What is actually behind Easter?


Ostara – Ēostre – Dawn Goddess…


ostaraĒostre or Ostara  is a goddess in Germanic paganism who, by way of the Germanic month bearing her name is the namesake of the festival of Easter.
Ēostre  is closely related to a reconstructed name of the dawn goddess, which would account for Greek “Eos”, Roman “Aurora”, and Indian “Ushas”.
In his 1835 Deutsche Mythologie, Jacob Grimm cites comparative evidence to reconstruct a potential continental Germanic goddess whose name would have been preserved in the Old High German name of Easter, Ostara.
Grimm details that the Old High German adverb ôstar “expresses movement towards the rising sun”, as did the Old Norse term austr, and potentially also Anglo-Saxon ēastor and Gothic áustr. Grimm compares these terms to the identical Latin term auster. Grimm says that the cult of the goddess may have worshiped an Old Norse form, Austra.
OstaraEástre seems, therefore, to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of up-springing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing.
imagesIn Northern Europe, Easter imagery often involves hares and rabbits. Bonfires were lit at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, the hare gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy … Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing … Maidens clothed in white, who at Easter, at the season of returning spring, show themselves in clefts of the rock and on mountains, are suggestive of the ancient goddess.
John Andrew Boyle cites commentary contained within an etymology dictionary by A. Ernout and A. Meillet, where the authors write that “Little else […] is known about [Ēostre], but it has been suggested that her lights, as goddess of the dawn, were carried by hares. And she certainly represented spring fecundity, and love and carnal pleasure that leads to fecundity.”
In some forms of Germanic Neopaganism, Eostre (or Ostara) is venerated. Regarding this veneration, Carole M. Cusack comments that, among adherents, Eostre is “associated with the coming of spring and the dawn, and her festival is celebrated at the spring equinox. Because she brings renewal, rebirth from the death of winter, some Heathens associate Eostre with Idunn, keeper of the apples of youth in Scandinavian mythology”
Mad as a March Hare:
untitledSpring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature’s fertility goes a little crazy. In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.
According to the Venerable Bede, Eostre was the Saxon version of the Germanic goddess Ostara. Her feast day was held on the full moon following the vernal equinox. One popular legend is that Eostre found a bird, wounded, on the ground late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. But “the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs…the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre.”
Modern Celebrations
Many modern Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Ostara as a time of renewal and rebirth. Take some time to celebrate the new life that surrounds you in nature — walk in park, lay in the grass, hike through a forest. As you do so, observe all the new things beginning around you — plants, flowers, insects, birds. Meditate magnet-rabbit-harvest-moonupon the ever-moving Wheel of the Year, and celebrate the change of seasons.
In some early cultures, the nocturnal hare was actually considered a symbol of the moon. In addition to feeding at night, the hare’s gestation period is approximately 28 days — the same as a full lunar cycle. In European folklore, the rabbit connection to eggs is one based on confusion. In the wild, hares nest in what is known as a form — basically, a nest for bunnies. When the hares abandoned a form, it was sometimes taken over by plovers, who would then lay their eggs in it. The locals would then find eggs in the hare’s form.
The Sacred Animals of Ostara
The Serpent
Kernunnos-Horned-GodThe symbolism of the snake is complex. It can be male and phallic or female, representing wisdom, in touch with the powers of the waters and the underworld, from which it emerges- a symbol of communication between the two worlds. The healing aspect of the snake (for more click HERE)
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