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The Pagan Roots of Easter

8 Apr

Easter is at once both an interesting and a mysterious time. One the one hand it is undeniably one of the most important Christian festivals of the year but on the other it has a wide range of baffling imagery related to it – eggs, the Easter Bunny, chocolate – even the very date of Easter Day differs on a yearly basis. Where did it all come from and what does it mean? Well, the word ‘Easter’ comes from the Old English Eostre or Ostara, the name of a Germanic pagan goddess. During Ostarmonath (the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of April) feasts were held in Ostara’s honour among the then pagan inhabitants of Britain. Ostara was a major deity among the early Germanic tribes (her name still survives in the form of modern Austria) and represented, among other things, the dawn, rebirth and light. As such she was closely related to the Greek Eos, the Roman Aurora and the Indian Usha. Given Easter’s association with the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ, it is also possible to begin to see a connection between this pagan goddess and one of Christianity’s major holy days.

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