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.
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.
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