Or Easter isn't Ostara and Ostara isn't Easter.
|Eostre, the reason for the Easter Season? Oh, no, no, no...|
This blog is the result of a dilemma I had about the Ostara/Easter connection. While reading the book Solitary Wicca for Life I found out that there isn’t one. I learned Ostara is a modern holiday that probably doesn’t have an ancient equivalent and that there is very little proof that a goddess Ostara was worshiped in the ancient world. So I did a little research and found out it was true. I found out the Ostara myth that I had believe for so many years was false, False, FALSE. You know the one: “Easter like Christmas is a Christianized Pagan Holiday, used by the Church to ease Pagans into converting to Christianity. Easter was actually named after the Goddess Ostara, the ancient Germanic Goddess of Spring. Her companion was a magical egg laying hare, and this is where the tradition of dying eggs and the lore of the Easter Bunny originated.” Yup, not True, not the slightest. And honestly I felt like I was lied to, and was a bit pissed off about it too. But I'm glad I know now, so I won't open my mouth and say something stupid like, "Urg, Christians stole Ostara from us! They think they are celebrating Easter, but they are really celebrating Ostara." Because, uh, no they are not. Easter is all theirs, anyways was. Anyways I'm ranting now, let's continue on....
There’s some debate whither the ancient Anglo Saxons ever worshiped a goddess name Ostara or Eostre, but one thing I know for sure now after a little research is if they did worship an Ostara it wasn’t the Easter Goddess many Neopagans know and love (to throw in Christians’ face) today. Okay, Atheists, Muslims and oddly enough, some Christians like to throw this myth around too.
This could easily be a topic that could take pages and pages to discuss. But I’m no scholar, and I really want to keep this sort. So this is what I discovered about the Christianize Pagan holiday that never was, Easter. I’m also not going to include source info either, sorry. Believe me if you will, but either way research this yourself before you come to an opinion. This info can be found easily via google.
There’s something about Eostre.
So the earliest mention of Eostre was by a Christian Monk name Venerable Bede. He mentioned that Easter was named after the month it fell, which was named after a festival celebrating Eostre. He never mentions anything about Hares or colorful eggs. This association came way way later from the Brothers Grimm. Other than this there are no archeological finds that support the ancient worship of Eostre/Ostara, and she nor an equivalent are ever mentioned in the Norse Eddas.
Easter sounds pagan right?
Easter was less likely to be named after a goddess named Eostre and more likely named after the month it fell in, Eosturmonath. I also found out that the Anglo-Saxons were not in the habit of naming months after dieties, but after what was occurring in the natural world during that month. Eostarum means dawn, so Eostrumonath is more like to be named so, not after a goddess, but because around April is when the first signs of Spring start appearing, it’s the dawn of the Summer so to speak. During my research I also discovered that in the majority of the languages of the Christian world the word for Easter is a derivative of the word Pascha, the Greek word for the Jewish Passover or Pesach. Only English and German are unique. (Just to note Ostern is Easter in German). Linguistically this links Easter to the Jewish Passover, and not a pagan Spring festival named after a Goddess named Ostara.
What about the Easter Bunny and Eggs?
Info on the Easter Hare, was fuzzier. *seriously no pun intended* I found that the Easter Hare didn’t pop up until the 1500’s. *my subconscious must love puns today because this one wasn’t intended either * And that maybe the bunny was created by German Protestants to disassociate Easter eggs from the Catholic Lent. Once upon a time eggs were forbidden by the Catholic Church to be consumed during lent, so people would decorate them until they could be eaten at Easter. I also found that Rabbits and Hare have been symbols in Pagan cultures, but doesn’t necessarily mean they meant the same thing that they do to us modern Pagans. For example in the Aztec culture and some Asian cultures rabbits or hares they were symbols of the moon, not of fertility. I found no link for hare/rabbit symbolism being used in ancient European spring celebrations. If you have a good source linking rabbit/hare symbolism to a pagan spring celebrations (that aren't associated with Ostara/Eostre) please share it with me. Leave me a comment bellow.
My conclusion about Easter Eggs and Bunnies? Egg, oh hell yeah they are pagan. The Easter Bunny, maybe that one really is theirs? Maybe? *shrugs*
My solution to my Ostara Dilemma, and how is my family going to do Ostara?
Okay. Something about co-oping Easter traditions into my Ostara just sits wrong with me in a way that it doesn’t with Yule. I don’t know why, but it does. Maybe it’s because we know that Christmas came from Yule and Saturnalia. We know it, everyone does and there is a lot of evidence for that one. But there is no Ostara/Easter link. Easter is not Ostara and Ostara is not Easter. It never has, and never will be. So doing Ostara Egg hunts, and gifting Ostara Baskets from the Ostara bunny to my daughter just seems wrong. Even if both the Easter Egg and Bunny do turn out to be Pagan, these elements were combined and developed into the Easter celebration in a way that’s uniquely Christian (maybe one can argue Secular, but not pagan). There never was a Pagan celebration that centered around the theme of resurrection which included egg dying, egg hunting and included a bunny giving Children gift baskets. To have my Ostara celebration mirror Easter, to me turns Ostara into Easter for Pagans. Why not just celebrate a secular Easter? Why have your child do Easter days to weeks before their peers do? I’m just not getting it.
(I know that last paragraph comes off as kinda harsh towards those who do combine Easter customs with Ostara, I don't mean it to, I'm sincerely not getting it. I'm not judging, I'm just not agreeing.)
So I have decided and I have talked to my Husband about this and he seemed cool with it, that we’ll just celebrate a secular Easter on Easter Sunday. You know with the Egg dying, Egg hunts and the Easter Bunny, sans the resurrection of Christ like the Atheist do, and we’ll do something unique for Ostara. I think I’m going to take some inspiration from the Egyptian Holiday Sham el Nessim which literally translates to “Sniffing the Breeze” and well, go out and sniff the breeze. Because when I was pre-partner and pre-child that’s pretty much summed up Ostara for me. To me Ostara has always been more about going outside and experiencing the spring than it was about the Goddess Ostara, colorful Eggs or her magical bunny.
So this year instead of doing an Easter for Pagans, I think I would like to celebrate the Spring Equinox with a Picnic, by baking a cake for the Queen of Heaven , and maybe some light free meditation on the wonderful energies of Spring. Yep, this sounds good to me.