The modern myth of the Easter bunny

View previous topic View next topic Go down

The modern myth of the Easter bunny

Post by Guest on Sat Apr 23, 2011 3:23 pm

Did you know that Easter was originally a pagan festival dedicated to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, whose consort was a hare, the forerunner of our Easter bunny? Of course you did. Every year the fecund muck of the internet bursts forth afresh with cheery did-you-know explanations like this, setting modern practices in a context of ancient and tragically interrupted pagan belief.

The trouble is that they are wrong. The colourful myths of Eostre and her hare companion, who in some versions is a bird transformed into an egg-laying rabbit, aren't historically pagan. They are modern fabrications, cludged together in an unresearched assumption of pagan precedence.

Only one piece of documentary evidence for Eostre exists: a passing mention in Bede's The Reckoning of Time. Bede explains that the lunar month of Eosturmonath "was once called after a goddess... named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated."

However, even this may only have been supposition on Bede's part. In the same section he says the winter festival of Modranecht was so named "because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night," hardly the statement of a historian with first-hand information.

Eosturmonath may simply mean "the month of opening", appropriate for a time of opening buds and arguably a better fit for the rest of the Anglo-Saxon months. They tended to be named after agricultural or meteorological events, hence "mud-month" and "blood-month". Only one other month is, according to Bede, named after a goddess – Hrethmonath – and like Eostre, there is no other evidence of Hretha anywhere.

Known Anglo-Saxon deities like Woden and Thor are paralleled in Norse and Germanic pre-Christian religion, but there are no such equivalents to Bede's Eostre and Hretha, which strengthens the case for them being inventions. Grimm explored the possibility of a German "Ostara" in Deutsche Mythologie, but in the absence of any primary evidence, all he could produce was conjecture. We're also left wondering why, if Eosturmonath really was named after a pagan goddess, the staunch Christian Charlemagne chose it to replace the old Roman name of April.

There are no images of Eostre, no carvings, no legends, and no association with hares, rabbits or eggs. Yet a swift Google search turns up heaps of repeated Eostre lore. Even the usually formidable Snopes.com allocates Eostre her customary sacred hare, without any historical justification. So where do the tales come from?

The answer is found in the recent history of modern self-identified paganism. Back in the days when Catweazle was on telly, the movement was inchoate, disparate and in urgent need of roots. It was in the difficult position of claiming moral heirship from ancient pre-Christian religion, but having very few credentials to back that up.

Usefully, though, there was already a tendency (stemming from Victorian anthropology) to imagine repressed pagan roots dangling from anything sufficiently working class and folksy; and though academia had moved away from this, pagan revivalism had not. By asserting Christian appropriation of pagan customs as fact, modern paganism could claim both precedence and wrongful treatment, citing Pope Gregory's letter as if that settled it.

Pagan origins were thus claimed for everything from Father Christmas to Morris dancing and the Easter bunny was retroactively recast as Eostre's sacred hare, grafting a faked pagan provenance on to a creature first mentioned as late as 1682. A Ukranian folk tale about the origins of pysanky, painted eggs, was rewritten to star Eostre and her bunny. Some still claim Eostre's name is the root of the word oestrogen, ignoring that human eggs are microscopic and that the real etymology of oestrogen in fact relates to the gadfly.

Today's self-identified pagans are often happy to correct such misrepresentations, yet the grudge-laden narrative of jolly fertility festivals hijacked by Christians persists despite their efforts. One wonders what this country's pagan Celts would have made of it: occupied and massacred by the pagan Romans, then displaced by invading pagan Angles and pagan Saxons who were in turn invaded by the pagan Vikings. Those bloody invasions still have cultural relevance today, much more so than a manufactured grievance over stolen bunnies.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/23/easter-pagan-roots

Guest
Guest


Back to top Go down

Re: The modern myth of the Easter bunny

Post by Guest on Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:38 pm

Yes! sunny

Guest
Guest


Back to top Go down

Re: The modern myth of the Easter bunny

Post by victorismyhero on Mon Apr 25, 2011 9:53 pm

Seren wrote:Did you know that Easter was originally a pagan festival dedicated to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, whose consort was a hare, the forerunner of our Easter bunny? Of course you did. Every year the fecund muck of the internet bursts forth afresh with cheery did-you-know explanations like this, setting modern practices in a context of ancient and tragically interrupted pagan belief.

The trouble is that they are wrong. The colourful myths of Eostre and her hare companion, who in some versions is a bird transformed into an egg-laying rabbit, aren't historically pagan. They are modern fabrications, cludged together in an unresearched assumption of pagan precedence.

Only one piece of documentary evidence for Eostre exists: a passing mention in Bede's The Reckoning of Time. Bede explains that the lunar month of Eosturmonath "was once called after a goddess... named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated."

However, even this may only have been supposition on Bede's part. In the same section he says the winter festival of Modranecht was so named "because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night," hardly the statement of a historian with first-hand information.

Eosturmonath may simply mean "the month of opening", appropriate for a time of opening buds and arguably a better fit for the rest of the Anglo-Saxon months. They tended to be named after agricultural or meteorological events, hence "mud-month" and "blood-month". Only one other month is, according to Bede, named after a goddess – Hrethmonath – and like Eostre, there is no other evidence of Hretha anywhere.

Known Anglo-Saxon deities like Woden and Thor are paralleled in Norse and Germanic pre-Christian religion, but there are no such equivalents to Bede's Eostre and Hretha, which strengthens the case for them being inventions. Grimm explored the possibility of a German "Ostara" in Deutsche Mythologie, but in the absence of any primary evidence, all he could produce was conjecture. We're also left wondering why, if Eosturmonath really was named after a pagan goddess, the staunch Christian Charlemagne chose it to replace the old Roman name of April.

There are no images of Eostre, no carvings, no legends, and no association with hares, rabbits or eggs. Yet a swift Google search turns up heaps of repeated Eostre lore. Even the usually formidable Snopes.com allocates Eostre her customary sacred hare, without any historical justification. So where do the tales come from?

The answer is found in the recent history of modern self-identified paganism. Back in the days when Catweazle was on telly, the movement was inchoate, disparate and in urgent need of roots. It was in the difficult position of claiming moral heirship from ancient pre-Christian religion, but having very few credentials to back that up.

Usefully, though, there was already a tendency (stemming from Victorian anthropology) to imagine repressed pagan roots dangling from anything sufficiently working class and folksy; and though academia had moved away from this, pagan revivalism had not. By asserting Christian appropriation of pagan customs as fact, modern paganism could claim both precedence and wrongful treatment, citing Pope Gregory's letter as if that settled it.

Pagan origins were thus claimed for everything from Father Christmas to Morris dancing and the Easter bunny was retroactively recast as Eostre's sacred hare, grafting a faked pagan provenance on to a creature first mentioned as late as 1682. A Ukranian folk tale about the origins of pysanky, painted eggs, was rewritten to star Eostre and her bunny. Some still claim Eostre's name is the root of the word oestrogen, ignoring that human eggs are microscopic and that the real etymology of oestrogen in fact relates to the gadfly.

Today's self-identified pagans are often happy to correct such misrepresentations, yet the grudge-laden narrative of jolly fertility festivals hijacked by Christians persists despite their efforts. One wonders what this country's pagan Celts would have made of it: occupied and massacred by the pagan Romans, then displaced by invading pagan Angles and pagan Saxons who were in turn invaded by the pagan Vikings. Those bloody invasions still have cultural relevance today, much more so than a manufactured grievance over stolen bunnies.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/23/easter-pagan-roots

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/festivals/may/beltane.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/springequinox.shtml

I would suggest that the early christians forced easter onto a combination of these two festivals: its an easy step to make, both are festivals of renewal and fertility. So the renewal of hope posited by jesus' "sacrifice " would sit easily here....
avatar
victorismyhero
sael curunithron
sael curunithron

Posts : 2603
Join date : 2011-02-15
Location : cheshire

Back to top Go down

Re: The modern myth of the Easter bunny

Post by Guest on Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:52 pm

Quoting Seren, above: "The trouble is that they are wrong. The colourful myths of Eostre and her hare companion, who in some versions is a bird transformed into an egg-laying rabbit, aren't historically pagan. They are modern fabrications, cludged together in an unresearched assumption of pagan precedence."

Sorry Seren but you are wrong. I have known about Ester (Eostre; Ostara) for years but here's a little research I did for your sake and those who are doubtful of the origin of Easter:
----------------------------------------
Facts about Eostre: Easter, as discussed in Britannica Compton's Encyclopedia Easter:
In the 8th century Bede the Venerable expounded the view that the English word Easter (German Ostern) was derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring fertility. This view, however, presumes that Christians adapted pagan names and holidays for their festivals.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ēostre
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic people look up at the goddess from the realm below.
Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath (Old English "Ēostre month"), has given its name to the festival of Easter. Eostre is attested by Bede, 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 in her honour during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the "Paschal month". The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn- was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others.
Linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, *Hausos.Theories connecting Eostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.

Etymology
Ēostre derives from Proto-Germanic *austrō, ultimately from a PIE root *au̯es-, "to shine" and closely related to a conjectural name of Hausos, the dawn goddess, *h2ausōs, which would account for Greek Eos, Roman Aurora and Indian Ushas.[1]
The modern English term Easter is the direct continuation of Old English Ēastre, which is attested solely by Bede in the 8th century.[2] Ēostre is the Northumbrian form while Ēastre is West Saxon.[3]
Bede states that the name refers to a goddess named Ēostre who was celebrated at Eosturmonath, one of the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar. In the 19th century Hans Grimm cited Bede when he proposed the existence of an Old High German equivalent named ōstarūn, plural, "Easter" (modern German language Ostern). There is no certain parallel to Ēostre in North Germanic languages though Grimm speculates that the east wind, "a spirit of light" named Austri found in the 13th century Icelandic Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, might be related.

Bede's account
Eástre
Bede's account
Original Latin:
Eostur-monath, qui nunc Paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a Dea illorum quæ Eostre vocabatur, et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit: a cujus nomine nunc Paschale tempus cognominant, consueto antiquæ observationis vocabulo gaudia novæ solemnitatis vocantes.
Modern English translation:
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."







Last edited by stardesk on Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:21 pm; edited 1 time in total

Guest
Guest


Back to top Go down

Re: The modern myth of the Easter bunny

Post by Guest on Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:57 pm

Hi SD

Not my words, I posted an article from the Guardian, I'll just check that the link is there.

.....yep its there

Guest
Guest


Back to top Go down

Re: The modern myth of the Easter bunny

Post by Guest on Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:19 pm

Hi Seren, can you give the link, I'd like to take a look. Ta.

Got to go now but will pop back later this evening.

Guest
Guest


Back to top Go down

Re: The modern myth of the Easter bunny

Post by Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum