I sit here on Sunday, April 24, on what is generally known as “Easter.” In a week, I will be observing the holy time of “Beltane.” Beltane, of course, used to be celebrated as “May Day,” but has fallen out of favor with many segments of our society. For now, though, I’d to talk a little bit about this day. For the last week or so, I’ve been enjoying an ongoing discussion on several different sites that have engaged the origin of Easter. It has been entertaining.
For the most part, studies show that Easter is the adoption of a pagan celebration of a fertility goddess – Oestre; and, that “Easter” is an English version of her name. The hare (not rabbit) and egg are ancient symbols associated with her, as well as other female deities. It has been accepted that the early church incorporated this, and all the other holidays as an effort to make the new religion of Christianity more inviting to pagans. As far as Easter is concerned, Spring is a propitious moment to celebrate not only new life, but also the ressurrection of the new hero-god, Jesus.
Now, something amusing has been going on in various Christian postings. Some folks seem to have initiated an effort to further Christian-ise the Easter celebration by engaging in dubious research, speculation, and apologetics. I have read postings that claim there was no honoring of the goddess Oestre, Ishtar, Ashtoreth, etc., and that fertility had nothing to do with the original celebration. When I, or another, would mention that the god of the Bible forbad the honoring of Ashtoreth (Easter) upon penalty of death, the response was, “That was the Old Testament. The New Testament replaced that.” Evidently, “God” changed his mind. I’ve read that pagans actually came up with their version of the holiday millennia after the church was established as an effort to discredit the church. I’ve read some things that are so ludicrous they don’t deserve repeating. One of the more sensible postings I’ve read simply said that it really doesn’t matter, because it has become tradition to celebrate Easter; to which I can only reply, “Bravo!”
Aren’t all of our holidays, at least in the Western ideologies, tradition? Aside from Jewish and Islamic edicts, the celebrations and seasons we observe are tradition. Christendom has no holidays of its own; all Christian holidays are adapted from another culture’s history. Or, may I say mythology. Of course, that makes Christianity mythology as well.
A problem with this approach is in the dogmatic belief structures of so many when it come to faith issues. As a practicing pagan, and a student of the Western Mystery Traditions, I have seen many criticisms of the Christian belief structure – I daresay I have participated in more than a few. I (and many others) have used research, history, and logic to refute the many claims that Christians use to defend their faith. I (and many others) have validated the term “mythology” when referencing their doctrine. (Of course, a good way to get into an argument with a Christian is to call his/her religion “mythology”.) Unfortunately, many pagans have fallen into much the same trap. We might celebrate the Vernal Equinox as “Ostara,” or “Alban Eilir,” and be ever ready to not-so-subtly remind the good Christian folk that they “stole” our holiday.
But, too few are missing the point: it is a tradition. No god or goddess ever commanded that Ostara be observed, or the rites of any other seasonal celebration. It is simply a part of our mythology, no different than Easter is a part of Christendom’s mythology.
In conclusion, I would like to apologize for any “trolling” I have done to your postings, and would just like you to study your religion a little more. Religion isn’t hard to study, if you don’t allow religion to get in the way. Please accept the fact that all our observances are tradition, and that one is no better or worse than another. I do ask that you leave the gallows, cord wood, and torches at home. May you have a blessed Easter.