Before we know it, it will be Ostara*, one of the best loved sabbats.
A potent celebration of rebirth, renewal, and replenishing – a time to dedicate our new and blooming selves. Just as Persephone, we have spent our time in shadow – and perhaps even welcomed it. Now as the time comes to bring in Spring, it is important that we excavate our shadow and move into the light with clear spirits.
As I reflected on what my intentions for Ostara would be, images of Death, The Hanged Man, and Ten of Swords from the tarot kept swirling about my mind’s eye.
Which kind of made sense. Often, these cards are used to bring in what’s coming on the other side of them, much as we do in this time between Imbolc and Ostara. For tarot readers, always seeking out the deeper story, we often talk about Death as the momentary end before a transformation. We see The Hanged Man and it is a story of perseverance in order, once again, to meet the other side stronger. The Ten of Swords is a story of ‘this is as bad as it gets’ and things can only look up from here. It makes sense in this time of looking to renewal, but –
I can’t help but remember the clients for whom these cards showed up and who felt pain and fear no matter what I tried to say to give, what I now realize was hollow, comfort. I’m feeling the me of years back who cringed at the Ten of Swords showing up repeatedly in my readings- the me who hardly believed anyone who told me that this was actually a card that promised better things to come. Those words of attempted comfort feel like violence now- a denial and lack of affirmation, gaslighting- of what I was feeling, of what those dear clients of mine felt. It felt like no one paid attention long enough to believe me. Because sometimes Death really does mean death, The Hanged Man is a sacrifice, and the Ten of Swords is a bloody end.
And what is sacrificed and brought to an end does not necessarily have to be reborn.
There are memories, pains, bonds, and habits that once broken, shed, and buried must be left where they are for the universe to transform, not us. For the sake of our lives they must remain dead to us. The Ten of Swords stopped haunting me only when I made the choice to let some things go, not just in a passive sense but actively and with intention. I was unable to heal until I chose for toxic friendships, loves, jobs, homes, habits, and defenses to die out. I could no longer feed them from any part of my life. These were not parts of me that I needed to get on the other side of. These are the things I needed to bury all ten of those swords in, heap a pile of dirt on top of (as my only act of mourning), and walk away from without looking back at. They did not belong in my shadow any more than they belonged in my light. For the sake of my life they had to be dead to me.
Honoring the difficult and vital grieving work we do to shed that which has been killing us slowly might mean affirming our instinct to never return to those places and seek life. This feels particularly urgent for those of us living on the margins, who too often remain exposed to what hurts us and are told to be grateful for it.
We deserve better. We deserve the best.
That means choosing compassion for ourselves, and loving ourselves deep enough to know that crawling over broken glass to seek some kind of renewal is not the only path to healing.
You are powerful and magic, and what you envision this Ostara will manifest- so I urge you to be sure that what you place in the ground to grow is truly for your highest good. Anything else, consider bringing to death. It may be the necessary sacrifice. This is trauma work, so more than anything I also urge you to come to this space only when you are ready and it feels like the path for you.
For That Which We Forever Cast Away, a suggestion for ritual
As always, I urge you to do this safely and with your own intuition at the forefront. Add, modify, or subtract any part of this work to fit your spirit’s call.
If you can, perform this ritual outside, or some place far from anywhere you call home. If this is not accessible, a ring of salt around you to contain the energy will also work.
In a container that you don’t mind parting with throw in symbols of what you choose to no longer give your precious life to. Cast in screams, tears, memories, photos, clothes, dreams, letters, and gifts that caused parts of you to rot and fester and break open again and again. Add ash or black salt or thorns or nails. Crush broken glass and pour it in. Swirl bitter herbs in your mouth- motherwort, dandelion, romaine, rue- and spit out into your container.
Set contents of the container on fire, drown in saltwater, sweep out into the wind, or bury in earth.
You have given up the last bit of life you ever will again for that which sought to take from you.
Whatever remains, discard where you have no need to ever return.
Afterwards, open yourself up to compassion and deep ritual aftercare. Hold yourself or be held gently and sweetly. Anoint yourself with honey. Soothe the tenderness with sweet oils and herbs. Drink plenty of water. Light a white candle and honor your courage to release. Sleep with a clear crystal under your pillow. And when Ostara comes, or whenever it is that the space of new hope arises for you, meet it boldly and with light spirit.
*depends on where you are - Ostara is a March celebration in the Northern Hemisphere and a September celebration in the Southern Hemisphere.
This piece was originally submitted to Little Red Tarot. You will find my most recent Ritual & Honey articles over there.