From the Oak: Let’s hear it for the God!
Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.
of Eostre, dawn and spring
The next divinity in my tribute to the deities in the “god graveyard” is the Northern European Eostre (Eastre, Ostara) goddess of the dawn and of spring.
Not much is known about this goddess but much can be surmised. There is a mention of her in a work by Bede, an English monk, which states that feasts were held in her honor during April. Jacob Grimm in Teutonic Mythology relates her name to the High Old German name for the east. Linguistically, Eostre comes from the Proto Indo European root *awes, to shine, as does the names for other dawn goddesses: Eos (Greek), Aurora (Roman) and Ushas (Indian). So let’s discover Eostre by learning about the others.
Eos (who was virtually identical to the Roman Aurora) is described as the “rosy fingered” goddess of the dawn whose light dispersed the mists of night. She was often identified with Hemara, goddess of the day. Eos is sometimes described as a messenger or herald for Helios, the sun. She is variously depicted as sporting a pair of wings or in a chariot pulled by winged horses. Eos is also known for her appreciation and desire for handsome young men who she would often kidnap. It is said that her tears are the morning dew.
Ushas is a Vedic deity of the dawn exalted in the Rig Veda. She is depicted as a beautiful and attractive young woman dressed in red and travelling in a chariot which drives away the darkness of night. Ushas is said to rouse all life, to set all things in motion, and participates in the cosmic order which repels the chaotic forces that threaten the world. She is the harbinger of light, activity, consciousness and awareness.
So if I was to guess at Eostre, I’d say she was a beautiful goddess (possible sexually active) colorfully dressed who dispels the dark nights with her light, awakening mortals to the promise of the day ahead. As each day is a new beginning so is each spring, but more intensely felt because of joy of release from the dark and cold of winter. A goddess of the dawn is the perfect divinity to honor at this time of the year, so I can see why Ostara is the common neo-pagan name for the spring equinox. Much like the typical mortal response to dawn, the earth is neither fully awake nor fully asleep at the spring equinox. Not only do the days get longer from there on out, but warmer too. It is a time of newness, of breaking out of the winter doldrums, of spring fever, of new growth and new beginnings. As for the items commonly associated with Eostre, rabbits are very amorous creatures (there is a reason for the phrase: f*** like a bunny), sweets represent the sweetness of life and eggs are common symbols of beginnings. The coloring of said eggs reflect the hopes of new beginnings and the colors of Eostre’s robes as she makes way for the sun.
As I write this, the temperature gauge says three degrees Fahrenheit. The winters here are long, dark and cold, not too different from the winters of Northern Europe. Every year after the flurry of the holidays has passed, I start to look for any tangible signs that winter will actually leave and it isn’t until the spring equinox that it even begins to look possible. So I have no problem believing that the ancients of that area celebrated this time by honoring the goddess of the dawn, the goddess of new beginnings in hopes of speeding winter on its way out. I certainly plan to do the same. Hail to the Goddess of the Dawn by which ever name you care to be called.
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