Sunday, March 16, 2008

Easter is Coming! But Where Did it Come From?

Easter is a very ancient holiday, that to the dismay of most conservative religious folk, predates Christianity. The Venerable Bede, a christian scholar from around the year 700, has ascribed the name, "Easter" to the Saxon Mother Goddess, Eostre. As far as the holiday itself, the earliest roots can be directly traced to the Spring Equinox, in the Roman veneration rites of Cybele/Attis.

This religion predates the Christian religion by many hundred years. As the roman society was changing into a more Christianized form, the early Roman Catholic Church kept most of the original Holidays so as to not disrupt the lives of their (mostly pagan) countrymen, and make it easier to integrate their Christian views into the existing culture. The ultimate goal being that of converting the masses in a sort of indirect way. We know this worked, as most of the Western world is now thoroughly Christian, and has lost the true meanings and origins of their Holidays other than the general party line as portrayed by the church.

The Story of Cybele and Attis...

Cybele was one of the great mother goddess figures from the ancient world. She originated from Phrygia, but was adopted by most other Roman area cultures. Metaphorically, Cybele was seen to be the personification of the ripe, fertile earth and of the provider of the life force itself. She also had a lover, Attis (representing plants and animals), who was born of virgin birth and was believed to die and be resurrected every year when the Spring Equinox rolled around. This sounds pretty familiar doesn't it? The early Christians explained it away rather conveniently, by saying the far older Cybele/Attis were created by the Devil to deceive man, proving once again that the old gods having been replaced, typically became the new religion's demons and devils. The holiday has since transformed into a totally Christian holiday, representing basically the same thing (the re-birth of life from the dark of winter) ever since. Though most Christians do not understand this. The see it simply as the day Jesus was resurrected, and the timing of the Spring Equinox being but a coincidence.

It is all very similar to Christmas, but that is another story...

Now, what about those all those silly bunnies and eggs? This brings us back to the namesake of the holiday, Eostre, whose sacred animal was a hare. Back in the old days of Europe, after the fall of Rome, Germanic barbarians took over after the Roman Empire fell. One of their main celebrations was in honor of the goddess Eostre, and was celebrated at Spring Equinox in a manner similar to Cybele/Attis. This custom was found in most areas of Anglo-Saxon influence until around the time that Catholicism took hold. It is still found in the German celebrations of Oschter Haws, where a bunny is said to lay colored eggs in nests to delight children on easter morning. This custom was brought to the United States by German immigrants to Pennsylvania, and is still practiced to this day. The eggs originally being seen as symbols of life and birth.

Many Christian churches, having gotten on the bandwagon to reduce "Pagan" influences, have started having celebrations with names like "Resurrection Sunday", and dropping the name of Easter. By doing this, they are actually being more true to the original Pagan meaning and origin of the holiday, though they do not know it and most likely would not understand if told.

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