It is unlikely that you will find a symbol more connected to spring than the egg. It is an archetype of life, death, and renewal, embodying all that is the Spring Equinox. The idea of rebirth in the spring is a recurring theme in most of the spring festivals around the world, from Ostara to Easter.
How Did the Egg Come to Symbolize Spring?
In ancient times, symbolism was derived from the close observation of nature. Before the advent of the home refrigerator and the arrival of a truly global marketplace, food was truly a seasonal commodity. One of the commodities available through the spring and summer was the egg.
The laying of an egg is controlled by sunlight. When the retina (the part of the eye that captures light) of an egg-laying hen is stimulated by sunlight for a period of twelve consecutive hours of light, she will lay eggs. When this stimulation has ended, the hen will cease to lay eggs. In ancient times, the only light man had access to was fire, and fire is not strong enough to fool the retina of a hen. Only natural light would work, and it was only between the Spring Equinox and the Fall Equinox that there was more than twelve hours of light. Therefore, fresh eggs were only available for six months of the year.
It would be hundreds of years before the science of a hen’s retina could be fully understood, but the pattern was easy enough for anyone to discern. Hens would begin laying eggs at the Vernal Equinox, the festival of fertility and rebirth. At the Autumnal Equinox, the festival of death and rest, hens would case laying eggs. This cycle meant that eggs were a natural symbol of new or returning life.
How are Eggs Used to Celebrate Spring Around the World?
Eggs are commonly used for ritual or symbolic purposes, and also for decoration. In many areas, such as west-central Africa and remote areas of Eastern Europe, eggs are buried near cemeteries to encourage reincarnation. This practice also occurs in the southern Appalachian Mountains of the United States.
In many parts of Asia, eggs are dyed red and offered at funerals or births. It may seem odd that the same gift offered for birth would also be given for death. However, ancient thought saw life, death, and rebirth as different points on the same cycle. They were connected, and this connection endures in the modern era.
Ukrainian traditions regarding eggs abound. Eggs dyed a bright yellow, often called krashanka, are eaten to celebrate the rebirth of the sun around the time of Ostara. The more intricate eggs, decorated with bright colors, that so many people recognize are often called pysanky. These beautiful eggs are used as talismans of fertility, protection, and prosperity.
Easter eggs are a common practice. While generally made to entertain children, there is a deeper meaning behind these ‘Eostre’ or ‘Ostara’ eggs. They honor the return of light to the earth, invoke the powers of fertility, and celebrate the idea of reincarnation. Easter eggs, along with the Easter Bunny, are a holdover from a previous time, and are still enjoyed throughout the world today.
The egg has been a symbol of life, death, and rebirth for many thousands of years. The connection of the egg to the celebration of the Vernal Equinox is also important to the modern Wiccan festival of Ostara, and many egg rituals exist today that rely upon its power.
Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.