Ostara…a point of balance

Ostara eggs

Today is the Vernal/Spring Equinox.  From a scientific point of view the equinoxes (spring and fall) are times when the sun is directly over the equator @ noon.  Both spring and fall equinoxes are times of balance, where there is equal hours of day & night.  Now this is not exact.  It varies a bit depending on your latitude, but it is pretty damn close.  This year the Vernal/Spring Equinox took place at 7:02 am, which means that this katt was still in bed.  In fact waking this morning to over a foot of new snow on my little mountain top (1800 ft.) made me want to stomp my feet and do a bitchy pants dance.  It is not unusual to wake to snow on the spring equinox.  The fact of the matter is the effect of weather and warming is in many ways like the noon day sun.  The sun is at its zenith at noon, but the greatest heat of the day is often around 2pm.  I try to keep that in mind as I look out at my snow covered fields.

On another note the Vernal/Spring Equinox is a holiday….it is one of the 8 sabbats (holy days/holidays) of the Celtic Wheel of the Year.  The Wheel of the Year is  deeply connected to the turning of the Earth and as we are connected to our living planet it is deeply connected to us.  As a holiday the Spring Equinox is known by different names Ostara/Alban Eiler/Eostre.  Even though the names are different the energy behind the celebration is the same.  Balance, fertility, growth, returning light…these are all aspects of Ostara both for the planet and all the living beings who live upon her.  Unless you are in  the southern hemisphere &  experiencing the Autumnal Equinox.

Ostara is a time of equal light and darkness.  On a earthly level we begin to notice the hours of light are longer, and the heat of the sun is warmer (even when we are getting dumped on with ridiculous amounts of snow).  The trees are waking, animals are stirring in their dens and the quickening of the Gaia (the Earth) herself is felt strongly…cabin fever is not just a coincidence, notice how your animals act this time of year as well as yourself.  All things are wanting to take stride, leap about and play.  Bunny’s begin to multiply like bunny’s do, and chickens up the anty on their egg production.  This my friends is how the eggs and bunny’s became part of the holiday most of you celebrate “Easter”.  As a kid I was always deeply confused wondering  how eggs and bunny’s were connected to Jesus dying on the cross.  When I began my own exploration of spirituality I found that like many holiday traditions we see as Christian, their roots began with the simple pagan folk.  In fact it is not a coincidence at all that these things meshed.  Many Christian holidays were set near pagan holidays as the church could not get the country folk to give up their old ways, so instead they incorporated them into their own practices.  I personally like to look at the similarities in religions and see this as a melting pot, I am not upset that the pagan things were carried over into the Christian holidays.  I only want people to know how they came about and what they really mean.  With Eostre/Ostara, you can even see how the name Easter came about.  Eostre was a Germanic/pagan goddess of Spring & the Dawn. Fertility and growth are aspects of Ostara the goddess as well as the energy that is present during the Spring Equinox.  Ostara the holiday holds a special kind of magic being that it is of equal night and day….it is a moment of betwixt & between.  To Druids as well as other spiritual people this time is a most potent time of transformation and manifestation.  For we are neither here nor there, winter is letting go of its hold and summer is inching  its way to the surface.  My personal work at Ostara is one of becoming.  I have already laid my intentions at Imbolc (February 2nd), and am now dreaming my goals to the surface.  Dreaming my goals to the surface….hmm, that is a wonderful moment of Awen.  Quantum Physics has proven that thought matters, that what we believe we create.  This is not just the good things we believe, but all things we believe.  To Dream my goals to the surface, I must be careful that I do not bring buckets of negative thought into my mindset for surely it will effect the outcome of my dreaming.  Manifestation, magic, prayer is often best aided with items of rememberence.  That is where ceremony and trinkets come in.

My family began celebrating Ostara when my children were still just toddlers.  By the time they were about 6&8 were were no longer celebrating Easter at all.  For all of the things about Easter we celebrated (baskets, candy, dyed eggs, pastel goodness) were really a part of Ostara.  My kids are grown now and I no longer create Ostara baskets for them, but we still get together with our Tribe (community) to celebrate with our friends and the littles that are still excited about the coming of the candy giving, spring loving Bunny.  One of my favorite family traditions around Ostara is to dye and blow eggs.  Once dyed each member of our family would get 3 eggs in which to work our magic.  We would inscribe them with Runes and other sacred symbols and spend time decorating them, infusing them with our intentions of manifestation.  I would then string them and hang them as a mobile….when Beltaine (May 1st) arrived the mobile would make its way outdoors to hang in the tree line.  This year most of my Ostara magic and ceremony will take place this weekend,which is filled with  many ceremonies.  But for today, I will decorate my home alter and spend time in meditation on my road that is laid out in front of me.

I invite you to take a bit of time today to reflect on who you are becoming as you step out of the deep hibernation of winter.  Happy Ostara Peeps….

spreading love-salicrow

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The Cloutie Tree

Druid pigramage to the UK 061Cloutie Tree @ Modron's Well

My experience with the  magic of the Cloutie tree is a deeply personal one.  Two years ago I traveled to England on a sacred pilgrimage, the pinball wizards journey of sacred sites that was my graduation venture upon becoming a Druid of the Green  Mountain Druid Order.  I went to England to give my vows to Gaia (the Earth), a marriage or bonding to the land which took place in Stonehenge.  I call it the pinball wizards journey because we visited so many sacred sites in a short amount of time…sometimes visiting 3 stone circles in a day.  As I said this was a matrimonial journey and I feel that Gaia was as excited about it as I was.  The land itself was speaking to me.  Many magical events happened on that trip but the most personal thing that happened to me involved the sacred well in Sancreed and the Cloutie tree at Madron’s well (both in Cornwall).

First a bit of info on Cloutie trees…Cloutie trees are prayer trees, they are places of pilgimage often located near holy wells in the Celtic lands and other places of the World.  Ribbons or clothe strips (cloutie) are tied onto the bows of the tree sending prayers to the heavens/god/goddess by the wind.   The prayers that are woven into the clouties (ribbon, clothe, etc.) are often around healing and soul growth.  Cloutie trees are powerful & the prayers attached to them not only benefit the one binding the ribbon but also the tree itself.  People visiting these trees come with a reverence that truly honor the tree and the work it does.   In my opininon Cloutie Trees are priests and priestesses among the trees.

My experience began as I visited my first sacred well & cloutie tree in Sancreed, Cornwall.  The cloutie tree there was an apple I believe and its branches spread out over the well which was underground.  When I went down the few steps into to the well itself I reached out to the land..Gaia and to the god/goddess.  I asked that I become more aware, that my senses be more open, that I be more.  After leaving the well I drew the Rune Gebo which looks like X.  X/Gebo is a rune that represents gift or gateway.  In that  moment I beleived I was being told that I must simply step through or unwrap the gift that was already present.  I acknowedged the cloutie tree there and placed a ribbon on it with my thoughts geared toward the Rune X/Gebo I had just drawn.  Later that day  we traveled to Madron’s well.   The cloutie tree at Madron’s well is a Blackthorn and its roots and branches spread out over the water in a magical, fae kind of way…I was instantly enchanted.  As I reached up to tie a ribbon and Rooke feather (I had collected from a Rookery @ Sancreed’s well) to the branch I was blown away.  Right next to the space I was to tie my ribbon was a tag hanging with my name on it.  I started crying and told my companions.  They thought it was cool, but it didn’t quite sink in…they thought I meant that it simply said “Sally” on it.  But the last name was mine as well.  The tag hanging next to where I was to tie my ribbon said “Sally Brown”, which was my maiden name.  This experience was so surreal, so personally breathtaking that all I could do for a long time was sit with the tree.  Everyone else continued down the path to the ruins of the church that was there….I just sat with the tree thinking.  I thought deeply about how I had come to the U.K. to bond myself to Gaia and I felt that this was her reply, that she had accepted my offer, that she too wanted to be bound to me.  As I sat there I kept thinking how much I wanted a peice of this tree.  I didn’t feel right about cutting from it though, as it was sacred and carried so many peoples wishes.  Then the tree led me into the marshy area following the roots and brances as they went under the water and back up again.  I was led to an area where a shoot of the tree had sprung from the water far enough from the ribboned branches to not be considered for such use.  The branch I harvested from the tree was brought home and used for a wand, an extension of that bond I share with Gaia.  When returning from the marshy area I happened to notice the back of “Sally Brown’s” tag and was again blown away.  She had the Rune X/Gebo drawn on it and her wish “to wake up and smell it”.

My love for these magical priest of trees led me to create one in my own sacred space.  Last year on Summer Solstice we named my property “Solstice Meadow”.  As part of the ceremony our guest were asked to hang ribbons & prayers on the apple tree to the east of the alter officially waking our Cloutie tree.   As the seasons turn and indiduals step into the circle of Solstice Meadow the bows of her Cloutie tree will fill with chimes, bobbles, ribbons and prayers….Awen!

spreading love-salicrow