The Annual Rite Of The Eostre Holiday
By James Donahue
The celebration this weekend is to the pagan
goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre. It was never meant for Jesus.
The Roman Catholic Church scooped up the
trappings of the pagan rites of spring the turned it into a celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. In
essence the holiday marks the end of winter, the rising of Ra, the Sun, and the rebirth of the green and growing foods from
Labeled as the holiest holiday among Christians
and Jews, for different reasons, the celebration has become a complex mixture of bunnies, baby chicks, painted chicken eggs,
candies delivered in baskets filled with fake grass, and ladies wearing new spring hats. Some celebrate by going to church
at sunrise because this is the time Jesus was allegedly supposed to have risen from the dead.
Many of us wonder why Easter has become such
a hodge-podge of traditions ranging from mysterious visits by Easter rabbits that bring gifts and candy to Easter Parades
and the display of Lilies.
The crucifixion, burial and resurrection
of Jesus is part of the story, but this is part of an ancient pagan mythology that dates back to Semiramis, wife of Mesopotamian
ruler Nimrod who declared herself mother of the reborn god Marduke. That was the first Jesus story. After Marduke came the
Persian sun-god Mithra, the Egyptian solar god Horus, the Far Eastern god Buddha, and the Indian god Krishna. All of these
follows died, some of them by crucifixion, then rose from the dead after three days. They promised to return and take all
people who believed in them to heaven. Their life stories parallel the Bible story of Jesus.
It was the Roman emperor Constantine who
advanced the cause of Christianity after his conversion from the Mithraic cult. At the time he came to power, Rome ruled the
known world, from Britain to North Africa. He made Christianity the official religion throughout Europe. From there it spread
to the New World when the Europeans settled North America.
The Americans carried the celebration of
Easter to fantastically new levels than the folks in the old world ever did.
The mixing of rabbits, colored eggs, candy
and the other trappings of the holiday appear to have happened when the Christian holiday got mixed in with pagan rites of
spring, which, when you get right down to it, is what Easter is really all about.
For example, in the Western culture, Easter
falls on the first Sunday following the full moon on or after the spring equinox on March 21. Thus Easter can occur as early
as March 22 or as late as April 25. It may never fall on the real date that Jesus died. That he rose from the dead is a myth
that is yet to be proven. The Jewish Passover is associated with the mix, since the Bible story maintains the crucifixion
occurred during the time of this religious event as well.
The spring celebrations once honored the
pagan goddess Eostre, also known as Ishtar and Oestre. She was the goddess of spring and fertility. Thus the decorating of
eggs, showing of blooming flowers and newborn animals like baby chickens all are symbols of newness and rebirth. The rabbit,
known for its ability to reproduce its numbers quickly, also became a symbol for the fertility of the season.
It is all about sex and the planting of crops
for a new season. Notice too, that the very name of the goddess Eostre, Ishtar or Oestre is updated to the word Easter. The
celebration, if you want to participate, is to her, not to Jesus. It has been so for thousands of years.
There is a story about how the Easter Bunny
came into being. It seems The Goddess Eostre took pity on a wounded bird that could no longer fly and transformed it into
a white hare, then blessed it with the ability to lay eggs in many colors, but only on one day of each year. When the hare
later offended Eostre, she banished it to the stars as the constellation Lepus. The hare was only permitted to return to earth
on Eostre’s feast day each year and give its special eggs as gifts to the children.
The Easter basket had it origins in Germany,
where children traditionally placed their hats in secret places on the night before Easter. If they were good, they were told
the “Oschter Haws” would leave colored eggs and treats in their hats. When the German immigrants came to America,
the hats and bonnets evolved into baskets.
There is another story that the coloring
of eggs is a tradition that dates back to about the Thirteenth Century. It is said that eggs were a forbidden food for Catholics
during the Lenten season, so people painted and decorated them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting. They
were eaten on Easter as part of the celebration.
Easter egg hunts and egg rolling are contemporary
and very American traditions. The first White House egg roll was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878. Some people
think of egg rolling as symbolic of rolling the stone away from the tomb of Jesus.
Easter candy mostly includes egg-shaped chocolates,
rabbit shaped chocolates, and jelly beans, which look like small eggs. Sam Born invented the concept of the marshmallow Peep
in the 1950s and that is now included among the traditional Easter candies.
New Yorkers have held a traditional Easter
Parade since the mid-1800s. This event was made popular by the 1948 film Easter Parade starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland,
with music by Irving Berlin. Now other cities across America also hold Easter Parades.