Dori shivered and huddled closer to her mother. Even the bright flames of the bonfires dotting the surrounding hills failed to warm her. She knew the fires had been built, as they were every year, to welcome the return of Spring, but Dori worried that the cold would never end. Even the old men of the village were remarking that this had been the worst winter they could remember!
She waited in the dark with the others for the dawn to come. But what if Eostre, the Spring Goddess, was late? A small boy squeezed through the legs of villagers surrounding the closest bonfire and came running over to her. “Here, Dori. I brought you a bun!” Her brother, Jarrel, grinned in excitement. Dori took the bun and let it’s warmth seep into her frozen fingers. She studied the equal-armed cross pattern on the top. Grandmother Adela had explained to her on Ostarafests past that the cross represented the turning of the Wheel of the year. Dori wished with all her heart that the Wheel would turn! She hated the cold.
“Dori,” said her mother, “your teeth are chattering. Get up, child. Move about and dance around the fires with the others. That will warm you.” Reluctantly, the girl rose, but she didn’t feel like dancing. Her limbs were too stiff. Instead, she hugged her thick shawl around her body (careful not to crush the soft, sweet hot-cross bun) and wandered over the ice toward the trees.
As she reached the bushes, her toe nudged something in dark. There was a soft fluttering against her foot. Dori bent down and peered through the pre-dawn light at a small dark form against the white crusty snow. Was it a bird? Reaching down with one hand, her fingers closed over soft feathers. It was a bird! The girl lifted the little creature and held it to her chest. One dark eye looked up at her. But Oh! The bird was so cold! It struggled feebly in her grasp, then collapsed exhausted – and dying! The poor little thing was frozen and couldn’t move it’s wings! Dori tried feeding it bits of her warm bun, but the bird had no strength left to even eat. It simply lay limply in her hand and the girl saw the dark eye growing dull.
Dori threw her head back and called to the cold gray sky. “Eostre! Please come! We have to save this little bird!” The bird’s beak opened – gasping. It seemed to be taking its last breath. Dori was crying now as she kissed its little head. “Don’t die,” she begged. “Eostre will bring the Spring and the warmth any moment now, I promise!”
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28; FONT-FAMILY: "Arial","sans-serif"; mso-themecolor: accent3; mso-themeshade: 128″> Suddenly the air turned golden. Dori heard cheers from the villagers. The sun was rising! And, looking up, she saw, what appeared to be, a rainbow bridge stretching across the morning. A lovely maiden was dancing across the arch, Her golden hair wreathed in flowers. Her gown was vibrant red and from her waist hung a ring of keys. And as She drew closer and as the sun rose higher, perfume suddenly filled the air – a warm fragrance of fresh green and violets. Dori, in wonder, scarcely dared breathe the name – ”Eostre!” The Goddess moved directly toward her and Dori found herself gazing into the most incredible eyes sky-blue above rose-petal cheeks.
The Lady gazed down at the poor bird and Her eyes darkened with sorrow. She stroked its head with a gentle finger. “I heard your cry,” the Goddess said, “and never doubt, my precious child, that I shall come. Dori, I will always come. The Wheel, indeed, will always turn. Light will follow darkness. Spring will melt the snows. But, alas, it is too late to save the bird. His wings are frozen.” Dori’s eyes filled with tears again and the
Goddess cupped her chin. “But I have a Plan!” She said, smiling. She stroked the bird with Her hand. The bird grew larger and heavier beneath Her touch that left a trail of fur where feathers had been.
Dori was amazed to see that, instead of a bird, she now held a hare! Its fur was soft golden brown like the earth and its eyes were the yellow of the sun. Only the underside of its tail was reminiscent of the white snow and ice and cold that were now suddenly left behind! The Goddess said, “Of all the creatures of the Earth, this shall be my favorite. And, when you celebrate my lunar rites, his image you will see in the moon. And every year, his presence will announce My Great Arrival and the coming of the warm months ahead. And, Dori?” “Yes?” whispered the girl. Eostre kissed her cheek leaving a warm spot behind. “As an extra blessing for your compassion and for the love and compassion of children everywhere, this little hare that was once a bird, will leave eggs. Not just any eggs, but eggs that are all the colors of my rainbow. And children the world over will find them and know that I have arrived and that Spring will surely follow!”
Dori hugged the hare tight and grinned up at the Goddess, Eostre. “Thank you!” she whispered. “Oh, Thank You!” The Goddess smiled down at her. By now, all the villagers had gathered around to witness the miracle. The hare wiggled free from Dori’s arms and leaped to the ground. He shook his great long ears and began hopping around. Sure enough! In his wake, he left a trail of eggs!
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“Look!” cried her little brother. “They’re all different colors! There’s a pink egg and a blue…”
“I see a green one and a yellow one too!” exclaimed another child. Dori clapped her hands in delight. “And there’s a purple egg and – Look! A cute little tiny brown one!” “Brown?” Eostre suddenly frowned and bent over to examine this last deposit. “Ummm, Children? That’s not an egg. Don’t eat that one …”