Home / Trending / Think Easter’s symbols are all pagan? Many are more Christian than you think

Think Easter’s symbols are all pagan? Many are more Christian than you think


SALT LAKE CITY — When it involves numerous Christian vacations, it doesn’t take a lot digging to discover beautiful evident remnants of the pagan gala’s they changed nonetheless lingering within the techniques we have a good time as of late.

The similar may simply be assumed about Easter. After all, an egg-laying rabbit doesn’t scream “Passion of Christ.”

But disentangling the origins of contemporary Easter traditions isn’t slightly so minimize and dry, it seems, in part as a result of one of the crucial go-to historic resources who wrote about them might rather well were making little more than trained guesses themselves.

Add to that problems involving ideological agendas, plus a heaping dose of contemporary incorrect information, and the query of the place precisely Easter traditions originated can briefly take you, nicely … down a rabbit hollow.

Here’s a snappy information to one of the crucial confusion:

The identify

According to St. Bede (aka “the Venerable Bede”), a seventh- and eighth-century English monk and creator of “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” Easter is called after the Saxon goddess Eostre.

“Eosturmonath (the Saxon name for the month of April),” St. Bede wrote in his “Reckoning of Time,” “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.”


Braving the chilly rain Alicia Fresques, three, of Salt Lake City, provides the Easter Bunny a hug after the Easter Egg Hunt on the Northwest Multi-Purpose Center in Salt Lake City Saturday April 14, 2001.

The drawback is, different than that lone passage, there’s nary a shred of proof that there ever was once a goddess via that identify, or that she was once ever commemorated via the Saxons with feasts as St. Bede describes. No shrines. No temples. No artwork — not anything to suggest both her or her ceremonial dinner.

Of path, this dearth of proof doesn’t itself disprove St. Bede’s clarification, however it has indubitably left issues open to debate — in spite of the matter-of-fact manner during which Eostre and her worship are frequently described in yearly Easter articles (frequently in perplexing element for a goddess who’s best discussed in passing a unmarried time in historic report).

Another, competing clarification that turns out to make the rounds annually as a well-liked Facebook meme claims the phrase “Easter” is derived from an Assyrian and Babylonian fertility and intercourse goddess named Ishtar, which, coincidentally sufficient, in step with the meme, is in truth pronounced “Easter.”

Now, on this case, there may be no less than proof of this kind of deity, and sure, she was once a goddess of fertility and intercourse — in conjunction with struggle, coverage, childbirth and storms, in step with Scientific American.

The right kind pronunciation of her identify, then again, is almost certainly just about the way it appears to be like: “ish-tar,” or perhaps “eesh-tar.”

But the a part of the meme that can to start with sound like irrefutable proof is that Ishtar’s symbols, it claims, had been eggs and bunnies — issues anciently related to fertility. Boom. Mic drop. Good good fortune explaining that one, proper? Except that they weren’t in truth. Ishtar’s identified symbols incorporated lions, gates and six- and eight-pointed stars, however there is not any proof of any affiliation in any respect with both eggs or bunnies, as handy as that will were.

Moreover, out of doors of English and the German an identical, Ostra, Easter is sort of at all times referred to as via some variation of the Greek phrase Pascha — Paques in French, Pascua in Spanish, Påske in Danish and Norwegian, Paskalyain Turkish, and many others. — which is itself derived from the Hebrew Pesach, or “Passover.” (More on that later.) In different phrases, the etymological hyperlink between the Germanic/English Easter and the Babylonian intercourse goddess Ishtar simply isn’t there.

So the place does the phrase Easter come from? Well, probably the most believable clarification, it seems, doesn’t essentially refute St. Bede’s model — nor, regardless that, does it hinge on it. The phrase “Easter” is perhaps derived from the Indo-European root “aus,” which means “shine,” which is likewise associated with Germanic phrases for “dawn,” “bright,” “clear” and the directional “east.” “Aus” additionally provides us fashionable phrases like “Australia” and “aurora,” in addition to the chemical image for gold, Au (from aurum), in step with etymology blogger John Kelly of Mashed Radish.

Whether that clarification additionally applies to St. Bede’s goddess continues to be up within the air, however the imagery a reputation like Easter brings to thoughts of a radiant solar emerging within the east, marking the rebirth of lifestyles after wintry weather, is undoubtedly suitable for the identify of a vacation commemorating Christ’s resurrection.

The day

Easter is assessed as a “moveable feast,” which means that not like different main vacations equivalent to Christmas or Halloween, its date adjustments from 12 months to 12 months. What day it falls on in particular is decided via a somewhat complex set of rules primarily based round a lunisolar calendar. (“Lunisolar?” you ask. What may well be more pagan than that, proper?)

Basically, it’s the primary Sunday after the primary ecclesiastical complete moon (which isn’t slightly the similar factor as an astronomical complete moon) after March 21.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

A teen performs at Gateway in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 26, 2016.

But it’s not unusual wisdom that Easter is just about only a pagan equinox competition with a skinny veneer of Christianity, isn’t it? Why else wouldn’t it be celebrated presently of 12 months?

Except the timing of Easter is one part that virtually undoubtedly does no longer mirror pagan roots such a lot as Jewish.

Christ’s Crucifixion within the New Testament coincided with Passover, the Jewish vacation commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, which is historically celebrated at the 15th day (a complete moon) of the Jewish month of Nisan — kind of March or April.

Easter, which commemorates Christ’s next resurrection 3 “days” later (what that implies is itself the topic of some scholarly debate), was once due to this fact generally celebrated on or after the start of Passover within the early Christian Church.

However, when precisely the vacation will have to be seen turned into a hot-button factor amongst Christians till it was once in any case addressed in a large manner on the First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. (This is similar council, after all, that still tried to nail down as soon as and for all the character of the Holy Trinity and clean over the quite a lot of doctrinal schisms that had arisen inside of Christendom.)

After numerous dialogue, the machine recently in position was once made up our minds upon in accordance with the Christian trust that Jesus was once resurrected on a Sunday.

At its core, Easter and Passover are nonetheless deeply attached, regardless that. As expressed via Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, “If Passover is largely about Egypt, Easter is largely about Passover.”

The bunny

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Amarie Christensen hugs the Easter bunny at Gateway in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 26, 2016.

If there’s something that would appear to hyperlink Easter to historic fertility rites and paganism, it is the Easter Bunny, or Oschter Haws in German, references to which date again no less than to the 1600s. After all, rabbits (or hares, at the beginning) are a infamous image of fecundity even as of late and don’t appear to have any particular connections to Christianity — or do they?

As if that weren’t sufficient evidence, it’s frequently discussed that hares had been related to the Saxon goddess Eostre. (Yep. She’s again.)

Now, apart from the issue goddess via that identify perhaps by no means existed within the first position, the root for this kind of declare is, if anything else, even more tenuous than St. Bede’s authentic statement concerning the naming of Easter. Every connection with Eostre and hares or rabbits can also be traced again to at least one little bit of hypothesis at the a part of none different than Jacob Grimm (of the Brothers Grimm repute). In his 1835 “Deutsche Myhtologie,” he wrote, “The Easter Hare is unintelligible to me, but probably the hare was the sacred animal of Ostara (the German form of Eostre).” Probably.

Even ignoring that most likely little bit of incorrect information, it doesn’t solution why a bunny would determine so prominently in arguably a very powerful of all Christian vacations.

But rabbits or hares in truth do have a moderately ordinary connection to conventional Christian iconography. According a analysis challenge referred to as The Three Hares Project, it was once anciently and mistakenly believed that hares had been hermaphroditic (because of the feminine’s talent to conceive a second litter prior to the primary has even been born), resulting in the additional fallacious trust that they had been in a position to virgin delivery. Because of this, the emblem of fertility in other places turned into, somewhat satirically, related to the Virgin Mary in medieval Christian paintings equivalent to Titian’s “The Madonna of the Rabbit.”

The egg

Last however no longer least, the Easter egg.


According to Eastern Orthodox traditions, Mary Magdalene is alleged to have introduced cooked eggs to proportion with the opposite ladies ready out of doors Christ’s tomb after the Crucifixion.

Another image of fertility and lifestyles (the Ishtar/Easter meme were given that a lot proper, no less than), eggs function in mythology from all over the sector, frequently in advent tales — a motif referred to as the “cosmic egg” or “world egg.” This contains the whole thing from Vedic to Egyptian to Greek to Norse to Chinese to Polynesian myths.

In different phrases, making a controversy that the Easter egg is a remnant of pagan traditions is sort of too simple.

However, eggs even have their very own in particular Christian meanings.

According to Minna Shkul of the University of Sheffield, in Eastern Orthodox traditions, Mary Magdalene is alleged to have introduced cooked eggs to proportion with the opposite ladies ready out of doors Christ’s tomb after the Crucifixion. When Christ looked as if it would her, the eggs miraculously grew to become blood pink.

In modern day Easter celebrations throughout Eastern Europe, eggs are nonetheless dyed pink the use of beetroots or pink onionskins to commemorate this, and depictions of Mary Magdalene frequently come with an egg.

Moreover, some of the conventional video games performed via Eastern Orthodox kids comes to whacking two hardboiled eggs in combination till one among them cracks. The unbroken egg is alleged to constitute the Resurrection whilst the cracked egg represents the gates of Hell breaking. The winner then says, “He is risen,” to which the individual protecting the cracked egg replies, “He is risen indeed!”

Comment on this story

Another conceivable, somewhat more pragmatic cause of Easter eggs is that eggs (in conjunction with dairy, meat, and many others.) are a number of the meals forbidden all through the six-week length of fasting referred to as Lent that many Christian denominations apply main as much as Easter. Because hens nonetheless lay eggs, then again, households would cook dinner them with the intention to save you them from spoiling after which consume them come Easter.

Of path, it is completely most likely that there is not any unmarried right kind solution to a query concerning the symbolism of eggs at Eastertime as a result of, after all, there is not any unmarried right kind strategy to have a good time Easter, a vacation with an overly wealthy and lengthy (however frequently not-very-well-documented) historical past.


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