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.
(email Eustacia)

(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.
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