Everyone is familiar with the Easter egg and bunny, well its commercial aspect, thanks to chocolate companies creating all shapes of eggs and bunnies for the almighty dollar. Not the Almighty God in this case. Most of us would have had our fair share of purchasing and consuming the confectionery items. But where did these iconic figures come from and what is their true meaning?
In my previous blog article (you can read it here), I discussed how the word Easter was mistranslated and altered an ancient festival that celebrated the Spring Equinox. Along with the usurpation of the festival by the Christian head honchoes of the time, it shouldn’t really be a surprise they also appropriated two of symbols that were associated with the Goddess Ostara—the egg and the rabbit or hare.
Spring is the birth of new life, be it flora or fauna, and the resurgence of the new beginnings. The egg is the symbol of renewal and fertility, which dates back to the Ancient Egyptians and Persians. For the Ancient Egyptians, the egg represented the sun, and the Egyptian word for hare is ‘un’ meaning ‘to open’, hence the beginning of a new season. The shape and contents of the egg is also important, as it symbolises renewal and the continuation of life. For the Babylonians, the egg was the birth of their goddess Ishtar, who once hatched, fell from heaven and landed in the Euphrates.
According to German mythology, the Goddess Ostara had healed a wounded bird by changing it into a hare. To show its gratitude, the hare laid eggs as gifts for the goddess. The combination of the goddess and hare, also represented the arrival of spring and fertility. If anyone had rabbits for a pet know how industrious they are at breeding. Regardless of their reproductive gifts, they represent the wealth of growth and budding life—the change of seasons—where life remain dormant for six months (autumn and winter) and the renewal begins with the onset of warmer weather (spring and summer). The Ancient Greeks had their story to explain these changes with the myth of Persephone.
I hope you enjoyed my little sojourn into the origins of Easter. Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.
Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.
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Burreson, Shawna. (2012). History of Easter: Exploring the Ancient Origins of the Modern Holiday. Monrovia Patch. Retrieved from https://patch.com/california/monrovia/history-of-easter-exploring-the-ancient-origins-of-th70d7ab3899
Holloway, April. (2014). The ancient pagan origins of Easter. Ancient Origins. Retrieved from http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ancient-pagan-origins-easter-001571
Tarico, Valerie. (2009). Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story. Huffpost. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-tarico/ancient-mythic-origins-of_b_185455.html
Travers, Penny. (2017). Origin of Easter: From pagan festivals and Christianity to bunnies and chocolate eggs. ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-15/the-origins-of-easter-from-pagan-roots-to-chocolate-eggs/8440134