True Easter or Oestre – why Spring is “early” this year

Down here in Somerset, many of the birds are pairing and nesting, while the creamy curds of the May blossoms are already out on the boughs on the faery thorns. People are happily chirping away about the joys of an early Spring. However, that the season should be “early” is no random coincidence. If the Church was still in tune with the natural rhythm of the Land, as were the earlier Celtic monks, they would know that true Easter (named after the Saxon goddess, Oestre) should be next week because this season of celebrating fertility has always been on the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox.

At Oestre-time, we follow an old, traditional custom of throwing hot cross buns into the mouth of the “Girt Dog of Langport”, a huge earthwork effigy that is five miles long from its nose at Burrow Mump to its tail in the tiny hamlet of Wagg.  He is Drudwyn, the Faery Dog of Gywn ap Nudd, the King of the Faeries, and this dog guards the Glastonbury Temple of the Stars in the same way that the ancient Greeks had the multi-headed Hound of Hades, Cerberus, guard their Underworld.

Isle of Glass Faery Ring
The illustration, showing the Faery Ring of Avalon, otherwise known as the Glastonbury Temple of the Stars, is mine. If you’d like to know more about the story that these characters are telling, and its deeper meaning, it takes up Part 2 of my book, “Stories in the Land”, which should be out by the summer.

We stand on Moon Drove, alongside the River Parrett, to throw in our cakes etched with a cross, just as King Alfred the Great did, I believe, before setting off to that pivotal battle which won back Britain from the Vikings. I think this custom is the original source of the old story about King Alfred burning the cakes – the crosses would have been burned on with hot irons.

Ione hawthorn