Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series contains eight small books, one for each Sabbat in the pagan wheel of the year. The author varies by the Sabbat with no author having more than two books in the series. Ostara was penned by Kerri Connor; this is one of the strongest books in the Sabbat Essentials series.
The standard sections in the Sabbat Essentials books are: Old Ways, New Ways, Spells and Divination, Recipes and Crafts, Prayers and Invocations, Rituals of Celebration, Correspondences, and Further Reading. There is also a Series Introduction that is the same in all eight books, so I won’t review it aside from saying that it is worth reading over annually. It also has two really beautiful Wheel of the Year illustrations, one for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere, which is worth copying into your book of shadows immediately.
The Old Ways section in many books can feel rambling, but this one is brief and covers some interesting information. Ostara – the Vernal Equinox – was traditionally the New Year, even in cultures that didn’t celebrate Ostara. In fact, we are unsure who did celebrate Ostara at all, the holiday is one of the most pieced together of all the pagan sabbats and the one most open to debate. The New Ways section gives advice on activities for the Ostara season. Yes season, not just sabbat. This is so important and often ignored: the sabbats are seasons, six week long periods, not eight days spaced six weeks apart. Connor suggests day trips, egg activities, herb gathering, and gives a little history on the egg hunt. There are a lot of useful tidbits in these small sections.
The Spells and Divination section has some excellent spells. A ritual to restore balance is part of every Ostara book I own, but Connor’s was by far my favorite. There is another version of it in the Rituals of Celebration, so this shorter one can be used further in the season, along with the releasing spell that’s included. There are also some fun divinations in this section that include eggs and flowers, plus a fun egg blessing where you fill eggs with glitter and break them over people’s heads. Anyone who has glitter spells is aces in my book. The last piece in the section is a suggested tarot spread that I had not seen elsewhere, and which I am anxious to try.
There are a lot of recipes in the Recipes and Crafts section, most of which are vegetarian or vegan, though some do use meat. I like using seasonal ingredients for the sabbats, but feasts are a “next year” coven goal. I generally use these sections as ideas for specific ingredients, but hope to use them to help build a feast, eventually. The crafts section is always fun, and some of these are very creative, including a book planter. The painted garden stone craft would be really fun to do with kids and they would get to see them year round, year after year. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. Yesterday, while waiting in line for coffee, my partner and I ran into the nicest man and his adorable toddler. They were off to the park so she could find a place for her small, elaborately decorated stone. I think that they must have been participating in this wonderful craft, but without a yard, so they were leaving it in the park instead. This would mimic the hare’s give to the goddess Eostre beautifully, and teach children to practice non-attachment (kids get very attached to stuff they make, I find).
In Prayers and Invocations there are a couple of guided meditations that are very nice. I have long wanted to do guided meditations with my coven, and it’s definitely on my “to do” list. These are ones you can come back to again and again. All that being said, my absolute favorite section was Rituals of Celebration. It has a ritual for a solitary practitioner, a pair or couple, and a group. All of the rituals are for the restoration of balance, perfect for the Vernal Equinox, but with variations. They don’t feel repetitious and I used a lot of the group ritual for my own coven, substituting the book’s spoken answers for written ones. If I were still a solitary witch, I would have used the ritual for one verbatim, it’s that good.
The Correspondences and Further Readings sections are at the very end; I use Correspondences for reference (candle colors, crystals, etc.) and the only quibble I have is no mention of the mean, anti-pagan roots of St. Patrick’s Day. That’s another post for another day. The Further Readings section is very short and lists both printed matter and online sources. I think it’s nice that there are online sources since that’s what so many people prefer, and knowing that an expert has looked at them and given it their stamp of approval is something we too often lack.
I absolutely recommend this book and can’t speak highly enough of it. Succinct, helpful, and full of ideas, it belongs on any pagan’s bookshelf.