Right now, the spring equinox is at its peak where I live in the southern hemisphere. We celebrated the feast of Ostara last weekend with our friends and had a lovely quiche for lunch.
Eggs are always on the menu at this season of the year, since Ostara is about new life. The world is waking up again after the sleepy cold of winter and new babies will soon be born among the wildkins.
This morning, I woke with the Orphic Egg dominating my thoughts. I was lucky to see an ancient statue of the Orphic Egg when I visited Greece with my husband in 2002. (What looks like chains on its surface are actually a stylized snake).
The Orphic Egg is also known as the Cosmic Egg. It is said that all life burst from this egg and that it birthed the universe into being.
The egg is most often shown with a serpent (snake or dragon) coiled around it. This is an interesting thing since when these images were first created no one had microscopes or the medical knowledge of how the female ova (egg) needs a male spermatozoa (looks like a snake) to cause the changes that eventually lead to birth.
I also find it interesting how ancient streams of religion cross cultural barriers and pop up the same concepts in different ways. You get a great sense of how not only trade in goods and services was going on in ancient times, but also a swapping of ideas and ideologies, and even spiritual themes. I wonder how much the Orphic Egg concept in Greek mythology was influenced by the ancient Aryan religion of Vedism, which predates it?
In Vedism, the Kundalini life force is seen as a serpent or snake and is known as creation energy, birthed in desire.
Similar concepts to the Orphic Egg are related in ancient Sanskrit and describe the expansion by division of the god force, Brahma, from the womb of life, (a process called Brahmanda – Brahm means ‘Cosmos’ or ‘expanding’, Anda means ‘Egg’).
Before life separates itself into individual cells this way, Brahma energy is one being. To manifest the cosmos, it needs to separate into many beings (or cells).
As many beings or cells, Brahma can then experience relationship, which it is unable to do as one entity. By experiencing relationship, it is able to examine its own thoughts, ideas and concepts, and test their mettle.
You could say that the egg is the potential of new life, and that the serpent on the outside of the egg is the Kundalini catalyzing change so that new life begins its transformatory journey toward becoming manifest.
This expansion is known in cosmology as the ‘big bang’ or the point when life could no longer be held in a small, fixed point and broke dramatically out of that focus to become the universe we know, today.
All life has Orphic Egg potential. The seeding ‘eggs’ of our ideas, concepts, and ambitions lie dormant until we energize and activate them to expand.
We do that by applying energy of some kind, whether that is spiritual or physical. That energy is aroused by desire, or motivation. It catalyzes division in our ideas and concepts (allowing us to examine the relationships and dynamics between them just as Brahma does), and thus it activates growth (or the passage to enlightenment).
Each cell first comes into being in small stages (or steps) and the ‘egg’ multiplies exponentially until the totality of its DNA (imagined or pre-coded) thread is fully manifested.
Like the friction necessary to achieve the pleasure of orgasm (cosmic shakti), the seeds of our thoughts, ambitions, or activities must ply through the scary emotions and shudders of progress to achieve that end.
If we get worried that the ideas we have activated may be ‘duds’ based on ‘diamonds in the sky’ aspirations, it doesn’t mean they’ll actually produce failure. The fact that we have activated them at all means they have potential.
Instead, our concerns point to a need to be flexible and adaptable, just like a penis looking for the ‘G’ spot in a vaginal wall. When it hits that ‘magic button’ every potential explodes into glorious manifestation – but first it has to find it…
In Vedic terms, at some point in its static existence, Brahma had an idea that it was motivated to explore. It became aroused, and desired to see what the outcome might be from that exploration. If Brahma had given up because the cosmos wasn’t shaping as it had imagined, then our universe would never have come into being.
My Orphic Egg message said a lot to me this morning.
I had been having some doubts about work projects still ahead, and even though so much had already been done I’d sometimes wondered if we were in over our heads.
So the Egg said to me, don’t give up yet.Keep plying. You’re still enjoying the ride, and the heights are yet to come.
My spiritual rituals stem from the eight annual pagan festivals (called the Wheel of the Year).
Being a pagan is a difficult thing in the world I live. Mainstream faiths still reject paganism, though forms such as buddhism are now found more acceptable, mostly due to the promotional efforts of the Dalai Lama of Tibet.
Some friends of ours love being pagans and have even erected a small circle of stones on their property, where they enjoy holding their rituals, or just hanging out and communing with nature in – but they get worried that their neighbors live too near and may see them through the shrubbed borders. They worry that their neighbors will find them unacceptable if they know they are pagans, so even as they do rituals on their land they are always keeping an eye out for any who might be hanging around.
In Europe or America, perhaps paganism is more ‘out there’. The traditions are more firmly rooted and, even if other faiths don’t accept paganism, they don’t bat an eyelid when they see it.
In Australia, I often get an immediate sense of withdrawal from people when I tell them I am a pagan (unless they are also a pagan). There is a sense of horror that comes from them even if they are not practicing christians, etc.
I’ve formed a very clear picture of how mainstream religious propaganda has worked its way deep into the bloodstream of even the atheists, and many people seem to instantly believe that pagans kill little babies and drink their blood. (That’s just a metaphor. Some people don’t think that way, but they do seem to think that pagans are up to no good).
It doesn’t happen like that. (I’m referring to sacrifices). I don’t know that it ever did. I do know that a couple of thousand years ago the romans were having trouble keeping the celtic people down so they spread a deep propaganda about their lifestyle.
Such things were normal in ancient times. Even the ancient egyptian pharoahs rewrote obelisks with their own version of history when they came to power and usurped previous rulers.
The romans were trying to assert their authority amongst a very widespread and varied conquered community. Having failed to manage the still unconquered celts and stop their raids on roman settlements, the best way to undermine them was to take away their ability to find shelter in the lands they traversed as they rebelled against roman rule.
Malign gossip does that. Spread malign gossip and even people who like you look at you with questions in their eyes. If that malign gossip says you make human sacrifices and especially prey on newborns, whole communities will stand against you without even discussing the matter first, just so you don’t get any opportunity to do it to them. That’s how propaganda embeds.
Once the romans became christians, they upped their ante on the celts. The romans were opportunists who had absorbed the good elements of every society they managed, and made them their own. Take a look at the columns on roman buildings and you will see the ancient designs from greek architecture. If you go to Greece, those columns are made from solid rock, carved and slotted together with superb precision. The columns you can see in ancient Pompeii, however, are pseudo greek columns. To save time and effort, the romans created a rubble filled column, veneered it with a brick shell and plastered that with concrete to make it look like carved stone.
They did a similiar thing with religion. When they decided they liked the greek gods better than what they had at the time, they usurped the whole kit and caboodle and just renamed the gods and modified some of the story-lines to suit roman taste. Soon, all the romans were visiting Jupiter and Venus, Apollo and Diana, etc., in their temples, (who used to be Zeus and Aphrodite, Helios and Athena in Greece).
When they finally did quell the celts, they did the same with the celtic spiritual faith of druidism. By that time, the romans had also become christians, so they melded two faiths into one and chucked out the old roman (used to be greek) gods.
Celtic spirituality and christianity had something in common which the romans admired. They both brought the masses together in firm obedience of spiritual law.
Since the romans were always on the alert for opportunities to benefit themselves, they realized that these faiths could control the people across their widespread conquered communities in a far better way than strong arming them with soldiers ever did. It took up a lot less resources, too.
So that’s how christianity got the festivals of Yule (or Christmas), and Easter.
There were no such festivals in the original christian faith. The original christian faith was an offshoot of judaism. If anything, they would have celebrated hannukah, passover, and similiar. It wasn’t until the romans absorbed christianity and druidism at the same time that christianity became druidic.
Druidism was the spiritual belief system of the ancient celts. While they had names for gods, goddesses, and elemental energies they also believed in reincarnation, so names in the long term of immortal life were really irrelevant.
When you have thousands of names from thousands of lifetimes, it’s really a matter of ‘pick one.’ So when the romans took over the celtic spiritual faith of druidry and renamed the same gods and goddesses and elemental forces as saints, angels, and patrons of christianity, the celts didn’t bat an eyelid. So long as the meanings were the same and the rituals were similiar, the celts were very adaptable in their spiritual modes. That’s how the celts became christians (or christian themed druids, per se).
Honestly, you could say that druidism never really died out at all. Modern christianity is today very different from judaism, and it’s all to do with its celtic roots.
Celtic festivals such as Ostara (called Easter in christianity) were also very long events in ancient times. They could go for two to three weeks at a time, because people gathered from far and wide to attend and they didn’t want to just roll up for a ritual and go straight back home again.
Feasting and dancing and getting together with friends, and also taking the opportunity to do some political groundwork and law-making, all happened in this period, and the main ritual was semi-flexible around the solstice or equinox of the season. That’s why christians were able to move the solstice ritual of Yule to the fixed point of a roman calendar day in December (Christmas day).
To understand this flexibility, you need to know that celtic rituals were not calendar oriented but season aligned.
Ostara is a spring festival, the Feast of New Life. The time it is celebrated depends on which hemisphere you live in. Spring happens at different times of the year in Australia, for instance, than it does in the northern hemisphere.
When pagans in Australia celebrate the spring equinox in September, in the northern hemisphere it is autumn (or fall, in America). When Australia pagans celebrate Ostara, northern hemisphere pagans are celebrating the ritual of Mabon, which revolves around the autumnal equinox. Both are seed rituals. Ostara seeds new life in the world. Mabon seeds new life in the spirit.
Paganism generally honors all life, worldly or spiritual, and all its connections. I aligned my ritual modes to it because of this spiritual adaptability, and because I believe in the acceptance and absorption of all other religions and spiritual faiths.
My belief is in all people being on the same path toward the divine. Actually, I believe we are all elements of the divine, and that everything and everyone that exists is connected as parts of the divine.
Despite propaganda from other spiritual and religious streams, paganism is a simple spiritual faith that means you can be a buddhist, a christian, a jew or a muslim, or any other faith at all and still be a pagan.
(This may help you to understand why I can also happily attend any religious or spiritual event, in temples or churches of any faith. The divinity I honor is an archetype, and archetypes cross all lines or demarcations).
You begin to see why and how the ancient celtic pagans allowed the romans to take over their faith and even align it with christianity – because it’s all about the energies, the expression of those energies, and the connections – about all humanity, no matter from what country or language or whatever modes they use to forge life in this world, existing as one being in spirit.
Ostara is a feast named after the celtic goddess of new life.
The words oestrogen and oestrus come from the goddess Ostara’s name, which is also spelt Oestre. These words relate to hormones that make a woman an entity who can become pregnant and give birth, and the sexuality and desire that makes her amenable to be impregnated. (If you have ever seen the statuette of the archaeological find called the ‘Goddess of Willendorf’, the goddess Ostara is expressed in this child-bearing figure).
The symbols of Ostara have long been the hare (now an Easter rabbit) and the egg (now an Easter egg). These elements are about virility (sexuality for intense breeding, as the hare or rabbit does) and new life (the egg and all its potential).
In Australia at this time, Ostara does not align with the christian period of Easter. Those events do happen around the same time in the northern hemisphere in spring but not here. We only get our store-bought chocolate eggs at Mabon, which is another type of egg (seeder) ritual. We have to cook and paint our own eggs for Ostara.
Usually, we have a brunch with friends or family on the weekend closest to the equinox, so we can all get together on a day when we don’t have to work. That brunch often has eggs in it. We love making omelettes.
It’s a day of being thankful for what we have, and of noting the new elements of life coming into being, the seeds of the future ahead of us. It’s about feeling blessed by the divine and making sure we look at all the ways divinity does that for us, so we don’t miss anything and certainly don’t take it for granted.
Yes, we will be making a sacrifice, but only of part of our delicious feast, which is spilled onto the ground to return it to the cycle of life. (The birds, animals, and insects polish this off…) In this way we give our tithe to the divine and say thank you for all we have been given.
The ritual of Easter, celebrated by the christians, has similiar themes of new life. While christ dies on the cross, his body is taken down and then reborn in a spiritual manifestation. In his resurrection, he wipes away the sins of the past and enables new beginnings.
These are the same modes used for Ostara, just with a different story. Each spring, we are given the opportunity to begin again, to seed a new life, and to honor all life in its divine manifestation.
(Well, we can actually do that any time, but since many people forget that they have the ability to do it, we can use rituals to remind us… Pagan rituals are no different to the modes of any other religion or faith attending temple or church, but our temple is the world, itself).
The rituals of paganism are always reflections on the rites of passage in life.
The elements expressed touch on birth, death, relationship, sorrow, joy, and many other subjects that people may often find difficult to express or deal with in the course of their lives.
In using ritual this way, pagans enable a learning or processing experience for these mundane events. They also transform them into simple phases of existence in the life of the divine.
Blessings to all, and may the year ahead be full of wonderful new beginnings, fresh starts and youthful exuberance!