Sunday, 4 April 2021

The Pagan Roots of Easter

 Easter is known for its bunny rabbits, colored eggs, hot cross buns.But all the fun things about Eater are actually Pagan in origin.
Christians have historically placed and named their holidays after pagan ones,  Christmas and Halloween are two well-known examples of this, replacing Yule and Samhain respectively.
 Easter used to be the Festival of Eostre, originally a Anglo- Saxon word, denoting a goddess of spring, dawn, and fertility,in honour of whom sacrifices were offered about the time of the Passover.According to St. Bede, a seventh and eighth-century  Northumbrian monk and historian, who reported that pagan Anglo-Saxons in medieval Northumbria held festivals in her honor during the month of April.
 Rabbits, thanks to their tendency to have lots of babies very quickly,  so they are a perfect animal to symbolically represent the fertility of springtime, that has been absorbed into Easter. But no one is quite sure how the idea of an “Easter Bunny” that delivers eggs and treats to good children came about. The egg tradition traces back to Germany and eastern Europe, where painting eggs was popular in the spring, and the Osterhare, or Easter bunny has a curious relationship with the Goddess that gave the holiday her name.
 In Germanic mythology, it is said that Ostara a.k.a. Eostre “healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare. Still partially a bird, the hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts.” Eostre, originally a Anglo- Saxon word, denoting a goddess of the Saxons, in honour of whom sacrifices were offered about the time of the Passover.
The origins of Easter are wrapped up in a celebration of seasonal renewal that has taken place in numerous cultures for thousands of years around the time of the Spring Equinox. Some argue that even the Christian version of Easter merely perpetuates an age-old, familiar theme of resurrection rather than honoring an actual person or event in history.
Ishtar, was the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. Her symbols (like the egg and bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols. After Constantine decided to Christianize the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus. 
 For obvious reasons, eggs have been a symbol of fertility for many cultures since antiquity. The egg is literally new life, so what better representation of the spring, when the time of winter, scarcity and darkness had ended. Eggs, like many traditions that were tied to the fertility of the earth and cycles of the season, became associated with Easter as pagan traditions were absorbed.
Easter Eggs or painted eggs are a Middle Ages tradition which is borne out of the Lenten fast. Since people were fasting, eggs weren't being eaten and were stored up until Easter Sunday. During this time, people began to decorate them to give to children. They were often painted red to symbolise the blood of Jesus, and the shell used to represent the empty tomb of the resurrection.
Chocolate eggs first appeared in the 17th century in France in the court of Louis XIV based on this tradition and in 1725, solid chocolate eggs were produced. The first chocolate Easter egg appeared in Britain in 1873 and then in 1875, Cadbury’s created the modern Easter egg we know today.
 According to an ancient “Sumerian legend of Damuzi (Tammuz) and his wife Inanna (Ishtar), [...] Tammuz dies, Ishtar is grief–stricken and follows him to the underworld.” Here, “‘naked and bowed low’ she is judged, killed, and then hung on display. In her absence, the earth loses its fertility, crops cease to grow and animals stop reproducing. Unless something is done, all life on earth will end.”
 Inanna is missing for three days after which her assistant seeks help from other gods. One of them goes “to the Underworld” gives Tammuz and Ishtar “the power to return to the earth as the light of the sun for six months. 
After the six months are up, Tammuz returns to the underworld of the dead, remaining there for another six months, and Ishtar pursues him, prompting the water god to rescue them both. Thus, were the cycles of winter death and spring life.” Since this myth was discovered on tablets dating back to around 2500 BC, Tammuz and Ishtar might be the protagonists of the first pagan Easter story.
Commentators have cited numerous reasons why cultures have chosen to celebrate Easter in some form. Popular themes have included,light conquering darkness; barren winter giving way to spring birth
life conquering death;good vs. Evil, virgin birth and sacrifice
Often, these themes are regarded as part of recurring cycles, like the seasons. Every spring, the world comes back to life. Flowers emerge. Birdsong fills the air. Animals give birth to their young. Death always leads to new life. Some elements, such as the three-day timeline and the hero going to Hell, are also scattered among the myths.
 One writer draws “parallels between the story of Jesus and the epic of Inanna.” This “doesn't necessarily mean that there wasn't a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.”
 Other sacrificial heroes have included Attis, lover of Cybele, both of them gods, but Attis “was born of a virgin.”  “Attis was Cybele’s lover, although some sources claim him to be her son.” Attis “fell in love with a mortal and chose to marry.”
In response to Cybele’s rage, Attis “fled to the nearby mountains where he gradually became insane, eventually committing suicide.” She regained her sanity, and “appealed to Zeus to never allow Attis’s corpse to decay.” Every year, “he would return to life during the yearly rebirth of vegetation; thus identifying Attis as an early dying-and-reviving god figure.”
Other gods associated with resurrection include Horus, Mithras, and Dionysus. “Dionysus was a divine child, resurrected by his grandmother. Dionysus also brought his mum, Semele, back to life.” The Sumerian goddess Inanna, or Ishtar, was hung naked on a stake and was subsequently resurrected and ascended from the underworld.
Hot cross buns are related to “Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it.” Eventually, “defiant cake-baking pagan women” were successful and a cross was added to the buns to Christianize them.
 The only time the word “Easter” is found in the Bible (Acts 12:4), it is there by mistranslation. The word in the original Greek is “Passover.” Jesus died at the time of the Passover feast, but the Passover is not Easter and Jesus did not die at Easter time. Passover is the historical and still-celebrated Jewish festival commemorating the exodus led by Moses of the Hebrews from Egyptian captivity.
 Passover traditions include the consumption of unleavened bread, and Jesus distributed the same to his  disciples at the Last Supper.
 The Passover celebrations also included the sacrifice of lambs. (Hebrew slaves in Egypt marked their doorsteps with the blood of such sacrifices so that the angel of death would pass-over their families.) Similarly, mankind can be saved from spiritual death through the blood spilled by Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross
Unlike Christmas, which is always on the same day each year, Easter is a moveable celebration where the date is set by the Church and computed according to the cycle of the moon.
There have been several attempts to have a fixed annual date, but like many other things tradition has prevailed and the old Pagan calculation remains to this day.
Since the 10th century, there have been 15 attempts by senior Church leaders to regulate the date of Easter.
In 1928 the UK Parliament passed an act that allowed for Easter Sunday to be always the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April, but there was neither agreement with other governments, nor the Roman or Eastern Churches.
In 1990 the Vatican agreed to a fixed date, but there was still no general consensus. And as recently as 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby launched an attempt by the Anglican Church.
Anyway whatever your beliefs I hope your  having a wonderful blessed, peaceful weekend, am sure Cadbury's  and other confectionary merchants are very happy. Stay safe.

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