Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter or Eostre? I'll Eat Chocolate Bunnies While You Decide.

Happy Easter!!!

Time for another holiday fun fact... just because I really, really love fun facts.

"You know... the origins of Easter are pagan."

::cue gasps, evil laughter, and lightning bolts::

You've all heard that comment, meant to snuff all joy out of this day, as though you'll suddenly stop eating all those chocolate bunnies... just because that one person disapproves.

It's a horrible waste of their time, and to be honest, the answer to that comment is rather open-ended, anyway:

"Maybe.  Or maybe not."

::cue a single rain cloud above the head of the person that brought up the topic::

We honestly don't know.

An obsure deity, Eostre is said to be an old Saxon goddess of the dawn, and of Spring.  She's associated with renewal, and of course, with fertility.  A goddess who is believed by many to have hares as attendants. 

The oldest reference to Eostre, the goddess that many people claim Easter celebrates, is a single entry of a treatise called De temporum ratione, written by an an Anglo-Saxon monk that lived between the years 673 and 735:

Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month.  Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.  Thrimilchi was so called because in that month the cattle were milked three times a day... (De ratione temporum, 15: source)
Not a whole lot to go by, right?

We can hardly consider a Christian monk to be a primary source when referring to ancient non-Christian deities and rituals, after all.  Given that he's speaking about something that was considered history in his day, I think this isn't something we can really rely on.

My conclusion?  

With evidence as flimsy as this, there is no proof that Eostre was a goddess.  There is also no proof that she wasn't.  Believe what you want.

Believe what brings you happiness, peace, and joy.

That's what Easter is about, after all... regardless of your religion.

And go eat a chocolate bunny, too.  

They're yummy.

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