- Holidays and Celebrations
Is Easter a Pagan Festival?
Easter is a time for celebration for many of us, but what we are actually celebrating?
We barely have to scratch the surface to discover the Pagan origins of Easter .
Easter is a very important time in the Christian calendar, Jesus rises, is resurrected, after being crucified a few days earlier on Good Friday. It shows the world that Jesus was the son of God, that turned his birth into a living hope. It symbolises new life and new beginnings. Coincidentally this rebirth happens around the time of the Spring Equinox, a time when Pagans also celebrate new life, new beginnings and fertility.
We surround ourselves with images and symbols at Easter time, decorated eggs, rabbits, egg hunts, good Friday, watching the sunrise, hot cross buns. Unless we are church goers, most of us are actually celebrating a Pagan Easter.
There is no mention of Easter in the Bible, nor any of the symbols that we use to celebrate yet it seems to have been adopted worldwide as a Christian celebration.
The Sumerian goddess Ishtar ( pronounced Easter) was hanged on a wooden stake, but rose to life again as she was resurrected and gave celebration to new life.
The name Easter is of Heathen origin, Eastre was also the Saxon Goddess of Spring and new life in Europe.
She was known in Germany as Ostara, and represented fertility, new life and the new dawn, her sacred animal was the rabbit. Our words East, oestrogen and oestrus are derived from this origin.
Spring was a very important time for ancient cultures, and it has been honoured and celebrated throughout many cultures, often with the central idea of a deity dying and being reborn. Throughout Asia and Europe festivals have been held for many thousands of years, with myths of regeneration and magical ceremonies in order to herald abundant summer crops. Literary evidence shows these celebrations have existed as long as 15,000 years ago in Neolithic times.
Ostara, the Anglo Saxon Goddess of spring, myth, was often shown with a hare's head or hare's ears ,with a companion white hare standing beside her. Legend has it that this white hare laid multi coloured eggs which were handed out to children during spring festivals. This legend lives on today in the form of the Easter bunny.
The hare is a powerful mystical symbol the world over, commonly depicted as a witch's familiar or companion, and thought to be a shape shifter. The hare was the sacred animal of Oestera., and was sometimes pictured in human form. The hare is also the symbol of the moon and sexual prowess. The moon hare was supposed to have laid the Great cosmic Egg from which all life was born. The hare has been transformed in to the Easter bunny, and the egg remains.
Hot Cross Buns
The hot cross bun, familiar in many countries is a popular Easter food, a leavened sweet bread spiced with cinnamon, cloves and dried fruit, fashioned into small round cakes, with a characteristic cross decorating the top. In England these cakes are eaten on Good Friday. Modern Christian thinking implies that these cakes are marked with a Christian crucifix, but these cakes have been a popular
sweetmeat in many different cultures and eaten at Easter for many thousands of years before Jesus was born. Preserved Hot cross buns have been found in tombs in Egypt, the ancient romans and Greeks ate them too. The cross is a powerful pagan symbol in many cultures, representing the four quarters of the year, and the four phases of the moon, which had powerful significances in early agrarian societies.
Are you happy to celebrate a pagan Easter?
Easter eggs were used extensively in Spring Pagan festivals, being an important and obvious herald of the new season. Eggs are undoubtedly the most obvious symbol of new life and fertility. Why they should figure so heavily in Christian Easter celebrations remains a mystery! Decorating eggs at springtime has been an activity throughout eons of time, and is common to many cultures, ancient and modern, from ancient Egypt and Greece to China and Finland. The egg has had mystical and spiritual significance from Ancient Babylonian times and before, being a symbol of eternity and immortality, often being depicted with a coiled serpent surrounding it. Ancient Celts of Europe gathered eggs from the wild in spring time, wove Easter baskets for the egg hunt, decorated and rolled them. Eggs were eaten as a ritual practice to ensure fertility for the tribe for the coming months. Historians believe that whole villages would be involved in these equinox fertility rituals of weaving baskets- emulating the birds in the forest, egg hunting and decorating.