by Merlyn

Ostara by Johannes GehrtsYou don't have to be a Wiccan or even a Pagan to celebrate spring's arrival. The Ostara sabbat, also called Eostar or Eostre, is a minor sabbat that affects us emotionally because it occurs at a time clearly separating winter and spring. Two weeks before the Spring Equinox, deep snowfalls can linger for days. After Ostara the fading winter yields to a six week rush of time through spring into May when long days and summer temperatures appear. Returning sunlight, increasing in both intensity and duration, irreversibly fuels spring's warming. However, in many climates the cautious buds of fruit trees and flowering ornamentals won't blossom and spread their sensuous perfumes until mid-April, because hard freezes still threaten them on clear nights.

Read more: Wheel of the Year: Ostara

imbolc brigid crossby Merlyn

Midwinter (early February) was the time of many ancient Pagan festivals, which have continued under Christian guises. The wild Lupercalia of ancient Rome was replaced by the austere Festival of the Purification of the Virgin, or Candlemas. Modern America's midwinter celebration is Groundhog's Day, an Erisian holiday which has shed all serious religious and cultural pretensions.

The Celtic Imbolc, or Brigid, is a time for purification and new beginnings. Besides being a time of warming and melting snows, Imbolc is a time of mental and physical cleaning, as well as spiritual renewal. Imbolc anticipates spring, although the vernal equinox is seven weeks away. The word Imbolc refers to the pregnant condition of ewes at Midwinter. Their fertility was a good sign to the ancient Celts who depended on sheep for food and clothing.

This sabbat is also called Brigid in honor of this Celtic Triple Goddess. Brigid is anything but dainty and symbolizes a strong woman leading and providing for her people. She is a war Goddess and a patron of martial arts, and her soldiers were the brigands or outlaws, as the Christians called them. She is also the goddess of fire, poetry, fine arts, smithcraft, and the healing arts including midwifery.

Read more: Wheel of the Year: Imbolc

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