Tuesday, October 17th 2017

Jesus or the Easter Egg: ‘Witch’ Came First?

Ever wonder how bunny eggs, death and resurrection fit together?  A pagan history of  the goddess, and how the church stole Easter


President Obama and his close personal friend

GUEST COLUMN: DANNY KENNY — Ever since I was an angelic little boy, there are many reasons why I’ve always loved Easter. But I would no longer be angelic in good Irish Catholic fashion if I didn’t admit that gorging myself with sumptuous chocolate eggs after a cruel, six-week enforced abstinence (during Lent) from my first love wasn’t a huge part of that.

Even as a child I had trouble equating chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies, but when you’re in a self-induced chocolate coma, such heady thoughts soon pass.

On a deeper level — even though I grew away from my childhood addiction and religion — I still retained a different kind of deeper love for the annual celebration of renewal, faith and hope.

And now, as a Pagan, I value hope more than ever during this transitional cycle that we all find ourselves in. Whatever your credo or beliefs, when you think about the alternative — hopelessness — it just doesn’t bear thinking about.

On a more calibrated, Cosmic Spirit level, what I want to explore is why we celebrate Easter Sunday, and when we celebrate it. Most people are aware that Easter moves each year, but few people recognize the reason for this, or the method and origins of its calculation.

The heavenly clock

astrolobeIn June, 325 A.D., papal astronomers approximated astronomical full moon dates for the Christian church, calling them “Ecclesiastical Full Moon” dates (making the Vatican the first Super Power to lay claim to the Moon), to ensure that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first Vernal Equinox full moon. Of course this was all calculated under the Julian calendar,whereas now we are dated by the Gregorian calendar.

The Vernal Equinox signifies the astronomical, non-denominational arrival of spring and was considered by pagans as the time to celebrate rebirth and renewal as nature resurrects itself from the symbolic “death” it suffered at Winter Solstice.

Of course, the rebirth/resurrection celebration is as old and pagan as Father Time or the Egyptian god Osiris, who has the rare distinction as one of the oldest gods on record to do the whole virgin-birth-death-resurrection trifecta, long before the birth or death of Christ.

But, God/dess forbid, especially for you God trivia folks who like your factual info on your supernatural deities etched in stone – that would be the Palermo Stone, dated approximately 2500 B.C. And, as a bonus, here’s the:

Womb to the Tomb: Top Three Requirements for a Bona Fide Deity —

  1. Osiris is one of the earliest examples in human culture of the dying and resurrected god, linked to the apparent “rebirth of nature” in the Spring. At some time in our cultural development the dying/reborn god (or goddess) was transformed into a psychological interpretation of the need for an eternal spiritual life. The alternative being that without some kind of moral compass; life and death were pointless and therefore living a “good life” and following some kind of moral code was irrelevant.
  2. Osiris was no normal mortal and being born of a virgin was considered “magickal,” which helped make him the first true king of the people. He fulfilled his destiny when he died and then rose from the grave and went to the Egyptian form of heaven.
  3. Osiris’s son, Horus, was known as the “light of the world,” “The good shepherd,” and “the lamb.” He was also referred to as “The way, the truth, and the life.” Coincidentally, his symbol was a cross.

Heresy, the psyche, and the bunny

osiris3bigBut before you scream, “Heresy!” perhaps you should pause to ponder the words of “Bill the Bard,” who rightly said:

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

And speaking of philosophy, Carl Jung recognized this old Egyptian prototype, when he noted “. . .the Christian era itself owes its name and significance to the antique mystery of the god-man, which has its roots in the archetypal Osiris-Horus myth.”

Of course where there’s a god there’s usually a goddess and Easter was traditionally the time to celebrate feminine fertility in all its forms.

Even the word “Easter” derives from the Latin Eostre (oh-star-ah, also the root of the word “estrogen”), the Spring goddess for whom Easter is named, which in Celtic times was known as “Lady Day.”

Ostara → Eostur → Easter

Again for Christian non-believers, The Venerable Bede (672-735 A.D.), a Christian scholar, first venerably validated in his best seller, De Ratione Temporum, . . .that Easter was named after Eostre or Eastre, who was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe” and similar “Teutonic dawn goddesses of fertility [were] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, etc.”

“So what’s up (Doc) with making like bunnies?” I hear you tut-tut. Well, a rabbit’s gestation period is approximately one month, so it tends to be first animal to give birth in the springtime, which explains why it’s an enduring symbol of fertility and desire. You know: “spring fever.”  In fact, all over the world bunnies or hares, along with the Moon, are venerated as sacred symbols of vitality, fertility and the eternal life-force.

‘Witch’ came first?

easterBut what about the eggs?

Well, from the first tales of humans watching life emerging miraculously from eggs – long before Faberge eggs (or Cadbury’s cream ones) – they were held as sacred objects and carried as fertility amulets, often ornately decorated to honor their deities, or given as treasured gifts.

Still you might just think that sounds like a well-hatched plot, so what about the biggest Easter mystery of all — the mythical Easter bunny?

As I’m sure you suspect, as I did for all these years, the Easter bunny is neither modern nor Christian. The truth is that rabbits delivering decorated eggs figured largely in both Greek and Teutonic pantheons. In fact, a central clue in the hunt for the roots of the modern Easter bunny myth can be traced back to the legend of its namesake, the goddess Eostre:

So much did a lowly rabbit wish to please the goddess that he laid sacred eggs in her honor, decorated them to make them fit for a goddess and then presented them to her. So pleased was she that she wanted all humankind to share in her joy and so her devoted rabbit went through the world and distributed these little decorated symbols of the gift of life.

bunsHang on to your buns, there’s more to come. A surviving European Easter custom is the eating of hot cross buns. In days of old the bunmen were a familiar sight on Good Friday, flogging their buns with cries of “Hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!” But these days your buns are sold from bakeries, well before the Easter holiday.

As a Christian symbol, the buns derive from the ecclesiastical consecrated loaves, given in churches to those who could not take communion and were given by the priest to the people after the mass, before the congregation left. Although the cross was later said to symbolize the Crucifixion, it had a more ancient origin. It was also a pagan symbol used by the Anglo-Saxons to indicate the four seasons or the wheel of the year. On loaves baked for the Spring equinox, still we all have our crosses to bear.

So why raise all this pagan resurrection stuff at Easter?

Denial and renewal

easterbunnyThe simple answer is denial, a Catholic trait that has been around since Peter famously denied being Jesus’ homey three times just before Easter, but which the Roman Catholic church has become expert in, in all its forms, ever since.

I have never met a deity, but then again I’ve never met anyone else who has, either.  I honestly don’t care what others believe in, as long as they don’t try to invalidate my beliefs, convert me to theirs, or persecute me in any way that makes me or others feel uncomfortable about not sharing theirs.

Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that the foundation was built on man famous for denial. Because ever since then the church has been in denial about the wrongs it has committed with its own congregation in the past and present, not to mention the persecution and denial of the validity of others to practice their own spiritual faith. My point is that it’s impossible to celebrate renewal if you live in denial.

Be that as it may, this is could sound like a conspiracy thing and we don’t need that at a time of renewal! We all belong to a “conspiracy of hope” and any day we get to see the sun rise (or son of God rise) in the name of peace, it has to be good day for all of us!

So Happy Ostara/Easter or whatever way you look at it, it’s all good, because as the other Elvis (the imposter) said, “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?!”

Danny Kenny is a San Francisco-based writer and a Pagan witch.

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8 Comments on “Jesus or the Easter Egg: ‘Witch’ Came First?”

  1. very deep, eggsreemly tasteful,dark,creamy with a big surprise in the middle!!! was a bit sick when i got to the last piece, oh well we'll indulge again large style next yr.. nice lyrical luxury mr k

  2. I love this meditation and essay, first, for its expressive writing: "chocolate coma" and "the Vatican being the first super-power to lay claim to the moon."

    Thank you Danny Kenny for bringing Osiris, the Venerable Bede and Easter into the same space.

    If I can bring in another citation, "Horace" is also recycled in the ABC TV series LOST. He is the leader of the "Dharma Initiative", a scientific commune on the mysterious island (but not, Easter Island :)

  3. Danny,

    Thank you for this delicious piece. I enjoyed it as I listened to the Osteroratorium, BWV 249 by J.S. Bach. (The Easter Oratorio)

    And speak of the goddess, let's not forget Ishtar, Queen of Heaven from about 5000 B.C.E. and the story of Her son, Tammuz, who had also been Her lover and Her consort. Tammuz who had died when but a youth. He had been given the shepherd's staff by Ishtar, chosen for the sacred marriage rites, given the divine right to shepherdship. Ishtar's priestesses continued her sacred rites each year choosing a new shepherd consort, celebrating the sacred marriage rites, and mourning the chosen shepherd's death.

    It was Gilgamish who challenged Ishtar, with warrior army behind him, so that the consort shepherd king no longer met his death after a year of temple life. To honor the ancient rites and customs, however, annually the king would have his head shaven, his royal robes and jewels removed, be struck with a cord of seven knots and thrown into the river, afterward walking in the sackcloth of mourning for three days of lamentation in memory of the time he would have died.

    So instead of God the father, we have Ishtar the mother, who's shepherd king son dies, yet their is a resurrection of a new shepherd. We also have the 'linen burial cloth' Jesus was wrapped in upon his death and three days of lamentation before resurrection. Sound familiar?

    And for the symbol of the cross, in the traditional medicine of the south the cross is the symbol of the four directions, and in some traditions seven. (north, south, east, west, center, heaven and earth.)

    Happy renewal to all of us!!! Life springs eternal.

  4. Thank you for this most informative article...I feel we should be aware of and keep in mind where Christianity originated, because only by owning the sins of our fathers can we prevent ourselves from making the same grave mistakes..Peace begins with each of us..

  5. I loved this piece! Connecting Easter to its Pagan roots. I remember when it was shown that Halloween was based in the "old religion", and certain fundamentalist Christian no longer allow their children to celebrate it.

    Now Easter?!!! Keep it up and Christians wouldn't have any "holy days" left of their very own! Seriously, thanks for the historical foundations of the "Holiest Time of the Year!

    Luna P.

  6. Wow Carole, that's really good stuff. Thanks!


  7. Carole thank you for sharing your Easter Carole! I love that story and the way you shared it, I actually imagined you reading it with Bach in the bachground, it was like a lovely BBC Radio four moment and you made me a Happy Bunny!
    Bright Blessings.
    Danny Boy

  8. i love how all the myths and religions are based on the same ideas...people are amazing to come up with all this...god isn't dead...we have invented him and he (or she...or just the spirit that exists...rocks!

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