Over a billion Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter as the most important festival of the year. The festival of Easter has very pagan and bizarre origins.
Over a billion Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter as the most important festival of the year. For the non-religious, the Easter Bunny is a familiar household item. For many but not all denominations of Christians (Jehovah’s Witnesses or Quakers do not celebrate Easter), Easter Day is celebrated as the day when Jesus Christ resurrects two days after his crucifixion on Good Friday.
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Origins of Easter
Officially the events of Easter are said to have taken place between A.D. 26 and 36.
Easter is also linked to the Jewish Passover, which commemorates God (Yahweh) sparing the Hebrews when he killed all the first-born Egyptian children.
The festival began to be called Easter only in the late Middle Ages (1300-1499 A.D.)
Easter is actually a spring festival much older than Christianity.
The name Easter originates from the Saxon Goddess Eostre or Ostara. Many scholars link this to Astarte or Ishtar from Babylon in the Bronze Ages (3300-1200 B.C.). They were Goddesses of fertility, love, war and sex and symbolised dawn. Za ustra means early morning in old church Slavonic and could also be a reference to this ancient origin.
The pagan origin of Easter can also be suspected in the dating system, which is based on the old lunar calendar. After centuries of much debate among churches, Easter is generally observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.
Easter Linked to India
Barbara G. Walker in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets claims Saxon poets knew that Eostre and India’s Great Mother Kali were indeed the same. The Old English epic poem Beowulf, from the 8th century A.D. speaks of “Ganges’s waters, whose waves ride down into an unknown sea near Eostre’s far home. ” (Quote from Goodrich)
Bizarre Rituals of Easter
Czech Republic and Slovakia follow centuries old Easter traditions. Men spank women with a special handmade whip called a pomlázka (in Czech) or korbáč (in Slovak). The woman who has been spanked gives a coloured egg and often a token amount of money to the man as a way of showing gratitude. In some areas the women can pay back in kind by pouring a bucket of cold water on the man. This spanking is just a fun ritual and not meant to hurt or humiliate. It is said to originate from a tradition that women should be spanked so that they would keep their health and beauty during the whole next year.
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In the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland and Sweden small children dress up as witches (like trick or treat of Halloween) and collect candy door to door the Sunday before Easter. For Easter, people paint hard-boiled eggs, rest, watch movies from TV, read books and feast. The Persians had been painting eggs as a symbol of the resurrection of summer at spring festivals since 3000 B.C.
In some parts of Netherlands and Northern Germany people light Easter bonfires (”Osterfeuer” in German and in Dutch: “Paasvuur”).
In Poland people make a lamb out of butter (Baranek wielkanocny), which they then consume.
Among Hungarian speaking people in Hungary, Kárpátalja, Southern Slovakia, Serbia and Transylvania is a tradition of sprinkling perfume or perfumed water in exchange for an Easter Egg on Easter Monday or “Watering Monday” (Locsoló Hétfő).
Other Symbols of Easter
The Easter Bunny, which is very prolific in laying eggs, is a very ancient pagan fertility symbol. In ancient Egypt, Hathor-Astarte lays the golden egg of the sun. People in Germany still have the tradition that the Easter Bunny would lay eggs for good children on Easter Eve.
Photo source: Wikimedia commons
The Easter Lily is a very pagan symbol. It originates from Lillith, the Sumerian creation Goddess (predating Christianity by 5000-6000 years). Lilu symbolises her magical genitals, from which creation happens.
Goodrich, Norma Lorre. Medieval Myths. New York: New American Library, 1977.
Walker, Barbara G. The woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (1983) ISBN 0-06-250925-X