The Goddess Sulis
Goddess of the East on the Wheel of Andraste
Artwork by Willow Wand
The Goddess at Ostara
Meet the Goddess Sulis at Ostara.
Imbolc passes into Ostara or Eostre, as the gentle Maiden of Spring becomes the fire Goddess of the Spring Equinox. It is a time of balance around 21st March when daytime and night-time is of equal length.
This is the time of Sulis, the great British Goddess of the Sun and Fertility, who sinks into the Earth at night to warm the waters. She brings the sun and its energy to brighten the days that will now begin to grow longer as She warms the land, encouraging growth in the fields and new life to begin. All is fertile as more animals give birth and chicks are born. The trees and hedgerows are budding with new shoots, snowdrops and crocuses give way to bluebells and primroses.
Sulis is dynamic, demanding and energetic; She is the vital spark of life in everything that is living. She gives us energy, fiery energy! Hers is the warmth that brings green to the land. Her warmth quickens our heart and quickens our soul. We respond to Her touch, and we are alive and energetic at this time of the year. Sulis is vital, powerful and strong. As the sun’s energy gains in power, life becomes vital and She asks us to be positive and decisive, bringing vitality into everything that we do. She is the Goddess of the healing waters, bringing Her fire to warm the springs at Her shrine in Bath, Somerset, where perpetual fires burn keeping Her sacred flame alight.
Although famous for healing, Sulis could curse as well as cure, and in Bath about 130 ‘curse tablets’ have been found, asking Her to punish people suspected of wrong doings. One tablet found in the Temple at Bath read “Docimedis has lost two gloves and asks that the thief responsible should lose their minds and eyes in the Goddess Temple”
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Associated with Sulis
Sulis brings heat to the hot springs and because She was so important to the British, the Romans incorporated Her name at Bath: ‘Aquae Sulis’, later calling Her ‘Minerva Medica’ (healing) or ‘Sulis Minerva’. Minerva was a Virgin Goddess dedicated to Women’s rights and freedom. The owl was Her sacred bird, and she too was a healer.
The Sun and Eyes
The exact meaning of Her name is not clear, but old Irish ‘suil’ means 'eye gap', and ‘suli’ derives from Indo-European for sun. Sulis’ hair radiates around Her head like the rays of the sun.
Antlers represent the sun’s rays, mirroring Her hair.
Wheat requires the sun to make it ripen, and it was customary to serve wheat-cakes in honey and of course honey is the colour of the sun.
The Creatures of Sulis
Bear and Tawny Owl
In Bath, statues dedicated to Sulis/Minerva show Her with a hat made of a bear’s head and Her foot resting on an owl. At this time of the year, bears come out of hibernation, creeping from their caves as the sun warms the land. We too creep out of our homes as Sulis brightens our lives, and in the night sky the Great Bear can be seen at this time too.
Owls symbolise wisdom and the Tawny Owl is a native of this country which we associate with Sulis.
Baby rabbits abound at this time, symbols of fertility; they are connected to the Easter Bunny too at this time of the year.
The Phoenix has brightly coloured plumage and after a long life, it dies in a fire of its own making and rises, reborn from the ashes. Its plumage is said to represent the colours of the sun, red, orange and yellow.
Salamanders were believed to live in fire and sometimes it was thought they were born in fire. They are often depicted with their tails in their mouths, representing the circle, never ending.
The Fire Dragon warms the land, breathing flames. Fire cleanses and it is around the fire that we gather to be warm and safe. How often do we find pictures and creatures in the flames? Could they be Dragons and Salamanders?
At this time of year, baby birds are being born - chicks of all kinds. Once fledged they follow behind their parents, chirping and demanding food, vibrant with life.
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Herbs of Sulis
The Birch is a tree of fertility and a symbol of Mother Earth, representing the feminine powers of growth, healing and the natural world. At the Spring Equinox the Druids would collect the sap to make it into wine to celebrate the coming of spring. Magically, the Birch is the power of new beginnings, of leaving the winter and negativity, cleansing and purifying for the coming of summer.
Blackthorn is often the first to blossom at this time of the year. It is a tree of great density and strength and any weapons made from it must be used with great care, for strength and power without compassion and wisdom can just as easily destroy the user as the target.
It is known as the 'Mother of the Woods' and from its blossom comes the berries, the sloes that at Samhain make a potent wine. The wood is used as an offering to the underworld at the Winter Solstice, thereby marking the Blackthorn a tree that represents the turning of the Wheel of the Year.
Calendula, or Marigold, flowers represent the sun, and they play a special part in Solstice and Equinox rites. Garlands of Marigold flowers hung on doors prevent evil from entering. It is said that walking barefoot through Marigold flowers enables girls to understand the language of birds.
Coltsfoot wine may be used as a ritual drink at Ostara. It is known as 'British Tobacco' and may be used as a base for shamanic smoking mixtures or in incense to promote tranquillity and induce visions.
Leaves can be infused with wax to create lemon scented candles dedicated to the East and therefore can be used in Ostara rites. Dried leaves added to incense creates a peaceful and joyous atmosphere to invoke East and help create the new dawn of Ostara and the coming of spring.
The Pine is a tree of fertility, as is the Pinecone that grows in a spiral fashion. It is a symbol of rebirth, and the cone is sometimes called the ‘Tree Egg’. Although popular at Yule, the Pine is more appropriate for Ostara as it is a tree of the Spring Equinox that represents the Vegetation God. The reddish-yellow dye from Pinecones was used to dye Priests robes for Ostara. Used in incense, it helps in working with the cycles of life, the ebb and flow of energy and accepting oneself within it.
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At the time of the Spring Equinox, it is a time of balance; light balances dark as day and night are of equal length. Life balances death as new growth of spring comes into the fields and baby animals are being born.
The Goddess Sulis comes with fire. She is vibrant and energetic. She demands our attention as She commands all new life and growth. Hers is the greening of the land, as the energy of the sun warms it as well as our hearts as we greet the spring.
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