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Pagan Easter. Like other holidays such as Hallowe’en and Christmas, Easter is an ancient pagan festival given new meaning when it was incorporated into the Christian church. Pagan Easter.

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pagan easter

Pagan Easter

Like other holidays such as Hallowe’en and Christmas, Easter is an ancient pagan festival given new meaning when it was incorporated into the Christian church.

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Pagan Easter
  • Many ancient religions and cults from the Middle East and the Mediterranean had myths of death and resurrection (Sumerian, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, etc.).
  • Most ancient religions also had spring fertility festivals or spring equinox festivals, which likewise celebrated the death of winter and the season of rebirth.
  • Although Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, the name of the holiday, the folk imagery and the rites associated with it have nothing to do with Christianity.
  • Very little is known of pagan Easter celebrations in northern Europe. Archaeologists suspect that spring festivals arose in conjunction with settled agriculture in pre-historical times.
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Pagan Easter
  • Our only source of information about the origin of Easter comes from the English scholar and church father, the Venerable Bede (672-735 CE).
  • Some scholars are skeptical of his account of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, but Bede lived shortly after the conversion of England, when knowledge of the old gods would have been widespread, and he would have had no motivation whatsoever to “invent” pagan divinities.
  • There are no definite Scandinavian references to Eostre, though Jacob Grimm postulated the Old High German name of Ostera, from which derives the German name for Easter – Ostern. Some scholars link her, as a fertility goddess, to Idunn or to Freyja, or to Nerthus, mentioned by Tacitus.
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Pagan Easter
  • Bede, in his work De temporum ratione(on the reckoning of time) describes the month names of the English people. After describing the worship of the goddess Rheda during the Anglo-Saxon month of Hrethmonath, Bede writes about Eosturmonath, the month of the goddess Eostre:
  • Modern English translation of the original Latin:
  • Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month“ [Passover], and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honored name of the old observance."
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Pagan Easter
  • Ostara(1884)
  • by Johannes Gehrts
  • “Ēostrederives from Proto-Germanic *Austrō, ultimately from a PIE root *h₂ewes-(→ *awes-), "to shine", and therefore closely related to a conjectural name of *H₂ewsṓs, the dawn goddess, which would account for Greek Eos, Roman Aurora, and Indian Ushas.” From Wikipedia.
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Pagan Easter
  • Sources commonly link Eostre with our contemporary symbols of Easter – hares or rabbits, eggs, cross buns – though there is nothing in Bede’s account that mentions such details.
  • In England, hares were associated with Spring (fertility) celebrations since at least medieval times, probably earlier.
  • Eggs are an obvious symbol of new life and may reflect either a pagan custom, or simply temporary abundance after their prohibition during Lent.
  • Cross buns, likewise, may represent a pagan equinox symbol or religious offering, or the Christian cross.
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Pagan Easter
  • Many folk customs celebrated at Easter, especially building bonfires and leaping over them, were also celebrated during the German festival of Walpurgisnacht(night between April and May).
  • Easter is a dawn festival, apparently celebrating Eostre, the goddess of new light and life.
  • Walpurgisnacht is a nighttime festival apparently celebrating the witch-goddess Holda. Festivals are still held atop the Brocken mountain in Germany.
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote a famous description of the witches’ celebration of Walpurgisnacht in his drama Faust (1808).