The Pagan Origins of Easter: What Most Christians Do Not Want to Know

I’d like to wish a happy and joyous Easter to our Christian friends today. Our thoughts and well-wished go with you. I always feel compelled to examine the Pagan origins of popular religious holidays because almost all of them have underpinnings from Paganism. I’ve never felt that this negates the Christian meaning for these celebrations. Easter is a good example. While the name “Easter” comes from an ancient Pagan goddess, and the Easter bunny and Easter eggs come Pagan traditions, this is no way contradicts or negates what Christians celebrate on Easter; the resurrection of their lord and savior.

The name “Easter” originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Similarly, the “Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [was] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos.” Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring: “eastre.”

Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of the putative Germanic goddess eponymous of the the Christian festival of Easter. The goddess is attested by Bede as the namesake of the Anglo-Saxon month Ēostur-monath. Bede solely mentions Eostre in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held her in honor during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replacing the “Paschal month.”

Eostre is attested only by Bede and subsequently scholars have produced theories about whether or not Eostra is an invention of Bede’s, and theories connecting Eostra with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs).

In his late 19th century study of the Hare in folk custom and mythology, Charles J. Billson cites numerous incidents of folk custom involving the hare around the period of Easter in Northern Europe. Billson says that “whether there was a goddess named Eostre, or not, and whatever connection the hare may have had with the ritual of Saxon or British worship, there are good grounds for believing that the sacredness of this animal reaches back into an age still more remote, where it is probably a very important part of the great Spring Festival of the prehistoric inhabitants of this island.”

Easter traditions deemed “pagan” by some Reformation leaders, along with Christmas celebrations, were among the first casualties of some areas of the Protestant Reformation. Some Christians (usually, but not always fundamentalists), continue to reject the celebration of Easter (and, often, of Christmas), because they believe them to be irrevocably tainted with paganism and idolatry. Their rejection of these traditions is based partly on their interpretation of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.


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