Beyond the Trees

Ostara – The original Easter

This is another post in my “Pagan/Holiday” series and this one might be more controversial because to be blunt, the only way to explain Ostara is to accurately articulate how Christianity absorbed this pagan holiday. This isn’t an anti-Christian piece. We are just going to make some observations here please take it in the spirit in which it is offered, an examination of Ostara.

Ostara is celebrated on the spring equinox around March 21. The feast marks the beginning of the summer half of the year and is a celebration of fertility and was known as a fire festival. It is named after the goddess Ostara who was an integral part of pre Christian Germanic culture that the Christians stole and absorbed it as their own spring feast which was adapted for the Paschal holiday, and was converted to the Christian Easter. Her name is related to the Germanic words for “east” and “glory”; she was the embodiment of the springtime and the renewal of life.

We have to keep in mind that the evolution of holidays/celebrations are fluid there is no fixed “time” for any of it. Easter (check the origin of this name…) is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ but this wasn’t always the case. In the very early years of Christianity Christ’s resurrection was celebrated weekly. It can’t be emphasized enough here how important his resurrection is to the Christian narrative. It wasn’t for another 200 years or so that Christians decided to celebrate it once a year, on or around the largest holiday of their closest rival’s pagans.

May Day is coming soon !

You have to keep in mind that the word in 200 AD was filled with “pagan” religions. Christianity was just another one of many it was not large. However, Christians had one thing many pagans did not. Their drive to further the word of Christ convinced them that others needed to be “converted” part of that conversion, in the early years was copying, and eventually absorbing holidays. Many Christian celebrations happen around the equinoxes, Easter is no exception and so we have this melding.

The Easter bunny? Pagans were decorating eggs at Ostara hundreds of years before Christ. The Hare was a sacred beast for the goddess. Pagan’s of the time decorated eggs and hid them for a hunt to signal to Ostara the hastening of the lands rebirth at spring.  It is a major pagan holiday; the spring solstice marks the beginning of the summer period. This meant you survived the winter which was no small task at the time of its inception. Christianity was very smart in their approach to bringing their religion to the tribes of Europe.

They created their own holidays and celebrations close to those of the pagans and wove in parts of the tradition to help make the transition more palatable for the common person. Conversion at the time was far different then what you see in movies. Most of the narrative around Christianity is born from the medieval period. These events were taking place 1000 years before that. Conversion was a process that was not forced. Christians at the time did not have armies and countries to enforce their will they had the word of god and their will to share it with others, and their wit.

So this year if you paint an Easter egg, or hear of the Easter bunny maybe Ostara will smile down at you and make your spring time fruitful and full of joy and rebirth.

Thank you for coming by and supporting my blog I really appreciate it. Want to see another post like this one? Click here.

Friday: The day of Frigg

Do you ever wonder where these names come from? Why Friday? What does Wednesday mean? Why are the days named the way they are? We aren’t going to do a deep dive, it is Friday after all…. Friday is “The day of Frigg” it was in our distant past a celebration of the goddess frigg. That’s right, another pagan reference we still use today in modern society. There are of course many interpretations of how “Friday” came about, what connotations were used when, and at what time exactly did these meld into an accepted commonality. I can’t unwrap that here, what I can say is immediately after the death of Christ the Roman’s began expanding deeply into the European continent.

They conquered and stayed and what happened over time is the peoples they governed adopted some of their language, the romans adopted some of theirs. Fast forward to the expansion of Christianity which at the time the western world’s universal language was Latin. Again, they adopted some regional words/dialects, the regions adopted some Latin. At some point, let’s say the renaissance somethings began to become universally accepted. Units of Measure, accepted terms of trade, months on the calendar and days. Of course there are pockets of exceptions, not every town in every country in 1500 called Friday, Friday but I think you get the point.

So who is Frigg? She is the highest ranking goddess of the Aesir and wife to Odin, in Norse Mythology. Ya she is a big deal. She is forever tied to Freya and when we study Norse mythology we find in many examples the two are nearly identical in application but separate in name. It’s almost as if there are two deities doing performing the same role, and to a large extend they are. This is explained in the simplest terms of the “tiers” of gods you had in Norse Mythology. There are Aesir and Vanir, so we have duplication as Freya is both, Frigg is Aesir (high god only).

A good resource for more info.

Frigg is a Volva and that means she is a practioner of Seidr which is the Norse magic/power of discerning and affecting fate. Fate, in Norse mythology is arguably the most powerful concept which is the overarching theme of the entire practice, much like faith is to a Christian. Why Frigg is associated with Friday or more accurately Friday with her (and Freyja) is the celebrations of Frigg happened to fall on the 5th day of the Christian calendar at the time of observation. Viking concepts of time weren’t necessarily broken out into days, I know that’s hard for us to imagine now as time is honed down to the second.

Remember in parts of Scandinavia there are days when the sun does not set, and other days where the sun does not come up. Their concept of time was different than others. Regardless we now have Friday as a result “Thank god it’s Friday” or “I can’t wait for Friday” we still celebrate Friday in our culture as a prelude to the weekend. Funny how our Norse ancestors still reach forward in time and gift us with these small, but meaningful rituals.

Thank you for coming by and supporting my blog I appreciate it. Want to see another post like this one? Click here.