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Equinox vs Easter vs Ostara

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Every year on Easter morning, I would follow clues, written by my Dad on scraps of lined paper torn from a notebook. They would lead me through our home and garden to a haul of chocolate eggs waiting at the end. I’ve never much cared for chocolate, so most of the eggs would remain uneaten, but those words scribbled in blue ink on that grubby paper meant the world to me. I relished the cleverness of rhyming couplets and cryptic phrasing and, even as a child, I recognised it as a pure demonstration of love and generosity of spirit, from a parent who didn’t always know how to show such things easily.

We don’t celebrate Easter in our house now, but we do have an egg hunt. It happens on the Spring Equinox and involves four paper eggs, which I made when my kiddo was just a year or so old. Decorated with crayons and stickers (no doubt while I was sleep deprived and exhausted), they represent the four elements. I wanted our hunt, like my Dad’s, to be about more than just chocolate. On Equinox morning, under instructions from Lady Spring, a character born of the Maiden archetype, my child follows instructions to find the four elemental eggs and then, a reward.

Now, my eight year old LOVES chocolate, so that is what they receive. They also find a new plant, to embody the emergent growing energy of the season. This year they found a pot of beautiful white hyacinths, with three bulbs, one for each member of the family. We will plant the bulbs out in our garden once the flowers have died away and enjoy them again next year. Before unwrapping their chocolate prize, we scatter dried marigold petals on the doorsteps to welcome Lady Spring and that lush, green, growing energy, into our home and our lives for the season ahead.

A couple of weeks after Equinox, and just a handful of days before Easter, I was listening to Eleanor Cheetham of The Wild Academy speak about the Spring Equinox during a replay of their Soulful Season event for the same festival. She shared how, in their wheel of the year, the don’t include a connection between the Equinox and Easter. This is somewhat unusual in earth-based calendar circles, as many folks make that link through stories of Ostara, a saxon Goddess connected with Springtime. Perhaps as a subtle way to reclaim pagan/secular ownership of this time of year, or to help it ‘fit’ better with the modern social calendar around us. It also gives meaning to those common (secular) Easter symbols of bunny rabbits and eggs. The traditions of Ostara however, are very much tied to her own mythology, and not to the astronomical event of the Equinox.

Eleanor’s reasoning was that the Equinox was the moment on the Wheel that she chooses to celebrate and therefore focuses her celebrations on the energies and associations linked with it: those of balance, strengthening light, and increased brightness and vibrancy.

Her words resonated so strongly for me. I have long celebrated the Equinoxes and Solstices as purely astronomical events, moving away from some of the more creative/traditional associations made with them, because they often felt less like a reflection of the world as it is and more like a convenient affirmation of the world as we believe it should be. In my recent article on the changing Wheel, I acknowledge how the pattern of months and seasons is shifting in response to climate crisis, which can make some of the traditions symbols and assocations feel forced. This feels connected to that same need for reapproaching the Wheel with fresh eyes and open hearts.

Eleanor’s words encouraged me to continue stripping back the Wheel, or as The Wild Academy calls it: rewilding the wheel, to find the truth of how it turns for me, exploring and interrgoating how I can meet and mark each festival without feeling beholden to traditional ideas, simply because they are perpetuated within the creative/spiritual circles I have inhabited.

All that said, I will still include an egg hunt as part of our family Spring Equinox traditions for the time being. My kiddo can’t avoid secular Easter and all the promises of eggs and chocolate that comes with it. I don’t want them to feel excluded from the social experience and leaning into the Ostara symbolism allows them to feel included. But by focusing on elemental eggs, growing plants, and the words that Lady Spring (our own Ostara?) shares each year about the balance of light and dark, we can also acknowledge that we walk a different path: one that is rooted in taking notice, honouring the true changes of each seasons and still includes a bit of chocolate on the side!

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