Although the beginning of the heathen year is back at the start of Yule, this is the start of the growing year. Hávamál advises us not to praise the day till evening – when it is over and the new one beginning. We’ve made our way through the dark days, the evening and the night of the beginning year, and now here is the sunshine of morning.
The most important spring festival among pre-Christian Germanic tribes was dedicated to the goddess Ostara, whose name means, east, dawn, or morning light.
Ostara (also Eostra, Eostrae, Eostre, Eástre, and Austra) is the Germanic Goddess of Springtime. Her festival or blot, is celebrated anywhere from the modern first day of spring, the equinox, to mid to late April. April, in Anglo-Saxon, is Esturmonath, Eostre or Ostara’s month.
The name of Ostara’s festival was transferred to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection when Anglo-Saxon and German heathens converted to Christianity. The English and German words for Easter derive from the name Ostara.
English and German Christians still attach the name of a heathen goddess to their most sacred holiday: Easter or Ostern. The veneration of rabbits and hares and the decoration of eggs also comes from the pre-Christian festival of Ostara.
One of the very first Heathen celebrations I ever participated in was a blót for Eostre. My offerings to her were spring lamb, goat cheese, spring greens and baby spinach, tulips, dark ale, strawberries and painted eggs, along with a Cape Primrose for good measure.
Another spring festival from Iceland is Sigrblót held the first Thursday after April 18 which corresponds to the first day of summer in Iceland or Sumardagurinn fyrsti. This point serves as the divider between the two Old Norse seasons of winter and summer. The timing of this varies naturally from place to place, and in the heathen period would more than likely have varied from year to year as certain weather-signs were observed, or certain spring plants began to sprout, signalling the time for the observance.
Sigurblót which translates as victory sacrifice or sacrifice for victory, is usually associated with the gods Frey and Freyja. It is a time to wish for success in the coming season – sigr means victory, so it obviously had great meaning to the the coming growing season, but it could also have meant success in other endeavours, like the trading and viking excursions and wars that would take place during the summer.
This bronze figurine, with prominent phallus, a fertility symbol, is generally accepted to be a representation of the god, Frey, from the National Historical Museum, Sweden.