For your consideration, here are 25 historic facts about the 5000 year old holiday many in the US consider ‘Easter’ today.
1. The holiday Ostara/Eostara, Eostar/Easter is the ancient festival celebrating the resurrection or ‘rebirth of the sun’ at our vernal equinox, when the power of the sun returns & life is resurrected or ‘born again’.
2. Ēostre is the Saxon Goddess of sunrise, spring, fertility, new life & immortality- as such hares, spring bulbs, eggs & baby animals have always been prominent themes. Ostara is the Norse name for her, Ishtar is her Sumerian name. As with all personifications of the goddesses, she has had many names, in many lands, in many times.
3. The colored eggs we know today have represented always the sunlight of spring and are made and gifted as offerings to Eoster/Ostara at the equinox in hopes of being blessed with renewing life & joyous abundance.
4. Ostara is said to have healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare. Still partially a bird, the winged hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts in her honor.
5. This ancient Germanic ‘Osterhase’ or egg laying hare was said to lay brightly colored eggs into nests made by children to honor her. This is the origin of the Easter basket.
6. In other countries it is an Eoster Cuckoo, Easter Bilby, or a fox which leaves the colored eggs.
7. Eggs have been perceived as sacred for millennia and were colored red to represent the life force as early as 5000 B.C. They have been blessed and gifted to promote health & happiness in many cultures for just as long.
8. Christian tradition states that when Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias, she gave him a red egg as a symbol of new life. Catholic tradition further seems to include details of the egg becoming magical in characteristic.
9. Ancient Anglo-Saxons, Egyptians & Greeks all placed decorated eggs at grave sites especially as a charm of rebirth. This aligns well with the attributes associated with the solar resurrection and desire for continued blessings.
10. Hot cross buns were traditionally made at Eoster to honor the goddess & the quarter solar holiday of spring as well as often the four quarters of the moon. (Solar quarters are the two equinoxes and solstices, indicating a change in seasons due to location of the sun in our skies)
11. The oldest cross buns located were found by archaeologists excavating the ruins of Herculaneum, a city buried under volcanic ash & lava since 79 CE.
12. Some cross buns were gifted to drive evil sprits away, hung in kitchens to prevent fires, and/or taken on travels as a protective good luck charm… depending on the culture and time.
13. The pre-Christian people ‘broke bread’ together to be shared along the seams cut into the bread for better rising, breaking it into four pieces for sharing and to promote friendship.
14. These spiced, berry studded sweet rolls we’re eventually banned from sale in England because of superstitions that the buns carried medicinal and/or magical properties.
15. The Bible’s old testament references trying to stop pagans from making sweet buns for their idols, and later Chrisitian clergy tried to prevent sacred cakes being made at Eoster, but in the end they gave up & blessed the cake instead.
16. Cross buns have been adopted as a Christian tradition and were fully institutionalized in Tudor times when the buns were relabeled & reappropriated to the now famous torture device.
17. 300 years after Christianity was popularized, it was decided in the First Council of Nicaea to put Christ’s figurative ‘rebirth of the son’ story atop the traditional vernal literal rebirth of the sun, in an effort to facilitate the peaceful assimilation of adherents of traditional religions to the new death cult. (This happened with the birth of the sun/son/winter solstice -Yule come Christmas- at that time as well). It was at this time that ‘Easter’ became a Christianized holiday.
18. Christian scholar Bede admitted in his book, De temporum ratione, (The Reckoning of Time) that Easter is derived from the Saxon Eostre specifically to help graft it to the local culture.
19. Christians originally considered the Eoster hare to bring bad fortune, saying witches (local folk healers) changed into rabbits in order to suck the cows dry.
20. Later, springing from the old belief that witches are active during Holy Week and that they get together with the ‘Devil’ at a place called “blåkulla”, Swede kids today dress up as Easter witches and go around seeking treats from their neighbors.
21. Yeshua/Jesus is the seventeenth in a string of ‘dying & rising god’s of the ancient world, also known as a death god archetype or of the resurrection god stories of the ancient world. The deity Attis (from the Vatican area, ironically) for example, arrived on the scene @ 1250 BC & was believed to have been born of a virgin, died & had been resurrected three days later, the rememberance of the event occurred each year during the vernal period, generally celebrated at that time near March 22-25.
While Christian apologetics attempt to explain comparative mythology of the Yeshua stories away, the preponderance of evidence left behind is overwhelming to those who have ears that hear and eyes which see.
Photo: Osiris, an ancient Egyptian death & resurrection deity
22. The concept of ‘deicide’ as a form of redemption made it’s first appearance millennia prior to Christianity as well.
Yet it was through Christianity expliticly that the spring holiday of Eoster/Ostara, which historically consecrated life & renewal in many separate religions, came to instead solemnize human sacrifice & death via deicide among the followers of one religion.
23. It is tradition to use old Yule (Christmas) trees to make the Eoster Fire as a way of bidding goodbye to winter and welcoming spring. (Generally speaking, the four solar quarter holidays are celebrated with fire rituals in honor of the sun & have been for thousands of years)
24. Many countries have bonfires at Easter time, but in some countries the burning of the yule tree has been changed and instead effigies of Judas are now burned.
25. Eoster has been celebrated continuously, in one form or another, since 3000 BC & is celebrated worldwide by many people of many different religions.
In summary, while the majority of the world’s cultures have already celebrated the vernal equinox and associated Ostara holidays this year, I recognize that the Christianized version of Easter is today. None of the above trivia is a joke intended to fool anyone for April Fool’s. As one of millions of non-Abrahamics of many religions who has already celebrated our holy day earlier in March, I want to make plain that Christians do not, nor ever have they ever had, a corner market on this particular holy day.
We pagans hear about shoving Christ into Yule annually (also known as ‘keeping Christ in Christmas’), and increasingly over the years the pagan community has been faced with only the Christianized version of Easter being acceptable in our society.
The chronic rescripting of history by those in power is damaging & divisive. Luckily, as we know better, we do better. Through education we can learn to focus more about what we have in common than what has historically kept us separate.
As always, please feel free to share.
The Peninsula Pagan