Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.
Hope Springs Anew
Sumer is icumen in, / Lhude sing cuccu! / Groweth sed and bloweth med / And springth the wude nu. / Sing cuccu!
(Spring has come in, / Loudly sing cuckoo! / Grows seed and blooms mead / And springs the wood now. / Sing cuckoo!
~ Middle English Lyrics, 13th century)
What is Ostara about? What is its focus this year, for my family? I feel hope is a good theme. Spring is about renewal and rebirth, but underlying these transformations is hope. We hope all will continue to be well. We hope things will possibly even get better. We hope we will succeed in what we wish to; we hope bad times will end.
If you listen to the returning birds they are singing about hope. Hope for their future as they gather twigs and string for nests; hope that nature will be kind and storms rare; that predators will stay away, that their precious eggs will prove fertile. Like seeds, birds' eggs are symbols of the potential of life, of the hope that life will continue into the future, that there is a future. At this time of year, eggs are everywhere you look: in nests in trees, in ponds, in grocery and department stores. How many people really see what they are looking at? How many of us realize that when we stand in front of the Easter display at the grocery store trying to figure out if we should buy the striped eggs or the sports-themed ones for our child's Ostara basket that what we are really zoning out over is an ancient affirmation of hope? I didn't until I just wrote this.
Every year as we hide goody-filled plastic eggs for our children's delight we are observing an ancient practice, however distorted, of the prospect of hope. The egg hunt is based on the custom of wishing on eggs to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; they were then hidden so the wishes and prayers might be granted. As Christianity rose and the ways of the "Old Religion" were shunned, Christian children began to make a game out of finding the eggs and smashing them in the belief that the heathens' prayers would go unanswered. Fortunately we live in a slightly more tolerant time, and so each year when my children color eggs they inscribe wishes on two or three (I have the littlest one hold his egg in his hands and make a wish), and once colored and dry, they sneak out and hide them somewhere around our home. (This is trickier than one might think: we live in an apartment in the middle of downtown. Though it does make for some innovative choices for the older kids.) The rest we keep, because for some strange reason the members of my family really, really like to eat eggs. I don't get it, myself.
On the day of Ostara (depending on when it falls in the week), they either wake to empty baskets waiting to be filled with their foraging, or they come home from school to a celebratory tea followed by an egg hunt. Based on my knowledge of the egg hunt, why do I keep the Christian-themed tradition? Partly because like Christmas, Easter has been transformed from a religious holy day to a national holiday with religious connotations and a part of observing this national holiday is a scavenger hunt for candy-filled eggs and chocolate bunnies. I just make sure we mesh the holiday fun with our holy day observance.
What are your hopes for this year? What do you seek to achieve, to change, to begin? This is the time of year to focus on changes. It is a season of renewal, to remake ourselves, our lives, our plans. To infuse life with hope, that we may grow and thrive like the children we are. Because we are children, Her children, allow yourself to celebrate Ostara as a child might: color eggs, even if you don't have children of your own. Gather a bunch of friends to do it with you; encouraging a group of adults to make a wish on a colored egg may transform some lives in a way neither you nor they could have imagined. Hide your wish eggs where they won't be seen by prying eyes. Make yourself a basket of treats to enjoy, decorate your altar with sweet spring flowers. Allow the beauty of the season to tint your life in the bright hopeful hues of spring. Take a few moments each evening to stand for a moment in the hush of a spring evening, even if it's freezing where you live, as it is here. You will notice a subtle difference in the air around you, something that wasn't there a few weeks ago, something that hints at what is to come. Something that is hope.
Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.
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