On Easter every year many Pagans find themselves… discomforted. Everywhere you turn there are Christians celebrating the resurrection of their revered mystic and savior, Jesus Christ. Few Pagans would begrudge Christians their celebrations, but it’s easy to feel displaced with all the brazenly commercial celebrations and the overwhelming inundation of Easter products in stores. I found myself standing in a long line at the local Walgreen’s on the night before Easter, marveling at the elaborate Easter baskets full of dolls and games and toy tennis rackets. One lady behind me was simultaneously carrying on two conversations; one about the transfiguration of Jesus Christ and the other about her search for the perfect Easter basket in which she could present the new iPhone she and her husband had purchased for their daughter. I’m not even sure what they’re celebrating at this point. Does a new iPhone somehow represent the resurrection of Christ? Maybe, I guess. I suppose if the old iPhone died three days earlier…
For the most part, as I stood in that line I realized that it was a good metaphor for the discomfort many Pagans feel during Easter celebrations. Simply put, it’s different for us. I’ll give eggs and chocolate bunnies. But iPhones? DVD players? Plastic toys? It’s all becoming Second Christmas, isn’t it?
Let me tell you how I spent Easter morning. I took a long walk in the woods near my house, and pondered the Goddess and the renewal offered by Spring. I’ve been quietly celebrating Ostara since the beginning of the Spring Equinox on March 20th of this year. For me it’s a time of thanks, and a time of the year which is rife with promise. The Goddess Ostara, that old Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, the East, Resurrection, and Rebirth, is also the Maiden aspect of the Three-fold Goddess. To me it means the world is young again and all bets are off. It’s time to put your toes in the Earth and renew yourself.
As I walked this morning, I pondered the history of Easter and its connection with Ostara. So many things have carried over from the Old Times. The Pagan Anglo-Saxons made offerings of colored eggs to Ostara at the Vernal Equinox. They placed them at graves especially, probably as a charm of rebirth. The Goddess of Fertility was also the Goddess of Grain, so offerings of bread and cakes were also made to her. These are the traditions I hold dear. I give colored eggs to the children in my community, and fresh bread to my neighbors in the name of the Sacred Ones. There’s no discussion of religion or admonition against those who believe differently than I do. For me, this is a time to celebrate Ostara and the new Spring by living by example. I celebrate the Goddess by showing her spirit in me through my deeds, through eggs that I have colored myself and with an offering of friendship through bread that I made in my own kitchen. Perhaps I’d feel different if I could pick up an Ostara goody basket at the local Walgreen’s. The temptation of convenience is always there.
As I walked in the woods this morning, I came over a rise and found myself sharing the path with an inquisitive white rabbit. It was a good sign which warmed my heart. Rabbits are sacred to Ostara, especially white rabbits. She was said to be able to take the form of a rabbit. No, I don’t think the Goddess visited me in the form of a rabbit. She doesn’t have to. She was with me from the moment I stepped in those woods, and She walked with me the entire time. The rabbit, if anything, was simply a reminder that much has been forgotten. So many of us celebrate our holidays and religious events without ever questioning the meaning behind it all. We celebrate because the celebration itself is our tradition. People seldom think about what it all means. We pile so much detritus on top of the simple truths that after a while it makes perfect sense to celebrate the renewal of the Earth by giving someone an iPhone or a DVD player. Somehow that has replaced the simple joy of feeling the Earth between your toes and feeling the Goddess play with your hair in the form of an unexpected breeze.
I had set out to examine, or at least talk about, the yearly debate which occurs in the Pagan community during Ostara and around Easter. Some people doubt such traditions, such as the belief that the word “Easter” is derived from the name of the goddess “Eostre”, or that Eostre and Ostara are one in the same. This year I’ve heard a new meme that insists that the word “Easter” was derived from the name of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex. There are so many differing opinions and ideas about where our traditions come from that it’s hard to know which way to turn and which ones to celebrate.
In the end, as is my tradition, what has come before does not matter in the least. I find myself unwilling to ponder ancient traditions or fret over their proper observances. The only thing that matters at this moment is that the world is coming alive again. Celebrate it how you like, whether that’s with a quiet, peace-filled walk in the woods or by giving your spoiled nieces and nephews iPhones and DVD players. Go to a church. Kneel and pray. Visit the local non-denominational church and laugh as your kids play in the bouncy castle. Have a well-planned family dinner around a huge table, surrounded by family, love and laughter. Or drop by KFC on your way home from morning services for a bucket of fried chicken to eat later as you watch cartoons with the kids.
The way doesn’t matter. This is the time of year we should celebrate life itself. And while some might frown upon the commercialization of it all, sometimes the best way to celebrate life is by living. If nothing else, let’s take this time and just enjoy being alive. In the end, that is the greatest gift of all. Simply being. And for me, that’s what I tried to remind myself of this morning by my walk in the woods. Somewhere out there is a bird which sings for no greater reason than that its happy to be alive. That is what Spring and renewal is about. We are here. We are still here. And the wheel turns.
Blessed Ostara, my friends. Please accept my apologies if I’ve made no sense with what I’ve written here. I am in an especially good mood, and my thoughts flitter about like butterflies on a breeze. As I close, I think about that white rabbit on the path. I am pleased simply to know that I was allowed to share a moment in that rabbit’s life, and that we were both here to ponder the other. That is the gift of Spring. That is the gift of life. That is what we should be celebrating.