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October 26, 2023 5 min read

Ostara | Legend of the Viking Goddess of Fertility

Ostara | The story of the Nordic goddess of spring and dawn

Norse mythology, and more generally Germanic, is full of deities and personalities related to their unique beliefs and culture. In this regard, without even knowing it, a goddess whose birth is celebrated worldwide is directly linked to Viking mythology. This is the goddess of spring, Ostara.

You probably already know, but the cycle of renewal was central to Viking civilization beliefs. And, Ostara was crucial for this belief since she symbolizes the renewal and rebirth of everything.

However, for many, the origin of this goddess could date back to the dawn of time, perhaps even before the Vikings. In this article, we tell you the surprising legend of the goddess Ostara. You will be surprised to learn that her birth is still celebrated today!

The Nordic history of the spring goddess

Ostara is the Germanic goddess of fertility, dawn, and spring. In Norse mythology, her annual arrival symbolizes the beginning of this season, marked by the flowering of plants and trees and the clemency of the elements. Indeed, according to legend, she wakes up at dawn on the first day of spring after a long winter sleep.

Thus, this goddess, belonging to the group of Vanes deities, is linked to life, earth, and youth. Although there is no historical source mentioning her, it is customary to celebrate the beginning of spring in Viking civilization. This celebration is special as it brings together many symbols related to Ostara.

Easter bunnies and Easter eggs are among the two major emblems of the festival of the goddess Ostara. This celebration honors this deity who, every year, ensures the fertility of couples, the earth, and animals.

Despite being honored in Germanic culture, she remains a very little-known goddess. Indeed, since no Norse mythology story mentions her, the issue of her true existence has long been raised.

That being said, to truly understand the importance of this goddess in Norse civilization, we must go back to the origins of Ostara. Discover the legend behind the lady of the equinox and dawn.

Legend and origin of the goddess Ostara: the lady of the equinox

Ostara | The Legend of the Viking Goddess of Fertility


Although today Eostre or Ostara as a Nordic deity and by extension Germanic, it's important to note that her existence has long been the subject of controversy. Indeed, it was only in the 8th century that the English monk, Bede the Venerable, described her as the goddess of spring and fertility in Scandinavian civilization.

Before this, there was no historical source from Viking mythology that mentioned her. For many researchers, this is explained by the way Norse myths and tales were passed down. In fact, it was customary to convey Scandinavian folklore through oral tradition. That's why the earliest historical Norse sources only date back to the 12th century AD.

However, due to the scarce sources that discuss this goddess, some researchers maintain the hypothesis that Ostara may never have been a goddess. According to them, she is simply a creation of Bede.

This theory seems very unlikely due to the hatred Christians held for pagan traditions, especially Norse ones. A monk who categorically rejected pagan beliefs would surely not have bothered to invent goddesses, let alone give her noble attributes.

That's why the story of Ostara was confirmed by Jacob Grimm in 1835 in his book on the history of Germanic mythology "Deutsche Mythologie". For him, it seems very evident that Ostara was a real Nordic goddess. According to Grimm, Bede would have simply detailed the traditions related to Ostara and her worship more precisely.

Although few myths about Ostara exist, she was a real goddess of Norse belief and pagan religions. This deity would be one of the many dawn goddesses associated with the light of life and fertility.

The meaning and symbolism of Ostara

Ostara | The Legend of the Viking Goddess of Fertility


Because very little has come down to us about Ostara, we continually discover new meanings and symbolism of this goddess corresponding to each people. However, in all these traditions, the dawn goddess was revered and honored at the beginning of each spring.

In this regard, her name "Ostara" comes from the Old Norse "Ost" which means "East". It is an indication related to the birth of the sun and the renewal of life. This is why she is often called the goddess of dawn or light. Her Anglo-Saxon variant, Eostre, even came to be used to name the famous Easter festival "Easter".

Furthermore, Ostara embodies spring. She is described as a young woman, in her prime, joyful and radiant. Wrapped in a floral and verdant outfit, no Norse goddess can match her beauty. Additionally, she is accompanied by magical animals and fairies heralding the arrival of spring.

However, this apparent fragility and gentleness hides a sometimes very capricious nature. Just as the beautiful spring weather can quickly turn to rain, her jovial nature can quickly become harder.

Even though she is the goddess of spring and dawn, Ostara shares many traits with other Nordic fertility deities, especially the goddess Freyja. That's why some researchers suggest that Ostara might be a form of Freya. While others compare her to the Nordic deity of youth and beauty "Iduna".

Although her origins are unclear, her worship has survived to this day. Thus, this goddess has a unique symbolism that we discover for the first time through Viking traditions.

The origin of the Easter bunny tradition

Ostara's online viking store

Constantly tied to Christian culture, Easter still has some curious origins. In fact, several elements indicate that it might actually be related to the legend of Ostara.

Consider, for example, the German origin of the term, "Ostern". The root points to a pre-Christian origin, dating back to the Viking era.

If we delve deeper, we find in historical sources a celebration resembling ours from the Viking era. Among the Germanic peoples, the fertility goddess was honored annually in the month of April, the month associated with her.

This goddess is none other than Ostara, symbolizing the rising sun and the mating season of animals. During this pagan festival, several traditions were observed that inspired our Easter celebration:

  • Ringing bells to announce the arrival of spring and to awaken nature.
  • Offering gifts to Ostara: these are the famous Easter eggs symbolizing reproduction and fertility. They are dedicated to the earth to bring blessings to the season's harvests.
  • In conclusion, recitations of ancient texts take place. These invocations bless the places and purify the atmosphere.

Given the similarities between the two celebrations, there is an increasing belief that Easter might have been inspired by the celebration of Ostara. Thus, what reaches us is actually a practice that goes back millennia, which would have been preserved and reinvented in a different form.

The worship and celebration of Ostara's birth

Ostara | The Legend of the Viking Goddess of Fertility


Easter might not be the only celebration related to Ostara. In fact, the spring equinox, which occurs around March 20th, is also believed to have pagan origins.

A brief astrological reminder is in order! The equinox is the moment when the sun moves from one terrestrial hemisphere to the other, either descending or ascending the equatorial line. On these few days of the year, the duration of the day is equal to that of the night.

It is not to be confused with Easter, which is scheduled according to church calendars. More often than not, it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the March equinox.

With every spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length, Ostara comes to the mortal world. She brings the first glimmers of spring as well as fertility and abundance wherever she goes.

This day also marks the beginning of the celebration of her arrival, known as "The Festival of Ostara". During this festival, rabbits, her sacred animal, are offered to the goddess, and eggs are painted in various colors.

So here is the legend of Ostara, the goddess of fertility in Viking and Germanic culture. Her stories and traditions still hold, and are an integral part of the Viking heritage.

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