Saturday, March 22, 2008
The real meaning of Easter. From Barbara Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" Easter Springtime sacrifical festival named for the Saxon Goddess Eostre, or Ostara, a northern form of Astarte. Her sacred month was Eastre-monath, the Moon of Eostre.(1) Saxon poets apparently knew Eoester was the same Goddess as India's Great Mother Kali. Beowulf spoke of "Ganges' waters, whose flood waves ride down into an unknown sea near Eostre's far home."(2) The Easter Bunny was older than Christianity; it was the Moon-hare sacred to the Goddess in both eastern and western nations. Recalling the myths of Hathor-Astarte who laid the Golden Egg of the sun, Germans used to say the hare would lay eggs for good children on Easter Eve.(3) (See Cat.) Like all the church's "movable feasts," Easter shows its pagan origin in a dating system based on the old lunar calendar. It is fixed as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, formerly the "pregnant" phase of Eostre passing into the fertile season. The Christian festival wasn't call Easter until the Goddess's name was given to it in the laste Middle Ages.(4) (See Menstrual Calendar.) The Irish kept Easter on a different date from that of the Roman church, probably the original date of the festival of Eostre, until the Roman calendar was imposed on them in 632 A.D. Nevertheless, the Columban foundation and their colonies in Britain kept the old date for another fifty years.(5) The Persians began their solar New Year at the spring equinox, and up to the middle of the 18th century they still followed the old custom of presenting each other with colored eggs on the occasion.(6) [See post on Persian New Year]. Eggs were always symbols of rebirth, which is why Easter eggs were usually colored red - the life-color - especially in eastern Europe. Russians used to lay red Easter eggs on graves to serve as resurrection charms.(7) In Bohemia, Christ was duly honored on Easter Sunday and his pagan rival on Easter Monday [which would actually be the third day after death on "Good Friday"], which was the Moon-day opposed to the Sun-day. Village girls like ancient priestesses sacrificed the Lord of Death and threw him into water, singing, "Death swims in the water, spring comes to visit us, with eggs that are red, with yellow pancakes, we carried Death out of the village, we are carrying Summer into the village."(8) Another remnant of the pagan sacred drama was the image of the god buried in his tomb, then withdrawn and said to live again. The church instituted such a custom early in the Middle Ages, apparently in hopes of a reportable miracle. A small sepulchral building having been erected and the consecrated host placed within, a priest was set to watch it from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Then the host was taken out and displayed, and the congreagatin was told Christ was risen.(9) A curious 16th-century Easter custom was known as "creeping to the cross with eggs and apples," a significant use of the ancient female symbols of birth and death, beginning and ruition, the opening and closing of cycles. The Ceremonial of the Kings of England ordered carpets to be laid in the church, for the comfort of the king, queen, and courteriers was they crept down the aisle on hands and knees.(1) The penitential implication of the creeping ceremony is clear enough, but the female-symbolic foodstuffs are a bit mysterious. Germany applied to Easter the same title formerly given to the season of the sacred king's love-death, Hoch-Zeit, "the High Time." In English too, Easter used to be called "the Hye-Tide."(11) From these titles came the colloquial description of any festival holiday as "a high old time." Notes: (1) Knight, D.W.P., 157. (2) Goodrich, 18. (3) de Lys, 117. (4) H. Smith, 201. (5) de Paor, 70. (6) Hazlitt, 201. (7) Gaster, 603. (8) Frazer, G.B., 362. (9) Hazlitt, 281. (10) Hazlitt, 153. (11) Hazlitt, 316.