There is very little information on the Goddess Ostara but a lot of her traditions live on in the modern day Easter. As a holiday, Easter predates Christianity, it was originally the name for the Spring Equinox. One of Ostara’s name variations, Esotara, slowly evolved into the modern name for this holiday, Easter. The name "Eostre" (Old Germanic "Ostara"), is related to that of Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn, her name can then be translated as East, Dawn or Morning Light. Ostara’s name is also the root of the word oestrogen.
Ostara is said to originate from Germany where it was said that she brought with her rebirth, renewal, and fertility to the land during the beginning of Spring. She was responsible for reawakening the earth and supporting the growth of new life. It was Ostara that warmed the winds, helped the trees to bud, and the snow to melt. Spring was seen as a time of hope after the harsh winters of ancient Europe. Ostara, and Spring, was a sign that no matter what harshness or coldness covers the Earth, it will be reborn again.
Ancient Europeans especially saw Spring as a time to celebrate the return of the Sun and its warmth, after surviving the winter months. In areas with particularly harsh winters, the people would gnaw on bones to quench their hunger. And when Spring arrived, it brought with it the promise for a new life and happiness, food variety increases as animals are born and come out of hibernation and plants start to grow. The ancient people of Europe would have felt, relieved and joyful looking forward to the coming of the Goddess of Spring every year.
Associated Aspects: Spring, Opportunity, Growth, Rebirth, Fertility, New beginnings
Appearance: Ostara is described as a young maiden wreathed in flowers or new greenery. She is often dancing, flanked by rabbits and a basket of easter eggs in her hands. She is said to be as lovely as spring itself. She was said to be able to take the form of a white rabbit.
Personality: The goddess is said to be warm, dynamic and compassionate. She is often joyous, but capricious like the spring weather that can quickly turn to rain.
Animal Associations: Rabbits, Hares, Birds, Butterflies
Plant Associations: Daffodils, Primroses, Violets, Crocuses, Celendine, Catkins, Birch, Ash, Elder
Symbols: Hare (the hare is a symbol for the moon), White rabbit, Birds, Painted eggs, Seeds, Feathers, Spring flowers
Ostara and the hare: The most popular myth about Ostara is about how she turned a bird into a hare. Ostara was late one spring and when she arrived she came across a young bird that was dying of cold. She warmed him up the bird but the bird’s wings were frost damaged and it could no longer fly. Because of this Ostara turned the bird into a rabbit a snow hare, and gave him the name Lepus.To remember the rabbit’s earlier life as a bird, she gave him the ability to lay colourful eggs once a year on Ostara’s festival. Some accounts of the tale say that the rabbit chose to lay these eggs on the feastival day as a gift to Ostara. This is a happy version of this myth but in some tellings of this myth, Ostara later became upset with Lepus and flung him into the heavens. He became the constellation Lepus (The Hare), ironically located under the feet of the constellation Orion (the Hunter). Ostara later felt sorry for the rabbit and allowed him to return to earth once a year to give colourful eggs away to children attending Ostara’s Spring festival. This ancient story lives on in our modern Easter celebrations with images of the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs.
Ostara and the moon: It is said that Ostara can change into a rabbit. The nocturnal rabbit hides in the day time and comes out at night to find food, the rabbit is connected to the moon. Thus the goddess Ostara is associated with the moon. Spring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature’s fertility goes a little crazy. The moon is also a symbol of fertility.
Ostara and the egg: In nature, chickens kept in natural light stop laying in the winter, when the days are short, only to resume laying them as the days lengthen around Spring. Around the Spring Equinox, March/April, is the peak time of year for laying their eggs. In ancient europe the eggs were valued especially after winter. Ostara is credited for this occurrence and so her festival was celebrated with colored eggs hanging on trees every year. Pagan Anglo-Saxons placed eggs at graves at the Vernal Equinox, probably as a charm of rebirth. (Egyptians and Greeks were also known to place eggs at gravesites).
Spring festival: In Germany her warm nature is still marked by bonfires lit at dawn on the Spring Equinox.Traditionally people would dress up in new clothes, light bonfires at dawn and decorate eggs as offerings to the spring Goddess. Ostaramonath or Eostremonath (in old Anglo-Saxon) is the old name for the month of April, the month was named after the Goddess Ostara. The modern holiday of Easter originated from the name for the Spring Equinox, which also happened to be when the Goddess Ostara was celebrated. As a Goddess of Fertility, Ostara was also the Goddess of Grain, so offerings of bread and cakes were also made to Her.
Ritual hunts: The Hare was sacred in many ancient traditions and was associated with the moon goddesses and the various deities of the hunt. In ancient times eating the Hare was prohibited except at Beltane (Celts) and the festival of Ostara (Anglo-Saxons), when a ritual hare-hunt would take place. In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol. There is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. Thus in some traditions it was believed that having rabbit would increase fertility.
Christian Easter: Ostrara gave her name to the Christian festival of Easter (which is an older Pagan festival appropriated by the Church). The Christian Church calculated that the first Sunday after the first full moon, directly following the Spring Equinox would be called “Easter” and would honor Jesus’ day of resurrection.
This is just a short summary of the mythology behind the Goddess, below are some resources for further reading.