Today Mellie said “put your hand up if you think Easter is about Jesus being alive again!” I did not put up my hand. It’s not because I don’t believe in Jesus or God, I’m pretty agnostic about them, but it was because Easter is actually a very ambiguous holiday. Yes, Jesus was crucified at this time and holiday does mean ‘holy day’ insinuating that a god is involved, but there is more to Easter than Jesus. In trying to remember Jesus the festival has became Christian-centric and I think people have forgotten what else there is.
The word Easter actually has Anglo-Saxon roots and is derived the Old-English “Eostre” which is the name of the norse goddess in charge of fertility. She was also celebrated celebrated around this time, and it is possible that Eostre came from a different goddess closer to the equator with a very similar name. Eostres festival was however celebrating the coming of spring rather than the resurrection of Christt. It only became about Christ in England after England was turned into a christian state following St. Augustine’s mission in the seventh century A.D. However there was also an ancient Assyrian goddess called Ishtar who was a goddess about fertility and sex dating two-thousand years before Christ, which is where we also get a lot of the symbolism behind Easter and the name. Since Assyria was one of the earliest cultures after the neolithic age it is therefore seen as a central hub for mythology, religion and culture. The Assyrian stories also talk about a great flood, which in Christianity is the story of Noah’s Ark.
Christians teach that we eat chocolate eggs because it symbolises the re-birth of Christ. If we’re going symbolically I think a snake would better fit the metaphor. Snakes were the symbol of the Egyptian goddess Isis, to the Egyptians the snake was associated with Isis because the flooding of the Nile brought around fertilityy and re-birth of crops because of how he sheds his skin and appears to be “born again”. The snake was resurrected. However I don’t think snakes are as easy to come across in the local Sainsbury’s and they probably don’t taste as good.
Eggs are, however, the general symbol fertility and not officially re-birth. The Greek goddess Persephone was often depicted dressed in a vast quantity of eggs. The myth of Persephone coming back from the underworld is an almost resurrection which is probably why the Christians eventually used it in their symbologies of Christ’s resurrection. The story of Persephone and Ceres is that Persephone was taken to the underworld by her uncle Hades (who was in love with her). Ceres was so upset by this that she refused to let the crops grow. Eventually a contract was drawn out between the two stating that Persephone was to spend six months in the underworld- as that was how many Pommegranite seeds she had eaten in the underworld- and the remaining months were with Ceres in the summer. The story of Perdephones return not only explains the seasons bit was celebrated in spring because that was when the animals and crops were fertile again. Eggs are also depicted on Eostre and other deities but are not directly associated with the crucifixion and re-birth of Jesus Christ and little to none depictions of Christ with an egg are in existence.
I would like to say that this post is not saying that Christianity is wrong, that we should be praying to a different god on this day, or celebrating in a different way. Christianity has adopted a lot of traditions from other cultures. (Christmas has taken Saturnalia and the birth of Mithras and adopted it) and without Christianity we might have lost a lot of these traditions, but in remembering it is about Christ we have forgotten the rest of history. We eat lamb, not because Jesus ate lamb, but because they are associated with spring and new seasons. We have the Easter rabbit because it was an animal associated with Eostre, and why would a bunny deliver eggs in our gardens if it was purely symbolising Christ? There’s more to Easter than meets the eye.
No matter what I hope you are enjoying the holiday.