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Pagan Easter

New Page – 21 April 2004

The origins of Easter – that time of year so assiduously attended to, especially in the aftermath of the financially successful movie, The Passion -- are more than a bit ironic. What might appear as the penultimate moment of a pagan-hating Christianity has in fact decidedly pagan roots. The word Easter itself derives from Ishtar (aka Inanna ), the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess whom the Phoenicians knew as Astarte. [Obviously, moving the “e” from aft to fore, and dropping the “t” in Astarte's name yields “eastar”. This might also be written as “Ea-Star”, where “Ea” was the Sumerian god, Enki .]

More curious is the fact that Astarte was known in the Bible as Ashtoreth, “a non-name formed by misreading the goddess' name Athtarath with different vowels so that the word becomes ‘shameful thing'. What seems to have been shameful to the patriarchal Hebrews was the untrammeled sexuality of the goddess, one of those who ‘conceived but did not bear' offspring for her partners.”[1] In other words, the pagan Easter was to celebrate the rampant sexuality of the goddess – the same goddess who was known (along with her priestesses) as the “whores of Babylon .”

Easter is also the time for celebrating fertility, e.g., the “Teutonic springtime celebrations, which emphasized the triumph of life over death. Christian Easter gradually absorbed the traditional symbols.” In fact, the old English word for Easter, “Eastre”, refers to Ostara, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, fertility, and the rising sun. [2]

Meanwhile, ancient Egyptian and Persian connections abound with the birth and fertility of rabbits (obviously one of the more “fertile” sexy little creatures), eggs, colored eggs, and Easter egg hunts. Of course, the latter were originally actual hunts through nature for colored eggs from various birds' nests – and where the eggs were then ritually eaten. David Johnson [2] notes numerous other connections, giving the Pagan Easter idea what is known in Media circles as “having legs”.

In other words, Pagan Easter is an idea that just won't die.

Or if it does, then it gets reborn shortly thereafter.



[1] Patricia Monaghan, The Book of Goddesses & Heroines , Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul , Minnesota , 1990 . [I love it! St. Paul !]

[2] David Johnson, “Origins of Easter; Brief history of the spring holiday”, available on the web at http://www.factmonster.com/spot/easterintro1.html .


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