Eostre marks the beginning of Spring in the modern calendar. It is a celebration of the return of life to the Earth after the long winter. Its name derives from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre (or Ostara), who was believed to fly over the Earth, leaving the eggs (beginnings) of new life. Eostre’s totem animal was the rabbit. Both of these symbols have been incorporated into the modern Christian celebration of Easter. It is from this festival and the name of this Germanic Goddess that the Christian festival of Easter was derived, although Easter is no longer directly associated to the vernal equinox: The system for fixing the date of the Christian festival of Easter is still based on the date of March 21, being the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21.
Eostre is the Lesser Sabbat that marks the midpoint of the Sword Season. Eostre is a fecund time when we are working hard on our projects. For the modern knight it is a time to realize the fertile ideas and concepts that were conceived during the Shield Season. This is where we water and nurture the magickal seeds of the ideas that we planted. As the plants start to reveal themselves, shooting up out of the ground, and seedlings are lovingly planted in the soil to grow, so do our projects start to evolve, revealing their true shape and the direction that they are taking.
The Sword Season is the time of year when the Order of Paladins remembers the precept of right action: We remind ourselves that these projects that are taking shape must not harm others. We are reminded that one of the principles of our Code of Chivalry is compassion for others.
The Order of Paladins’ Eostre celebrations typically focus on themes of fertility and rebirth and often occur at day break. Since this is the time of year associated with the Eleusian Mysteries and Epoptaic rituals, we often incorporate aspects from the ancient Greek myths of Demeter and Persephone and of Dionysus into our celebrations. Our Eostre ceremonies often involve blessing of seeds for spring planting, which are distributed amongst the members. We then plant seeds representing our dreams in pots which are then placed in the greenhouse to germinate, a potent form of sympathetic magic, as it helps us to focus on these dreams.
Eggs play a central part in our Eostre celebrations. Ancient Egyptians placed eggs in tombs as a symbol of rebirth. Ancient Greeks placed eggs on the graves of loved ones to ensure reincarnation. Ancient Eastern Europeans traditionally coloured and decorated eggs to present as offerings to the Gods. Single colored eggs were known to the Eastern Europeans as pysanky and those with elaborate designs were known as krashanka. Ancient Saxons borrowed this custom, decorating eggs as offerings to the Goddess Eostre, which is where modern Wiccans, Druids and Christians acquired the custom. Ancient Druids dyed eggs scarlet with furze (gorse) blossoms or madder root in honor of the Sun. The Order of Paladins practices this egg decorating custom too. In our Eostre recipes for Sabbat feasts, eggs play a prominent part.
By this time in the training cycle, novices are studying about resonance and entrainment, and the power of “kiai” and toning and song. They learn about the effects of subsonic tones on the conscious mind. The Order of Paladins has proved to be a very musical group and has a number of musicians amongst our members. Not surprisingly, this is also where we teach our students the power of dance. Martial arts forms are certainly a dance, and we introduce them to those, but there are also warrior dances like the Maori haka that can raise the energy through the roof. So this is when we have our “haka boot camp” and teach warrior dances to our novices.
The novices are now rapidly approaching their first initiation: The Armoring. So they are now deciding what aspects of warrior deity they wish to dedicate themselves to. For this reason, our Eostre Sabbat celebrations include invocations and celebrations of the various warrior deities to give them a chance to experience their energy to help them decide.
Since this is a time of year when we can start getting outdoors, it is time to get out the Magickal Weapons and start honing our skills. The swords that are a symbol of this season and quarter staffs or bos are more suited to outdoors action where you’ve got room to swing them. It is time to get out in the Motherhouse garden or the local playing fields and practice those stick, staff and blade forms. This “meditation in motion” helps our novices find the warrior aspects they want to follow and helps the knights and masters strengthen their ties to these aspects.