Saturday, 19 April 2014

E is for Eostre, Eastre, Easter, even Ostara. What..?

Goddess Eostre

Wherever you are in the world you may be celebrating Easter, you may be celebrating spring, or you may be in the southern hemisphere like me where it is autumn. All the same, you're probably feeling the vibe.

I'm not celebrating per se. Although I was brought up Catholic, I chose to leave religion behind in my late teens, many, many years ago. As for eggs and bunnies, well, having children and grandchildren means they're still part of my cultural experience.

Many Christian festivals are said to have deep roots in ancient indigenous, traditional, seasonal festivities some people refer to as pagan rituals. Christmas and Easter are obvious and easy examples. There are many cultures globally which have variations on numerous festival themes and a quick internet search on any of them brings up enough results to keep anyone happy.

Back to Easter, and I did just that as I'm interested in the deep roots and origins of things rather than what's put in front of my face. It's a simple assumption that Easter was adopted by Christianity from earlier festivals celebrating the return of the sun: i.e spring, after a long, cold, barren winter, and further to add a young woman (goddess) to the festival. At this time of year birds lay their eggs, soon the chicks are born along with many young animals, flowers bloom, days lengthen, the cycle of life begins again etc.

Yet there's no hard evidence to suggest that there was a goddess associated with an Easter-like festival, and that her name was Eostre/ Eastre/Ostara. Easter Goddess? Have some of us been trying too hard to create something from nothing?

I'm of the opinion that Christianity pinched most of its festivals from older traditions. I hold those traditions in higher regard because they follow natural rhythms and cycles, and incorporate both the feminine and the masculine. In ancient times spring festivals occurred in March around the vernal equinox for you northern hemispherians, as Easter does in some years, but as you can see from the above article, the goddess worshipped at spring time was probably not Eostre/Eastre/Ostara. So where does that leave todays Easter?

Maybe it's a Christian festival after all and maybe it's not linked to earlier, ancient spring celebrations? I'd like to think it's not. I'd like to think they're separate and autonomous, and have their own meaning, symbolism and story.

I like to keep an open mind about, well, everything. That way, life's exciting. That way, I can suddenly be off and running on some never explored subject of extreme interest and fascination, just like this one.

   And that way, maybe myth, magic and imagination can be kept alive and real.


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