Easter in Ancient Times
Easter in the past was very different from today
Easter began in an ancient celebration from our past, a celebration originally belonging to an almost forgotten goddess. Her name was Ostara.
You will recognise her name in our modern English word for Easter itself.
Ostara was associated with the Sacred Hare, a powerful creature who is still with us, although transformed into an innocuous bunny with a basketful of chocolate eggs
Celebrate as they did in the past
Say 'Bye to the Bunny
Tired of that fluffy bunny? Use the occasion of Easter as a reminder that our ancestors welcomed the return of Spring and the fertile growth that accompanied the Season.
Decorate your house, prepare a feast and use the theme of an ancient deity to create a celebration as our forebears enjoyed.
What is Ostara?
Ostara is, simply, a holiday. A celebration of Spring.
Life is renewed, and it's a time of great fertility as, with the return of Spring, comes the birthing of the farm animals for the year. This is why we use bunnies, chicks, eggs and little lambs as symbols of this holiday. With the end of winter, various deities from the underworld return.
The Ancient Goddess Ostara was venerated throughout ancient Germany and Scandinavia and we still routinely go through her ancient rites when we celebrate Easter. Her name was used in English when the holiday was adapted for the Paschal holiday, and became Easter.
The Easter Egg is (among other things) a symbol of fertility and the Easter Bunny is a modern guise of the Sacred Hare.
Oh those eggs ...
The Glorious Egg
The glorious egg, with its deep links to Creation mythology, is one of the oldest symbols of life and rebirth known. Have you ever looked, really looked, at an egg?
Celebrate with a Feast!
Decorate your House for the Season
Adorn your house with fresh cut flowers. Place plastic or papier-mache eggs in bowls with ribbons, cottonwool or packing-case straw. Decorate your table in bright Spring colours, use the brightest tableware that you have or pick up some yellow plastic plates or similar.
Gather into large serving bowls green leafy vegetables, the first fruits of the season, early vegetables, nuts and grains. Provide drinks such as eggnog (naturally), clear sparkling cider and fresh fruit juices.
You must have chocolate eggs of course and, for a startling touch, a sweet dessert using flowers, such as violet leaves.
In Flower Recipes for Spring, Judith Blacklock presents over 40 ideas to create simple, yet sophisticated, floral displays throughout the home - arrangements which use flowers and foliage readily available during the spring months.
A Gaggle of Goddesses
Every year I like to find another goddess from past times. If nothing else, it's an occasion for a different type of party! Here's a handful of Ladies, traditionally associated with Spring, from our distant past. Five to choose from.
Why not Persephone ? If anyone is going to represent Springtime surely the beautiful daughter of Demeter fits the bill.
Poor lovely Persephone was abducted by Hades, the dark brooding god of the Underworld. Demeter searched everywhere before she discovered the whereabouts of her lost daughter.
With lots of pleading, bargaining and endless negotiations, Persephone was given her freedom if she had eaten nothing during her stay with Hades. Alas, she had been tricked into eating a handful of pomegranate seeds and so doomed to spend four months of the year underground.
She returns to her mother every Spring.
A sad story which, on a basic level, explained the darkness of Winter and the Return of Spring.
If you are a mother, or a daughter (or both) .. the story of Persephone can be read on a level deeper than merely an explanation for the Seasons and, if you have suffered loss and grief, the story of Demeter has an even deeper meaning again.
Flora, or Chloris in Greece, was the 'flourishing one', and she was the Goddess of flowers, gardens and Spring in an earlier time, before the Romans came to dominate Italy.
In very early central Italy she was venerated for bringing life to the fruit trees, to the cereal crops, and to the vines. Flora returned every Spring to bring the green buds and shoots from the earth. She came to be the embodiment of all Nature and now, in modern languages, her name represents all plant life
She was believed to be married to Favonius, the west wind, the gentlest of the winds and the first messenger of Spring. Flora's festival, the Floralia, was held in April and symbolised the renewal of the cycle of life, marked with dancing, drinking, and flowers.
This Easter, decorate your house with flowers and fruits in memory of Flora. Share drink with your friends and dance!
Beiwe brings greenery to the Arctic.
As a Spring and Sun goddess, she has a special association with the fertility of plants and animals. Reindeer are her favoured creatures and she travels with her daughter Beiwe-Neida through the sky in a cart made of their antlers.
The Saami apparently called on Beiwe for help with the insane. A handy deity to be friends with in the 21st century.
Once again, bring fresh greenery into your house and spend a special moment of time with an animal companion to welcome Beiwe and Spring.
Culhwch has a curse on him so that he can marry no one except the beautiful Olwen, daughter of a giant. Which is just as well for, although he has never seen Olwen, Culhwch is infatuated and sets off to find her. He is advised that he will never succeed without the aid of his famous cousin Arthur of Britain.
Olwen was of such winsome beauty that flowers grew from her footprints, springing up behind her as she lightly walked.
As she walked through Wales, the very Springtime followed her. A beautiful thought for a beautiful season.
White flowers are for Olwen, decorate your home with Easter Lilies in tribute to the snows above the green valleys of Wales, and to lovers everywhere.
Now Inari is an unusual and most mysterious deity. Both male and female, s/he descends from the mountains each Spring to watch over the sacred planting of rice in Japan.
As a Goddess, Inari is a woman with long flowing hair carrying two sheaves of rice, sometimes riding a white fox. As .a God, Inari is an old man with a long white beard.
Inari is a Kami a spirit, a natural force, a personified Essence of Nature and also an aspect of spirituality. Inari is the`riceness' of life.
Inari starts the year as a mountain kami, in Spring she becomes a rice paddy kami and stays during the growing season. After the harvest she returns to the mountain.
So you can celebrate Spring with rice cakes and rice dishes of all kinds, even a full Japanese meal. Use white flowers and ribbons to decorate your house.. Give thanks for your rice, the oriental Staff of Life.
© 2009 Susanna Duffy