OSTARA RITUAL (Vernal Equinox)
March 28, 1999
Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale
Designed by Eustacia Blackstar
Please do not copy or pass along without permission.
(The torches outside are lit. As the participants arrive, they are asked to make their flower offerings to the Gods. They will lay them on the altar outside, then return inside. The fire may be lit when all are inside. The Seasonal Enactment portion of the rite will take place in the church. Participants will then proceed to the ritual circle outside. It begins after the Handmaiden sweeps the circle with the besom and hands it to the HP who is standing with HPS at the front of the sanctuary.) HP (raises besom) Let all who would join us tonight, in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, come forth and be seated. HPS Children of the Goddess, renewal and life are around us. We see it everywhere we go. Trees and plants that were barren and lifeless once again have begun to grow. The Wheel turns on. HP We gather on this joyous eve to celebrate the Vernal Equinox also known as Ostara. This is a time of balance when dark and light are equals. After tonight, the light will conquer the darkness and Spring will be with us again in all her glory. HPS Tonight we will celebrate the young Goddess and the Green God for their blessings of fertility and hope renewed. However, as this is a particularly joyous occasion, we will begin with mirth, dancing and singing. These are all gifts of the Goddess that are appropriately displayed at this time of year. (Seasonal Enactment-Demeter and Persephone) In ancient times, wonderful stories were told about gods, goddesses and heroes most of whom acted in very human ways. These stories were meant to explain why things happened in nature, and why people behaved as they did. One of these stories involved Demeter, Roman goddess of the fertile earth, and her lovely daughter, Persephone. It explained the arrival of Spring after a harsh winter. Versions of this story were told and retold in many places. Tonight we offer our own updated version. Once upon a time, it could have even been yesterday, a lovely young girl named Persephone lived in Florida with her mother, Demeter. Demeter was a very important Wiccan High Priestess., After much legal battling with her ex-husband, Hades, Demeter had been granted sole custody of Persephone by the great and mighty Judge Zeus. (HP as Judge Zeus comes to front of the altar and pretends to read a scrolled decree.) Demeter loved her daughter dearly. They were very happy together, in the land of sunshine and flowers. In gratitude for her good fortune, Demeter spent her days performing fertility magick, so that the entire state bloomed and prospered. (Enter Demeter with wand, dancing around circle and passing out flowers. She is dressed in ritual robes. She exits.) Persephone, just like her mother, loved to dance. Her fondest hope was to one day perform in the stage play, "Lord of the Dance." She could most often be seen practicing the lively rhythms of the Irish step dances. ( Enter Persephone dancing. When she is finished, she remains in a posed position.) Now Hades, Persephone's father, lived in California. Demeter considered California the Underworld, a land of human excess and depravity. One day, Hades arrived in Florida for one of his infrequent visitations. (Enter Hades) When he saw Persephone dancing, he was charmed. He instantly regretted all prior bad behavior. He decided he could no long stay without his daughter. Hades took advantage of Persephone's childish desires. He described to her all the wonders of California. He convinced her that she would surely become a star because he knew personally, Michael Flatley, the Lord of the Dance. She went with him willingly, forgetting for the moment that her mother would be very upset. (Exit Persephone and Hades, hand in hand) In fact, when Demeter heard the news, she became enraged. Violating all Wiccan principles, she created major weather havoc. Dressed in black she wandered aimlessly wailing in her pain. Where ever she went, the earth withered and died. (Enter Demeter in black cloak. She is wailing.) Things went on like this for quite a while until Demeter realized the only thing to do was to go back to court. Demeter located her lawyer, Hermes, who was watching a play at the time. She insisted that he plead her case with Judge Zeus. (Demeter places laurel wreath on head of audience member and leads him to the altar by Zeus.) By now, even Judge Zeus, was at his wits end. His constituents were complaining loudly. They were afraid and angry because tremendous climatic changes were taking place. To make matters worse, many depended on tourism for their livelihood. This awful weather was causing widespread suffering. Zeus, being an elected official and typical politician, knew what he had to do. He ordered Hades to return the girl, per the original custody agreement. Unfortunately this was no easy matter. Persephone by now, had tasted of the delights of California. She had seen Lord of the Dance numerous times and her career did look promising. Although she dearly missed her mother, Persephone did not want to lose her father again and the great life in California. All this was explained to Demeter, who being the reasonable High Priestess that she was, regretfully consented to joint custody. Persephone was returned to Florida. Demeter was so happy to see her daughter again, that she returned the land to its former fertile condition by performing the dance of life. (Enter Demeter in belly dance costume to do the "dance of life") The people were so delighted with this turn of events that they spontaneous broke out in song. ( All sing together "Viva la Compagnie".) Thus it came to pass, that every six months Persephone returns to California to see Hades. Demeter passes the time performing bad weather magic until her daughter comes back to Florida. Zeus thinks that this compromise is the best he can work out for the people. As for the people, they are resigned to the fact that the court system is just not perfect! This is the end of our story, but there is no end to the circle of life. HP Please stand and join hands. Let us dance together into the sacred circle outside. (Demeter will lead the dance outside to form the circle around the already lighted fire.) HPS Release the energy into the earth. Touch the face of the Mother. Connect with Her. Know that She sees and blesses you on this occasion and always. Blessed Be. (HPS Casts Circle) I cast the circle round and round. By its protection, we are bound. (Quarter Calls) East Sylphs and Spirits of the Winds, we call to you. Come to this place. Let us breathe the sweet fragrance of Spring and life renewed. South Salamanders and Spirits of the Fire, we call to you. Come to this place to warm the fertile earth and enflame the passions of our hearts. West Undines and Spirits of the Water, we call to you. Come to this place. Sustain us with your gentle rains of hope. North Gnomes and Spirits of the Earth, we call to you. Come to this place. Strengthen our resolve to be good stewards of the land and of our talents, as life begins anew. HP Oh Maiden Goddess, you have freed yourself from the icy prison of winter. This is the beginning. Life renews itself by your magic. We invite you to join us in this rite that we hold in your honor. (light Goddess candle) (Enter Maiden Goddess carrying basket of plastic eggs filled with jellybeans as "The Goddess Comes" is played on tape. ) HPS All hail the Maiden Goddess! ( She passes an egg to each person.) HPS Eggs were the traditional offering to Ostara, Goddess of the Sabbat. They symbolize the renewal of life at this season and the hope for new beginnings. As you consume the contents of the egg, consider what new beginnings you hope to bring into your life this evening. (pause until all have eaten) HP Now close your eyes for a moment. Mentally project back into your egg a vision of those projects, and new beginnings that you hope to start. (pause) When you are complete with that, open your eyes. Hold on to your eggs until the Green God comes to energize and fertilize the seeds of hope that you have just planted. HPS Oh God of the Greenwood, you are eager in your youth and bursting with the promise of summer and fertile new ideas. We invite you to join us in this rite that we hold in your honor. (light God candle) (Visualization) HP Let us now make contact with the essence and energies of the Green God. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Relax completely. Imagine that you are walking along a path in the country. It is a pleasant day in spring. Sunlight sparkles on the path ahead of you. The breeze is fragrant. It seems to carry a message of excitement and promise. You are embarking on a journey to meet the Green God, the spirit of nature. Walk along the path for a while noticing the plants and any animals you may meet. The path gradually begins to narrow. You are entering the woods. Slowly the way becomes overshadowed, as the tree branches entwine overhead. Gradually, gradually walking very slowly, you penetrate more and more deeply into the wood. Now you are deep into the woods. The trees are ancient and gnarled. There is a damp, earthy smell. You continue walking but it is becoming more and more difficult. Look around you. What do you see? The path ends abruptly and you find yourself at the foot of a giant oak tree. Its mighty branches arch above you. Its trunk is rough and warm to the touch. Take time to get to know this ancient tree. Now look upwards. Far above you the sunlight glimmers through fronds and twigs. You are aware that a presence is near you. Ask this presence to make himself known, for you have come to seek him and to hear his message. Now let what happens develop in its own way. Don't force anything. The Green God, the spirit of nature is with you now. Take note of anything that may be said, anything you may be shown or given or anything you may feel. When the meeting is complete, return along the path, more quickly this time. When you are ready come back to this place and time. Did anyone have an experience they would like to share? HPS Now is the time for the Lord to greet the Lady. Let us call out to the Lord of the Greenwood to join us in Circle. (Sing together: " Lord of the Greenwood, high on the mountain, come greet the Lady waiting for thee. Maiden and Mother, circle unbroken. Thus it will be for eternity.") ( Enter the young Lord carrying a live rabbit He stands at the altar next to Maiden.) HPS All hail the Lord! The Lord has brought with him the Hare. The Hare is the ultimate symbol of fertility and companion of the Goddess, Ostara for whom this rite is named. Now is the time to fertilize and energize the eggs that you have been holding. Touch the hare lightly with your egg. Know that the hopes and dreams you have mentally placed inside the egg will now begin to grow. The magick's done. The spell's begun. As I will it, so mote it be! (Special Intentions) HP Now we will send our energy and good intentions to those who may need them. As I pass the candle around the circle, briefly mention anyone you may wish to remember. Tonight we send our energy etc. As we will it, so mote it be! HPS May the Goddess bless you and keep you. May she shine her light down upon you and give you peace. All sing: We all come from the Goddess and to her we shall return. Like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean. (Cakes and Ale are passed.) HP Now is the time to give thanks to the Gods, for this season of new beginnings. HPS May we ever be aware of all that we owe and be grateful. HP Eat and drink. Share and be happy. HPS And as we share, let us remember that all that we have, we share with those who have nothing. So mote it be. (Open Circle) HP As we depart the circle tonight, hold in your hearts the gift of renewal that the Gods give us once again this Spring. A rune is written on each egg that was fertilized with new hope this evening. Take it home and discover its meaning to see what this season has in store for you. (Dismiss Quarters) East Sylphs and Spirits of the Winds, thank you for your billowing energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place in every wind, in the sound of bell and on the wings of birds. South Salamanders and Spirits of Fire, thank you for your motivating energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place in every ray of sunshine that touches the earth. West Undines and Spirits of the Water, thank you for your flowing energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place in every drop of rain, and on every wave that caresses the shore. North Gnomes and Spirits of the Land, thank you for your fruitful energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place through the roots of trees and on the breath of beasts. HPS Lady of Spring, Lord of the Greenwood, we thank you for lending your energy to our Ostara Circle. As we depart, grant our spirits the wings of peace. You have taught us that all there is, is love and in every moment, there is wisdom. HP All honor to the Lord and Lady. The Circle is open but unbroken. Merry Meet. Merry part. Merry Meet Again. Blessed Be. ***************************************************************** Ritual Needs: All participants should bring flowers as an offering to the Gods. These may be redistributed after the rite. Plastic eggs with jelly beans inside. A rune is drawn on each one. Besom Athames Ritual Cups Ritual Cakes/basket Small cups/ginger ale/pitcher God and Goddess Candles Book stands/lights Torches/matches Altar cloth Fire must be prepared before the ritual Music/boom box ***************************************************************** Quarter Sheets East: Sylphs and Spirits of the Winds, we call to you. Come to this place. Let us breathe the sweet fragrance of Spring and life renewed. Close: Sylphs and Spirits of the Winds, thank you for your billowing energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place in every wind, in the sound of bell and on the wings of birds. South: Salamanders and Spirits of the Fire, we call to you. Come to this place to warm the fertile earth and enflame the passions of our hearts. Close: Salamanders and Spirits of Fire, thank you for your motivating energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place in every ray of sunshine that touches the earth. West: Undines and Spirits of the Water, we call to you. Come to this place. Sustain us with your gentle rains of hope. Close: Undines and Spirits of the Water, thank you for your flowing energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place in every drop of rain, and on every wave that caresses the shore. North: Gnomes and Spirits of the Earth, we call to you. Come to this place. Strengthen our resolve to be good stewards of the land and of our talents, as life begins anew. Close: Gnomes and Spirits of the Land, thank you for your fruitful energy. Carry peace and renewal from this place through the roots of trees and on the breath of beasts. **************************************************************** The Spring Equinox Sabbat Celebrated on the first day of Spring, this minor sabbat is variously known as the Vernal Equinox Sabbat, the Festival of the Trees, Alban Eilir, Ostara and Rites of Eostre. It is a fertility rite celebrating rebirth and resurrection. Ancient origins were depicted in such myths as Isis and Osiris, Ishtar and Tammuz, Demeter and Persephone, and Cybele and Attis. In all depictions, it is the love of a goddess that causes life to triumph over death, and the Earth to be renewed each Spring. The Spring Equinox was later Christianized and became known as Easter, a name which is derived from the Saxon fertility deity Eostre. Easter Sunday is still determined by the ancient lunar calendar which places the holiday on the Sunday after the first full moon on or following the vernal equinox. (This was the "pregnant" phase of the Triple Goddess passing into the fertile season.) In some traditions, the fertility deities invoked on this day are the Green Goddess and the Lord of the Greenwood. Aspects of the Goddess are Eostre and Ostara (the German goddess of fertility.) Witches celebrate at sunrise with great rejoicing. Seeds are blessed for the coming planting. Eggs are decorated, an ancient custom associated with fertility and rebirth. They are often pained with magical symbols and cast into the fire or buried as an offering to the Goddess. In some places, eggs were painted yellow or red (sacred solar colors) and used in rituals to honor the Sun God. The hare is also a symbol of resurrection and rebirth and was sacred to many lunar goddesses including Ostara whose escort was a rabbit. Eostre was believed to take the form of a white rabbit. Today the Lady might be represented on the altar by a figure of a rabbit.. The Wheel of the Year and the Magick Circle both represent the Goddess and the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. This is symbolized by the hot cross buns inscribed with the solar cross, a favorite food of celebration. Other traditional pagan foods include ham, hard-boiled eggs, honey cakes, the first fruit of the season, and milk punch.