A well-known tradition that occurs during the spring, whether for Ostara, or Easter, is the coloring of eggs. The humble egg has been the most recognizable symbol for rebirth, worldwide (McCoy, 2003). We have our ancestors to thank for this holiday custom. Through their observances of the world around them, and how they honored their deities, our ancestors used natural objects as reflections of life, death and rebirth. They knew that hens would begin laying eggs at the time of the spring equinox and stop producing them around the autumnal equinox.
McCoy mentions that, “as the world bloomed, and greened anew each Ostara, the abundance of fresh eggs made them a natural symbol of new life.”
While it may not be clear where the use of eggs during the equinox comes from, we know they were used as talismans, and ritually eaten. Women in the Ukraine would dye eggs brilliant reds, yellows and oranges. They were called krashanka, and eaten to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun, and return of the seasons of plenty (Campanelli, pg. 55). Today, we have all sorts of methods to color eggs using commercial dyes, and stickers; however, there are natural ways to color eggs.
According to McCoy, to make your own natural dyes you need a generous fistful of herbs or plants that produce stains, a small to medium-sized saucepan, and a wooden spoon. One tip when coloring eggs with natural dyes is that glass saucepans are better; metal saucepans may become stained.
Start with about 3 cups of water in the pan and bring it to a low boil. Add the plant material and stir so that the water becomes a very deep version of your desired shade. The color the eggs take on will always be significantly paler which will require a few repetitions to achieve the darker shades you desire. When the water reaches your desired color, strain the herb material out of the water; allow the water in the pan to return to a low simmer. You will want to add a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of vinegar and a couple of tablespoons of cream of tartar. Mix them in well; and remove from the heat. Place the eggs in the dye until they obtain the desired color.
Here is a list of natural dye sources and their perspective colors:
Pale Yellow: You can achieve this using white grapes. The color yellow emphasizes creativity, mind power, intellectual pursuits and communications.
Yellow: To deepen the color yellow, use either carrot tops or turmeric. The deeper the color, the more focus on intent in creativity, mind power, intellectual pursuits or communications. Vanilla extract creates a yellow-orange.
Orange: This can be achieved using dandelions or onions. When adding orange to your egg you are adding a solar color used in spells for endurance, strength, power and success.
Brown Orange: Use orris root to create this deeper brown orange color. Brown represents the Earth and its animals.
Pink: Heather can be used to create pink while iris blossoms create a pinkish blue. It has its connection with love like the color red.
Red: Madder root can be used to create the color red. Blackberries will create a red violet. It represents the color of blood, and cycles of life, death and rebirth. Red, or its variations also represent desire, courage, lust, sexuality, war and strength. It is also associated with womb blood of the Mother Goddess from which all life springs forth.
Green: Bracken is used to create the color of Earth Mother in spring and summer. It represents abundance, prosperity, freshness and hope.
Blue: There can be several variations for blue. Robin’s egg blue can be created using red cabbage while a pinkish blue can be obtained using iris blossoms. For deeper blue use blueberries or black raspberries. Blue represents sleep and dreams, peace, and healing. It is frequently employed in spells for dream magic and astral projection.
Blue Violet: Use either beets or mulberries. Violet is the color of intense spirituality and metaphysical mysteries.
You can also create shapes on your eggs using paint, tape or wax. When adding shapes you may first want to consider the color you are dying your eggs and how to intensify the intent using shapes.
Shapes can be geometrical, animal or plant each representing an aspects of life such as the pentacle representing elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit. Marquet provides lists of shapes and their meanings.
Circles: Protection, everlasting life, continuity, completeness. The Sun, and cycles of life.
Triangles: The elements of air, fire and water.Or just fire (the alchemical symbol for fire is a right side up triangle). The Trinity. Sun, Moon, and Stars.
Suns: The life-giving, all-embracing nature of the God, especially as the Sun is seen as the God. Fire and warmth, enchantment, prosperity, good fortune. It is the most ancient and significant symbol, appearing on almost every Ukrainian egg, from a small circle or dot to an elaborate multiple rays of sun.
Spirals: Mystery of life and death, divinity and immortality.
Crosses: These are usually equal-armed crosses, though not always. Represents the four directions, the four ages of man, the four elements, rebirth and eternal life.
You can also use runes and other magical symbols.
Plants: Rebirth and nature. Very popular symbols.
Trees: Strength, renewal, creation, organic unity, growth, eternal life.
Leaves: Immortality, eternal or pure love, strength, persistence.
Flowers: Beauty, children, female principles of wisdom and elegance.
Fruit: Continuity, good fellowship, strong and loyal love, love of the Divine.
Sunflowers: Motherhood, life, love of the Divine.
Wheat: Bountiful harvest.
Stars and Roses: Popular symbols for purity, life, giver of light. Also, success, knowledge, beauty, elegance, and perfection.
Stags: Leadership, victory, joy, masculinity.
Horses: Wealth, prosperity, endurance, speed and the motion of the Sun.
Rams: Leadership, strength, dignity, perseverance. Ram’s horns symbolize strong leadership, dignity, and perseverance.
Horns: Mobility, wisdom, triumph over problems, and implies manhood and leadership.
Bear paw: A guardian spirit, bravery, wisdom, strength, endurance, the coming of spring.
Birds: All kinds, are messengers of the Sun and heavens, pushing away evil, fertility, fulfillment of wishes, good harvest.
Bird Parts: (eyes, feet, beaks, combs, feathers) carry the same meaning as entire birds.
Roosters: Good fortune, masculinity, coming of the dawn.
Hens: Fertility. Hen feet offer protection for the young, and guidance.
Goose feet: Symbols of soul or spirit.
Butterflies: Ascent of the soul, pleasure and frivolity of childhood.
Spiders: Patience, artistry, industry, healing and good fortune.
Fish: Abundance, sacrifice, regeneration.
As you prepare for your Ostara celebrations, eggs are a wonderful symbol to add to your traditions and rituals. Using natural dyes or Sharpies, you can create stunning decorated eggs for Ostara. Remember to reflect the intent through color and symbols. If they are to be given, reflect the intent you wish to give. Make this a colorful and special celebration. Blessed be!
Written by J. Nelson, Freelance writer and photographer. Currently, Public Information Office for the Orange County Local Council of Covenant of the Goddess.
Maquet, M. (2012). Asiya (Online website linke http://asiya.org/asiya/symbolism/ostara-egg-symbolism/#.VuW6vxg2KqA
Campanelli, P. (1990). Wheel of the Year. Llewellyn Publications. St. Paul MN.
McCoy, E. (2003). Ostara: Customs, Spells & Rituals for the Rites of Spring. Llewellyn Worldwide. St. Paul, MN.
All images found thought Google and where information was available it has been provided.
Naturally dyed egg image: Image retrieved http://www.wannabgourmande.com/2015/03/ouefs-au-naturale-naturally-dyed.html