Ostara Ritual (Eostre): A Ritual for Children
Performed at Pantheacon 2009
Cast circle as usual, emphasizing the growth of new life in the spring and what each element brings to this process:
East: (the wind that spreads the seeds)
South: (the heat of the sun that helps them grow)
West: (the water which feeds them)
North: (the earth from which they spring)
Call Persephone/Kore, Demeter, and Hekate as the Three Aspects of the Goddess
Call the Green Man, the Spirit of Growth [both these invocations can be noisy and fun, with lots of hand-clapping, shakers, and noisemakers of all kinds]
Introduction to the myth:
"Ostara is the celebration of Balance. The days and nights are of equal length but the Sun God is gaining more power over the darkness of Winter. This Sabbat is named after the Teutonic goddess Eostre, whose name is probably yet another variant of Ishtar, Astarte and Aset or Isis. This Sabbat overlaps many other observances at this time of year, such as Easter -- a Christian celebration. In celebration of the return of Spring, many people have told stories of the return of the maiden Goddess to earth after the long cold winter. Here is the version which was told in ancient Greece."
[Gather the children together to sit at the feet of Hekate as she tells the story]
The myth of Demeter & Kore
[personae: Demeter, Kore, Hades, Hekate, Helios, Zeus, Hermes (act out as Hekate sits and reads the story to the children)
props: flowers, a pomegranate (if possible) or other fruit. Cloak for Hades to hide Kore under]
The maiden Kore, daughter of Demeter, was gathering flowers when she suddenly noticed a flower of striking beauty. She ran to pick the flower, but as she bent down the earth opened and Hades appeared. He seized her and dragged her down into the depths of the earth. [Kore gathers flowers; Hades grabs her, covers her with cloak; she drops her flower; both run off to side and Kore remains hidden under cloak with Hades facing away from action]
Kore's mother, Demeter, heard her daughter's despairing cry for help, and for nine days looked all over the world. Finally, on Hekate's advice, she went to see Helios, the sun, who saw the abduction from his chariot in the heavens. Helios told Demeter that the flower was planted by Zeus, so that she might become his brother Hades' "flowering bride."[Demeter looks everywhere, goes to Hekate, who points to Helios. Helios picks up flower and hands it to Demeter, who weeps]
In her grief Demeter left Olympus and took refuge among the cities of men. As she withdrew, so the earth dried up and withered, the sap of growth departed and the land lay dying. The gods, seeing that without crops the entire human race would perish and there would be no one to worship them, came to Demeter to entreat her to come out and restore the earth. But she would not permit the earth to bear fruit again until she saw her daughter. [Demeter sits with head in hands; other gods come to her, but she shakes head "no"]
Finally Zeus commanded Hermes to descend into the underworld and tell Hades that he must return Kore, who since her arrival in the underworld had taken the name Persephone, to her mother. Before returning, Persephone, yielding to Hades' temptation, ate a few pomegranate seeds. Having tasted the fruit, Persephone must henceforth spend a third of each year with him, but when she comes back to earth at springtime, she and her mother are so happy that all the flowers bloom again.
[Zeus points Hermes to Hades, who turns around and unveils Persephone. Hades hands Persephone a fruit, and she takes a bite. Hermes takes Persephone by the hand and leads her to Demeter, who stands and embraces her. All gods gather together and show flowers, handing them to children]
All sing "The Lady's Bransle":
For she will bring the buds in the spring
And laugh among the flowers,
In summer's heat her kisses are sweet,
She sings in leafy bowers;
She cuts the cane and gathers the grain
When fruits of fall surround her;
Her bones grow old in wintry cold,
She wraps her cloak around her.
But she will bring the buds in the spring...
[about three times through should be sufficient--perhaps do this as a circle dance. at very least get the kids to clapping]
Take a [real] hardboiled egg, show it to the kids and say: "During the winter, the world is all cold and icy."
Crack the shell, saying "but in the spring, the ice cracks."
Peel the shell and dispose of it in a bowl, then take off bits of the white for the kids to eat (if they want), saying: "and the snow melts."
Then show them the yolk and say "And the sun returns! ...and that's why we hunt for eggs!"
[Egg hunt follows]
Cakes and wine (cake and milk) and general feasting to follow.
Devoke and farewells.