Mistranslation altered meaning of ancient festival

Some years ago, when I was researching about Pandora for my short story collection Accursed Women, I learnt there was an error in translation of a word. The significance of that mistranslation changed the way in which the myth was told and, subsequent interpretations through art and spin off stories. You can read about my blog post here: Idle curiosity of malicious intent. While researching about the origins of Easter, I learnt (many of you may already know this) that the Greek word ‘Pascha’ meaning Passover was mistranslated as Easter.

Das, Vraja Bihari (2018). Power of Traditions. Yoga for Modern Age. http://yogaformodernage.com/power-of-traditions/#prettyphoto/0/

Astarte Syriaca By Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The term Easter dates long before the Christian faith took hold of it and embedded it into a tradition that Christians follow today. According to some experts, the word Easter is another form of Astarte or Ishtar, the Hebrews called her Ashtoreth. Easter was a celebration of spring, a day of renewal and resurrection, in particular to honour the Mother Goddess Ishtar. Worshippers would present to her with eggs and rabbits, her fertility symbols, which also ties in with new birth or budding life at the seasonal period of Spring.





The other and more popular conversion of the term Easter

“Ostara” (1901) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess Ēostre/*Ostara flies through the heavens surrounded by Roman-inspired putti, beams of light, and animals. Germanic peoples look up at the goddess from the realm below. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4643479

goes to the celebration of the goddess of Spring, called Eostre also known as Ostara, Austra and Eastre. She was a Saxon goddess, or German depending on the source, who on the Spring Equinox—21st March—marks the time when daylight and night-time is equal. She was also associated with the hare.

To move away from the paganistic rituals, the Christians absorbed this tradition and the Jewish festival of Passover with the symbols such as resurrection, the egg, and the onset of Spring into the story of Jesus’ death. In any case, this was how the term Easter was refashioned by the Christians.

I will discuss the origins of the egg and rabbit in my next blog post. Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.

Disclaimer: I am not a religious expert or purport to be one and the information presented is my interpretation of the research.

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.

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Further reading
Aust, Jerold (2006). What Are the Real Origins of Easter? Beyond Today. https://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/what-are-the-real-origins-of-easter

Goubej, Wendy (2009). Paganism and Easter. Amazing Discoveries. http://amazingdiscoveries.org/S-deception_pagan_Catholic_Easter_Ishtar

Travers, Penny (2017). Origin of Easter: From pagan festivals and Christianity to bunnies and chocolate eggs. ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-15/the-origins-of-easter-from-pagan-roots-to-chocolate-eggs/8440134


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    • cav12

      Thank you so much, Jacqui. 😀
      I guess those who are interested in history will either know about it or will investigate if curious. That’s why you and I write historical fiction, because we want to know more about our world’s history and that of the human race.


  1. Linnea Tanner

    Thank you, Luciana, for sharing the pagan roots of Easter in honour of the Mother Goddess Ishtar. It is interesting that she was presented with eggs and rabbits which also ties in with new birth or budding life at the seasonal period of Spring. It was also fascinating to learn about the Saxon goddess and her association with the hare. It is fascinating to learn how different ancient religions affected the Christian traditions. Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Thank you, Linnea 🙂
      It is fascinating how much Christianity has taken from what they considered pagan and unsavoury traditions. It couldn’t have been all that terrible if they’ve integrated many of the ancient rituals and passed them as their own!
      Have a great week, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Linnea Tanner

    Reblogged this on Apollo's Raven and commented:
    Below is a fascinating post by Luciana Cavallaro entitled, “Mistranslation Altered Meaning of Cncient Festival,” that highlights some of the pagan roots for Easter that was picked-up in Christian traditions.
    JUNE 8, 2018 / CAV12

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rosarymcquestion


    It’s been many years since my catechism lessons, but I do recall that during the course of early Christianity as pagans joined the early church, Christians adopted some of the ceremonies and put their own twist on it. But I had no idea that Easter was rooted in paganism!

    Fascinating post! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Thank you, Bella. 🙂
      It is amazing how many ‘paganistic’ rituals Christianity has adopted, as you’ve stated. I guess if they were going to be the dominant religion they had to appease the ‘pagans’.


      Liked by 1 person

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