Easter - Who Does It Really Honor?
Researched and Compiled by Chuck McManigal
It is well-known that Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate Easter. Why not? Is it that Jehovah's Witnesses know something that adherents of other religions do not know? Or is it because Jehovah's Witnesses have collectively and individually developed a spiritual conscience that is so tender that they don't want to offend the Great Almighty God of the Universe, Jehovah God and his beloved Son, Jesus Christ? The following information, and much, much more, is available to everyone. All one needs to do is search in almost any public or university library. More than sufficient information from reference works and scholars is available to help sincere persons research the facts and then choose for themselves what to believe and whether or not to participate in the celebration of the holiday known in Christendom as "Easter".
What is the meaning and origin of Easter? Who is honored by the holiday? What are its symbols? Were early Christians commanded to celebrate Easter? Should true Christians celebrate Easter today? The first four questions, and more, will be answered in this paper; however, the last (fifth) question will be left to each reader to decide for him/herself. Most words appearing in bold print indicate this researcher's emphasis. This researcher, while being one of Jehovah's Witnesses, has done all original research and has not researched or quoted anything from any publication of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, nor used the New World Translation (Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) in quoting any Scriptures. In this way we get a good look at what non-Witnesses have reported on Easter. Thus, with the absence of any bias, each can come to his/her own conclusion as to whether or not true Christians should observe this annual holiday.
Easter is defined in the World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, 1970 edition, page 25 as: "a Christian festival that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ." This reference work goes on to say: [p.25,26.] "It is the most important holy day of the Christian religion. …In most countries, Easter comes in early spring, at a time when green grass and warm sunshine begin to push aside the ice and snow of winter. Its name may have come from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring, or from the Teutonic festival of spring called Eostur. …In many areas, children collect candy and chocolate bunnies, and hunt colorful Easter eggs. Many persons wear new spring clothes to church on Easter. …The cross often appears as an Easter symbol. People in many parts of the world eat special cakes called hot cross buns during the Easter season. Each cake has a cross of icing on its crust. …Lights, candles, and bonfires mark Easter celebrations in some lands. …In many parts of northern and central Europe, people burn bonfires on the hilltops. Then they gather around the bonfires and sing Easter hymns. …Eggs represent the new life that returns to nature about Easter time. The custom of exchanging eggs began in ancient times. The ancient Egyptians and Persians often dyed eggs in spring colors and gave them to their friends as gifts. The Persians believed that the earth had hatched from a giant egg. Early Christians of Mesopotamia were the first to use colored eggs for Easter. ...Many children believe that an Easter bunny brings their Easter eggs. …In ancient Egypt, the rabbit symbolized birth and new life. Some ancient peoples considered it a symbol of the moon. It may later have become an Easter symbol because the moon determines the date of Easter. …Many customs connected with the Easter season come from pagan festivals of spring."
The above gives us a general idea of what the Easter festival or holiday consists of. But, what is the background and origin of Easter in its "pre-Christian" days?
From Celebrations Around the world, a Multicultural Handbook, by C. S. Angell, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Co., 1996, p.33, we read: "Christians celebrate Easter Sunday as the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the roots of this holiday, like so many other celebrations, can be traced back to pagan celebrations. Indeed the name Easter comes from Eostara, the German goddess of rebirth. In early times the Feast of Eostara was the celebration of the resurrection and rebirth of Earth. Easter eggs and the Easter Bunny are both fertility symbols, holdovers from the feast of Eostara. Other parallels include the pagan joy in the rising sun of spring, which coincides with Christians' joy in the rising Son of God, and the lighting of candles in churches which corresponds to the pagan bonfires.
"In early days there was much controversy over the proper date for the celebration of Easter. This controversy was settled in 325 [C.E.] when the council of Nicaea ruled that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. Eastern Orthodox churches, despite Russia's adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1923, still figure the date of Easter based on the Julian calendar. Therefore their celebration of Easter rarely coincides with observances of other Christian churches."
From The Book of Holidays Around the World, by A. Van Straalen, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1986, p.4/12, we are told: "The most important day of the Christian year celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus. …Legend has it that the sun jumps for joy as it rises on Easter morning, and many services begin at sunrise. In the 8th century the Venerable Bede suggested that the word "Easter" may have come from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility. Her symbol was a hare, or rabbit, who brings Easter eggs. The egg may have become a special Easter symbol of rebirth because eggs were long one of the foods forbidden during Lent. The tradition of coloring eggs probably began with medieval travelers to Egypt and Persia, where people colored eggs for their spring festivals."
From Holiday Symbols, 2nd Edition, by S. E. Thompson, Omnigraphics, Detroit, MI, 2000, p.131,132, it states: "It was common during the early days of Christianity to try to attract new converts by blending Christian observances with existing pagan festivals. Just as the observation of Christmas was moved from January 6 to December 25, where it would coincide with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was traditionally identified with March 25, perhaps in the hope that it would supplant the ancient pagan festival in honor of the VERNAL EQUINOX.
"Many of the symbols associated with Easter have their roots in the ancient rituals celebrating the arrival of spring. The delight that the pagans took in watching the land's rebirth at the end of winter has much in common with the Christian celebration of Christ's resurrection and triumph over death.
"The name 'Easter' may have come from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, whose feast was celebrated in the spring and who was associated with spring and fertility. …Rabbits were common in pre-Christian fertility lore, where they symbolized the abundance of new life associated with spring. The ancient German goddess Ostara, for whom the German spring festival Ostern was named, was always accompanied by a hare, who may have been the precursor of the modern Easter Bunny. In any case, the association of the rabbit with Easter is probably the vestige of an ancient spring fertility rite. …Some religious purists believe that the Easter Bunny has done to Easter what the cult of Santa Claus has done to Christmas. Others prefer to regard the rabbit emerging from his underground burrow as akin to Christ rising from his tomb on Easter morning. But no one has yet come up with a good explanation for why a rabbit would lay eggs."
From Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, by T. Gulevich. Omnigraphics, Detroit, MI, 2002, p.92, Mr. Gulevich states: "Most writers assert that it [Easter] came from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre. They base this assertion on the writings of a scholarly monk known as St. Bede (672 or 673-735). Bede proposed that the Anglo-Saxons, the ancestors of the English people, named the month of April after a pagan goddess. According to Bede they called it EOSTUR-MONATH, after the goddess Eostre, also spelled 'Eastre'. Bede explained that since the Easter festival fell in the month of the goddess, the people called the festival by the same name. …English speakers eventually changed the word to 'Easter', which came to refer solely to the holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
From the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 13th Edition, 1926, Vol. 8, p.828 we read: "There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers. The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians. …The ecclesiastical historian Socrates (Hist. Ecel. V.22) states, with perfect truth, that neither the Lord, nor his apostles enjoined the keeping of this or any other festival. He says: 'The apostles had no thought of appointing festival days, but in promoting a life of blamelessness and piety'; and he attributes the observance of Easter by the church to the perpetuation of an old usage, 'just as many other customs have been established.'"
The following was taken from the Internet site: http://sucs.swan.ac.uk/~pagan/ostara.html which was great interest concerning the relationship between the "Christian" holiday of Easter and the festival celebration of Ostara, the Spring (Vernal) Equinox.
"Ostara is the Spring Equinox, the day [March 21] on which dark balances light. It falls nine months before the Winter Solstice, and may be seen as the day on which the new Sun God, who will be born on the Solstice, is conceived. [note the significance of this statement later in this paper]. It is a time for looking ahead—while this summer begins to blossom around us and this year's Sun God grows strong, next year's Sun is already implanted in the womb of the Goddess. The equinoxes have always been a time of great change whatever changes begin at this time will not necessarily manifest immediately, but will gestate and grow and may not become evident for a long time to come. At this time, the seeds of the next summer are being sown, and an open and fertile mind is needed in order to bring about positive changes. Hope for the future must be tempered with patience, and we must look to the present as well as the future, balancing what we have now with what is coming.
"Ostara marks the time of the Spring Equinox, one of the two dates of the year when night and day are of equal length. It is the time of resurrection, because after this day the Sun will continually grow in strength until it reaches its peak at the Summer Solstice. This was one of the many Pagan traditions that could not be abolished during the crusades, because the holiday was held during an astronomical event, and such events are beyond the control of mortal men. Seeing that they could do nothing about the equinox itself, the early Christians decided that it would be wiser to alter the festival and adopt it as part of their own culture.
"The focus of this celebration was changed from the resurrection of the Sun to the resurrection of Christ, and it became known as Easter. The date was changed to the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Equinox, but the similarities are so obvious that there can be no doubt that Easter is a Pagan holiday! Even the name Easter was derived from Eostre, who is the Goddess of Spring.
"Currently, one of the most popular traditions of Easter is the "Easter Egg." Historically, the practice of dying eggs for a spring celebration predates the Christian era by more than 1,000 years. The Anglo-Saxons offered colored eggs as a gift to Eostre on the day of the Vernal Equinox. It was once a custom to paint your hopes and dreams on the eggs. These eggs were then buried within the Earth-Mother, so that she would know the dreams and desires of her children.
"Naturally, the egg is considered a magical signal of fertility. In many Pagan cultures, the Goddess of fertility is also the Goddess of grain. It is customary in many areas to make special breads and cakes, which were given to her, with the eggs, as an offering. Eventually most European countries developed some sort of Eostre bread. These were served with cheese and cakes decorated with flowers.
"The Spring Equinox is a time for new beginnings; but as such, it is also a time to say good-bye to the old. Before welcoming the spring, it is traditional to say goodbye to the Winter Lord. You can do this by placing purple candles in your windows and burning patchouli, or some other suitable herb, in your home. Before going to sleep, blow out the candles and wish the Winter Lord well on his long slumber.
"The Vernal Equinox is also the time to give your seeds (and your hopes for the future) their final blessings before they are planted. You may either do a special ritual for charging them, or just let them absorb the energy of your circle during other rites of Spring. Afterwards, they are to be saved until after the next full moon, when you are assured safety from a final frost of the year, or until later in the year at Beltane."
Adding to the above information is this, taken from the Internet site: http://members.internorth.com/~wiccan/seasons/ostara.htm This information is rather lengthy so I will quote just a few excerpts: "Ostara, Journal Entry, Spring Equinox…Mid-Spring, near March 20th. Origins: Ostara is the Anglo-Saxon name for the lunar holiday of nature's renewal pre-dating Easter, emphasizing the maiden aspect of the sunrise Goddess who is represented by fertile rabbits and the symbol of soul as egg. Ostara is often currently merged with "Lady Day," the original equinox holiday, which celebrates the re-emerging fertility of the Earth Mother. Early on, Ostara was a time of culling birds' eggs, a seasonal delicacy. Traditionally it was a time of separating the weaklings from the livestock, sacrificing and symbolically resurrecting them to ensure the strength of the entire herd. Ostara also includes the blessing of sacred natural places and chain dancing around them, as well as decorating and dancing around eggs to manifest springtime re-growth of all living things. Nowadays, modern observers celebrate Ostara either on the equinox or after the full moon as Easter is celebrated.
"Hot Cross Buns: The equilateral cross on this bread pre-dates Christian symbols, reflecting the four seasons and four elements of ongoing life at this holiday of renewal. Hot Cross Buns were imbued with life-sustaining magic, and every family kept a few, hung and dried, to be crumbled into milk when someone became ill. …Some of rabbit lore springs from incorrect superstition. But underneath the superstition lies a deeper core of pagan sacral belief in which symbols of sex, fertility, the moon, re-birth and renewal are intertwined. The rabbit is an enduring symbol of fertility and desire, or "spring fever." In Greece, live rabbits were popular love gifts to connote sexual intentions. European wedded couples in the Middle Ages exchanged rabbit-shaped rings. Rabbit's popularity as a sex charm or fertility totem is related to its natural behavior; rabbit's gestation period is approximately one month, and it tends to be the first animal to give birth in the springtime, besides continuing to have litters of kits during the year. …From the 11th to the 13th centuries, rabbits became reviled for their pagan connections to sexuality, easy fertility, and as the important women's religious symbol: the moon. A carved stone, southern portal of Chartres Cathedral shows a lewd, laughing rabbit-man tempting and carrying off a chaste young woman. An 11th century Latin text catalogues ominous and frightening sights including a sea dragon, a Viking ship, and a rabbit. Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales describes a corrupt monk as sparing no expense in hunting "hares"—a slang term for women. Hares joined the ranks of cats, dogs, toads, crows, bats and owls as supposed Witch familiars. Yet as Christian imagery became more prominent and confident, rabbits' esteem changed again.
"During the European Middle Ages, rabbits were believed to be able to change their gender. During the Renaissance, rabbits were even considered to be able to conceive without the male, and so they became a symbol of the Madonna's virgin birth. A 16th Century painting by Titian shows Mary clutching a white rabbit, illustrating purity and a control of sexuality. The rabbit had become an important symbol of docility, gentleness and submission: qualities the church particularly wished to encourage in its followers. ...rabbits have become an enduring symbol for the beginning of springtime at Easter, and are worth considering for their deeper symbolism when we celebrate Ostara."
Further, from this same web site we read: "The Teutonic Goddess of Springtime and renewal and life is called Eostre, Ester or Ostara. This name is related to estrogen and estrus, and so revealing of this holiday's connection to women's fertility and cycles. As Goddess of the dawn, and pictured with a rabbit or birds, she was likely symbolized by the moon. A Saxon Idol of the Moon of 1605 depicts a pagan worshipper wearing a rabbit-eared head-covering and shoulder cape, and holding a large female-faced moon disk in front, likely signifying pregnancy. The Roman Mother Goddess Juno is related to this Goddess in her maiden aspect. Little else is known about Eostre, and certainly her symbols and meanings were borrowed and altered by the new religions. Ostara represents the rebirth of the earth and all growing things, and historically was associated with sunrise. [Easter sunrise services?] In contemporary imagery, this springtime Goddess is represented by children, especially the maiden. She wears white and can be from age of seven to a young teenager; often portrayed surrounded by flowers, a friend to and able to speak with the animals, with bunnies cavorting at her feet. …Many Easter traditions have their sources in earlier Ostara rituals and celebrations."
From http://lavenderwater.tripod.com/ostara.htm comes this short excerpt: "Vernal or Spring Equinox, the Rites of Spring, Lady Day, Alban Eiber and Bacchanalia. The Spring Equinox occurs between March 19th and 21st. Ostara marks the day when night and day are equal and balanced. The Sun God's strength increases. The Maiden celebrates her fertility. Ostara her symbol the egg and her animal the rabbit is the Norse Goddess of fertility, and it is Ostara that is honored this day. Life begins anew at this time. [resurrection?]"
From http://www.wicca.com/celtic/skasha/ostara.htm comes another short excerpt: "March 21—Ostara—Spring or The Vernal Equinox, Also known as: Lady Day or Alban Eiler (Druidic). As spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals.
"The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre, the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen), whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit.
"The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25, Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time."
From http://www.open-sesame.com/Ostara.html we find this under "Ostara": "Ostara, Eostre, Eostra, Eostrae, Eostar, Eastre, Easter, Estre, Eastre, Austra. Germanic peoples called her Ostara, which means 'movement toward the rising sun'. Anglo-Saxons called her variations of the name Eostre. "Aus', the Indo-European root word from which her name is derived, means 'to shine'. The word East is also derived from this. Ostara gave her name to festivals that celebrate rebirth [resurrection]: the pagan sabbat of Spring Equinox and the Christian holiday Easter. The English word estrus (the state of readiness for mating in female mammals) is also derived from her name. …She is comparable to Freya, and to the Greco-Roman dawn goddesses Eos and Aurora. Ostara/Eostre was worshipped throughout Northern Europe. Today she is honored by Odinists and other pagans as well as Wiccans."
The word "sabbat" in the above paragraph is defined by The World Book Dictionary, Vol. 2, p.1811, as "a midnight meeting of demons, sorcerers, and witches, presided over by the Devil, supposed in medieval times to have been held annually as an orgy or festival; witches' Sabbath."
From http://www.pitt.edu/-dash/ostara.html referring to Ostara, the Germanic Goddess of Springtime, we read: "According to the historian Bede the Venerable (673?-735), writing in chapter 13 of his De temporum ratione, the heathen Anglo-Saxons called the third and fourth months 'Rhedmonath' and 'Esturmonath' after their goddesses Rheda and Eostra respectively. Rheda …has been forgotten. Eostra (Ostara) has fared somewhat better, although there is little direct evidence of her and her followers. The following views, advanced by Jacob Grimm in his Deutsche Mythologie (1835), are generally held by Germanic scholars:
"April, in Anglo Saxon, Old High German, and some modern German dialects, is called 'Ostara's month'.
"All cultures living in temperate (or winter dominated) climates celebrate the coming of spring with major rituals and festivals. One of the most important of spring festivals among pre-Christian Germanic tribes apparently was dedicated to the goddess Ostara, whose name suggests 'east' and thus 'dawn' and 'morning light'.
"The name of Ostara's (Eostre's) festival was transferred to the celebration of Christ's resurrection when Anglo-Saxon and German heathens converted to Christianity. Thus, unlike other European cultures, English and German Christians still attach the name of a heathen goddess to their most sacred holiday: Easter or Ostern. …[The Germans today still refer to Easter as Ostern, as personally evidenced when visiting Germany during the spring of the year a few years ago]. In addition to the name, other popular Easter customs also have heathen origins:
· The belief in the curative properties of water drawn early on Easter morning. These beliefs were common in Germany into the nineteenth century.
· The veneration (if now only playful) of rabbits and hares.
· The decoration of eggs (obvious fertility symbols)."
From http://chantrea.home.attbi.com/ostara.html comes this very interesting information, written by a professed modern day "Pagan" of the festival of Ostara and some of the rites that accompany it: "OSTARA (pronounced O-STAR-ah) is one of the Lesser Wiccan Sabbats, and is usually celebrated on the Vernal or Spring Equinox right around March 21 (although because of its origins, may instead be celebrated on the fixed date of March 25). Other names by which this Sabbat may be known are Oestara, Eostre's Day, Rite of Eostre, Alban Eilir, Festival of the Trees, and Lady Day. The Christian holiday of Easter is very near this same time, (notice the similarity in name?), and is determined as the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox.
"The name for this Sabbat actually comes from that of the Teutonic lunar Goddess, Eostre. Her chief symbols were the bunny (for fertility and because the Ancient Ones who worshipped her often saw the image of a rabbit in the full moon), and the egg (representing the cosmic egg of creation). This is where the customs of 'Easter Eggs' and the 'Easter Bunny' originated.
"Ostara is a time to celebrate the arrival of spring, the renewal and rebirth of Nature herself, and the coming lushness of summer. It is at this time when light and darkness are in balance, yet the light is growing stronger by the day. The forces of masculine and feminine energy, yin and yang, are also in balance at this time.
"At this time we think of renewing ourselves. We renew our thoughts, our dreams, and our aspirations. We think of renewing our relationships. This is an excellent time of year to begin anything new or to completely revitalize something. This is also an excellent month for prosperity rituals or rituals that have anything to do with growth.
"In the Pagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time when the great Mother Goddess, again a virgin at Candlemas, welcomes the young Sun God unto her and conceives a child of this divine union. The child will be born nine months later, at Yule, the Winter Solstice.
"For Wiccans and Witches, Ostara is a fertility festival celebrating the birth of spring and the reawakening [resurrection?] of life from the Earth. The energies of Nature subtly shift from the sluggishness of winter to the exuberant expansion of spring. Eostre, the Saxon Goddess of fertility, and Ostara, the German Goddess of fertility are the aspects invoked at this Sabbat. Some Wiccan traditions worship the Green Goddess and the Lord of the Greenwood. The Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility, bursting forth from Her sleep, as the God stretches and grows to maturity. He walks the greening fields and delights in the abundance of nature.
"Pagan customs such as the lighting of new fires at dawn for cure, renewed life, and protection of the crops still survive in the Southern Americas as well as in Europe. Witches celebrate Ostara in many ways on this sacred day, including lighting fires at sunrise, ringing bells, and decorating hard-boiled eggs which is an ancient Pagan custom associated with the Goddess of Fertility. In those ancient days, eggs were gathered and used for the creation of talismans and also ritually eaten. The gathering of different colored eggs from the nests of a variety of birds has given rise to two traditions still observed today, the Easter egg hunt, and the coloring eggs in imitation of the various pastel colors of wild birds. It is also believed that humankind first got the idea of weaving baskets from watching birds weave nests. This is perhaps the origin of the association between colored Easter eggs and Easter baskets.
"There is much symbolism in eggs themselves. The golden orb of its yolk represents the Sun God, its white shell is seen as the White Goddess, and the whole is a symbol of rebirth. The Goddess Eostre's patron animal was the hare. And although the references are not recalled, the symbolism of the hare and rabbit's associations with fertility is not forgotten. The Spring Equinox is a time of new beginnings, of action, of planting seeds for future grains, and of tending gardens. Spring is a time of the Earth's renewal, a rousing of nature after the cold sleep of winter. As such, it is an ideal time to clean your home to welcome the new season. 'spring cleaning' is much more than simply physical work. It may be seen as a concentrated effort to rid your home of the problems and negativity of the past months, and to prepare for the coming spring and summer. To do this, many Pagans approach the task of cleaning their homes with positive thoughts. This frees the home of any negative feelings brought about by a harsh winter. A common rule of thumb for spring cleaning is that all motions involving scrubbing of stains or hand rubbing the floors should be done 'clockwise'. Pagans believe this custom aids in filling the home with good energy for growth.
"Appropriate Deities for Ostara include all youthful and Virile Gods and Goddesses, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, Love Goddesses, Moon Gods and Goddesses, and all Fertility Deities. Some Ostara Deities to mention by name here include Persephone, Blodenwedd, Eostre, Aphrodite, Athena, Cybele, Gaia, Hera, Isis, Ishtar, Minerva, Verus, Robin of the Woods, the Green Man, Cernunnos, Lord of the Greenwood, The Dagda, Attis, The Great Horned God, Mithras, Odin, Thoth, Osiris, and Pan. …The most common colors associated with Ostara are lemon yellow, pale green and pale pink. Other appropriate colors include grass green, all pastels, Robin's egg blue, violet and white. …Animals associated with Ostara are rabbits and snakes. …"
From http://www.widdershins.org/vo14iss8/03.htm we read from an article called "Beyond Eggs: Ways to Celebrate Oestara" by Melanie Fire Salamander: "…You can also consider Oestara as a time of balance between light and dark. Night and day equally divide the 24 hours now; the dark half of the year gives way to the light. You can perform rituals to ask for balance in your life, and to honor both dark and light. …You can also plant new seeds now. Symbolic associations for Oestara include the element air, the direction east and the time of dawn. [Easter sunrise services?] …We get the name of the holiday from the Germanic goddess Eastre or Oestara, whose symbolism is similar to Aphrodite's, whose associations include Near-Eastern Astarte and Indian Mother Kali and whose consort is the lusty Moon-Hare. …Eggs, a potent symbol of fertility, figured in pagan spring worship long before their appropriation by the Christian Easter. Ukrainian pysanky, blown eggs with patterns drawn in wax and dyed, are pagan amulets for fertility, prosperity and protection. Pysanky have come to us basically unchanged in form from the hunter-gatherers of Eastern Europe. For your own rituals…use Easter egg or natural dyes to color the eggs; your wax symbols and writing will stand out against the dye-color. Next, raise energy in ritual for your goals, charge the eggs with that energy, then peel and eat the eggs, taking in the things you want to manifest. Alternatively, you can mark and dye unboiled eggs, then crack tiny holes in both ends with a pin and blow out the matter inside, keeping the eggshell on your altar. …Medieval Bohemians, after honoring the Christian savior on Easter Sunday, performed a ritual for his pagan rival on the following Monday, or Moon-day."
From http://www.tylwythteg.com/Spring.html, quoting portions of an article entitled: "Facts and Misinformation" we read: "The Spring season of the Spring Equinox each year is unique. It includes:
· A Pagan Sabbat: Lady Day, usually celebrated on or near the evening when the Sun crosses the Equator and enters the astrological sign of Aries. Mainly celebrated by Neo-Pagans.
· Two Christian holy days: Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin and Easter.
· A secular celebration.
· A Welsh festival: Gwyl Canol Gwenwynol. Begins sundown, (March 20th or 21st or the day before the Equinox) Day of the Gorse. Festival of the Goddess Eostar, to whom the hare and the scarlet egg are sacred. Fertility Rites for the early sowing. The Goddess Arianrhod names and arms the Sun God, Llew. The Sun God, Llew, rides forth in splendor.
· Georgia Pagans—Witches & Druids celebrate the Spring Equinox in different ways.
"Gwyl Canol Gwenwynol or Eostre: (pronounced E-ostra, also known as Ostara, Spring Equinox etc.), March 21-23. Time of equal day and equal night. This is often celebrated with eggs (beginnings) and rabbits (fertility). …Night and day are in perfect balance, with the powers of light on the ascendancy. The god of light now wins a victory over his twin, the god of darkness. In the Welsh Mabinogion, this is the day on which the restored Llew takes his vengeance on Goronwy by piercing him with the sunlight spear. Lor Llew was restored/reborn at the Winter Solstice and is now well/old enough to vanquish his rival/twin and mate with his lover/mother. And the great Mother Goddess, who has returned to her Virgin aspect at Candlemas, welcomes the young sun god's embraces and conceives a child. The child will be born nine months from now, at the next Winter Solstice. [the pagan Christmas? See below.] And so the cycle closes at leas to begin anew. …
"There are two holidays of Christianity which get mixed up with the Vernal Equinox. The first, occurs on the fixed calendar day of March 25th in the old liturgical calendar, and is called the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 'Annunciation' means an announcement. This is the day that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was 'in a family way'. Naturally, this had to be announced since Mary, being still a virgin, would have no other means of knowing it. The Church picked the Vernal Equinox for the event because it was necessary to have Mary conceive the child Jesus a full nine months before his birth at the Winter Solstice (i.e., Christmas, celebrated on the fixed calendar date of December 25). Mary's pregnancy would take the natural nine months to complete, even if the conception was a bit unorthodox. …
"The other Christian holiday which gets mixed up in this is Easter. Easter, too, celebrates the victory of a god of light (Jesus) over darkness (death), so it makes sense to place it at this season. Ironically, the name 'Easter' was taken from the name of a Teutonic lunar Goddess, Eostre (from whence we also get the name of the female hormone, estrogen). Her chief symbols were the bunny (both for fertility and because her worshipers saw a hare in the full moon) and the egg (symbolic of the cosmic egg of creation, images which Christians have been hard pressed to explain. Her holiday, the Eostara, was held on the Vernal Equinox Full Moon. Of course, the Church doesn't celebrate full moons, even if they do calculate by them, so they planted their Easter on the following Sunday. Thus, Easter is always the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, after the Vernal Equinox. If you've ever wondered why Easter moved all around the calendar, now you know. …the old and accepted folk name for the Vernal Equinox is 'Lady Day'. Christians sometimes insist that the title is in honor of Mary and her Annunciation, but Pagans will smile knowingly."
If all of the above is not enough to show the pagan connection between Ostara and Easter, note this excerpt from http://www.pantheon.org/articles/o/ostara.html : "In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara is the personification of the rising sun. In that capacity she is associated with the spring and is considered to be a fertility goddess. She is the friend of all children and to amuse them she changed her pet bird into a rabbit. This rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts. From her name and rites the festival of Easter is derived. Ostara is identical to the Greek Eos and the Roman Aurora."
See if you detect any correlation between Easter and Ostara in the following, entitled: "Ostara Meditation" quoted from http://www.webcom.com/~1stead/ostara.htm :
"You are walking in a dense forest. The sky is overcast, and the woods are gloomy, although occasionally, a feeble ray of sunlight makes its way through the clouds and the trees. The branches of the trees are bare, although the tips are just beginning to bud. Old leaves from last year's fall scurry about your feet as an occasional gust of wind blows them about.
"The ground is for the most part bare, with occasional patches of snow in the shade. Hints of new green life make their way up through the snow and dead leaves.
"As you walk, you notice a grove of beautiful white birches, the pale glint of their trunks and branches a pleasant contrast in the otherwise dark woods. You walk towards the birch grove and then start to walk into it. When you are surrounded by the birches, you notice a large tree that looks as if it has been struck by lightning. Its upper trunk has been split in two, the inner wood has been exposed to the air, dead leaves have blown their way into the nooks of the tree, in every way this tree looks as dead as it can be.
"For some reason, you look up from the tree, and are surprised to find a woman present. She is clad all in white, and holds a covered basket. Her gaze is steady, her eyes make you think of clear streams running in the middle of old forests, her skin reminds you of the first fair flower of spring, and her hair is long and unbound. At her feet sits a small brown hare nuzzling the hem of her skirt.
"She gestures, indicating that you should come forward, and you walk towards her. She points at her basket, and lifts the cloth. Inside, you see an astounding array of colored eggs, all colors, all patterns. You can think of nothing better than to pick one of these beautiful eggs, and have it for your very own.
"Your hand reaches out, and she shakes her head, no. You realize that while she wants you to have an egg, she wants you to pick it sight unseen. So, you close your eyes, reach out your hand, and reach into the basket. Eyes still closed, you draw your hand back, holding an egg. You open your eyes, and look upon your egg. What does it look like? Think to yourself what the decoration on the egg means, and why Ostara wants you to have this particular gift for the coming spring.
"After you have looked at your egg, you raise your head to thank the Goddess, and she is gone. You look about for her in vain. You wonder if it has all been a dream. The reality of the egg in your hand tells you otherwise, and you know you have received the blessing of the Goddess Ostara.
"As your attention moves from yourself and to the forest, you realize that the trees now have tiny, but beautifully formed green leaves at the end of their branches. And you notice that the birch tree struck by lighting, the one that looked dead, now has green shoots rising from its split trunk. As you make your way out of the birch grove, it seems that the clouds have lightened, and even as you think this, the sun comes out. Small, barely formed flowers lightly scent the forest floor, birds are singing, and the rich small of moist earth fills your nose. As you make your way out of the forest, you wonder how you have found the place gloomy, it seems so alive, and pleasant to walk through."
Continuing on, we might give close attention to excerpts from an article entitled: "You Call It Easter, We Call It Ostara" by Peg Aloi, quoted from another website found at: http://witchvox.com/holidays/ostara/ostarahistory.html :
"OSTARA (around March 21st but date may vary by more than two days) also known as: Spring Equinox, Ostara, Alban Eiler, Esther, Eostre, Ostarun, ostartag', Eastre, Eoastrae, Oestre The first true day of Springtide. The days and nights are now equal in length as the Young God continues to mature and grow. We begin to see shoots of new growth and swelling buds on the trees. Energy is building as the days become warmer with promise. …
"The egg is one of the [main] symbols of Easter, but as someone who was raised Catholic and who was never told exactly why we colored eggs at Easter, or why there was a bunny who delivered candy to us, or why it was traditional to buy new clothes to wear for church on Easter Sunday, I always wondered about this holiday. As with many of the seemingly unrelated secular symbols and traditions of Christmas (what do evergreen trees, mistletoe, reindeer and lights have to do with the birth of Christ? You might [want to] read 'You Call It Christmas, We Call It Yule' for an exploration of these connections), Easter too has adapted many ancient pagan symbols and customs in its observance.
"Easter gets its name from the Teutonic goddess of spring and the dawn, whose name spelled Oestre or Eastre (the origin of the word 'east' comes from various Germanic Austro-Hungarian words for dawn that share the root for the word 'aurora' which means 'to shine'). Modern pagans have generally accepted the spelling 'Ostara' which honors this goddess as our word for the Vernal Equinox. The 1974 edition of Webster's New World Dictionary defines Easter thus: 'orig., name of pagan vernal festival almost coincident in date with paschal festival of the church; Eastre, dawn goddess; 1. Annual Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, held on the first Sunday after the date of the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21.' The Vernal Equinox usually falls somewhere between March 19th and 22nd (note that the dictionary only mentions March 21st, as opposed to the date of the actual Equinox), depending upon when the first full moon on or after the Equinox occurs, Easter falls sometime between late-March and mid-April.'
"Because the Equinox and Easter are so close, many Catholics and others who celebrate Easter often see this holiday (which observes Christ's resurrection from the dead after his death on Good Friday) as being synonymous with rebirth and rejuvenation: the symbolic resurrection of Christ is echoed in the awakening of the plant and animal life around us. But if we look more closely at some of these Easter customs, we will see that the origins are surprisingly, well, pagan! Eggs, bunnies, candy, Easter baskets, new clothes, all these 'traditions' have their origin in practices which may have little or nothing to do with the Christian holiday.
"For example, the traditional coloring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce. In England and Northern Europe, eggs were often employed in folk magic and women wanted to be blessed with children. …Many cultures have a strong tradition of egg coloring; among Greeks, eggs are traditionally dyed dark red and given as gifts.
"As for the Easter egg hunt. A fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our 'ancient history,' there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the 'Old Religion' were shunned, people took to hiding the egg and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone's gardens and beneath fences and other spots.
"It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone's property, that person was then accused of practicing the old [heathen] ways. …When I first heard it, I was eerily reminded of the way my own family conducted such egg hunts: our parents hid money inside colorful plastic eggs that could be opened and closed up again; some eggs contained pennies, some quarters and dimes and nickels, and some lucky kids would find a fifty-cent piece or silver dollar! In our mad scramble for pocket change, were my siblings and cousins and I mimicking the treacherous activities of children so long ago?
"Traditional foods play a part in this holiday, as with so many others. Ham is the traditional main course served in many families on Easter Sunday, and the reason for this probably has to do with the agricultural way of life in old Europe. In late fall, usually in October, also known as the month of the Blood Moon, because it referred to the last time animals were slaughtered before winter, meats were salted and cured so they would last through the winter. Poorer people, who subsisted on farming and hunting, would often eat very sparingly in winter to assure their food supply would last. With the arrival of spring, there was less worry, and to celebrate the arrival of spring of renewed abundance, they would serve the tastiest remaining cured meats, including hams. …
"…Another favorite part of Easter for kids, no doubt, is that basket of treats! Nestled in plastic 'grass' colored pink or green, we'd find foil-wrapped candy eggs, hollow chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, marshmallow chicks (in pink, yellow or lavender!), fancy peanut butter or coconut eggs from Russell Stover, and of course our Mom always included one of the beautiful ceramic eggs she painted by hand. Like the other holiday where children are inundated with sugar (Hallowe'en), no one seems to know precisely where, when or how this custom began. And why are the baskets supposedly brought by a bunny?
"There are some modern Witches and pagans who follow traditions that integrate the faery lore of the Celtic countries. It is customary to leave food and drink out for the fairies on the nights of our festivals, and it is believed that if the fairies are not honored with gifts at these times, they will work mischief in our lives. …And at Ostara, it is customary to leave something sweet (honey, or mead, candy)—could this be connected to the Easter basket tradition? Perhaps a gift of sweets corresponds to the sweet nectar gathering in new spring flowers? …The forming of candy into the shape of rabbits or chicks is a way to acknowledge them as symbols; by eating them, we take on their characteristics, and enhance our own fertile growth and vitality.
"For clearly the association of rabbits with Easter has something to do with fertility magic. …These cute furry creatures reproduce rapidly, and often! Same with chicks, who emerge wobbly and slimy from their eggs only to become fluffy, yellow and cute within a few hours. The Easter Bunny may well have its origin in the honoring of rabbits in spring as an animal sacred to the goddess Eastre, much as horses are sacred to the Celtic Epona, and the crow is sacred to the Morrigan. As a goddess of spring, she presides over the realm of the conception and birth of babies, both animal and human, and of the pollination, flowering and ripening of fruits in the plant kingdom. Sexual activity is the root of all life: to honor this activity is to honor our most direct connection to nature.
"At Beltane (April 31st –May 1st), pagans and Witches honor the sexual union of the god and goddess amid the flowers and fruits that have begun to cover the land; but prior to that, at Ostara, we welcome the return of the spring goddess from her long season of dormant sleep. The sap begins to flow, the trees are budding, the ground softens, ice melts, and everywhere the fragrance and color of spring slowly awakens and rejuvenates our own life force.
"I have always thought this had a lot to do with the tradition of wearing newly-bought /made clothes at Easter, in pastel spring colors. Wearing such colors we echo the flowering plants, crocus, lilac, forsythia, bluebells, violets and new clothes allow us to feel we are renewing our persona."
And finally, we will give attention to an article simply called "Ostara (Eostre)" taken from this website: http://www.thetroth.org/resources/ourtroth/ostar.html .
"The first mention of the goddess Ostara (Old High German), or Eostre (Anglo-Saxon) comes in Bede's De Temporum Rationale, in which the Christian cleric tells us only that she is a Heathen goddess after whom a month (April, roughly) was named and that during this month a holiday was celebrated in her name. The Frankish Ostarmanoth (recorded in Einhard's Life of Charlemagne) and the surviving Modern German name for the festival, Ostern, support the belief that she was known among the continental Germans as well. Not only was she known, but she must have been well-known and firmly rooted, since her name had to be kept even for the Christian feast. …Her name is closely related to the word 'East'. The same Germanic root is seen in the folk-name 'Ostrogoths', which means 'the Goths of the rising sun'—hence 'East Goths'—or the 'Goths glorified by the rising sun' (Wolfram, History of the Goths, p.25). It may ultimately derive from the Indo-European 'aus'—(shine), from which the Latin aurora and the Greek eos (both meaning 'dawn') came; its general range of connotations are brightness/dawn/East/glory. This suggests strongly that Ostara was seen as a goddess of dawn, as well as a goddess of the spring.
"The time at which our forebears held this feast is not at all sure, except that it was sometime in April for the Anglo-Saxons and Continental Germans. It has been suggested, by Grimm among others, that the original feast may have been the one at the beginning of May, the customs of which were then pushed back to fit the Christian feast. However, the designation of April as 'Ostara-Month' by both English and Germans may tend rather to show that the feasts were separate. Yule and Midsummer, which both fall near the end of the month, have their respective months December/January and June/July designated as Fore-Yule and After-Yule, Fore-Litha and After-Litha; and if the Ostara feast had been the same as May Day, we might have expected to see a matching Fore-Easter and After-Easter. Still, there does seem to be a great deal of overlap between the customs practiced for both of them (fires and fire-leaping, driving out of Winter and welcoming Summer), especially in Scandinavia, where summer does not really seem to begin until May Day and the earlier Easter-feast is less a celebration of the Sun's sig than a promise that the weather will start warming soon. It is quite possible, as well, that the Scandinavians, who did not know Ostara and for whom summer came later in the year, only held the one festival at the beginning of May, and that some of the feast's traditions (for instance, the belief in the witches holding their revels at this time) were simply displaced to the Christian Paschal celebration. …
"Today, we see Ostara as being dressed in white. This may go back to early times; German folklore, for instance, has white-clad women appearing on rock-clefts and mountains at dawn on Easter morning, a belief which Grim suggests is related to the goddess Ostara (Teutonic Mythology, I, p.291). One of these is the white maiden of Osterrode, who appears with a large bunch of keys at her girdle (the sign of a married woman in our forebears' times), who goes down to the brook to wash every Easter Sunday before sunrise. Similar tales are told throughout Germany (Grimm, Teutonic Mythology, III, p.963); Grimm also mentions that hills were particularly holy to this goddess (IV, p.1371). Diana Paxson has suggested that the hare may well have been Ostara's holy beast, slain and eaten only at her festival. …The belief in the 'Easter hare' bringing eggs was first written down in Germany, and seems to have stemmed from that country; German children still build nests for the hare to lay its eggs in. In Germany, also, a rich buttery bread decorated with almonds and currants is often baked in the shape of a hare at this time, and bakery windows are full of hare-breads, cookies and cakes. The Ostara Hare is certainly Heathen; to the Christians, the hare was especially the symbol of lust and not to be encouraged. …
"The use of eggs as signs of life goes back to early times; clay eggs painted white with red and black stripes were found in a child's grave in Worms, and may have served a purpose like that of the apples given to the dead. The hunting of Easter eggs is common throughout America, Germany, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, and parts of France. …In England, it was especially traditional to go up on a hill and roll colored eggs down the hill (Christian, Country Life Book of Old English Customs, p.114). …
"You should eat as many eggs as you can at this time, and especially encourage your children to eat them as well. Various collections of folklore from Germany, Scandinavia, and Orkney tell us that the eating of Easter eggs is said to bode strength, health, and good growing. In A Book of Troth, Thorsson mentions that it is traditional to toss an Easter egg high in the air and try to catch it with shell unbroken; those who do this get great luck for the year to come (p.185).
"It is traditional in many places, especially Germany, to keep Easter eggs and shells all year to ward the family and cattle against harm, and they are also used very specifically as a charm against hail and lightning. In both Germany and Czechoslovakia, an egg which was laid on Thursday was taken, colored green for fruitfulness, and buried in the largest wheat-field. After burial, the egg was flanked on either side with a burning 'hail cross' (Newall, An Egg at Easter, p.248). The Thursday egg is an obvious remnant of the worship of Porr, here invoked in his fertility aspect to bless the fields, and as the God of Storm to protect the new crops against the springtime hailstones, while the burning cross is a Christianized remnant of the old Sun-wheel. Charred sticks saved from the fires were kept and taken home to protect the home against hail, fire, and lightning, and the ashes of the fires were often spread in the fields for fertility.
"Fires were very important to the Ostara rites of our forebears. Among the German-descended inhabitants of Fredricksburg, Texas, as Gunnora Hallakarva recalls, the inhabitants still light bonfires on the tops of nearby hills on Holy Saturday. In Germany, sun-wheels were made from oakwood, straw, and green branches, and brought to the tops of the highest hills. There the wheels were set aflame, and the burning sun-wheel sent rolling down the hill and through the fields of the village below, literally bringing the might of the Sun and the warmth of its rays into the fields which were to be ploughed and sown (Newall, An Egg at Easter, p.326). One common belief associated with the fire festivals was that the men alone were allowed to take part, and women were kept strictly away from the vicinity of the fire, suggesting that men will absorb the might and fruitfulness of Fro Ing or Thonar when they take part in such a rite. …
"Ostara is the time for the Wanic wain-procession of fruitfulness; the Nerthus procession written of by Tacitus took place in the spring, and the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem's verse for Ing has the god coming 'from the East', which also suggests the likelihood of a connection with this festival. Gunnwar Skaoadottir mentions her grandmother-in-law's recollection of how the 'Christ-child' would be brought about in a little wain at Easter—hardly anything having to do with the Christian feast, but bearing more than a slight resemblance to the fruitfulness-rounds of Freyr. In modern times, such a procession can either be done with a Wanic god/ess image set in a wagon decorated with flowers, apples, cakes and so forth (or perhaps even done up to represent a ship) that is pulled about the grounds or the neighborhood—or those who wish to spread their blessings more widely might decorate their cars as if for a wedding, with the lead-car carrying the god/ess image, and drive about the borders of their town.
"In Sweden and southern Finland, the Easter-season is especially thought to be a time when witches are abroad: they were thought to fly off to the mountain Blakulla to 'consort with the Devil' on Maundy Thursday and come back on Holy Saturday. 'People did everything they could to protect themselves from the evil powers at play these days. They lit bonfires, shot off fire-arms into the sky, painted crosses, stars, and other holy symbols over their doors, buried psalters under their thresholds and hung scythes and axes criss-cross over their livestock' (Liman, Traditional Festivities in Sweden, p.9). Some of these rites are clearly meant as wardings, and will remind us of the crosses and knives used by Christians at Yule-time; others, such as the bonfires and perhaps fire-arms, are likelier to stem from Heathen celebration. …
"OSTARA RITE: Usually, we try to hold an all-night watch on Ostara. This can be livened up with symbol, ritual drams, the procession of the 'Easter Witches'—and, most of all, communal egg-painting, confetti-egg making, and so forth. The contents of eggs that are blown out this night can be saved and made into omelets for breakfast. Some of the painted eggs can be hidden for an egg-hunt the next day.
"The rite iself should be done at dawn, [does this smack of Easter Sunrise Services?] outside if possible or with the windows open. The tools needed will be Hammer, horn with drink (mead or cider would be best, but ale or wine are all right), water drawn from a running spring at sunrise the day before, blessing-bowl and sprinkling-twig (birch and pussy willow are the two best choices for this rite), a Winter-effigy or person with a dark cloak and straggly gray wig and beard, three candles (white, red, and black or deep purple/blue), a bowlful of golden apples and a bowlful of painted eggs (one for each person there). Everyone will also need a flexible young branch, by choice birch or willow, for whipping Winter. The Godwo/man should be dressed in white, perhaps with a red, green, or golden belt. Her/his hair, if long enough, should be brushed down to flow freely. If the rite is led by a Godman, there should also be a white-clad idis to bear the horn, apples, and eggs." The rest of the article explains in detail the Ostara rite's wording and chanting, using the various symbols mentioned above
For further in-depth reading/study, this compiler recommends The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hyslop, Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune, New Jersey, Second American Edition, 1959, pp. 103-113, Section II.—Easter.
What does all of the above tell us about the so-called Christian holiday/festival of Easter? The reader can make his/her own conclusions, but it can be easily seen that Easter is no more than the perpetuation of the ancient pagan festival of the spring called Ostara, or Eostre/Easter in honor of the goddess of spring and fertility by the same names(s). How should a true Christian view this holiday? Should we take a compromising position and rationalize that we don't look at this day, and all of the pagan customs that accompany it, the way the pagans of old (and modern day pagans as well) did? Should we perpetuate these customs of coloring the eggs, the Easter Bunny, baskets for its colored eggs, along with candy bunnies, etc. and the various pagan customs accompanying the holiday mentioned in this paper from various lands as part of a festival/holiday supposedly honoring Jesus' resurrection? Should we memorialize his resurrection at all? And, if so, should we mix up the pagan with the so-called "Christian" features of the holiday?
Did early Christians celebrate Easter? The word "Easter" is not even mentioned in any modern translation of the Bible. While the word is mentioned at Acts 12:4 in the King James Version and The New Testament in Hebrew and English, (printed by The Society For Distributing Hebrew Scriptures), as a mistranslation of "Passover", most other translations say "Passover". One I checked used "Pasch" which means Passover, and Today's English Version renders it "Festival of Unleavened Bread" which was the Passover. Even The New King James Version has corrected the old KJV's use of "Easter" to "Passover".
While various festivals (such as "Passover") are mentioned in the Bible, there is not even one instance in the Greek Scriptures (New Testament) showing that Christ's early followers got together or celebrated the day of his resurrection! If that was "the most important day/holiday in the Christian religion" as many reference works suggest, and since the Bible was completed about 96 C.E., some 63 years after Jesus' death, it seems noteworthy that such a holiday, if celebrated, was not mentioned or even suggested by any NT writer!
While Christendom's various religious denominations choose to perpetuate this obviously pagan celebration, even including many of the pagan symbols and rites, the Bible is very clear on setting a precedent on how true followers of God and Jesus Christ should view this and other pagan holidays, practices and customs. Deuteronomy 12:29-31, from Tanakh—The Holy Scriptures we read: "When the LORD your God has cut down before you the nations that you are about to enter and dispossess, and you have dispossessed them and settled in their land, beware of being lured into their ways after they have been wiped out before you! Do not inquire about their gods, saying ''How did those nations worship their gods? I too will follow those practices.'' You shall not act thus toward the LORD your God, for they perform for their gods every abhorrent act that the LORD detests; they even offer up their sons and daughters in fire to their gods."
Now consider the same verses from the New International Version: "The LORD your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying 'How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.' You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods."
Could anything be more clear? Can a true Christian justify in any way joining in with the world and "professed Christians" who do observe pagan-derived days, such as Easter, which clearly has its origin and meaning in the honoring of a pagan goddess? If one who professes to be a Christian is still uncertain as to his mixing in with pagan holidays, customs, or traditions, consider the words of Paul at 1 Cor. 10:19-22 from Today's English Version: "Do I imply, then, that an idol or the food offered to it really amounts to anything? No! What I am saying is that what is sacrificed on pagan altars is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink from the Lord's cup and also from the cup of demons; you cannot eat at the Lord's table and also at the table of demons. Or do we want to make the Lord jealous? Do we think that we are stronger than he?"
Does not Paul make it perfectly clear that true Christians cannot mix Christian truth with pagan (demon) falsehood? Looking further at what Paul said, from the same version as above, at 2 Cor. 6:14-18 we read: "Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together? How can Christ and the Devil agree? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? How can God's temple come to terms with pagan idols? [or, from The Jerusalem Bible: "The temple of God cannot compromise with false gods…"] For we are the temple of the living God! As God himself has said, 'I will make my home with my people and live among them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.' And so the Lord says, 'You must leave them and separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with what is unclean, and I will accept you. I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'"
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION:
This researcher will attempt to summarize many of the highlights of what historians and other recognized researchers have brought to light, as shown earlier in this paper. Several references will be quoted again, but since the various reference works and page numbers have all been acknowledged above, these will not be given again. While a conclusion is given, each reader must decide for him/herself and come to his/her own conclusion, based upon the information provided and the depth of his/her own spirituality, tenderness of conscience, and interest in pleasing our Great God, and Father, Jehovah, and his dear Son, Jesus Christ.
"It [Easter] is the most important holy day of the Christian religion", yet the holiday is not mentioned in the Bible except once in the King James Version, which has in recent years been corrected in the New King James Version, as "Passover". There is no evidence that early Christians kept this or any other holiday except the annual memorial of Christ's death. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (quoted earlier) agrees with this, stating: "There is no indication of the observance of the Easter Festival in the NT or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers." This encyclopedia also states: "The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians. …neither the Lord, nor his apostles enjoined the keeping of this or any other festival." The observance of Easter by the Church is attributed to "the perpetuation of an old [meaning pagan] usage."
The name "Easter" comes from Eostre, a Teutonic goddess of spring and her festival of spring is called Eostur, which honors this goddess. Her German counterpart, Ostara and the spring festival honoring her is known, even today in Germany and other places as "Ostern". The symbols for Eastre/Ostara are the rabbit (Easter bunny) and colored Easter eggs, both of which played important roles in the ancient as well as modern day celebrations of Eastur/Ostern. The hot cross bun and rites at sunrise were also features of this pagan festival of spring.
It was seen that Ostara/Ostern was a time of resurrection, (new life) and one of the many pagan traditions that could not be abolished, so the Catholic Church decided it to be wiser to alter the festival and adopt it as part of their own culture. "The focus of this celebration was changed from the resurrection of the Sun, to the resurrection of Christ, and it became known as Easter. …the similarities are so obvious that there can be no doubt that Easter is a pagan holiday."
"Hot cross buns: the equilateral cross on this bread pre-dates Christian symbols reflecting the four seasons and four elements of ongoing life at this holiday of renewal. Hot cross buns were imbued with life-sustaining magic, and every family kept a few, hung and dried, to be crumbled into milk when someone became ill." Hot cross buns were and still are a feature of Easter.
Indeed, "Many Easter traditions have their sources in earlier Ostara [pagan] rituals and celebrations. The writer, Grimm, and other German scholars generally held to the belief that: 'The name of Ostara's (Eostre's) festival was transferred to the celebration of Christ's resurrection when Anglo-Saxon and German heathens converted to Christianity. …English and German Christians still attach the name of a heathen goddess to their most sacred holiday: Easter or Ostern."
Much is reported on the pagan meaning and significance of the dyed eggs in various pastel colors of spring and their carry-over into Easter as "Easter eggs." The significance of the Easter basket is also given relative to its pagan use and now "Christian" use.
The "feast of the Annunciation (announcement) of the Blessed Virgin Mary" is also discussed. This quote was of great interest: "The [Catholic] Church picked the Vernal Equinox for the event [of announcement of Mary's pregnancy] because it was necessary to have Mary conceive the child Jesus a full nine months before his birth at the Winter Solstice (i.e., Christmas, celebration the fixed calendar date of December 25). …the old and accepted folk name for the Vernal Equinox is 'Lady Day'. Christians sometimes insist that the title is in honor of Mary and her annunciation, but pagans will smile knowingly."
"In ancient Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara is the personification of the rising sun. …associated with the spring and is considered to be a fertility goddess. She is a friend of all children and to amuse them, she changed her pet bird into a rabbit. The rabbit brought forth brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts. From her name and rites, the festival of Easter is derived." "Easter…has adapted many ancient pagan symbols and customs in its observance."
"If we look more closely at some of these Easter customs, we will see that the origins are surprisingly, well, pagan! Eggs, bunnies, candy, Easter baskets, new clothes, all these 'traditions' have their origin in practices which may have little or nothing to do with the Christian holiday." Yet, there they are! Can it be denied that these pagan practices are mainly what Christendom's children throughout the world are taught to focus on?
The fact is that many of the Easter customs, in many cultures, (such as tossing an Easter egg, mentioned by Thorsson, high in the air, and catching it with the shell unbroken, supposedly bringing good luck for the year to come), are filled with superstition: the belief of an actual defense against harm from demons.
Another example of pagan superstition absorbed by many of Christendom's followers is this: "In Sweden and southern Finland, the Easter season is especially thought to be a time when witches were abroad. They were thought to fly off to…'consort with the Devil' on Maundy Thursday and come back on Holy Saturday. 'People did everything they could to protect themselves from the evil powers at play these days. They lit bonfires, shot off firearms into the sky, painted crosses, stars, and other holy symbols over their doors, buried psalters under their thresholds and hung scythes and axes criss-cross over their livestock.'"
Does all of the above appear to you to be practices and features of true Christianity—or superstitious "warding off" of demon forces, pagan practices, now done by pseudo Christians? When we review 1 Cor. 10:19-22 and 2 Cor. 6:14-18, the answer resounds loud and clear! However, you, the reader, are free to decide for yourself.