In Christianity, Easter is a celeberation of the resurrection of the Christ three days after having died on the cross. In a secular society, we associate it bunnies, decorated eggs, and baby chickens. I don’t particularly care for Easter as a holiday, and I don’t find it very interesting. However, I notice that Easter is just like Christmas; a psuedo-Christian secular commercialized holiday, whose pagan roots are largely obscured. I looked into the pagan origin of Christmas last year, and in the same spirit and in the same manner, and yes, through the same prism. I’ll look into the key traditions and ideas of Easter, and examine their roots and history.
Just like before, I’m not some Christian conservative out to stop people from celeberating something that I call pagan, but rather I seek to remind us of what connects us to the pagan world, and extolling the pagan roots rather than vilifying them, as I happen to be a fan of paganism, especially the pagan world of old.
Easter eggs, egg decoration, and the Easter bunny
This always bugged me. What the hell do the Easter bunny and decorated eggs have to do with the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, especially when there’s nothing about it in the Bible?
First off the Easter eggs and egg decoration. Apparently, in Christian symbolism, the eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus, however, in the pagan world before Christianity, eggs are a symbol of fertility, as well as rebirth, and they have been for a long time before the death of the Christ. And I should know about symbols of fertility and sexuality. I’m very familiar with the symbolism of eggs and serpents juxtaposed together.
Believe it or not, egg decoration is a very ancient practice, decorated ostrich eggs would be buried in ancient Sumerian and Egyptian graves 5,000 years ago. However, the concept of painting eggs I’ve heard dates back to early Mesopotamian Christians who stained eggs red with the symbolic blood of Jesus (which would become a tradition in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic church), though this probably builds on the concept of eggs as a symbol of rebirth.
Now for the Easter bunny. Much like Santa Claus, he is largely a secular advertising figure. However, hares and rabbits were associated with Germanic fertility goddesses such as Eostre and Freyja, in particular with festivals dedicated to Eostre.
Death and rebirth of a god
Jesus’ death is obviously a concept found in the Bible, but the death and rebirth of a divine being is older than that. Cybele, the Anatolian mother goddess of earth, fertility, and mountains, had a consort, Attis. He was a god of vegetation and agriculture who went insane and castrated and mutilated himself, after which he died, but was then reborn in the spring. Jesus was never castrated, and he never mutilated himself, but he was probably mutilated by the spears of the Roman soldiers who set out to kill him humiliatingly. Thinking about it, there’s something symbolic about death and rebirth myths set in spring. Spring is a time where plants grow back to life from dormancy and animals start procreating and giving birth, and Easter festivals seem to be very linked to symbols of fertility, and the old pagan pre-Crucifixion ceremonies were dedicated to the fertility of crops, animals, and people.
There’s another form of this myth, the decent of a goddess to the underworld.
There’s a story in Mesopotamian and Sumerian mythology, in which Ishtar, otherwise known as Astarte, the goddess of love, sex, and war, descended into the underworld, attempting to take it over, eventually arrived naked, was imprisoned by Ereshkigal, the goddess and queen of the underworld and Ishtar’s sister, and supposedly killed. After her descent and death, all sexual activity supposedly stopped on Earth. She was revived by the god Ea, the god of water and creation, which displeased Ereshkigal, and she demanded that someone take her place. Finally it was decided that Tammuz take her place in the underworld six months in the year. There is a similar myth in Greco-Roman lore in which the fertility goddess Persephone was dragged to the underworld by Hades. After this, Demter was striken with grief and searched for her, and meanwhile living things stopped growing and began to die. As life on earth was drawing closer to extinction, Zeus sent Hermes to bring Persephone back. Hades agreed and gave her a pomegranate, and she was allowed to return to the surface world, bringing life and fertility with her. These are myths of the seasons, and the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
That’s about all I can think of with regards to Easter. From that, I can draw up that Easter is basically a spring festival celebrating fertility, and the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The messianic and commercial connontations are mere dressings that we have covered it with, same with Christmas. Easter’s prime concept, other than the death and rebirth of a divinity, is nowhere in the Bible. Even the specific date is for the sake of a festival, since not only is there no date for Easter in the Bible, but Jesus supposedly died and yet there is no recorded evidence of his existence, let alone his death. And the reason the pagan stuff is in what we call Easter is the same reason it happens in Christmas; the church co-opted these things to promote their faith to non-believers.
That said, I’m gonna defend the pagan roots of Easter the same way I did for the pagan Christmas. The pagan part of our culture is inescapable, and that pagan part of our culture is the celebration of life, nature, and natural phenomenon and cycles, and, I swear, there’s something primal about it all that the pagans all celebrate as well. I wonder what it is. That in mind, I still don’t consider Easter that important, maybe it’s instinctive of me to not care about Easter, especially with Christmas and my birthday more important. However, that doesn’t mind I don’t respect the importance of fertility. Hell, Easter to me is nowhere near as important as the celebration of fertility, and I respect fertility, especially in association with sexuality.
One last thing: the name Easter is related to the goddess Eostre, and has Germanic or even Indo-European roots, but it is has no relation, let alone direct, with the goddess Ishtar. I keep hearing something about Easter is Ishtar and it’s actually not true.
Thank you for reading.