Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Fertility Holiday Known as Easter

With Easter coming tomorrow, it seemed fitting to look more closely at the holiday. B Nelson's article helps us realize that Easter is a Fertility Holiday. Bunnies, eggs, Spring, and even the name, all point to its origins long before it was associated with Christ.

Easter is an ancient holiday that predates Christianity, it began as a holiday welcoming the rebirth of spring and celebrated fertility.  At this time credit was given to the Fertility Goddess, Eastre (also referred to as Ostare, Eostre, and Eastur, among other similar names). Spring was a happy time to celebrate those who lived through the winter, and to welcome the traditional time for the birthing of livestock.

In the story she had a lover (or a pet depending what legend you are following), who was a bird. Being magical she changed her lovers form into that of a rabbit, which is why he “lays eggs” to show his original form of being a bird. This is why even today we associated bunnies, eggs, and even chicks, with Easter.

Of course eggs have always been associated with fertility rituals and were used in Fertility rites for many ages. The egg is a symbol of renewal and new growth. Rabbits, as we know, are associated with fertility. In addition to their relationship in the legend above, rabbits and eggs do have a special connection. Rabbits like to sit in “nests” and a birds nest is no different. Many species of birds nest on the ground in the spring, so if a rabbit happens upon such a nest it is natural for it to rest upon the eggs and give the appearance it “laid” them.

To go even further we can see the connection between Easter and Fertility, as we know the name for the female reproductive system came from the Goddess of Fertility. Eastre = Estrous cycle and Estrogen, the female hormone.

In the past groves of Oak trees were planted so that some could be carved to be giant phallic symbols, and celebrated on this occasion. The common greeting was to hold up the middle finger towards another person. We now consider this offensive, but it traces back to a simpler time, when fertility rituals were common and accepted.

Sheep, particularly rams are associated with fertility, interestingly enough, lambs are now associated with Easter.

In the Mediterranean similar fertility rituals took place, the Goddesses name being Cybele and her lover being Attis. Attis is the God responsible for reviving vegetation in the spring. The very interesting thing about this ancient story, is that Attis was born from a virgin mother, and that he dies and is reborn every spring. Does this sound familiar?

Today many people have forgotten the ancient origins and the true meaning of this holiday. Like Christmas (also a holiday that predates the time of Christ) it was too popular for people to discontinue, so the meaning was changed and through the ages many people have forgotten where it came from. New meanings were put on old traditions, and the origins of the Fertility Holiday known as Easter were all but forgotten.

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