Searching for the Goddess Ostara
With the Spring Equinox coming up, many religions have special ways to honor the Gods and Goddesses of their paths. In Heathenry (and most of general pagan practices), the equinox is devoted to a goddess named Ostara or Eostre. There is no historical evidence, however it is claimed that she was worshipped and honored in Germanic lands. The traditions of hares, eggs, and associated festivals have been widely attributed to her.
But were these traditions really held in her honor? Was she indeed a Goddess venerated across the continent and carried over seas to other lands? The truth is we do not know for certain if there actually was a Goddess of Northern Europe named Ostara and worshipped as goddess of the coming spring.
In his book, Eostre Ostara Eostar: Facts, assumptions, conjectures, speculations, guesses and nonsense, GardentStone provides a wealth of texts and information that have been used to support the arguments in favor of Eostre, the Goddess. He refrains from drawing a conclusion about the topic – neither affirming nor denying the veracity of the claims made by supporters from the 16th century to modern writings.
In fact, GardenStone sets the expectations for the book in the preface to the work, “In this book, the author does not declare himself against or in favor of the goddess Ostara, Eostre, or Eostar,” he writes. “Only the results of historical, mythological, folkloric, literary and linguistic research concerning Eostre/Ostara/Eostar (written that way or some other spelling) are presented here.”
Earliest Mentions of the Goddess
He begins with the most notable and earliest attestations of Ostara as goddess by the 8th century English monk, the Venerable Bede. Bede drew a conclusion that the English month, Eosturmonath (approximately April) was so named in honor of a goddess previously worshipped. Bede has since been the consistent source of the Ostara-is-goddess theory throughout the centuries.
Bede was cited in the 19th century by Jacob Grimm as the source for his writing about the goddess on the continent in his book Deutsche Mythologie. Modern writings about the sabbat, which was reconstructed as part of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year by founder Gerald Gardner in the early 20th century, use Grimm and Bede as the primary resources to support the theory.
GardenStone, however, draws no such conclusions with his work. He has diligently located many resources from pamphlets, papers, books and texts that have varying references the names or roots of the names used for the goddess. He has systematically arranged the data in a coherent manner that flows in a logical order in three sections: standard sources and etymology, Ostara on the Continent, and common traditions and folklore. Within each section, he provides the conclusions drawn at the time of the writing and which source did or may have influenced the authors.
Much has been written since the 17th century about the topic using the academic strengths of the times. A lot of emphasis to fill the gaps of actual resources was placed on conclusions drawn from place names and comparisons to other cultural practices, similar root names and parallel deities.
GardenStone makes a keen observation by pointing out that although we do not have extant sources today, it does not necessarily mean that Bede and others also did not have resources to draw their conclusions upon. Fires, wars, and other disasters occurred and documented which could have destroyed many texts leaving only the writings about the topics preserved.
He concludes the book by restating that although we do not have actual evidence of worship of Ostara/Eostre as a goddess in pre-christian times, “…that a Heathen acceptance of Ostara depending solely upon historical evidence or scientific results is unnecessary. Since no God or Goddess is actually provable in these ways, we must rely upon our faith in Them.” – GardenStone
Just the Facts…
GardenStone is of Dutch origin now living in Germany. His research about historic Germanic peoples is a passion that has yielded many books on Heathen topics. This book is 100 pages and is translated from its original German text. Although some will notice some minor differences in structure and punctuation, the book is easy to read and follow and these will not impede or detract from the usefulness of the book.
Many of his works on Germanic deities and topics are available in Dutch as well as English (translated from German). The English texts are available in the U.S. via Amazon through print on demand services as well as from his personal website in Germany.
I recommend, however, to order the books directly from GardenStone’s website, www.boudicca.de. Taking into account the exchange rate and very modest shipping charges, readers will not be paying much more than if they purchase from Amazon. As an added bonus, books ordered directly are signed by the author himself. An added bonus is that some of the books may have colored plates (such as in Gods of the Germanic Peoples volumes 1 and 2) which are not available in color when ordered from Amazon (being printed only in black and white).
I enjoyed the book very much. It has provoked me to look at Ostara and evaluate my relationship to Her. On what basis do I explain Her to others now? How will I adjust how I relate to Her and choose to connect with Her? How will this affect public displays and rituals? It is possible (perhaps likely) that she was worshipped as Bede wrote. But with the absence of any other extant evidence – how do we move forward?
For the past several hundred years, a Goddess of Spring has made herself known to many in various lands, cultures and traditions. She has come to be known to us today as Ostara – or Eostre. Whether that was Her name before – we cannot be certain. But we know Her this way now.
The gnosis of millions over times has revealed who She is to us now. How She may have been worshipped in pre-christian times may not be as relevant to us now. What matters is how do we connect and relate to Her now? What is She saying to followers? How does She reveal Herself to them now? Does She enjoy colored eggs, rabbits, chocolate and family feasts? Does she dress in pastels and warms the earth for sprouting plants and blooming flowers? Does she whisper glad tidings in your ears? These are questions for each person to ask and await Her answer.
Ostara – by Jan Tjeerd
Winter’s darkness gives way to Sunna’s lengthening journey. Warming days heat the earth, awakening the seeds within. Frey Visits and Thor blesses the fields as the sprouts emerge from their slumber.
Ostara brings the turning time to welcome the change and gladden our hearts. She shimmers with the colors of the flowers that reach for the shining sun. Honor her this tide with colorful eggs, beautiful songs, and bright remembrances.
Hail to Ostara, Goddess of the Spring – renewing our hearts with love, hope and joy.
Ostara artwork created by Connla Freyjason. Find artwork by Connla on Iaconography.
Eostre Ostara Eostar by GardenStone can be ordered in German and English as well as other books) from his own site or Amazon. This is a paperback book of 122 pages. ISBN-10: 3738655778 ISBN-13: 978-9798655773