Every year since time immemorial, Pagans and Wiccans and witchy folk have told others the tale of how Easter is really a Pagan festival to the Goddess Eostre which was co-opted by the Xtians.
And every year, writer Adrian Bott attempts to point out that there’s bugger all evidence for this being true and most of what is ‘known’ about the details is entirely made up. This year, he’s kindly given the full details on his LJ blog.
The total sum of available information about Eostre amounts to two lines of text.
The Venerable Bede, in his De Temporum Ratione (“On the Reckoning of Time”), explains the naming of the Easter festival as follows:
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.
And that is all there is. There is no hare connection, no suggestion of a bunny story, no link to eggs. Bede’s passage is the only evidence we have that there ever was a goddess called Eostre; worse still, he may even have been making it up.
And to cap it off, an awful lot of the popularising of the Pagan Easter myth is being done by… fundamentalist Xtians:
This is because their version of Christianity does not accept Easter, or indeed anything else that is not found in the Bible. Associating Easter with paganism has allowed them to villify secular traditions, and presumably become more truly Christian in their own minds. Christians are thus responsible for some of the more ludicrous suggestions concerning Easter and paganism, such as an attempt to identify Eostre with Ishtar, and the assertion that ‘Eostre’s hare was the shape that Celts imagined on the surface of the full moon’, which manages to garble together Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Chinese myth in one sentence. (Pagan Origins of Holidays). It seems that not a year goes by without more spurious Eostre nonsense being thrown on to the heap, a far cry indeed from Bede’s two sparse lines.
Enjoy your chocolate eggys and bunnies, folks – but don’t fall for the mythologising. Or, if you have to commemorate some spiritual aspect to the festival that has nothing to do with the Jesus-man, why not follow the Way of Saint Bill of Hicks?
(And for the non-Americans, click to find out what a Lincoln Log is!)