Its Pagan origins
Origins of the name "Easter":
The name "Easter" originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. The Venerable Bede,
(672-735 CE), a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter
was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe.
the "Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [was] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur,
Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos." 1 Their names were derived from the ancient word for spring:
"Eastre." Eostre's sacred animal was a rabbit, and a symbol of the rebirth of life in the springtime was the egg.
Similar Goddesses were known by other names in ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, and were
celebrated in the springtime. Some were:
Aphrodite, named Cytherea (Lady of Cythera) and Cypris (Lady of Cyprus) after the two places which claimed her birth; 8
||Ashtoreth from ancient Israel;
||Astarte from ancient Greece;
||Demeter from Mycenae;
||Hathor from ancient Egypt;
||Ishtar from Assyria;
||Kali, from India; and
||Ostara a Norse Goddess of fertility.
An alternative explanation has been suggested. The name given by the Frankish church to
Jesus' resurrection festival included the Latin word "alba" which means
"white." (This was a reference to the white robes that were worn during
the festival.) "Alba" also has a second meaning: "sunrise."
When the name of the festival was translated into German, the "sunrise" meaning
was selected in error. This became "ostern"
in German. Ostern has been proposed as the origin of the word "Easter".
There are two popular beliefs about the origin of the English word "Sunday."
It is derived from the name of the Scandinavian sun Goddess Sunna (a.k.a. Sunne, Frau Sonne).
It is derived from "Sol," the Roman God of the Sun." Their
phrase "Dies Solis" means "day of the Sun." The Christian
saint Jerome (d. 420 CE) commented:
"If it is called the day of the sun by
the pagans, we willingly accept this name, for on this day the Light of
the world arose, on this day the Sun of Justice shone forth." 7
Pagan origins of Easter:
Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day
of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, the Phrygian
fertility goddess, had a consort, Attis, who was believed to have been born via
a virgin birth. Attis was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during
the period MAR-22 to MAR-25.
Gerald L. Berry, author of "Religions of the World," wrote:
"About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to
Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on
Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis (the older Tammuz,
Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving
vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day
of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the
Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same
geographical area in ancient times, Christians:
"... used to celebrate the death and
resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly
about which of their gods was the true prototype, and which the imitation."
Many religious historians and liberal theologians believe that the death and resurrection legends were first
associated with Attis, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. They were simply
grafted onto stories of Jesus' life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to Pagans.
Others suggest that many of the events in Jesus' life that were recorded in the
gospels were lifted from the life of Krishna, the
second person of the Hindu Trinity, or were taken from the life of Horus, an Egyptian god. Ancient Christians had an alternative explanation; they claimed that Satan had created
counterfeit deities in advance of the coming of Christ in order to confuse humanity. 4
Modern-day Christians generally regard the Attis and Horus legends as being a Pagan myths of little
value with no connection to Jesus. They regard Jesus' death and resurrection account as being true, and unrelated to
the earlier tradition.
Wiccans and other modern-day
Neopagans continue to celebrate the Spring Equinox as one of their 8
yearly Sabbats (holy days of celebration). Near the Mediterranean, this is a time of
sprouting of the summer's crop; farther north, it is the time for seeding. Their rituals
at the Spring Equinox are related primarily to the fertility of the crops and to the
balance of the day and night times. In those places where Wiccans can safely celebrate the Sabbat out of
doors without threat of religious persecution, they often incorporate a bonfire into their
rituals, jumping over the dying embers is believed to assure fertility of people and crops.
References used in the above essay:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Larry Boemler "Asherah and Easter," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol.
18, Number 3, 1992-May/June reprinted at: http://www.worldmissions.org/
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Q & A Set 15, "Why do we celebrate a
festival called Easter?" at: http://www.wels.net/
Gerald L. Berry, "Religions of the World," Barns & Noble, (1956).
J Farrar & S. Farrar, "Eight Sabbats for Witches," Phoenix,
Custer, WA, (1988).
"Sunna," TeenWitch at:
"Dies Solis and other Latin Names for the Days of the Week," Logo
Files, at: http://www.logofiles.com/
"Sunday Observance," Latin Mass News, at:
"Aphrodite," Wikipedia, as on 2012-MAR-26, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
Copyright 1999 to 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-MAR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson