Modern-day Easter is derived from two ancient traditions: one Judeo-Christian and the other Pagan. Both Christians and Pagans have celebrated death and resurrection themes on or after the Spring Equinox for millennia. Most religious historians believe that many elements of the Christian observance of Easter were derived from earlier Pagan celebrations.
The equinox occurs each year on March 20, 21 or 22. BothNeopagans and Christians continue to celebration religious rituals in the present day. Wiccans and other Neopagans usually hold their celebrations on the day or eve of the equinox. Christians wait until after the next full moon.
Origins of the name "Easter":
The name "Easter" originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Similar "Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [were] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos." 5 Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring: "eastre." Similar Goddesses were known by other names in ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, and were celebrated in the springtime. Some were:
An alternate explanation has been suggested. The name given by the Frankish church to Jesus' resurrection festival included the Latin word "alba" which means "white." (This was a reference to the white robes that were worn during the festival.) "Alba" also has a second meaning: "sunrise." When the name of the festival was translated into German, the "sunrise" meaning was selected in error. This became "ostern" in German. Ostern has been proposed as the origin of the word "Easter". 2
Sunday is named after a Pagan sun god, Solis.
however, accepting the derivation proposed by the 8th-century English scholar
St. Bede, believe it probably comes from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon name of
a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month
corresponding to April. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal
equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a
symbol of fertility, and in colored easter eggs, originally painted with bright
colors to represent the sunlight of spring, and used in Easter-egg rolling
contests or given as gifts.
Pagan origins of Easter:
Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a fictional consort who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. He was Attis, who was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during the period MAR-22 to MAR-25. "About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis ([the older Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection." 15
Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times, Christians "used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation."
Many religious historians believe that the death and resurrection legends were first associated with Attis, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. They were simplygrafted onto stories of Jesus' life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to Pagans. Ancient Christians had an alternate explanation; they claimed that Satan had created counterfeit deities in advance of the coming of Christ in order to confuse humanity. 11 Modern-day Christians generally regard the Attis legend as being a Pagan myth of little value. They regard Jesus' death and resurrection account as being true, and unrelated to the earlier tradition.
Wiccans and other modern-day Neopagans continue to celebrate the Spring Equinox as one of their 8 yearly Sabbats (holy days of celebration). Near the Mediterranean, this is a time of sprouting of the summer's crop; farther north, it is the time for seeding. Their rituals at the Spring Equinox are related primarily to the fertility of the crops and to the balance of the day and night times. Where Wiccans can safely celebrate the Sabbat out of doors without threat of religious persecution, they often incorporate a bonfire into their rituals, jumping over the dying embers is believed to assure fertility of people and crops.
Judeo-Christian origins of Easter:
The Christian celebration of Easter is linked to the Jewish celebration of the Passover. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were observed by the ancient Israelites early in each new year. (The Jewish people followed the Persian/Babylonian calendar and started each year with the Spring Equinox circa MAR-21) "Equinox" means "equal night;" on that date of the year, the night and day are approximately equal. The name "Passover" was derived from the actions of the angel of death as described in the book of Exodus. The angel "passed over" the homes of the Jews which were marked with the blood obtained from a ritual animal sacrifice. The same angel exterminated the first born son of every family whose doorway was not so marked - one of the greatest acts of mass-murder mentioned in the Bible.
Passover was the most important feast of the Jewish calendar, celebrated at the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. (The Equinox typically occurs on March 20, 21 or 22 according to our present calendar.) Most Christians interpret the four Gospels of the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) as implying that Jesus Christ was executed and buried just before the beginning of Passover on Friday evening. A minority believe that the execution occurred on a Wednesday or Thursday. Various dates have been suggested:
The Christian Liturgical Calendar:
Until the 4th century CE, Easter and Pentecost were the only two holy days that Christians observed. Easter Sunday was the main day of celebration, formally recognized by the Council of Nicea in 325 CE. Pentecost Sunday was also observed as a less important holy day, 7 weeks/49 days after Easter. Other occasions related to Jesus' execution were gradually added to the church calendar:
How the date of Easter is determined:
Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after MAR-20, the nominal date of the Spring Equinox. Many sources incorrectly state that the starting date of the calculation is the actual day of the Equinox rather than the nominal date of Mar-20. Other sources use an incorrect reference date of MAR-21.
Easter Sunday can fall on any date from March 22 to April 25th. The year-to-year sequence is so complicated that it takes 5.7 million years to repeat. Eastern Orthodox churches sometimes celebrate Easter on the same day as the rest of Christendom. However if that date does not follow Passover, then the Orthodox churches delay their Easter - sometimes by over a month.
Some dates related to Easter are celebrated on the following dates by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches:
Although these dates were taken from sources that we believe to be reliable, do not rely on their accuracy. We cannot accept responsibility for any errors.
R.W. Mallem's "Easter Dating Method," shows for methods of calculating the dates of Easter Sunday, both for the Western and Orthodox churches. 13
These have been derived primarily from Pagan traditions at Easter time:
Where did the Easter Bunny come from?
The Easter Bunny is a cute little rabbit that hides eggs for us to find on
Easter. But where did he come from? Well, the origin is not certain. In the
rites of spring the rabbit symbolized fertility. In a German book published in
1682, a tale is told of a bunny laying eggs and hiding them in the garden.
1. Yisrayl Hawkins,"Ancient Pagan Religious Expression," at: http://yahweh.com/pages/pw3_96/1_396pg1.shtml
2. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Q & A Set 15, "Why do we celebrate a festival called Easter?" at: http://www.wels.net/sab/text/qa/qa15.html
3. Anon, "Easter: The Pagan Origins of Common Easter Traditions," at: http://www.multiline.com.au/~gregm/easter.html
4. Arnold Gordon, untitled essay at: http://www.misslink.net/zephyr/bible/bibleah.htm
5. Larry Boemler "Asherah and Easter," Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 18, Number 3, 1992-May/June reprinted at: http://www.worldmissions.org/Clipper/Holidays/EasterAndAsherah.htm
6. A. J. Dager, "Facts and Fallacies of the Resurrection," Page 5. Cited in: R.K. Tardo, "Rabbits, Eggs and Other Easter Errors," at: http://syscdj1.gmu.edu/sermons/base/EASTER.TXT
7. J.G. Walshe & S. Warrier, "Dates and Meanings of Religious & Other Festivals," Foulsham, New York NY (1997)
8. B.G. Walker, "The Woman's Encylopedia of Myths and Secrets," Harper & Row, San Francisco CA, (1983)
9. J.C. Cooper, "The Dictionary of Festivals," Thorsons, London, UK, (1995)
10. C. Panati, "Sacred Origins of Profound Things: The Stories Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World's Religions," Arkana/Penguin, New York, NY (1996)
11. J Farrar & S. Farrar, "Eight Sabbats for Witches," Phoenix, Custer, WA, (1988)
12. G. L. Berry, "Religions of the World" (currently out of print)
13. R.W. Mallem "Easter Dating Method," at: http://www.assa.org.au/edm.html
Hosted on Bravenet.com
If you want to
contact us you can email