Following the first awakening of the land at Imbolc, Eostre in March brings with it a time of new life, rebirth and balance. The day and night are of equal length in the Northern hemisphere at this time of the Spring/Vernal Equinox. Names for the moon during this time of year given by the Celts and Medieval England are the Plough Moon, Wind Moon (remember the weather adage of “March roars in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb”?!), and Lentern (“lengthening”) Moon which refers to the equinox event.
Oestara is recognised as the first day of Spring, and is traditionally a time when the first seeds for crops of the season are sown as the Earth is thawed and warmed by the returning Sun. Green-thumbed folks begin to clear their gardens, turning over the soil, planting herbs and bulbs to awaken the Earth spirits after their winter hibernation. Trees and flowers are budding and blossoming as Mother Earth awakes from her Winter slumber. Daffodils, the “trumpets of Spring”, herald the coming fertility of the land. Birds returning to nest and rest from their seasonal migrations will really appreciate tidbits and seeds you could offer to these little creatures of the wind! Bulbs are pushing from the ground, buds on trees are forming, “mad March hares” abound as Nature awakens to Spring.
Eostre (also known as Oestara) carries the themes of fertility, balance and new life which are symbolised by the hare and the egg. Around this time many families enjoy participating in egg hunts, a sweet and colourful trail of surprises hidden for the young ones by the “Easter bunny”…the Eostre hare! Eostre/Oestara was altered into Easter within Christianity. Easter is the only Christian festival that is still determined by the phase of the moon, with Easter Sunday being held on the first Sunday after the full moon. There are similar themes between Eostre and Easter including times of renewal, new beginnings, and life rising again as Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ at this time. Other popular traditions, such wearing Easter bonnets and dressing in new clothes for celebrations, are fun ways of reflecting nature as its regains its colours through new Spring blossoms and flowers.
The egg and the hare symbolisms derive from the ancient pre-Christian Goddess Astarte, whom was honoured by European Anglo-Saxons as the Dawn Goddess Eostar (also known as Eostra and Ostara). This Saxon Goddess was often depicted with ears of a hare, and was accompanied by a hare familiar who laid brightly coloured eggs for children to find at fertility rites. Caesar noted that hares and rabbits were forbidden to be eaten within Celtic tribes as these sacred animals were honoured as messengers of the Celtic Moon Goddess, Eostre. Within legends, Eostre was a shapeshifter, transforming into a white hare at full moon. As burrowing animals, rabbits and hares were believed to have strong connections with Mother Earth, able to carry messages to the surface from the underworld below the ground.
Hares were also associated with the Hellenic Goddess Artemis, the Goddess of the Moon and Hunt, and in the time of Ancient Greece, eating the meat of a hare or rabbit was thought to cure couples of sterility, as being extremely fertile creatures hares were seen as being blessed with the “gifts of Aphrodite” in abundance. With links to the moon, hares and rabbits are also associated with dreams and travel between the realms of Earth and Spirit.
Hares are also sacred in the Orient traditions, with the Rabbit as one of the special animals within the Chinese zodiac. In Chinese legends, the hare is often depicted with a pester and mortar in which she mixes an elixir of immortality. The “hare in the moon” is more widely recognised in this part of the world than the “man on the moon”. According to Chinese folklore, females hares are able to conceive by the touch of the full moon’s light, or by licking moonlight from a male hare’s fur. Symbols of a white rabbit or hare are used in Chinese Moon festivals. Hares are archetypal animal totems representative of feminine Yin energy and fertility. We see hares racing about madly at this time of year especially during mating season- a female doe is capable of producing 42 offspring in a single year!
With early spring beginning to bloom, herbs and flowers are starting to grow, providing naturally organic ingredients for tea brews and soups. Dandelions and nettles are just a couple of the freely available wild herbal flowers that can be commonly found in the countryside as well urban environments. Nettles are rich in iron, formic acid, ammonia, silicic acid and histamine; these help in aiding the relief of conditions such as rheumatism and sciatica. Enjoy the benefits of nettles in a tea or some soup to increase the haemoglobin in your blood, improve your circulation and to generally purify your system. Nettles also help to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. However, do be aware of the diuretic properties of nettle tea- drinking too much may result in lots of lavatory visits!