks and other natural settings that can potentially offer up a bevy of avian friends to observe this spring.
Even if such dedicated spaces do not exist where you live or you don’t have easy access to them, birds can be seen in most parts of the world, especially in verdant areas and near bodies of water.
Spend a leisurely morning, afternoon or early evening observing the local birds where you live. Pay attention to how seeing each type of bird you spot makes you feel, if you felt any were signs or messengers that specifically crossed your path for a reason, give thanks to the environment in general at some point in your bird watching session for the lovely sky critters it brought your way, and consider looking up any correspondences pertaining to the various birds that you spotted.
And if you should happen to find any feathers along the way, consider yourself extra lucky, as they’re gifts whose colour holds meaning and which can be utilized in innumerable magickal and spiritual ways (always ensure feathers are clean or thoroughly clean them yourself before storing them in your house).
8. Volunteer with animals. A vast number of animals mate and/or give birth to their young during the spring, while at the same time, various critters have long provided those who consume animal products with nourishing foods such as eggs, milk and fresh meat which may have been scare or even non-existent in their diet prior to the modern industrialized age of food production and manufacturing.
Lambs, chicks, and rabbits (and hares) are some of the most common animals associated with Ostara. Many of us who observe this sabbat include representations of one of more of these beautiful beings in our Ostara altars or other forms of sacred décor.
Spring, with its abundance of new natural life, is an incredible time to work with animals both big and small alike, and in doing so to honour the extraordinary animal kingdom that we are blessed to share our planet with.
There are many different ways to do so (far more than this entry could ever encapsulate) and the options that are available to you personally will depend on various factors such as location, your health (including any animal-related allergies), the amount of time you’re able to commit, and what you’re personally comfortable doing.
Check with local vet offices, animal shelters and rescues, humane farms, reputable pet shops, pet groomers, and community volunteer associations in your area to see what options might be available.
You could also offer to pet sit or walk for friends, family members, coworkers or neighbours who might be in needs of such services, foster one or more animals in your home, clean up a local green space where animals reside, make a monetary donation or one of needed items to a local animal shelter or rescue, or get involved with animal rights activities – to name but a few ways of assisting our precious animal friends.
9. Honour your inner child. Early springtime is new, young, lively and bursting with joie de vivre! Why not take a page from this season’s book and celebrate your own inner child?
There are countless ways to do this, many of which cost little to nothing. Think about the activities, foods, places, music, people, and passions that mattered most to you when you were growing up.
Which of these still resonates deeply with you or would be things that you’d love to spend some time focusing on this season?
From flying a kite (so much potential for string, knot, colour, shape, and wind magickal workings!) to skipping rocks on a pond, drawing with chalk on the finally-free-from-snow sidewalk (great opportunity for sigil magick) to going berry picking, spring offers up a treasure trove of ways to become BFFs with our inner child.
The activities you choose do not have to be spring-related, however. What matters most is that they bring you happiness and spark a sense of childlike wonder and contentment in you as you engage in them.
10. If your beliefs and personal ethics align with such, consider engaging in some good old-fashioned egg divination.
Somewhat similar in certain respects to reading tea leaves, egg reading or divination (aka, oomancy) is commonly carried out by dropping raw egg whites (separated from the yolks) into hot water and divining from the shapes that one sees in the pieces of egg white.
Should you not be keen on working with eggs for any reason, another very apt springtime form of divination is nephelomancy.
This approach involves observing the clouds and the sky around them to look for shapes, signs, the speed of the cloud, mental images that staring at the sky brings to mind, and the colour of the clouds themselves as a method of overhead scrying.
Nephelomancy is great fun – not to mention something that some of us start doing early in life whether we fully realize it yet or not, simply by playing the classic “what does that look like to you?” game when gazing up at the clouds.
If you’d be interested in a post focused specifically on nephelomancy, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below.
Additional ways to honour and celebrate Ostara
The ever-increasingly bluer sky is the limit when it comes to additional ways of celebrating Ostara!
You can hold an Ostara feast and/or picnic (here’s a list of some delicious Ostara recipes to get your creative culinary juices flowing), set up or decorate an existing altar for Ostara, decorate eggs, work in your garden, go on a nature walk or hike, meditate outdoors, curl up with a lovely book under a tree that is teeming with new leaves, dance in the gorgeous sunlight that is here once again, create flower crowns and wreaths, wear green clothing and/or jewelry, perform plant and flower magick, make a springtime wreath or centrepiece, create your own Ostara cards to give to fellow witchy, Wiccan and Pagan friends; research traditional springtime beliefs, legends and practices from around the world; make an Easter tree (the Pagan/witchy version of an Easter tree), or treat yourself to some chocolate eggs or other favourite seasonal sweets, and so much more!
As Witchcrafted Life is just a few weeks old at this point, today’s entry is my first so far on the Pagan sabbat of Ostara. I’m sure that as the years roll onward, many more will appear here and that additional ideas for observing, celebrating, and honouring the spring equinox will be a part of those festive entries.
However you observe, celebrate or engage with Ostara and the start of spring, I hope that this is a blessed, beautiful and light-filled time that helps you to plant and germinate the seeds of many incredible things to come in your life this year and beyond.
Joyful Ostara wishes to one and all!