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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

42 years ago, back before Paganistan was even called Paganistan, a few of us got together just before the Vernal Equinox to dye up a few dozen eggs using only natural dyestocks.

We've done the same every year since and, 42 years on, we're still doing it. Since the demise of the Wiccan Church of Minnesota's May Lottery—remind me to to tell you that story some time—it's the oldest ongoing tradition observed in the local pagan community.

1980. I had blown into town the previous year, ostensibly for post-graduate study at the U, but in actuality looking for my People. Knight, Tanith, Volkhvy and I had decided to try putting together a coven. When Ostara rolled around, we got together to dye up a batch of eggs using the natural dyestocks that I'd been reading about in Venetia Newall's magisterial An Egg at Easter. It seemed an appropriately witchy way to welcome in Spring.

That first year, we used just two dyestocks, onionskins and tumeric. (Depending on how you do it, these produce a range of colors from pale yellow to deep Minoan red.) Natural egg-dyes are mostly heat-applied: you throw the dye-stocks into the pot as the eggs are boiling. The results were breathtaking, infinitely more beautiful than the insipid food-color pastels of my youth: rich, gutsy Earth-Mother colors, tribal colors, pagan colors.

(As it turns out, my great grandmother used some of the same dyestocks for her eggs that we do for ours, but I didn't find this out until later. Now there's a pagan parable for you: knowledge lost, knowledge regained.)

So today's the day, Egg-Dye Sunday, one of my favorite days of the year. (Usually it's the Sunday before Ostara, but next weekend some of us will be out at Paganicon 2022 instead. Pagans haven't survived all these years without being flexible.)

The house fills up with people, the tables fill up with food. (It wouldn't be a pagan holiday without a potluck.) The windows steam up; the volume of a house-full of pagans all talking at once is ear-splitting. By the time we've finished, we'll have dyed up scores of dozens of eggs, the kitchen floor, and the snow in the backyard. It's our annual act of collective alchemy, transmuting Winter lead into Summer gold.

Pagans are a young community, and to date, we haven't been very good at building successful institutions. Still, all things considered, 42 years of the All-Natural Pre-Ostara Egg-Dye strikes me as an accomplishment to be proud of.

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