Another Easter has passed. Filled with bunnies, eggs (both chocolate and decorated hard-boiled) and baskets. As we well know that according to Christian tradition Easter is known as the day of Resurrection for Jesus Christ. However, Pagans can rejoice in the knowledge that the foundations of this Christian holiday have very Pagan roots.
1. The day Easter falls
As we know Easter falls on different Sunday’s each year, sometime from late March to late April. Why a different date? Wouldn’t the date remain static each year, the same as Christmas? According to a news report by ABC news the method of determining Easter Sunday began according to the first Council of Nicea in 325AD. The council determined that Easter Sunday was the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox. This places the Sunday anywhere between March 25th and April 25th each year.
Pagans everywhere can associate the wheel of the year and the equinoxes with harvests and our spiritual growth, death, and re-birth. Additionally, the moon cycles resonate with us around our beliefs of the goddess. However, neither of these important Pagan principles are mentioned in the Bible.
2. The origin of the Easter bunny
That all to recognizable fabled animal who defies logic in producing eggs (either golden, decorated or chocolate). A popular theory in history is that the Easter bunny originated from Germany where it was known as the osterhase. The original mention of the Easter bunny comes from Georg Franck von Franckenau’s De ovis paschalibus in 1682. The Easter bunny was similar to Santa Claus in that he brought eggs to the children. The Easter bunny was seen as representing fertility and life as bunnies are known to have multiple liters of offspring.
3. The famous Easter egg
Originally having eggs was seen as a treat after Lent. The eggs needed to be hard-boiled to keep in the time before refrigeration, and the decorations were seen as a way of making them special for the holidays. Again the history points to this being a German tra
dition where the decorated hard-boiled eggs were a treat after Lent, and it appears that the Easter bunny would leave the eggs out in his pre-Easter delivery.
In fact the belief is that the origins of the famous chocolate Easter eggs comes originally from the German immigrants who brought the Easter bunny tradition to the US via Pennsylvania in the 1700s. The Cadburry company took the idea (originally the eggs were hard-boiled and decorated) and turned the Easter egg into today’s delicious treat.
4. The name Easter
In fact the name of the holiday, Easter, has been associated with Pagan links. Nowhere in the bible is the name of this holiday listed. However, history has shown some association with the greek god Eostre. Again a Germanic link Eostre was seen as a Saxon god of questionable origin, however it was suggestive of the Equinox and celebrations of new life. Most likely Eostre was celebrated as a time when winter was ending signalling the growth of crops and increasing activity of livestock meaning food would be available soon. Eostre also has links to the Pagan spring equinox hoiday of Ostara.
So while Easter in today’s times is associated strongly with the different Christian faiths, never forget that like all similar celebrations this holiday firmly has roots planted in Wiccan traditions. Again I must re-state that I have no issue or complaint with Christians celebrating this holiday as their own, it just gives me a grin knowing that our two differing faiths have more in common than they would like to believe.
For your reading here are the articles used for this post:
Credit: Pagan Nature Celebrations Credit: Pagan Pride Picnic 2009: Nottingham
According to the 2011 UK census Pagans represented the seventh most popular religious faith according to a report in an article in the Chronicle live. While total numbers of respondents were not stated in the article it did report that 1802 people did identify themselves as Pagan in the North East.
The trouble with this story is the difficulty of identifying what constitutes a ‘Pagan’. Of the 1802 people in the North East who stated they were Pagan 456 ( 26%) identified themselves as Wiccan. However, the actual paths of other Pagan faiths was not identified. The report described Paganism as ” according to the Pagan Federation, the term covers a vast number of traditions or “paths” whose central idea is that there is a divine force inherent in nature. Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organized rituals or their own personal reflection.” While giving a very nebulous idea that we are somehow in-tune with nature the description fails to identify any true religious principles other than our belief in a divine connection with nature.
From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall. There are quite a few spiritual sects which serve to fall under the Pagan definition, but that variability leads to confusion when interacting with non-Pagans. To their credit the Pagan Federation of the UK does try to define and explain Pagans and Paganism on their webpage. The one sentence statement is: “A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” Further on the same page it states that Paganism is “the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.”
The issue with these types of depictions are that they do not address the areas of concern for those who are concerned about our beliefs. Questions like: do you have a moral code of non-violence and piety, why is nature so important within your religion, and how does your religious beliefs teach regarding interaction with other non-Pagan faiths? Could it be that a general discussion of Paganism cannot formulate such central answers to these questions, as has been accomplished for other mainstream religions?
Simply a question, however is Paganism too inclusive? Could it be that our quest to encompass those religions who are nature-centric and do not fall under the umbrella of the major faiths causing isolation and removal from acceptance? Especially in this day and age of sound bytes and definitive statements to explain somewhat complex ideas is Paganism serving to be one of its worst enemies?
Link to the Chronicle live story: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pagans-demand-greater-respect-revealed-3658870
Link to the Pagan federation page on introduction to Paganism: http://paganfed.org/paganism.shtml
Until next time,
In reviewing the recent news feeds regarding the Christian opposition to the Pagan festival I am pleased to report that the opposition seems to be subsiding. If you can recall one of the points I made was that no representative from the Pagan community had been interviewed, or was apparently available during the meeting (that was reported).
Reverend (Pagan) Peter Dybing met with opposing members of the community to discuss and interject balance to the discussion around the Pagan festival. Dybing stated “I am a fire chief. We have fire chiefs, nurses, doctors, and people who deliver your mail. We’re just like any other community… We’re peaceful people. We’re just like any other religion. We don’t want to be molested… we just want to hold our events without any problem.”
Peter Dybing is the task force coordinator of the Lady Liberty League. In a statement made to another report Dybing stated “Lady Liberty League has established a task force with the specific objective of providing education and insight to residents and clergy in the local Pahokee community about Paganism. It is our approach to utilize education and information first in order to avoid escalation of this situation.”
It appears from both reports that public opposition to the event is lessening with the public statements of Peter and the Lady Liberty League. This reinforces the need for valuable organizations like Lady Liberty, and for those who head them, to provide truth and understanding. Through this measured and rational debate we can strive to reach the minds and hearts of moderate Christians in accepting our religion as peaceful, caring, and appropriate for today’s society.
Article from Pagan News Collective, Florida: http://florida.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/05/30/lady-liberty-league-task-force-to-engage-pahokee-community/
Facebook page for Lady Liberty organization: https://www.facebook.com/LadyLibertyLeague
Personal blog for Peter Dybing: http://paganinparadise.blogspot.com.au/
Until next time,
This comes from a posting made by the Pagan Awareness Network on their facebook page last night asking for responses from Pagans about what would make them organize their money and time to attend events. From what I gather the back-story stems from a failed attempt at organizing a Sydney-based event recently which ran at a loss and was not well attended. It started me thinking of what would compel me to take time out of my busy schedule of work, family, and personal interests to attend such an event.
What can a Pagan event give us that we cannot already access ourselves within our own home? Here are some ideas which come to mind:
– Speakers of particular interests and specialities (meditation, Pagan history, spell casting or other ritual formation)
– Group circles, festivals, or gatherings (i.e. full moon, sabbats, rituals)
– Vendors with Pagan-specific products to see/touch/buy
To my mind all are quite valid, however why do we not come out to support our religion and meet with like-minded individuals? From my experience (mainly online) Pagans are very social people- so what is the issue?
Wondering what others may think? It is an interesting point to ponder.
Until next time,