Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Ēostre

As the pope pontificates (as he often does) there are many children around the world who will be gorging themselves on chocolate. Chocolate eggs, rabbits and lambs. Recently, this celebration has been embraced by christians the world over. A celebration of the resurrection of christ. Maybe we should inspect this a little further.

Ēostre is most likely an old Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn or springtime, subsumed by the christians, overlaying the christ myth upon older myths (this falls under the category of "what have the Romans ever done for us"). It seems that the pagans were grateful for the beginning of summertime, warm weather, longer days and fecundity. It was a celebration of life in all its glory, the explosion and profusion of life and light.

As symbols of this pagan festival we have the egg and the rabbit (more specifically, and correctly, the hare) both of which represent the bounty of life and reproduction. What could be more natural than to celebrate life?

Oh yes, celebrating death. That's a winner. Or to be more precise, death followed by resurrection.

Rule No.1; Everything living will die. This is an incontrovertible truth. From the smallest virus or prion to the largest whale, there is no escape from death. Or is there? The pagans and their prehistoric contemporaries witnessed re-birth every year with the return of the summer sun, those who had learnt to cultivate saw their crops begin to spring from the ground. Every day they witnessed the 're-birth' of the sun. And so, many resurrection myths were born.

Let's have a quick peek at the pre-christian deities whose myths include resurrection:
Asclepius, Orpheus, Mithras, Krishna, Osiris, Tammuz, Zalmoxis, Dionysus, Odin, Inanna, Baldr and Persephone spring to mind, but there are at least 36, may of them overlapping as one civilisation imposed the names of it deities upon those of the races they conquered.

To sum up, christianity hijacked the cultures of the day, changed the names and the stories a bit but left the major themes of pagan mythologies intact. What was formerly a celebration of life and reproduction has now become an amalgamation of rituals, bound in doctrine and divorced from the experience of the general population. Fitting that the christian symbol most easily recognised at this time of year is the easter egg, it reflects the religion so well; all sweetness on the outside-hollow and empty on the inside.