Friday, April 6, 2012


Easter as we know it, is actually derived from two ancient traditions, Judeo-Christian and Pagan.  Both have celebrated the resurrection on or after the Spring equinox for thousands of years.  Many of the elements of the Christian observance of Easter were originally derived from the Pagan celebrations.  Yes, really.

The name "Easter" originated with the name of an ancient Goddess. Easter was named after Eostre the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe.  Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring-"eastre." Similar Goddesses were known by other names in ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, and were celebrated in the springtime. An alternate explanation has been suggested-the name given by the Frankish church to Jesus' resurrection festival included the Latin word "alba" which means "white." (This was a reference to the white robes that were worn during the festival.) "Alba" also has a second meaning: "sunrise." When the name of the festival was translated into German, the "sunrise" meaning was chosen in error. This became "ostern" in German. Ostern has been proposed as the origin of the word "Easter". Who really knows?

Oh, and guess what else, Sunday is named after a Pagan sun god-Solis. In Latin “dies solis” means “day of the sun”.  It’s funny, but the Middle English word “sone”, Old English “sunnandoeg”, German “sunnon-dagaz” and Ancient Greek “hemera Heli(o)u” all have the exact same meaning-“day of the sun”. So Sunday -- Sun's day.

Just what is a Pagan?  The term “Eastern religions” refers to Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc. The term “Pagan” or “Neo-Pagan” refers to a collection of separate religions that share many themes.  A Pagan religion is a faith that has been reconstructed from beliefs, deities, symbols and practices of ancient religions.  Druidic is an ancient Celtic religion; followers of Asatru is a pre-Christian Norse religion; and Wiccans trace their roots back to the pre-Celtic era.  Other Pagans follow Roman, Greek, Egyptian or other ancient traditions.  The term “Pagan” should not be confused with Satanism.  I’m sure to many people, any religion other than theirs are all varieties of Satanism. Wrong.  Many of the Christian practices come from PAGANS!

For example, these have been derived primarily from Pagan traditions at Easter time: Hot Cross Buns-At the feast of Eostre, the Saxon fertility Goddess I wrote about earlier, an ox was sacrificed.  The horns became a symbol for the feast and were carved into the ritual bread to be eaten.  How does an ox have anything to do with “Hot Cross Buns?”  Well, “buns” is derived from the Saxon word “boun” which means, you guessed it, “sacred ox”. It was later on that the symbol of a cross was used to decorate the buns.  The cross then represented the moon, (the heavenly body of the Goddess) and its four quarters.

Every Easter people buy Easter Lilies, right?  The Pagans revered this flower as a holy symbol associated with the reproductive organs-it was considered a phallic symbol.  Uh-oh, don’t tell my mom that.

The Easter Sunrise Service can be traced back to the ancient custom of welcoming the Sun God at the equinox-when daytime is about to exceed the length of nighttime.  It was a time to celebrate the return of life to animals and plants alike. 

Now, the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs-The symbols of the Norse Goddess Ostara were the hare and the egg.  Of course, both represented fertility and the resurgence of life. A pagan god fell for the lovely Ostara. He took the form of a hare and left brightly colored eggs by her door each morning to woo her. Well, who wouldn't fall for a cuddly little bunny?  April, in Anglo Saxon, Old High German, and some modern German dialects, is called "Ostara's month." Dyed eggs were part of the rituals of the Babylonians.  Eggs were sacred to many ancient civilizations and formed an integral part of the ceremonies in both Egypt and the Orient.  Dyed eggs were hung in Egyptian temples and regarded as the regeneration of life.

Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after MAR-20, the date of the Spring Equinox. If you don’t believe this, check a calendar.  There will be a full moon on March 28 and Easter Sunday is on March 31. Easter Sunday can fall on any date from March 22 to April 25th. The year-to-year sequence is so complicated that it takes 5.7 million years to repeat.

Of course, pagans did not celebrate the death and resurrection of a sacrificed god in the spring. As Christianity began to replace the Old Religions, old and new customs blended into the modern holiday traditions we know today. All else aside, whether you are a practicing Christian, Wiccan or Neo-Pagan, the Spring Equinox and Easter are a time of renewal and rebirth.  Winter finally releases its hold on the land and Earth awakens once again.

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