ĒOSTRE: THE RETURN OF THE GODDESS

“Here, in this moment of balance, I honor and recognize the sacred mystery of existence. I am a part of a cosmic dance. A holy and blessed music fills the world. The light and the darkness shift from this moment onward. As it is on the land, so it is in my being. I follow the movement of the Mother, and She works a transformation in me. Be it new beginnings or resolution, the Equinox is a point of transition; of change. I embrace the change.”

– Teo Bishop: “The Solitary Druid Fellowship’s Equinox Devotional”
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For the people of the ancient world, especially those living in Northern Europe, the changing of the seasons was of particularly great significance. The lengthening of the days that began after the winter solstice gave the anticipation of the beginning of the end of what were at times long and perilous winters- which for some were a time of hunger and death. This is why the time when the frost melted, the trees began to bud, and the flowers began to bloom was a time of great festivity and jubilation. According to the Roman Catholic monk, Bede, it was during this time that the Germanic tribes of Europe (the Anglo-Saxons in particular) had great feasts and celebrations during Ēosturmōnaþ (April) in honor of the goddess Ēostre, also known as Ostara.

Ēostre derives from the Proto-Indo-European austrōn meaning “dawn”. This has led many scholars to conclude that Ēostre was the goddess of the dawn- a solar goddess. As I talked about at length in my articles, “Yule: Birth of the Sun God(dess)”, and “The Abrahamic Question”, much of the Indo-European spiritual traditions seemed to have been a holdover from much further in antiquity than the peoples of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, who lived around the same time. This includes the personification of the solar deity as a female. I encourage folks to read the article on Yule in particular as I get into that in some detail.

The goddess Ēostre was also understood to be a fertility goddess and is associated in particular with the season of spring, when new life seems to be “reborn” or “resurrected” out of the seeming death of winter. When the spring comes, it proves that this “death” was merely an illusion, and that life can never truly die. The seasons themselves follow the Sun and if we were to look at the cycle of the year as that of a single day, we would most certainly place spring in conjunction with the time of sunrise- the dawn after the long, cold night of winter. Hence it makes sense for the goddess of the spring to also be the goddess of the dawn.

Ēostre was yet another aspect or “personality” of the complex Goddess archetype that envelops the natural world. The people of these times lived very close to the natural world and were quite attuned to its patterns and rhythms and revered them. They had a certain deep reverence for life that seems to be lacking in much of modern culture. They revered not only archetypal gods and mythic patterns, but also animals and animal spirits. One animal particular revered and symbolic for this time was of course, the rabbit. The ancients no doubt saw this animal as a symbol of this season due to its incredible fertility. Likewise we also have the egg as a great symbol of new life, which is what Ēostre is all about.
In his 1835 book, “Deutsche Mythologie”, German author Jacob Grimm spoke of this particularly joyous time:

We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart. The great Christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name ôstarâ … it is mostly found in the plural, because two days … were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.

Ostara_by_Johannes_Gehrts

It is no secret that Germanic paganism and the later Germanic mystical tradition played a huge role in the shaping of Christianity in Europe and later America. This is one reason it could be argued that Christianity as many know it is just as rooted in Northern Europe as it is in Rome or even the Middle East. This idea of German mystical influence is also something I delve into in the third installment of my “Origins of World War II: The German Question” series.

Grimm then goes on to describe further correlations between the goddess cult and the later Christian adaptation:

Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the Christian’s God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy … Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing … here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great Christian festivals. Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess.

However, the Goddess and her mythos is far-reaching and the story of her aspect as the bearer of new life and fertility is no exception. One of the great myths retold throughout the ancient world revolved around the descent of the fertility goddess into the Underworld and her triumphant return, bringing rejuvenated life to the world.

The Goddess has had many names. In ancient Mesopotamia she was known as Ishtar, daughter of the Moon god, San (the Moon is often associated with the Goddess and the Divine Feminine). In this version of the story, Ishtar not only desires to enter the land of the dead, but is more than a little insistent upon doing so as the ancient myth shows as she storms the gates of the Underworld:

O keeper! Open thy gate! Open thy gate! I say, that I may enter! If thou openest not thy gate, I will assault the door; I will break down the gate; I will attack the entrance; I will split open the portals.”

However, once Ishtar enters the Underworld, the Mistress of Hades inflicts all manner of suffering upon her and imprisons her in the Underworld. As Ishtar was the goddess of fertility, her absence prevented the crops from growing and life from maturing so that it was able to reproduce itself. When the gods saw that Ishtar’s absence was having such a disorganizing effect on the balance of Nature, they sent a messenger to the Underworld to demand her release.

In ancient Greece we have a similar story of the young goddess, Persephone. Persephone was the goddess of new life and new growth, who caused flowers to bloom wherever she went. She was beautiful, and was coveted by Hades, lord of the Underworld. Hades eventually made up his mind that he would have Persephone and came to the surface world in his dark chariot, kidnapped her, and made her his bride. However, like Ishtar, her absence caused the green of Earth to slowly wither and die. The gods demanded that Hades release her. Hades eventually agreed to do so, under the condition that for half of the year, she would remain with him, and the other half, she would live on the surface and continue her job of creating new life. This was understood to be the origin of the seasons.

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The time of the spring equinox; the time of new life; correlates with the modern Christian holiday of Easter by no coincidence. The story of Christ Jesus was modeled after these ancient myths and some would say that his purpose as a physical being was to physically imprint these archetypes and initiations into the brutally dense material existence that was the Kali Yuga. We may recall his descent into the Underworld, or “Hell” as mirroring that of Ishtar or Persephone. However, he was not captured, but rather went down to release humanity from the strengthening vice of Satan/Saturn- the force or pull of matter into increasing density- so that man would be able to re-ascend into finer, more etheric or “spiritual” states of existence.

The Goddess, while given somewhat of a supporting role in the canonical texts of the Bible, nevertheless plays arguably the most important central role in the crucifixion/resurrection story, with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene being present at the cross as Christ Jesus “gave up the ghost”, and Mary Magdalene being the first to see Jesus after being resurrected and transformed into his Light body. In fact, certain sects of Gnostic Christianity saw Mary Magdalene as the human incarnation of the fallen wisdom goddess Sophia, who was reunited with the human incarnation of her lover, the Christos.

There are many, many myths about the Goddess that can be read and enjoyed. However, the true purpose of a myth is not to simply entertain, but rather its purpose is to inspire us to some form of action. It is to create an urge to delve deeper into the mysteries of reality and our own lives. It is to encourage us to explore the world and fine tune our understanding and relationship to the Laws of Nature and Creation.

During these times when so many of us are confined to urban areas, it is more important than ever for us to find ways to attune ourselves to and align ourselves with nature in whatever way we can. This will enable us to develop not only a better understanding of these patterns and how they work in the exterior world, but also how they operate in the interior world of our own being.800px-British_Museum_Queen_of_the_Night

As I have spoken of before, when I was first called to really pursuing spirituality and a spiritual path on my own, it was through the practice of pagan shamanism (which I still practice to this day, albeit sporadically at times). I have found through my experience that shamanic work, particularly the practice of journeying into the archetypal realms, the subconscious and the unconscious (both collective and individual), is ruled by the Goddess.
I have seen the Goddess and experienced Her in a myriad of forms, from the old crone; to the nature goddess; to the being I know as the White Goddess- who is the warrior wisdom goddess known as Athena, complete with a snowy owl perched on her shoulder. I have even had a particularly powerful experience with Ishtar and the owl-like beings pictured alongside her. Interestingly enough, it was after the experience that I found this photograph and saw the beings I had seen in the vision looking nearly identical to what I had experienced.

So as we move into spring and the new life blooms, I urge folks to get out into nature and experience it. The great alchemist and healer Paracelsus wrote:

Nature is the Universal Teacher… It was the Book of Nature, written by the finger of God, which I studied… Nature is the universal teacher.  Whatever we cannot learn from the external appearance of nature, we can learn from her spirit. Both are one.  Everything is taught by Nature to her disciple if he asks for information in the appropriate manner.”

I am not saying to completely disregard whatever texts inspire you and hold value to your life, but know that there is more to spiritual life than words on a page. Both the Gnostic and the Shaman hold the direct experience of the spiritual world as the most sacrosanct- and it is these two avenues above all else that have personally influenced my journey. In any event. I will always encourage folks to seek and explore as many avenues of direct spiritual experience as they can handle (and then a little more).  And of course, I encourage you to get to know your Goddess in all of her myriad forms and in as many ways as you can. She is an amazing, incredible and complex being who is full of wisdom- and someone who I should really listen to more often 😉

Those who have ears to hear should hear.  Namaste and God Bless.

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