From Susan's office
EASTER AND PAGAN SPRING TRADITIONS
EASTER AND PAGAN SPRING TRADITIONS
Spring Rituals, Beliefs and Customs
The pagans celebrated spring each year,
for more than a thousand years before Jesus'birth,
indeed, long before Christianity made its official entrance.
They believed that spring was a time of renewal and fertility.
It represented new life and the resurrection of nature
after the dead of winter. Spring festivals revived
various sexual rituals which honoured the sun's welcoming
and warming rays after the cold of winter
with its short daylight hours, snow and stormy nights.
Spring brought the promise of longer and
warmer days which offered life givng forces
and much need warmth.
The Name Easter
The Pagan goddess of spring and renewal is called Oestar,
from the Scandinavian "Ostra"and the Teutonic "Ostern"or
"Eastre" who were both Goddesses symbolizing
spring and fertility. These goddesses were honoured
on the vernal or spring equinox.
The Phoenicians called her Astarte.
The Assyrians and Babylonians called her Ishtar
which is pronounced just as the Enlish word "Easter".
And in Europe she was known as Ostrara.
The EGG as Pagan Tradition
The pagans had the egg and the hare
as their symbols of spring renewal and fertility long ago.
They had been through the long hard winter and
saw spring as a time of rebirth as the earth was emerging forth
with new life. In truth, they even believed that the egg
had special powers and was put under the foundations of buildings
to ward off evil. Pregnant Roman women carried an egg
as a talisman in the hope that it would tell them
the sex of their child yet to be born.
Man's relationship with the egg come from antiquity
and were deeply rooted. There is an old Latin proverb
which says, "Omne vivum ex ovo" which means, "all life comes
from an egg. After all eggs are laid all over the world.
There are myths all over the world that say
that the whole universe was created out of an egg.
Eggs are and remain an emblem of life and
an allegory for rebirth.
During the pagan Spring festival, the eggs were coloured
with bright colours in attribute to the sunlight of spring.
The "Bunny" as a Pagan Custom
The hare and the rabbit were the most fertile animals
known during pagan times so of course they express
the idea of fertility and new life. Is it any wonder
why they came to be known as the figuration of fertility
in the spring when all of the plants and flowers
come to bear and flourish. Although both are certainly
considered representitives of fertility, it is the hare
that was regarded as the real emblem because the ancients
saw the hare as symbol for the moon
which is another goddess symbol.
The ancient Egyptian name for the hare was 'un'
which means 'open'. Also, legend indicates that the hare
never closes its eyes at all, and not even to blink,
thus remaining always open. The probable reason is that hares
are born with their eyes open and rabbits are born blind.
Fertility was very important for the pagans as it was
the probagation of the spicies and a sign of prosperity.
Both the hare and eggs are related
to the spring goddess Eostre of, you guessed it,
fertility. So she was very much revered.
During the transition period, some people were, as yet,
uncomfortable with this new "christian" way of belief
which in many cases was being convinced upon them
or forced on them with the penalty of death if one did not comply.
In the second century Christians began to see the parallel
to the pagan spring rituals and the resurrection of Christ.
More and more of the pagan customs became assimilated
into the Christian Easter celebrations.
Easter is the religious holiday commemorating
the resurrection of Jesus Christ who Christians believe
is the son of God. It is celebrated at the end of
the Lenten season which lasts for 46 days,
beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday.
The Thursday before Easter is called Holy Thursday
which commemorates the Last Supper Jesus had
with his disciples which was held the evening
before he was crucified. The next day, called Good Friday
is the anniversary of the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Holy Saturday is the "day of the entombed Christ".
It is a day of suspense between two worlds,
that of darkness, sin and death, and that of the Resurrection,
thereby bringing the restoration of the Light to the World.
The Easter Vigil during this evening,
the time period between Good Friday and Easter Day
symbolizes the end of one world and
the complete newness of the era of salvation
inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.
Easter Sunday is the day that Jesus Christ was resurrected
which is why this day is so important
to the Christian Church. It is considered
as one of the two most holiest days
of the Christian calendar.
Although early Christian Churches did not observe Easter,
it was eventually incorporated with much controversy
into the Christian calendar. However the followers
of Jewish origin continued to celebrate Passover
as did Jesus Christ with his disciples
during the Last Supper with the addition of a new custom
of drinking red wine and eating bread.
The Jewish Passover or Pesach which is derived from Pasch,
is another name used by Europeans for Easter
such as the Dutch word "Pasen" which means Easter.
The Easter Vigil includes a blessing of water
which is a sign of purification such as in baptism.
Water that has been ceremonially blessed
is a sacramental. Sacramentals are "sacred signs
which bear a resemblace to the sacraments
[by which the faithful are] given access
to the stream of divine grace which flows from
the paschal mystery of the passion, death, and resurrection
of Christ, the fountain from which all sacraments
and sacramentals draw their power."
[Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 60.
Second Vatican Council Documents]
Eggs for Christians
In the pagan religion, the egg typified
the rebirth of nature. With the advent of Christianity,
the egg came to take on the allegory of
the rebirth of man as exemplified
by the rebirth of Jesus Christ. Likewise,
the Christians also compared the egg
to the tomb from which Christ rose.
Christ said, "I am the Light of the World…"
The Paschal candle represents Christ,
the Light of the World is made from pure beeswax.
This represents the sinless Christ
who was formed in the womb of His Mother.
The wick signifies His humanity,
the flame, His Divine Nature, both soul and body.
Five grains of incense inserted into the candle
in the form of a cross recall the aromatic spices
with which His Sacred Body was prepared for the tomb,
and of the five wounds in His hands, feet, and side.
The bunny symbol first hopped on the scene
in the 1500s as it was mentioned for the first time
in German writings. In the early 1800s edible Easter bunnies
were made in Germany and were made of sugar and pastry.
Later bunnies were made from chocolate and in some places
put into baskets with chocolate EGGS.
The hare probably became a symbol of Easter
because the official date for Easter is established
by the moon. The moon is considered by many goddess religions
as a symbol for woman. May I reiterate here
the importance of the hare by the pagans
as a part of the spring ritual which symbolized fertility.
The Date of Easter
In 325 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine
determined that Easter should be
on the first full moon of spring which begins
with the spring equinox on March 21st. In this way Easter
became a mobile feastday with the possibility of occurring
at the earliest March 22nd or at the latest April 25th.
The churches of the west followed this date.
However the churches of the east which felt closer
to the birth of this new religion and held on strongly
to the old traditions, choose to celebrate Easter
during Passover. Passover after all was observed by Jesus
as he was still Jewish and never told anyone
that he was interested in any other religion.
He also never talked about starting a new religion.
He did introduce a new way of thinking
and being within his own religion.
There were many believers of Jewish background
who had received the knowledge of Christ
with all sincerity and they continued to follow
His example and partook in the Passover
on Nisan 14 each year.
No matter which spiritual customs and traditions
you choose to follow, may it be
special, sacred and joyful.
HAPPY EASTER! ~ HAPPY SPRING!
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Updated July 22, 2011
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