Easter Origin: A Pagan Eastern Fertility Goddess?

Easter Origin. Every time at Easter, Facebook postings and blogs are (re)published that talk about Eostre or Ostara. Let me tell you the real story.

Easter Origin: Eostre – Ostara

Eostre and the German variation of that name Ostara all mean East. There is no evidence of them being goddesses of fertility. So where does this story come from? We will have to go centuries back, to an old monk.

Easter Origin

In 520, Dionysius Exiguus used the old data of Alexandria to create a new table to calculate Easter. Those Alexandria tables were created in the year 300 and Dionysius Exiguus recalculated them so they could be used in the Julian time frame.

In 616 monk Beda Venerabilis recalculated these dates into the Eastern cycle that is used to this date. This calculation uses the cycles of the moon (19 years) and the cycles of the sun (28 years). I know that sounds complicated. What it means is that it takes 19 years before there is a new moon again on January the first. It takes 28 years for January 1 to be the first Sunday of the year. He wrote the book Temporem Ratione; The Reckoning of Time about it.

In this book he mentions the Goddess Eostre as a goddess that is worshiped in England. The month of April would be names after her. But… there is no further evidence that there was any worship of her in England.

Easter Origin: Grimm

More than thousand years later, Jacob Grimm, one of the famous Grimm brothers, suggested that there had been a Goddess of spring and fertility called Ostara.

Grimm based his knowledge on the book Vita Carola Magni, or the Life of Charlemagne. written by historian Einhard, somewhere between 817 and 836.

Origin of Easter

Einhard indicates that the month of april is to be called ostarmanoth. Yet he fails to mention a goddess Ostara… But this was enough for Grimm to assume that there had been a Goddess named Ostara. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of historical claims to back that up.

Easter Origin: Fertility

Before you go away depressed, I would have to mention that Easter origin related to fertility. Spring, the victory of light that made crops grow was celebrated in almost every society.

Easter origin

The Romans celebrated Cerelia, a feast dedicated to Ceres, Goddess of agriculture.  the Celts celebrated Beltane, a counterpart of Samhein. Beltane is a feast dedicated to fertility and light. In Hinduism Holi-Phagwa is celebrated.

But where do the bunny and the eggs com from?

Easter Origin: Bunny and Eggs

Because of lent, people were not allowed to eat the eggs that their chickens laid. So at easter, when lent was over, all those eggs were boiled and eaten.

Of course there is the symbolism of an egg and the new life it represents. It is a very ancient practice to decorate eggs to celebrate spring. It goes back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

In early Christianity, red stained eggs where remainders of the blood of Christ, who died and was resurrected.

 

But what is the easter origin of the bunny? The idea that a hare could reproduce without the loss of virginity made the association with of the hare with the Virgin Mary easy.

Easter Origin

In the protestant religion, the Easter Bunny gave good children eggs and bad children received nothing. This tradition went with the German emigrants to America.

Do you like this story? Feel free to share. I hope you will have a wonderful Easter and a year filled with new fertility.


THIS CONTENT IS CREATED BY SUSANNE VAN DOORN, AUTHOR AND OWNER OF MINDFUNDA; MAKING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PSYCHOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY EASY TO USE IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE!

What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independent site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as Mythofunda:
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths” Joseph Campbell used to say. This part of Mindfunda shows you how your personal mythology can create peace in your life.

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Myth stories: mythological musings #3: Shamain or halloween

Remember when you were young? How your history teacher would tell you with radiant eyes- about the Greek mythology? Mythology seems far away. How are mythological stories relevant in your life today? Mindfunda explores mythological themes in 4 blogs

Your mythic life
Myth Stories
Culture
Crises

Halloween and the Celtic culture

Today I want to explore different cultural mythologies. Halloween, celebrated October 31st is an inheritance of the Celtic culture. The Celts invaded Europe and brought their own gods and mythology. Rowan Moonstone has written a lot already about the festival of Shamain. The word is pronounced “sow-in”.
The Celts came from Asia and settled in Europe. We can still see similarities between Indian religion and Celtic paganism.
For example, the horned Indian God Siva Pasupati and the Celtic Cernunnos look very much alike.

haloween
Cernunnos
halloween
Pasupati

On the eve of October 31, when the Celtic New year began, the souls of the death  who would still wonder about on the earth, were allowed to come visit their loved ones and say goodbye this night. The veil between the worlds was thin and spirits and fairies roamed the earth this night.

halloween
The Celts
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Professor Emeritus of European Archaeology Barry Cunliffe tells in his excellent book “The Celts”: “In the Christian calendar Toussaint (All Saints) follows the ceremony of All Souls 31 October – 1 November, when the souls of the death are said to visit the realm of the living… Liminal interludes were dangerous. They were times when anything could happen and it was only by careful adherence to ritual and propitiation that a precarious order could be maintained. in Irish mythology it is the period when divinities and spirits of the death move from the underworld among the living and sometimes interfere with devastating effect in human affairs. It is this same concept and package of beliefs that comes down to us today in the rituals surrounding Halloween. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, Halloween saw something of a revival in western Europe, largely as the result of a reintroduction of an Americanized version in a form attractive to young children“.

Halloween in the Roman culture

In his ‘Dreamers book of the death‘ Robert Moss* writes about Lemuria. An old Roman religion where rites and exorcism drove the lemures, the wandering evil spirits away by giving them beans. The Vestal Virginis prepared their mola salsa, salt cakes made of the first wheat of the season.

 

Dreamers Book of the Death
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After the church tried to suppress all traces of the old pagan festival by appropriating it; May 13 became All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day. A century later, satisfied that the Lemuralis was history, but troubled that the Celtic Samhain was very much alive, Pope Gregory III switched the date of All Saints Day to November 1.

The feast of Lemuralia lasted three days. The earth was occording to the Romans during three days in May, from the 9th – 13th visited by two kind of souls. The gentile souls who came to guide their offspring: the Lares. And the evil spirits called the Larvae. The evil spirits were fed beans: food for the spirits and driven away with loud noises.

“Ovid reports that it is the duty of the head of a Roman household to get up at midnight and walk around the house in his bare feet tossing black beans over his shoulder and chanting “With these beans, I redeem me and mine”. Family members then turned out in force, clashing bronze pots together and bawling “ghosts of our fathers and ancestor, be gone!” nine times.
Robert Moss in Dreamer’s book of the death

Halloween in America

In the thirties “trick or treat” was played by children in America but it wasn’t untill the fifties that it became populair. Donald Duck, as well as the Peanuts’ strip of Charles M. Scutz refered to it in their comic strips.

halloween

In Europe, when I was a child, we never ever played trick or treat. It was not until the beginning of this century that stores began to sell witches hats and pumpkins.

< Jumped in from elsewhere? Start at  part 1

*In November Mindfunda will review the new book of Robert Moss: Sidewalk oracles. I will use the oracles in the book and write about the synchronicities I encountered so stay tuned!

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