Eostre/Easter Explored and Explained

I’ve rarely provided a link to a YouTube video but this one is fascinating for those who are interested in the connection, or non-connection, between the goddess Eostre and the Christian celebration of Easter. I’ve never found a more thorough analysis of this and found his arguments compelling. If you’re a history nerd like me, you definitely want to give this video a watch!

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Ostara: Balance and Growth

This coming Monday, March 20, is the Pagan Sabbat of Ostara which is always celebrated on the vernal equinox. Since we have equal hours of sunlight and moonlight on Ostara, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the balance of all things: male and female, physical and spiritual, life and death, thought and action, etc. It’s also an opportunity to take a critical look at ourselves and ask the question “What in my life is out of balance?” If you can’t think of something, you’re not thinking hard enough! Everyone has something in their lives that’s “not quite right.” Ostara is the perfect opportunity to plant “seeds of intention” that will help us to grow and draw closer to the Divine.

I think Jesus had this in mind when he said, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Mt 7:7, Lk 11:9) Many Christians misunderstand the intention of this saying. It’s often interpreted as “God will give me what I want…if I pray hard enough and believe it will happen,” That’s ridiculous! It makes us sound like whiny children who throw a temper tantrum until we get what we want. It also make the Divine look like an over-indulgent Santa Claus who will do anything for us, as long as we stop crying! Talk about being out of balance!

Thankfully, if we read a little farther, Jesus clarifies the meaning of this saying, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?” (Mt 7:9-10, Lk 11:11-13) In other words, the Divine desires to give us what we “need,” not what we “want.” The Holy One wants to place in our hands the tools we need to help us to mature and be more in harmony with nature, others and the Sacred. If we ask and search for this kind of Truth and Knowledge, it will be given to us. Guaranteed!

So Happy Ostara!. May the seeds of intention we plant this Holy Season, sprout from the earth of our lives, and grow into beautiful spiritual herbs, gorgeous emotional flowers, and a more balanced life. So mote it be!

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Happy Eostre…Or Is That Easter? Or Ostara?

Here comes Peter Cottontail,
hopping down the bunny trail.
Hippy, hoppity, Eostre’s on its way! 


Or is that Easter? Or Ostara? To be honest, it’s really hard to tell the difference. Nearly every Christian tradition associated with the celebration of Easter can be traced back to its Pagan roots. The connections are many and not particularly veiled.

Ostara is celebrated on the spring equinox, when day and night are equal. Ostara is Latin for the ancient German spring goddess Eostre. The ancient Greeks called her Eos or Aurora. Ostara celebrates the balance of all things male and female, physical and spiritual, etc.

Here’s a list of common Easter traditions and their Pagan connections:

Eggs—They are a symbol of fertility and new life which were decorated to honor the Goddess. Almost all Pagan cultures gave brightly colored eggs to each other as gifts during this time. Eggs were also used in a number of rituals as well.

Easter Lilies—Most Christian churches are decorated with white lilies on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This tradition goes back to ancient Greece and Rome where they decorated Ostara altars and temples with lilies to honor the Goddess.

Easter Bunny—Yep, even the Easter bunny goes way back! There is an Eostre legend of a rabbit who wanted to please the Goddess, laid sacred eggs in her honor (pretty impressive for a rabbit!), decorated them, and presented them to her.

Easter Clothes—German Pagans believed it was bad luck to wear spiring clothes before the celebration of Eostre. They worked on a new spring outfit in secret all winter long and unveiled it during this holy-day.

Lamb—Lamb is sacred to almost all virgin Goddesses of ancient Europe and beyond. It was first adopted by the Jews as a part of the Passover story, and then Christians piggy backed on this tradition as well. While ham in now the popular choice for Easter dinner, lamb was the meat of choice in earlier times. (Eating ham to honor a resurrected Jew makes no sense to me, anyway!)

Hot Cross Buns—Yes, even the hot cross bun was first created by Pagans as a representation of the Sun Wheel/Wheel of the Year.

Resurrection and New Life—In Edain McCoy’s excellent book Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways, she says the following about the celebration of Ostara: “In Slavic Pagan traditions this was believed to be a day when death had no power over the living.”
The ancient Greeks told the story of Persephone who went to he underworld to guide the spirits of the dead to their eternal rest. Meanwhile, her mother, Demeter, put her life on hold and waited for her daughter to return. During this time, grain and other plants did not grow and the weather was cold. When Persephone returned, the earth came alive again.
In addition to the Persephone legend, most spring equinox myths are about Deities who visit the Underworld, where they struggled to return back to earth. When they emerged triumphant, new life appeared.

I believe the reason why there are some many connections is because these ancient celebrations were so much a part of the cultures they came from that Christians had to join the party. Therefore, they set their own story of resurrection and new life at the same time as these other spring celebrations. It only makes sense and is the pattern of the early Church as they wrestled with Pagan culture and traditions. I like to think that Christians adapted instead of stole these rituals because they were rich with meaning and easily fit the theology of the Christian church with a few little tweaks.

Here’s an article that counters much of what I’ve written here. It’s hard to know who to believe which means more academic research needs to be done on this subject. Here’s the link from the Association of Polytheist Traditions: http://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/essays/Eostre.shtml

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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St. Patrick’s Day: The Great Snake Controversy


For most people, St. Patrick’s Day is simply a day where we celebrate all things Irish, including the color green, shamrocks and drinking LOTS of Guinness. Americans go crazy for this secularized holiday and, according to an Irish friend of mine, make a bigger deal out of this holiday than they do in Ireland.

But not all is fun and games. According to some Pagans, St Patrick’s Day has a dark side. One of the most popular legends about St Patrick is that he drove out all the snakes from Ireland. However, according to The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, there is no evidence that snakes ever lived in Ireland. This has led some Pagans to believe that “snakes” are a metaphor for Pagans, and view St. Patrick as the one who committed cultural genocide on the Celtic people.

One of the most interesting articles I read that questions this connection is a piece by
Jason Pitzl-Waters on his blog The Wild Hunt: A Modern Pagan Perspective. It can be found on the excellent site patheos.com. Here’s a link to the original article: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2012/03/saint-patrick-druids-snakes-and-popular-myths.html

Pitzl-Waters says “The simple fact is that paganism thrived in Ireland for generations after Patrick lived and died, and, as Lupus puts it, ‘the final Christianization of the culture didn’t take place until the fourteenth century CE’, there was no Irish pagan genocide, no proof of any great violent Druid purge in Ireland. It simply doesn’t exist outside hagiography. By the time hagiographers started speaking of snakes and Druids, Irish paganism was already a remnant, and Irish Christianity the dominant religious force on the island.”

I have also read that the Church designated St. Patrick’s feast day as February 17th to provide an alternative Christian holiday to the Pagan celebration of Ostara. I’m not sure this connection can be made either. history.com sets St. Patrick’s death date as February 17th. It may simply be a coincidence that the two holidays fall so close together.

As a final thought history.com offers the following positive info about St. Patrick and his relationship to Pagan culture. “Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.”

Perhaps St. Patrick was not the geneocidal maniac some make him out to be, but he might not be 100% saint either. The jury is out on this one. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions regarding the origins of this Irish saint.

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Declaration of Deeds/Declaration 127

Recently, in the midst of my study of Norse Paganism, I came across two very important statements that have been signed by a number of pagan/heathen groups and individuals: the Declaration of Deeds and Declaration 127 (version 2.0). I wanted my readers to know that I support both of these statements whole-heartedly. My blog is a safe space that honors all people and all spiritual paths as long as they don’t seek to oppress or demean others. If you ever see me use a source that does not align with these values, notify me immediate and I will remove it from my site. I’ve posted both statements below for your consideration. I also facilitate The Welcoming Circle with these values in mind.

Declaration of Deeds

We heathens, pagans, followers of the old ways, we are more than the choices that brought us into being; we are more than our orlay (i.e. fate, destiny). Instead, we are our deeds, we are the choices we make and not those chosen for us. In acknowledgement of this we declare the following points:

I. We endeavor to be better than our forebears. Their society was a product of its time and was often deeply flawed, but their religious belief in the gods we hold to be timeless. We endeavor to reconstruct their religion, not the flaws in their society.

II. Our religion gives no basis for discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or origin; the gods have nothing to say on the matter of race. We maintain that a person’s race, ethnicity, or origin does not impede their ability to participate in our religion or our group.

III. Our religion gives no basis for discrimination based on gender, including gender identity, or discrimination based on sex; our religion has divine and powerful goddesses and gods who are themselves complex at best. We maintain that a person’s gender or sex does not impede their ability to participate in our religion or our group.

IV. Our religion gives no basis for discrimination based on sexual orientation; the gods we worship do not always conform to one orientation or another and still hold their positions and importance regardless of their sexuality. We maintain that a person’s sexual orientation does not impede their ability to participate in our religion or our group.

V. Deeds matter to our communities and to our gods, deeds are the foundations of our reputations. We maintain that the basis we are to be judged on is through our actions and our deeds and not merely through circumstances beyond our control.

We are charged in the Hávamál to speak out against evil when we see evil; bigotry and discrimination based on the chances of our birth is just such an evil. We heathens, pagans, followers of the old ways; we join our voices in unison with this our Declaration of Deeds, that we may declare that the chances of our birth that are beyond our control have no bearing on our ability to participate in this religion nor to lead full spiritual lives, but rather that in all cases it is our actions and deeds that truly matter.

Declaration 127 2.0 

As in the past, today we are confronted with challenges and choices. Among the most difficult of these is how to respond to those who intentionally cause harm. As Heathens, our religion gives no basis for discrimination of any kind. Unfortunately, that has not stopped certain actors from trying to do so. Their actions force the wider Heathen community to adopt the qualifying word “inclusive” to define ourselves, and to stand against bigoted people who continuously twist the ancient Germanic religions towards exclusionary, hateful, and violent ends. It is illogical to place exclusionary limits on Heathenry.

We decry the damage the Nazi Party, their allies, and those of similar ideologies have caused historically. We also recognize the damage their ilk continues to inflict. They continually weaponize ancient Norse and Germanic symbols for use in campaigns of exclusion and terror against anyone who does not fit their fantasy. They dishonor our deities.

We hold that the deities themselves created and celebrate diversity. We hold that respect is an inherent right of all human beings. To violate those rights is to forfeit the community’s good graces. There is no greater dishonor.

The signatories listed below represent a diverse set of voices within modern Heathenry. They are national organizations, resource centers, authors, community leaders, local kindreds, and individuals. They come from every branch of our religion and walk of life.
These signatories have signed this Declaration to state their complete denunciation of, and disassociation from, any and all organizations that include any form of discrimination as described below as part of their policies and practice.

Declaration 127 signatories shall not promote, associate, or do business with any organization or entity so long as they practice discriminatory policies and exclusionary ideologies. Discriminatory organizations do not represent our communities. We do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion and will no longer associate with those who do. 

We hereby declare that we will not maintain silence just to keep the peace, especially with those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of: age, ability, health status, race, color, ethnicity, national origin (including ancestry), veteran status, gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, or any other form of bigotry.

We stand together in defiance of unjust discrimination. Oppressive and exclusionary institutions shall receive no support from us. We will actively work against them in favor of a more welcoming faith community and society which embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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March Full Moon: Worm Moon


“Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold…Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” [Mark 4:8-9, NRSV]

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, March’s full moon “is traditionally called the Full Worm Moon by the Native Americans who used the Moons to track the seasons. Colonial Americans adopted these names, especially those named by the local Algonquin tribes who lived in the areas from New England to Lake Superior. At the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. In some regions, this is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.”

On the evening of March 6th, we might want to use this time to think about the soil of our lives. Where is it “hard” and needs to be softened up so that green things can grow in it? In nature, worms provide this service! They increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. They also break down organic matter into nutrients that plants can utilize. Finally, their “castings” or poop is excellent fertilizer for the soil.

With this in mind, we can use this Worm Moon as a time to think about what we need to bring into our lives that will nurture us and provide an excellent environment for growth. In Jesus’ parable of the Good Soil, he reminds us that even the tiniest patch of fertile ground can yield amazing things; even a hundred times more than what we thought was possible. Let’s claim this promise for ourselves this spring and ask the Divine Presence to enrich the soil of our lives so that we may harvest beautiful and wonderful things when the time is right. Blessed be!

Copyright © 2023 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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“Magic Circle” by John William Waterhouse (1886)

Now there’s a word I didn’t know I needed in my life! Fjölkyngi (FYŒL-koon-gee) is the Old Norse word for magic or witchcraft. It means “great knowledge” and, according to Diana L. Paxson, is “derived from the verb kunna which meant ‘to know’ but didn’t refer to just any kind of knowledge. It signified an understanding of the inner workings of people, things, and the world as a whole, as well as a mastery of an ancient lore and traditions.” Being a magician (fjölkunnigr) is not something you learn how to do in a five minute video on YouTube. It involves a lot of hard work and dedication to the craft, following whatever path the Spirit may lead you on.

Back in the day, when I was just a witching, I had been studying and practicing for about a year and happened to be visiting Asheville Raven & Crone. A young person came through the door and asked the clerk at the counter if they were hiring. The clerk said that they were welcome to fill out an application and also needed to list their five favorite books on magic and pagan spirituality. The person confessed that they had not read any books on the subject and I knew immediately they would not get the job. The clerk kindly accepted their application but without any knowledge of the Craft, it would be very difficult to work there! As I thought about myself applying for the job I had already read 25-30 excellent books at this point and was also a member of a training coven. It would have been nearly impossible for me to pick just five because there were so many excellent ones to choose from! I would have also been hesitant to apply for the job because I still felt like a toddler in terms of my magic practice and still had lots to learn before I could help others in a store such as this.

Im my own pursuit of “great knowledge,” I’ve alway been a spiritual mutt, sampling from many different traditions to form my own unique path. I encourage others to do the same. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and it led me to pursue a masters degree in theology in the Christian tradition. I’ve also had Buddhist, Wiccan, Medicinal Herb and Norse Pagan teachers, along with an extensive study of Tarot. My current obsession is runes and it quickly dawned on me that in order to understand them you also need to have a basic grasp of ancient Norse history, language and customs. So that’s what I’m doing these days! It is a joyful journey but it is also a lot of hard work.

I share this with you to encourage you to always seek to gain more knowledge and acquire more skill in whatever traditions you’re studying. The well is deep, but the water is oh-so sweet! This depth of knowledge will serve you well and will make your fjölkyngi strong. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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The Naming of the Divine: A Non-Binary Perspective

Lately, I’ve been reading more and more articles written by practitioners of magic who identify as non-binary, gender-fluid, etc. Many of them are expressing their desire for us to move beyond the traditional god/goddess language when referring to the Divine and adopt a more inclusive approach.

I must admit, I totally relate to their struggle with this issue. Growing up as a Christian, I reached a point where the male-dominated language of my faith no longer worked for me. I began infusing some feminine energy into my concept of the Divine, always referring to the Holy Spirit as a “she” and trying my best to get away from “Lord” language when referring to the Creator by using other nouns such as “Eternal One” (which is what the Hebrew word YEHOVAH actually means instead of “Lord”). When the goddess Brigid entered my life, the feminine aspects of the Divine were a permanent part of my spiritual life which feels a lot more balanced than it did before.

That being said, while my spiritual life includes Divine aspects that are both traditionally male and female, I often seek terms for the Divine that move beyond gender completely. This is especially true as I write liturgies for both Christian and Pagan gatherings. For example, when casting a circle I often welcome the “Divine Presence, who is known to us by many names.” One of the reasons I do this is that The Welcoming Circle, which I lead at Asheville’s Raven & Crone, is open to people of all spiritual paths. I try to honor all the names we attach to the One we know as the Divine.

My biggest source of inspiration for naming God more inclusively are the various Native American spiritualities, some of whom refer to the Divine as the “Great Spirit,” or my personal favorite the “Great Mystery,” since none of us can completely understand nor comprehend the Divine.

Recently, I’ve been using the First Nations Translation of the New Testament which came out in 2022. While it uses male pronouns when referring to God, it also gets creative with more generic terms for the Divine such as “Maker of Life” and often uses “Great Spirit” or “Creator” in place of “God.” It also takes a few steps toward inclusivity by using “sacred family members” instead of Paul’s typical “brothers and sisters” in his letters. It also describes the “kingdom of God” as “Creator’s good road” which I really like.

Language is always an evolving thing. The point of this article is to get us thinking about the names and pronouns we use to describe the Divine. I encourage all of us to listen to our non-binary siblings because they have some important wisdom to share with us!

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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The Wanderer’s Hávamál

Six months ago, when I began an intensive study of the Elder Futhark Runes, I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole would go. I found myself learning some Old Norse language and delighted in reading the myths and legends found in The Poetic Edda. Perhaps the most well-know portion of this collection of writings in the Hávamál which can be translated as “Words of the High One.” It’s narrated by Óðinn and is a treasure trove of sage advice, including Óðinn’s story of how he obtained the runes.

There are lots of antiquated translations of the Hávamál out there that are in the public domain (Olive Bray, Henry Adams Bellows). However, there are times when one wants to read a more modern take of these classic poetic stories.

Well, look no further than Jackson Crawford’s The Wanderer’s Hávamál. It is truly a labor of love and a thing of beauty. Crawford is a Norse scholar whose YouTube channel is a must see. His videos are what led me to discover that one cannot master the runes without a deep dive into Norse mythology and culture.

The Wanderer’s Hávamál began with Jackson going back to the Codex Regius, which is the original source for these poems, and preparing his own Old Norse text from it. This is an important step because there are lots of abbreviations in the Code Regius and very little punctuation. Then from his version of the Norse text, which is published in the book, he gives us a fresh translation in modern English. It really makes the Hávamál come alive, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The delightful bonus in this book is The Cowboy Hávamál where Crawford ‘s creativity shines brightly. It takes stanzas 1-81 of the Hávamál and gives it the voice of his grandfather June Crawford. It is not to be missed and as far as I know is only found in this book. Fans of the TV series Yellowstone will love it.

As if that’s not enough to convince you to purchase this book, Jackson Crawford’s extensive notes are a treasure trove of insight and information. If you’re a bookworm like me, you will find this section as refreshing as a horn of mead. What are you waiting for? This book is a definite must in your collection of Norse literature.

Copyright ©2023, by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Rune: What’s In A Name?

If you’d like to learn about the language of Old Norse, Jackson Crawford is your go-to guy in English. He taught Old Norse at several colleges and now shares his knowledge with a wider audience on YouTube. The quality of his postings are outstanding and I value his objectivity regarding what he teaches.

Einang Stone, Oppland, Norway,

Now on to the subject of the day. What does the word rune mean? First of all, it should be noted that runes are not a language, they are an alphabet much like the Roman alphabet you’re reading right now.

The word rune first appears in several stones including the Einang Stone (4th Century) and the Järsberg Stone (6th Century) and is written in Elder Futhark runes as runo and runos respectively.

The thing that interests me is the usage of the word as it appears in various languages of the time. While Jackson Crawford is very reluctant to make a mystical connection with the runes (and I totally respect that) I have no problem doing so. Here is how the word appears in various languages and the meaning attached to it:

Old Norse— rún (singular) rúnar (plural); later rúnir. It refers to the runic letters but secondary meanings include council or whispers. (i.e. a council is a group of people whose knowledge we seek out. A whisper implies something that is hidden or mysterious.)

Old English — rūna (singular), rūne (plural). It means runic letters.

Old Saxon — rūna (singular). It means council/advisors.

Old High German — rūna (singular). It means whisper or murmur.

Gothic — This is where things get really interesting. The Gothic Bible which was translated from the original Greek by Bishop Wulfila in the 4th Century (or a group of scholars using his name) uses rūna. He uses this word to translate three different Greek words: 1. counsel, i.e. advice or a council, 2. plan, and 3. mystery.

One example of the third translation is Ephesians 6:19—”Pray also for me, so that when I speak a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery (runa) of the gospel.” [NRSVUE] (There are many more examples of this in his Gothic translation.)

So we can see that the word rune takes on more meaning than simply an alphabet. Yes, this was its primary use but we can see that the usage of the word itself implies that it is also a source of wise counsel that is a bit mysterious/hidden in nature.

This would seem to be in sync with Norse mythology where Óðinn sacrifices himself on the Yggdrasil tree in order to obtain the runes from the three Norns (Urðr, Verðrandi, and Skuld), the powerful female seers who are responsible for shaping the course of human destiny. But that’s another story for another time!

Written by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com. Much of the information contained in this post is based on the work of Jackson Crawford. Check out his YouTube channel.

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