Easter: Origin of the Name and Associated Symbols

dot23

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#1
I'm reading 'the Golem' by Gustav Meyrik and it mentions a connection between hares, the easter bunny and Osiris. Anyone else heard of this, and can they shed any light on the connection? Also, if that is the case, could the hiding and finding of eggs represent the search by Isis for the strewn parts of Osiris?
 

TheOriginalCujo

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#2
dot23 said:
I'm reading 'the Golem' by Gustav Meyrik and it mentions a connection between hares, the easter bunny and Osiris. Anyone else heard of this, and can they shed any light on the connection? Also, if that is the case, could the hiding and finding of eggs represent the search by Isis for the strewn parts of Osiris?
The Easter bunny is a watered down version of the March Hare which was sacred to Eostra, a Saxon (I think) Goddess of Spring. The word Easter is supposed to come from her name and some of the Easter traditions started out as celebrations in her name.

Unfortunatly I can't remember where I heard this so I cant gaurantee it's accuracy.

Cujo
 

intaglioreally

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#3
A reference is here or perhaps hare :D
The hare seems a common trickster theme appearing in western, eastern and amerind mythologies
 

beakboo1

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#4
I got this from Canadian Atheists:

"Origins of the name "Easter":

The name "Easter" originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Similar "Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [were] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos."
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. Some were:

Aphrodite from Cyprus
Astarte, from Phoenicia
Demeter, from Mycenae
Hathor from Egypt
Ishtar from Assyria
Kali, from India
Ostara, a Norse Goddess of fertility.

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 selected in error. This became "ostern" in German. Ostern has been proposed as the origin of the word "Easter".

Pagan origins of Easter:

Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a
fictional consort who was believed to have been born via a virgin
birth. He was Attis, who was believed to have died and been
resurrected each year during the period MAR-22 to MAR 25. "About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis ([the older Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection."

Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times,
Christians "used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation."

Many religious historians believe that the death and resurrection
legends were first associated with Attis, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. They were simply grafted onto stories of Jesus' life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to Pagans. Others suggest that many of the events in Jesus' life that were recorded in the gospels were lifted from the life of Krishna, the second person of the Hindu Trinity. Ancient Christians had an alternate explanation; they claimed that Satan had created counterfeit deities in advance of the coming of Christ in order to confuse humanity.
Modern-day Christians generally regard the Attis legend as being a Pagan myth of little value. They regard Jesus' death and resurrection account as being true, and unrelated to the earlier tradition.

Wiccans and other modern-day Neopagans continue to celebrate the Spring Equinox as one of their 8 yearly Sabbats (holy days of
celebration). Near the Mediterranean, this is a time of sprouting of the summer's crop; farther north, it is the time for seeding. Their rituals at the Spring Equinox are related primarily to the fertility of the crops and to the balance of the day and night times. Where Wiccans can safely celebrate the Sabbat out of doors without threat of religious persecution, they often incorporate a bonfire into their rituals, jumping over the dying embers is believed to assure fertility of people and crops.
 
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#5
Thanks for that - was only wondering last night why the Christians named their most important festival after a celtic goddess!
 

austen27

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#6
I can't find any links on the web, but when I lived in Edinburgh there was a polished bronze head at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art titled Eoster which I rather liked. She looked a bit 1920s, possibly because she was.
Not very relevant I know but the thread reminded me!
 
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Anonymous

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#7
Well most Pagan festivals and holidays were absorbed by the early church. It makes it easier to convert the populace if you incorporate their festivals. Christmas was winter solstice/saturnalia. I mean historically speaking it is pretty much thought Jesus was most likely born in the warmer months, but the early church brought in the winter festivals and decided to celebrate Christmas then. It just shows how closely our roots are still linked with our forefathers.
 
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Anonymous

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#9
That's because the hare (not the rabbit, which didn't reach Britain until it was brought by the Romans) was a sacred animal of the Celtic goddess Eostre, who as has been mentioned above is also Astarte, Ishtar, Ashtaroth etc.

I don't know if Kali Yuga has anything to do with Ashtaroth etc tho (altho modern pagans often put the name Kali in their invocations to the Goddess along with Astarte and others). Kali Yuga has more to do with death and destruction, as she is (IIRC) the female element of Shiva, the destroyer deity of the Hindu trinity. She is also associated with "forbidden" female sexuality and dark magic and as such has more in common with the Greek Hekate.

Also i was under the impression that the nearest Romano-Greek equivalent of Ishtar/Eostre/Astarte/Ashtaroth was Demeter rather than Aphrodite (altho of course elements of one deity or myth can get transferred to several others, so there are not exact equivalents)...

A question: did the ancient Norse and Celts regard all their gods/goddesses as elements or incarnations of a single omni-deity, as with Hinduism, or were they true polytheists like the Greeks and (early) Romans?
 
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Anonymous

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#10
Easter eggs?

This is probably obvious to all you God botherers out there ;) .

What's the connection between the Christian church's holiest day and eggs?


I seem to remember the egg as representing the stone that was rolled away from the big J's final resting place, but that seems kind of tenuous to me.
Does the egg connection suggest that this is another usurped pagan festival?
 

SniperK2

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#11
Yes, it is, ( And I'm a Christian, ) I thought the egg was a fertility symbol that had nothing to do with Christianity at all, and I was told that from a very early age. I don't know, a kind of Celtic paganism and a Welsh- Chapel Christianity co-existed quite happily in our house, there will be people on here who would know about the original festival in pre-Christian times, which Christianity incorporated. It's only fundies who get all hot under the collar about it.
 

escargot

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#12
Yup, as a child growing up in the 1960s in NW England I too was told that the eggs represented that particular fortuitously ovoid geological feature. :roll:

BS like that gives religion a bad name. :lol:
Kids always rumble it.

The eggs are really pre-xtian pagan symbols of spring, as are the Easter bunnies who are really hares......... :spinning
 

stu neville

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#13
Lethe said:
Yes, it is, ( And I'm a Christian, ) I thought the egg was a fertility symbol that had nothing to do with Christianity at all, and I was told that from a very early age. I don't know, a kind of Celtic paganism and a Welsh- Chapel Christianity co-existed quite happily in our house, there will be people on here who would know about the original festival in pre-Christian times, which Christianity incorporated. It's only fundies who get all hot under the collar about it.
Yep - the name derives from the Old English Eastre or Eostre which in turn comes from Austron, a Germanic Pagan goddess of fertility and the sunrise who's day was celebrated at the Spring equinox, thus assimilated Borg-like into the Christian festival of Easter (which in most other languages has a name derived from the Latin Pasche, hence the Anglicised name "Passion Plays").

One of Austron's primary symbols as goddess of fertility was the egg, so the giving and receiving of eggs was an important symbolic act around this time. BTW we also get the name "East" from her, as that's where the sun rises :).
 

Jerry_B

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#14
Eggs were one of the foods allowed after Lent. Eggs also feature on the menu as part of Passover in Judaism, so perhaps there's been some earlier crossover. I guess that they became chocolate after a while simply from marketing ;) But in general food is a feature of Easter celebrations in the UK, but it seems as if the egg is the one which has survived and adapted over time.
 
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#16
If I remember correctly, there's also some sort of resurrection theme in easter eggs, at least in Orthodox tradition.
 

Jerry_B

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#17
I think that may be some more modern mythological padding, like the Eostre + egg symbolism.
 

Jerry_B

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#19
Your point being?

I have that opinion because I've seen no definite proof of a link between Eostre and any egg symbolism (i.e. any depictions from the archaeological or historical record), let alone anything that bands them together in a way that naturally leads to the whole Easter thing.
 
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Anonymous

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#20
Stu's "Eostre" reply seems pretty sound to me.
I'm off to do some googling.

I really don't mean to offend any Christians out there, but Christmas has pretty much been rumbled as an adaption of an earlier mid-winter festival, and now the holiest Christian festival may (or may not) be derived from Eostre?
 
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Anonymous

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#21
Neither Christmas or Easter are invented festivals.

Anyway, Easter can't logically be pinned on a pagan festival. It's a moveable feast for starters, based on the lunar cycle, like Passover itself. And considering the only thing definite in the Gospels is that Christ died before Passover, it's reasonable to assume that Easter is a Christian re-badging of Passover than anything else.

As for Christmas, that's a date picked like any other. If Christmas were celebrated in the middle of June, no doubt it would take over another older festival. Christmas could theoretically have been placed anywhere in the calendar. However, why not stick it where everyone else is celebrating? So Christmas is the same as the Winter Solstice.

I don't think there was a huge conspiracy about it. The name Easter is more than likely derived from Eostre, which is certainly what I learned at school, but the festival itself is pretty much set by Passover.
 

SniperK2

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#22
It's not an offence to me, personally, Jesus went to Jerusalem, where he was arrested, for Passover, a Jewish festival since obviously, he was a Jew. Sorry, stating the obvious. To celebrate the Ressurection at around that time every year, along with other festivals that predate it, well , what's wrong with that? If you're not Christian you can celebrate a pagan feast, same as at Christmas, even to celebrate it at some totally different time of year, I don't think should matter, it's ' what ' you celebrate, and not when, that I think matters, whatever belief system you follow. I've always found Midsummer Day a ' special ' sort of day, myself, and my Mum used to go and bathe herself in dew when she was young, on Midsummer dawn.
I did read a really good article of the pagan ' Easter ' on a site, which I cannot now remember :oops: , but it was very interesting. It's no offence to me that my ' pagan ' ancestors were celebrating fertility and rebirth over 2,000 years ago or that people do now, and I'm sure a lot of people will be celebrating ' Eostra ' in their own manner. People seem to overlook that Christianity, was an ' Oriental ' religeon, imported ( in the case of Europe as I'm speaking from the UK ) to people who had for a long time had their own structured beliefs and their own religeon and from bits I have read, the early Celtic church and the early saints were much more mystical than the ' Roman ' church that eventually supplanted it.
 
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Anonymous

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#23
I never said anything was wrong with Christians, or anyboby else celebrating Easter. I was just wondering what the connection with eggs was all about.
As far as Easter being a moveable feast based on the lunar cycle being derived from the Passover celebration I'm bound to observe that the lunar cycles pre date Passover by some way, so is that evidence of an earlier celebration in itself?

Just wondering. Off to eat a mini-egg :D
 
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Anonymous

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#24
Ooooo...you can't eat mini eggs yet! It's not Easter Sunday! :lol:

I'm not sure how old the egg tradition is, actually. Probably all Mr. Cadbury's idea. ;)

Re: Lunar Cycles; as for Passover superceding a previous festival, I have no idea. Not quite sure what season it would be in the Middle East this time of year either. Innundation? Could be something like that. I thought the Egyptians used Sirius as a sort of seasonal calendar for the Nile.

So the Spring/Rebirth thing in this hemisphere could just be fortuitous? Could be a completely different type of season somewhere else.

Actually, thinking about it, the whole Christmas/Winter thing is purely European, isn't it?

Hmmm.....I think I'll blame Mr. Cadbury.... ;)

I really don't mean to offend any Christians out there
Not sure why it would be offensive anyway. The Easter/Eostre thing was something I learned at Primary School, but other than the name, I've never seen any connection. It is always roughly around the Vernal Equinox, but as the Vernal Equinox is a Pagan festival, and Easter is around that time, because of the lunar/Passover thing, I've never seen anything more than a vague resemblance.

And I've never understood why more of a fuss is made about Christmas than Easter. I mean, Easter's the main point of Christianity, isn't it?
 

lopaka

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#25
Ravenstone said:
And I've never understood why more of a fuss is made about Christmas than Easter. I mean, Easter's the main point of Christianity, isn't it?
Not able to aid your understanding (or anyone's, really, I know my limits :D ) but yeah, I'm sure early Christians would be mystified about our being so hung up on the date of anyone's birth. To them that was a pretty negligible occurance (theologically speaking :lol: ) in the scheme of things. The feast days for saints, etc, I believe, are usually associated with one's death date (ie when they "went to be with The Lord"), which is far more significant.
 

SniperK2

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#27
Didn't the Puritans ban Christmas? I reckon it always had a ' pagan ' flavour until the Victorians got hold of it. Look at the Yule Log, Mistletoe, Holly and Ivy, etc. I believe Easter has always been the most important festival, ( to a believing Christian ) But look at when Christmas is, the coldest, darkest, greyest time of the year in the Northern hemisphere, to have some colour and light and an excuse for some indulgence then, has probably always been a kind of tonic to us in the ' sunless ' north.
 
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Anonymous

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#28
I think that until Charles Dickens sent them all on a guilt trip, Christmas wasn't even a holiday.

But, yes, Christmas does seem to be an excuse for a mid-winter pee-up, so to speak. But I still reckon that it was just expedient to mix the pagan winter solstice with the Christian thing.

Puritans did ban Christmas, which has always struck me as the best reason not to lop of a King's head ;) Look at what happens! :D
 
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#29
Seems like it might all be cobblers:

Fur flies over bunny theory

By SIMON BEVILACQUA
27mar05

IT'S official -- the Easter bunny story is not true.

The fable about the magical rabbit who brings eggs on Easter Sunday is a fabrication.

Academics have scoured medieval history and found the story is based on a lie.

They blame a meddling medieval monk for mucking up pagan history.

The mischievous monk literally made up a Saxon goddess who many today erroneously believe is the basis of the Easter bunny story.

University of Tasmania academic Elizabeth Freeman said German academics had searched extensively for clues to Easter tradition.

"They found it's all wrong," Dr Freeman, an expert on medieval history, said.

The commonly believed story about the Easter bunny, as the magical companion of the Saxon goddess Ostara, is repeated in books, poems and extensively on websites.

That fallacious story says the Easter bunny's roots are buried in the mythology of Germanic Saxon tribes.

The Saxons, in the first centuries after the death of Jesus, are said to have celebrated the arrival of the pagan goddess Ostara.

The Sun King, according to the story, would journey across the sky in his chariot bringing an end to winter.

Ostara, a beautiful spring maiden, then came to earth with a basket of coloured eggs.

The goddess, helped by a magical rabbit, brought new life to dying plants and flowers by hiding eggs under them.

When the Saxons moved into Britain in the fifth century, they took their pagan ways with them.

Ostara then evolved into the Anglo-Saxon Oestre, goddess of dawn and spring.

When Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity and started to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, they combined the religious traditions.

The pagan Oestre celebration became today's Easter.

So when modern-day parents hid coloured eggs under plants in the garden for their children, it was widely thought they had been unwittingly re-enacting the ancient pagan myth of Ostara and her rabbit. But this is all wrong, according to modern academic thought.

Dr Freeman said research shows the Ostara and Oestre story is fundamentally flawed.

The goddess did not exist.

The earliest reference to goddess Ostara or Oestre is by a celebrated medieval intellectual -- the monk known as the "venerable Bede".

Working in north-east England in 730AD, Bede wrote a book about calculating time. Bede identified a pagan spring celebration called Eosturmonath. He said this celebration got its name from a pagan goddess called Oestre for whom they had a feast.

But when modern-day researchers scoured the history books they could find no prior reference to the goddess.

Researchers found many references to the spring celebration Eosturmonath but absolutely no mention of the goddess Bede reckoned the feast was named after. They suspect Bede fabricated the pagan goddess to suit his purposes.

"He has definitely made up that goddess," Dr Freeman said. "Bede is the first one to mention it. German academics have found no evidence of the spring goddess Oestre anywhere else before Bede."

Dr Freeman said Bede, who had been a monk since he was seven years old, was revered in an era where very few people were educated.

"Bede was extremely influential and his view has survived until the last 50 years when scholarship developed to the level it could show he was wrong," she said.

Dr Freeman said Bede and his contemporaries constantly sought to find moral meaning for words and often made up definitions to suit their moral outlook.

So if the Saxon goddess Oestre did not exist, what about her magical bunny? Where did he come from?

"I really have no idea," Dr Freeman said.

The Easter bunny, it seems, is as mysterious to historians as he is elusive to children.

Catching a glimpse of the rabbit who leaves chocolate eggs is easier than pinning down the origins of the mythical creature.

Dr Freeman suggested the tradition was a jumbled version of many ancient beliefs.

She said pagan Britons, who lived in the isles before the Saxons arrived and are commonly portrayed as the traditional dark-haired Celts, revered sacred hares.

She considers these sacred hares may be the kernel of the Easter bunny story.

Baltic pagans and other cultures used eggs in rituals of rebirth and renewel.

Eggs decorated with colours or gilt have been a symbol of life since the ancient Greeks.

The egg appears in many pagan and early history stories, including the birth of the Sun-Bird, hatched from the World Egg. In some pagan stories heaven and earth were thought to have been formed from two halves of an egg.

Easter eggs evolved through the 18th and 19th centuries with hollow cardboard Easter eggs filled with Easter gifts and sumptuously decorated.

Decadent Faberge Eggs, made for the Czar's of Russia by Carl Faberge, were encrusted with jewels.

The first chocolate Easter eggs appeared in Germany and France in the early 1800s.

Dr Freeman said she suspected the combination of the imagery to create our modern Easter occurred some time in the 19th century.
Source
 

Melf

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#30
Ravenstone said:
Puritans did ban Christmas, which has always struck me as the best reason not to lop of a King's head ;) Look at what happens! :D
and they banned mayday, dancing round maypoles, also birthdays iirc

(possible forerunners of the mormons?)
 
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