Serena Freewomyn

The Pagan Origins of Easter

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | March 22, 2008 4:29 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Easter, Ostara, Pagan, Wicca

When I was a child, it never easter_bunnies.jpgmade sense to me why we hunted for colored eggs on Easter and ate chocolate or marshmellow bunnies, because the holiday was supposed to be about Jesus rising from the dead. What in the world do either of these things have to do with one another?

As I learn more about Wicca, I'm so excited when I uncover the ancient Pagan traditions that were coopted by Christianity. Easter is one of those traditions. Ostara (or Eostra's Day) is the celebration of the Spring Equinox. This is when the forces of night give way to the power of the Sun, and the days begin to lengthen. It is a time of fertility, which is symbolized by the rabbit and the egg. But why did the early Christian Church choose to align its holy days with the Pagan ones?

According to

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." 3

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."

This makes a lot of sense, especially in light of what we know about the Pagan origins of Christmas. It was easier for the early Church to incorporate the old ways into their own religious celebrations than it was for them to try to eradicate them outright (this isn't to say they didn't try). This is why we see practices such as Santaria in the Carribean, where Catholic Saints take on the form and powers of the local gods and the ancient traditions are incorporated into the new.

So as you eat your candy bunnies and decorate your eggs this weekend, think about this: Spring is a time for new beginnings. Why not celebrate by tending your garden, or casting spells to help realize your hopes for the future? Decorate your home with flowers to honor the goddess, like daffodils, irises, peonies, or narcissus. Or better yet, take a walk to gather the Spring wildflowers that are in bloom. In my opinion, worshipping the Creator outdoors makes so much more sense than sitting in a wooden pew.

Happy Easter or Ostara, whatever you choose to celebrate. Blessed Be!

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Thanks for sharing this bit of history, Serena!

Why Serena, you little witch. Merry meet!

I think part of the reasons the early church coopted the pagan holidays was that it made it easier for them to spread and control their own doctrines. If the people were used to having a celebration on say Samhain, then make one for christianity and brutally repress the real meaning of the day.

Face it, is it a coincidence that christmas is near the winter solstis?

Thank you for clearing up Ostara.

And a happy Beltane to you.

Blessed be.

Insightful and informative, Serena. Thanks! The Christians always need to be reminded how much they stole from the pagans...especially the Catholic Church.

The Christians certainly stole a lot from the Roman and German pagans as the set of Easter traditions were developed, but the date of Easter was set before Christianity even spread to Europe--it's set by Passover. The Last Supper is a Seder, after all.

So it was probably more of a merging of multiple holidays happening, and adding more detail and traditions, as German, Roman, Zoroastrian and Jewish traditions merged into medieval Christianity.

Christmas pretty much is a direct swipe from the pagan solstice festival to celebrate the birth of the God after his death at Samhain.

There are no biblical sources to pinpoint the time or season of the birth of jesus. They have, due to some of the information in the apostles writings, a pretty good idea of the year. But there is nothing to narrow it down to when during the year.

It is interesting that the christian festivals for the summer solstice and fall have not survived as readily as christmas and easter.

Religious freedom to creatively incorporate local traditions. That take is much more politically comfortable to me.
Please do not crowd my religious sensibilities with your hip hop whipersnaper selves.

Everyone has "their" means to jusitify themselve and account for the miracle of next breath and heart beat. Whether it be Tamuz, Osiris, Vishnu, or some other contrived ritual, pagan or not, is it valid and is it the truth? Every person is struck with the outcome and eternal results of that choice. One is either a god, jusitfied within themselves, or must discover the truth and follow that. I say count your heart beats and contemplate the next breath, considering what is next, when they end are but a moments history and past.

What do you believe?

Why do you believe?

How do you know?

The answer is at the door.....

Brightest Blessings Serena.
The article was fun and informative.

And...the Cybele cult, if it still exists or has returned, ought to ask for their hill back...

Hail Serena!
Freya and Od return to the northlands bringing Spring along the way.This is just another tale of Spring but one that is a part of Asatru my own path in Heathenism.Though many in my path honor Ostara as well.

The Christians should always have Easter a week after Passover but the Western Church has ignored this funny only the Eastern Church seems to have gotten the only time in the Bible that has a fixed date correct.

So nomatter what you honor Easter or Ostara have a good one!

Ps Od is not Odin even though many tend to
confuse the two.

Yours in the Gods

I enjoyed reading your article on Easter and Christmas. You are 100% correct about the church adopting pagan traditions. I am a Christian and didn't even know this until recently. But I do know that Satan will use what he can to deceive. Jesus Christ(Yeshua ha Mashiach) actually arose during the week of Passover (April this year), so that is when we will celebrate it. And he was born during the Feast of the Booths, which is in the fall (not December 25th). But don't blame Christians for not knowing this because this is what we have been taught for so long, and the truth is finally coming out as Jews believe in the Messiah and are sharing with us wisdom and truth of the scriptures that hasn't been widely known. These are the "last days," so G-d is making things known to us. Pray to Him and ask Him to show you how real He is. I would also suggest reading the book of John in the Bible. I will be praying for you. I appreciate your search for the truth.