Blessed Ostara, everyone! When I saw that a Pagan blogger from Australia had a daughter named Ostara, I clapped my little hands in glee. Glee, I tell you! Because I always thought it would make a gorgeous name.
Ostara (pronounced "oh-STAR-ah") is a Wiccan holiday that is almost identical to Easter in terms of how it's celebrated. It's just that we celebrate the renewal of spring, not the rebirth of Jesus Christ. Almost all of the customs associated with Easter had Pagan beginnings. For example, eggs and rabbits are both very obvious fertility symbols. In Northern Europe, painted eggs were used in folk magick to bless children.
The origin of the Easter egg hunt might have been more sinister. When Christian authorities began to crack down on Paganism, they could no longer leave the painted eggs on the doorsteps of neighbors as a blessing because that would have been too obvious. So instead they would hide them around in gardens and tell the children to look for them. Then trouble came when officials started to bribe children with coins in exchange for ratting out on the people who had eggs in their yards. This way they could arrest more Witches. To be fair, there is no official documentation of this. But if it's true, it brings my childhood egg hunts with plastic eggs filled with money into a new light.
This holiday occurs on the Spring Equinox, a time of year when the days and nights are equal lengths. Wiccans believe that during this time, the God and the Goddess are young, playful, and curious of their bodies and each other. They are like preteens feeling the first stirrings of attraction towards each other.
Ostara is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Eostre or Oestre, which is the name of the Ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and the dawn. The Ancient Pagans used to celebrate a festival for her that lasted several days. Thanks to Jacob Grimm, of Brothers Grimm fame, we know that the Germans celebrated a similar holiday called Ostara. Both Easter and Ostara also most likely come from the root word for "East," the direction of the rising sun.
I have a special connection to this holiday and it's customs. Because I was actually born on Easter Sunday. Don't get me wrong, having a birthday during a major Christian holiday in which none of my friends can celebrate with me because they're at home with their families is a major bummer. But Ostara has all the things that I loved about the holiday--the pastel colors, the adorable bunnies and chicks, the chocolate--with an added layer of special meaning. And Ostara is an absolutely stunning name. I would definitely give it to a daughter.