Written by: Edain McCoy
Published by: Llewellyn Publications
Expectations are almost 90% of your enjoyment of a book. As a non-pagan, I went into reading Ostara expecting a book that presents small hints and tips for enhancing the rites of Ostara, but not a single tome that collected all the current scholarship on the history of the holiday, a comparison between, say, Ostara and Easter, or the be-all, end-all of Ostara ritual texts. And I wasn’t disappointed–the book presents all kinds of cool ideas for enhancing your appreciation of Ostara in particular and Spring in general.
As is so often the case with simple books, there are questions about the academic validity of some of the author’s claims. She does not cite her sources, and there are several occasions where she could and should have said a bit more, such as when she was discussing the history of Ostara/Easter or the etymology of the word itself. However, Ostara is not meant to be a textbook or even a theological treatise; it is meant to encourage you to “deepen your understanding of the spiritual aspects of this ancient spring holiday, and discover new ideas for expressing that spirituality.” And it delivers on that claim. Faith is, after all, not based upon knowledge or scholarship.
[ad#longpost]The writing and the adorable line drawings of bunnies and flowers can be cutesy at times, but this seems in some ways appropriate for the subject matter. The Vernal Equinox is, after all, a time for play and rebirth, not a time for stuffiness and dry academic ponderances.
A small caveat or warning: McCoy assumes familiarity with the workings of paganism and magic. For example, the rebirthing spell offered in chapter one assumes that the reader knows how to focus energies and believes that it works. She does include some basic correspondence charts that are important in such workings, however.
Another small caveat is that in a list entitled “Other Egg Magick,” McCoy suggests a spell that would take blessings away from an enemy. I wonder that this spell would fall under the pagan injunction to “do no harm.” Such an action seems less loving and more irresponsible and counter-productive than paganism purports to be. Perhaps this is meant to be pre-emptive self-protection, but still.
While McCoy does give readers several ideas for short rituals, what seems most spiritually valid in my reading is all the adjunct activities; she includes all sorts of things, from recipes to crafts, all bringing the rebirth of spring and the ideas of fertility into various aspects of life, not just the altar space or the worship area. McCoy’s Ostara is, then, a way to celebrate Spring overall, not just during worship times–a wonderful idea for any religion to embrace. McCoy’s intent is not to give readers a cut-n-paste ritual book to follow and then think they’ve “done” Ostara, but rather to give readers a grounding for creating their own rituals, which would perforce be more valid and powerful, coming from the spirit itself.
In short, the book is fun reading, but it could also be useful. The recipes and crafts give readers a way to bring Spring into their daily lives. This book, while geared towards pagans, especially Wiccans, would also breathe fresh air into the personal worship practices of any religious person who wants to do more with the seasons of Creation.