Eostre, Germanic Goddess – Storytelling for Everyone

Easter Lore

Art by Helena Nelson-Reed

Ostara, or Eostre or Eastre, is the Germanic Goddess of spring and dawn. She is only mentioned once in scholarly writings of the period: Bede the monk states that during Eostremonath (the old Anglo-Saxon names for April), the pagan Anglo-Saxons help festivals in her honor. Two hundred years later in Germany, in his Life of Charlemagne, a monk named Einhard gives the old name for April as Ostaramonath.

The goddess is also mentioned in a number of inscriptions in Germany, and the modern holiday of Easter—originally the name for the spring Equinox, but later subsumed to the Paschal calendar for the Christian resurrection holiday—is named for her.

The name “Eostre” (Old Germanic “Ostara”), is related to that of Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn, and both can be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn, thousands of years ago.

Her truth, however, is evident every year. She is the first warm spring winds, the birds that return, the trees that bud and curl forth leaves and flowers. She is the awakening earth, rabbits and hares, the eggs that appear after a winter of no light.

City folk may not know that chickens who are kept in natural lighting quit laying in the winter, when the days are short, and begin again as the days lengthen. March/April is their peak time of year, and those eggs were a valued and welcome protein source for our winter-starved ancestors. Ostara’s legacy is in all those colored eggs which many of us still hang on trees every year.

Jakob Grimm, in his Teutonic Mythology, maintained that “Ostara, Eástre, was goddess of the growing light of spring.” Holy water in the form of the dew, or water collected from brooks, was gathered at this time; washing with it was said to restore youth. Beautiful maidens in sheer white were said to seen frolicking in the country side.

Ostara is usually depicted as a young maiden. As Ember Cooke writes, “…old enough to bear children, but not a mother.” She is wreathed in flowers or new greenery, and often dances. She is often joyous, but can just as easily turn suddenly solemn, like the spring weather that can quickly turn to rain. Like Spring itself, she is capricious, innocent and knowing by turns.

Ostara gives the gift of newness, which is especially important for those of us who are old and cynical in spirit. If you have lost hope over the winter, ask her for a new infusion of it. If you have lost sight of the goal, ask her for fresh eyes to look upon the problem anew.

If you are tired of the world, ask her to show you the small joys that are still around every corner, in every field of flowers that stubbornly make their way up from the earth.

In Celtic tradition, the hare is sacred to the Goddess and is the totem animal of lunar goddesses such as Hecate, Freyja and Holda, since the hare is a symbol for the moon. The Goddess most closely associated with the hare is Eostre, or Ostara. The date of the Christian Easter is determined by the phase of the moon. The nocturnal hare, so closely associated with the moon which dies every morning and is resurrected every evening, also represents the rebirth of nature in Spring.

Over the centuries the symbol of the hare at Ostara has become the Easter Bunny who brings eggs to children on Easter morning, the Christian day of rebirth and resurrection. Hare hunting was taboo, but because the date of Easter is determined by the moon together with the hare’s strong lunar associations, hare-hunting was a common Easter activity in England.


Source: https://www.northernpaganism.org/shrines/ostara/about.html


Author adminPosted on April 2, 2021Categories Legends, MythTags Celtic, Easter, Germanic

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