Throughout the Old World, Easter eggs have been used as potent charms and for attracting luck and warding off troubles. Easter eggs are also among the most charming and meaningful Pagan symbols, named as they are for the Goddess Eostre or Ostara, who presides over the Eastern Quarter, the Dawn, and the resurgence of life in Spring. Following are some thoughts on how we can take greater pleasure in the seasonal tradition of decorating eggs.
- Offering an Egg to Ostara: Set out a decorated egg (or hang a miniature egg charm) in the Eastern quarter of your house, garden, or altar display to honor the Goddess. You might especially want to offer her a red- or yellow-colored egg on Spring Equinox and/or Easter, while invoking, "Goddess of Light, Goddess of Life, May your life and light suffuse my being." Also, any time you like, you could stand facing the East and reflect on how every dawn is like Easter. (You could do this while consuming an egg.)
- Exchanging Eggs: The exchange of decorated eggs is a folk practice of great significance in both Western and Eastern Europe. Though customs vary by region, adults present colored eggs to children as an act of child blessing, children present eggs to adults (such as teachers and godparents) to show respect, young men and women exchange eggs as tokens of love, and in general, people present eggs to friends, neighbors, acquaintances, clients, and service persons as a seasonal gesture of good will. Egg-giving customs are not limited to Europe either, for people in the old Persian culture area give red eggs at Noruz (Spring Equinox, their New Year), and the Chinese hand out red-colored eggs for luck on special occasions, such as weddings. Americans, however, don’t have much of an egg-giving tradition, as our Easter egg customs are limited to hiding them for children, as well as occasional egg rolling contests. However, if we can understand the symbolism of the egg, we can rediscover the pleasure in some of these old traditions. When you hand a person an egg, you are blessing him or her, because aside from being highly nutritious, the egg is a symbol of new life, and beyond that, it is a world symbol.
- Sharing an Egg: Cutting up and dividing some healthy, tasty snack—such as an apple, an orange, or an egg—and sharing it with your loved ones is a convivial form of communion. In countries where the Easter eggs are often taken to church to be blessed by the priest in a special service or where they have other ceremonial significance, it is often a custom for the first egg to be divided among family members. If you want to do this for your family or group of friends, you can bless an egg by clasping it in your hands and slowly breathing in and out as you visualize each breath drawing vital energy from the universe, through your body and into the egg. Then say a little blessing, such as, "As we partake of this egg, may we fully enjoy the health and wholeness that Ostara offers us." As most of us eat our eggs with salt, which is a symbol of incorruptibility, sprinkling on the salt can also be done with a ceremonial flourish.
- Tarot Symbolism: If you are familiar with the Tarot, think about the Judgment card and the World card when eating an egg, because this relates to Judgment as a symbol of rebirth, and to the World as a symbol of wholeness and cosmos.
- An Easter Basket for Mom: If you have childhood memories of gaily decorated Easter baskets overflowing with colorful eggs and other goodies, it is likely that your mother arranged much of that while thinking about how to delight you with these symbols of Springtime joy and celebration. Because the Easter basket is named for Ostara, we can see that it has some other motherly associations beyond those pointed out by Carl Jung, for whom the basket symbolized the mother’s body. As Mother Goddesses (such as the Germano-Celtic "Matronae") were often portrayed with baskets overflowing with fruit or grain, we can all the better appreciate the basket as a symbol of the maternal quality of giving—which also makes it an appropriate vessel for giving back. Whenever you present your mother with a basket of flowers or other good things, you are effectively performing a blessing, wishing your mother abundance as well as bodily vitality. (Indeed, the gift of a basket is also a spell for healing.) With these benefits in mind, you can take advantage of the returning Springtime to put together a basket of Easter surprises for your mother, just as she once did for you. Be sure to include an egg to symbolize your thankfulness for the gift of life. If your mom has certain dietary restrictions, she probably won’t mind the inclusion of a lovely crystal or gemstone egg as a magical keepsake.
- Offerings to Nature: Easter eggs make delightful offerings to Nature Spirits and other Spirits of Place, so it is no surprise that cultures around the world have egg offering traditions. For example, people in Oberberg, Germany used to set an egg out beside a stream on May Day for the woodland elves, Moroccans would offer eggs to appease Djinni so they would not trouble children or other sensitive persons, and the Jamaican Maroons would present eggs to special trees that housed the spirits of the dead. While in the past such offerings have sometimes been made in fear, modern pagans like to leave offerings in the spirit of a shared celebration of life. If you wish to make an offering of an egg, you could lay it in some secluded corner of your yard (or local park, if you live in an apartment) while wishing that all beings may thrive, and thinking about how the World of Nature and the World of Spirit are interpenetrating and intensely alive.
An added benefit of honoring your community of spirits is that a bond can develop between your family pets and the spirits of place (as pets have so much in common with domestic spirits in their sense of territoriality and attachment to place.) Consider offering decorated eggs to the spirits of your home and garden on behalf of your pets, both living and dead. (You could set out an egg for each pet—perhaps red eggs for living pets, and green eggs on the graves of pets buried in your yard.) When the spirit community attached to your own locale takes an interest in your pets, they’ll be more protective of them; they can also help ease the transition for the spirits of pets when they die.
- Spirit Eggs: In Eastern European countries where the Easter egg is such an important cultural tradition, people place decorated eggs on the graves of loved ones. The symbolism is appropriate because an egg can have a stone-like or tomb-like appearance, so it is also a symbol of life emerging from the tomb. Because our loved ones are with us in spirit, and psychics say that we are always surrounded by other spirits who work for our well-being, why not offer them an egg in the form of psychic energy? Just visualize yourself breathing in energy from the universe, through your body and out through your hands; then, shape the energy into an egg-like form with your hands, while also imprinting it with your wish for the happiness of all beings in Spirit. If you have a basket (or other container or surface) before you, you can strengthen your powers of visualization by imagining yourself laying the egg in the basket, and then practice visualizing yourself taking the egg out and putting it back. If you are an especially good visualizer, you could imagine something like a Fabergé energy egg, with a symbolic surprise inside, such as a crystal chick or a daffodil of light. When you have visualized enough, place your energy egg in the basket and say something like, "This is my Easter offering for my friends in Spirit. May this concentrated energy expand to benefit one and all."
- Shamanic Healing Eggs: In Latin, Mediterranean, and South American countries, when a person is suffering from intrusive or disruptive energies, healers rub his or her body from head to toe with an egg, with the idea that the egg draws off the negative energy. As a general technique for infusing positive energies, some New Age therapists rub crystal eggs over the body to invigorate the aura. In view of these practices, an egg dyed in some natural coloring (such as an herb or spice that has beneficial qualities) could be used in some of these healing modalities. (For example, Turmeric, which has many beneficial qualities, can be used to dye Easter eggs, and it is rubbed over both Hindu and Muslim brides and babies in India because it imparts an auspicious golden glow.)
In cases of "soul loss," Thai healers have charmed wandering soul fragments into an egg to be eaten by the patient as a way of reabsorbing his or her scattered energies. If you’ve ever experienced feelings of disorientation or fragmentation, you could be experiencing a form of soul loss. To perform a little self healing after traumatic incidents have left you feeling a bit "beside yourself," you could decorate an egg with your name, your birth date, your astrological symbol, and other symbols that are special to you, then ceremonially eat the egg with the idea that you’re pulling some of your own energies back into your body. This would also be a nice treat for a child who has had a bad day at school, or any of the other number of upsets that children are sensitive to.
- Surprise Eggs: Plastic Easter eggs make good "glamour bombs," which are enchanted items you leave out in public places to give unsuspecting people a moment of delight. Fill them with hopeful messages (à la fortune cookies) or other pleasant things.
- Commemorative Eggs: Many collectors appreciate eggs as decorative objects or keepsakes. In addition to the exquisite "pysanky" for which some Slavic countries are famous and other natural eggs (such as ostrich shells decorated by African craftspersons) are "art eggs" manufactured of wood, gemstone, glass, and porcelain. Some companies such as Lenox, Lladro, and Goebels have even issued collectible eggs for different years, though perhaps the best known commemorative eggs are those issued each year by the White House, in time for the annual egg roll on the lawn. (These wooden eggs are designed by the first family; for example, the egg for 2010 featured a jogger bunny for Michele Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity, while 2011 features a detailed hand-painted image of the White House.) This suggests opportunities for New Age artists and artisans to design eggs for the more magically minded. Such eggs could feature pentagrams, sun goddess and green man images, hares entwined in Celtic interlace, and other magically meaningful designs.
Sources of Reference:
Avila, Elena. Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999.
Lipp, Frank J. The Mixe of Oaxaca: Religion, Ritual, and Healing. Austin: U of Texas, 1991.
Newall, Venetia. An Egg at Easter: A Folklore Study. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1971.
Sung, Vivien. Fivefold Happiness: Chinese Concepts of Luck, Prosperity, Longevity, Happiness, and Wealth. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2002.